Let’s face it — a typical date night consists of a dinner and a movie. Not that there is anything wrong with it! In fact, my husband and I have a standing tradition of grabbing food and seeing a movie every Friday night. But every so often we mix things up.
A few years back, I decided to try something new and surprised Kevin with a walking tour of LA. But shortly after booking, I began to have second thoughts. Would we learn anything new? And will we be the only weirdos signed up who actually live in LA (and not visiting from like Sheboygan, Wisconsin)? Turns out, it couldn’t be further from the truth!
There are plenty of tours in Los Angeles aimed directly at locals. I was hooked. Think of it — you don’t need to do ANY of the planning (and you still get credit for coming up with the idea!). Whether you’ve been married for a decade or dating for a day, we compiled a list of some of the most unique and fun tours that should entertain even the toughest date to please. And if the date goes south, at least you’re with some other people to talk to. Check out our recommendations below (listed in no particular order):
History Buff: Learn a Factoid for the Next Trivia Night With LA Conservancy
We love the Los Angeles Conservancy’s historic theatre district tour. In fact, it was our top recommended activity for all of our out-of-town visitors for our wedding a few months ago. Once the entertainment epicenter of Los Angeles, Broadway was home to dozens of major retail and clothing stores, as well as twelve movie palaces built between 1910 and 1931. Some have stayed – such as the Rialto Theatre (now converted into an outpost of the clothing store Urban Outfitters) or The Theatre at the Ace Hotel (which hosts screenings, concerts). However, some theaters just couldn’t make it after World War II. Driven by the great urban sprawl and our love for cars, families moved into the suburbs of Los Angeles (giving way to the birth of the Valley girls! Ah, thanks for that…).
The conservancy offers a wide range of tours through downtown LA, including specialty tours tours like the recent one we took through the original Flower Market of downtown Los Angeles (which is actually 2 flower markets that have merged into one big one!).
The LA Flower Market makes a great spot to wander around — even if the conservancy isn’t operating a tour there. While you’re there, make sure you peek inside the sprawling craft store Moskatels, where you’ll find over-the-top holiday decor in the back. I tried to convince Kevin we needed a 7-foot-tall animatronic nutcracker for our condo’s balcony, but for some reason, he felt it was a little impractical! Whatever Kevin…
And finally, after checking out the flowers, you can wrap up the tour by grabbing a delicious brunch at Poppy + Rose, located steps away from the Flower Market entrance. Just aim to get there early, otherwise you’ll be standing in a long line!
Life of the Party: Throw Back Shots with the Willy Wonka of Whiskey at Lost Spirits Distillery
Without a doubt, if you’re looking for one of the most unique tours in Los Angeles, Lost Spirits Distillery is for you. Located in the arts district of downtown LA, the distillery doesn’t have any obvious signage. But you’ll know when you’re at the right spot when you see the giant queen of hearts with a door in the middle. It was pretty much this moment when Kevin asked, “So what are we doing again?”
The distillery partners who run this place can only be described as real-life Willy Wonka’s — taking you along their creative (and often strange) journey through their amusement park for adults. The 2-hour tour ($35 per person) leaves every 30 minutes between noon to 10 PM every Friday-Sunday. Every tour is run by the distillery partners (who I don’t think ever sleep)! And by the way, advanced reservations are 100% necessary. We booked our tickets over a month in advance and got the last spots on the 9 PM tour on a Sunday!
After the tour, we couldn’t stop talking about how unique it was. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but you can read my play-by-play recap of the wild adventure here.
Architecture Nerd: Wander the Country’s Finest American Craftsman Home
Are you a big fan of the 1985 flick Back to the Future? Well, you won’t want to miss the Gamble House, which was the home of eccentric scientist Doc Brown in the classic movie.
The Gamble House, located in a residential stretch of Pasadena, was designed in 1908 by Pasadena architects, Greene & Greene as the winter residence for David and Mary Gamble (of the Proctor & Gamble conglomerate bringing you everything from Old Spice to Oral B). We joined one of their 1-hour tours ($15 per person), which gives a basic overview on how the family ended up in Pasadena and built what’s considered the finest example of early 20th-century craftsman architecture.
Like any walking tour, the experience is only as good as the guide that gives it. There are anywhere from 150-200 guides that volunteer so you might end up with a great guide (or potentially a newbie). For that reason, we would recommend that you join their 2.5 hour “Behind the Velvet Rope” tour. This tour will take you to parts of the home not available on the standard tour with an experienced docent. Admission is $45 per person, but well worth it to get the best of the best. Regardless of which tour you sign up for, make sure you ask your docent to show off the secret doorways (hidden inside the house). How cool is that?
After the tour, I highly recommend exploring the nearby neighborhood and drive towards the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Millard House. You might think you accidentally stumbled upon some ancient Mayan ruin. Just note, this is a private residence, so no trespassing allowed (even if you’re really nice!).
Fit for a Foodie: Eat Your Way Through Old Town Pasadena
Melting Pot Food Tours offers excursions through East LA, the original farmers market, Orange County and Thai Town. I love Old Town Pasadena — and would even consider it as a place to live. But then I snap back to reality when I remember just how LONG my weekday commute would be.
Honestly, Kevin and I didn’t think we’d learn much on the tour (if anything!). I mean, we’ve spent so much time in Pasadena. But there is a lot more to Pasadena than you might ever expect. I’ve always associated Pasadena as the high-end part of LA with old rich people! But it wasn’t until the 1970’s that residents began fighting to save the quaint alleyways, rustic brick facades and historic architectural landmarks. The city became a shining example of a successful downtown revitalization for others.
Today, there are more than 100 restaurants in Old Town alone. The tour is pretty laid back, and includes several stops at local businesses along the way including a gift shop. This is my kind of tour!
The Old Town Pasadena tour runs most weekends from 10:30 AM to 2 PM (though, in our case went a little longer with all of Kevin’s questions!). I’d recommend the tour for locals and visitors alike. Plus, you’re walking most of the day so you won’t have to feel TOO guilty about all that food you just ate. Well, maybe just the desserts! Cost: $75 per person (includes all food and drinks. Tip is extra)
Likes it Freaky: Relive the Decades of Debauchery in the Underground Tunnels of LA
Los Angeles is full of secrets — and we keep uncovering new things even after a decade of living here. Kevin and I were invited by Cartwheel Art to check out one of the most unique tours we’ve ever taken: a trip deep into the underground network of tunnels that thrived in Los Angeles during the prohibition era.
Cartwheel Art offers a wide range of unique tours on the weekends that will take you off the typical tourist track such as paranormal encounters, arts district mural tours and one that involves street art and barbecue (a combo that also sounds pretty good to me!). But as soon as I heard about the Underground Tour, I knew it was right up my alley!
Not only will you get an overview of LA’s sordid past, you’ll get to go deep into the dark tunnels that run under the city. Yes, you read that right — a network of tunnels underneath downtown LA! And some of the tunnels lead to actual underground speakeasies that still have many of the original items left behind. But this tour isn’t for the squeamish. You might see the occasional cockroach, mouse or ghost along the tour. The owners who have access to all the locations on this tour have reported seeing all of the above!
Afterwards, we grabbed some dinner nearby at Little Sister, which I’ve been dying to try for months. It was a perfect way to wrap up our evening and see just how far LA has changed over the years. Be sure to check out the tour, and we guarantee you’ll learn something new and find parts of LA you never knew existed.
And there you have it! To many more date nights — and places to explore in LA.