Alcohol is most people's social lubricant of choice, but having one too many can make a date … regrettable. Believe it or not, bars aren't the only places for two single people to feel each other out, whether it's their first time hanging out or their fifth. Sure, bars are romantically lit and full of murder-deterring eyewitnesses, but there are definitely better places to have a conversation and maybe even a little more fun. In the spirit of cleaner living and less day-after embarrassment, here are five booze-free date ideas.
Any day of the week, you can drive by the West Hollywood Urth Caffé and find it bumping at 10 p.m. For sober singles, there’s really nothing better than the heat lamp–hot chai-muffin trifecta. There are three other equally lit locations in L.A., but if you’re looking to expand your horizons, there are tons of cafes that stay open late and offer a cozy atmosphere comparable to your favorite watering hole. There’s Insomnia Cafe in Mid-City West, Alchemist Coffee Project in Koreatown, the Semi-Tropic in Echo Park, Balconi Coffee Company in West L.A. and my personal favorite, Bourgeois Pig in Franklin Village. Which reminds me …
Comedy and dessert
Whether you’re into improv or sketch comedy, shows at UCB's Sunset and Franklin outposts are great because they’re shorter and cheaper than a movie and always leave you and your date with something to talk about. The second advantage is that you can gauge whether your date is a soulless demogorgon based on whether he laughs. Once he's passed the test, you can go out for coffee and dessert at Bourgeois Pig, which is next-door to the Franklin location. Burnt out on UCB? iO West is also great for all the same reasons, but beware, there is a bar with dangerously (i.e., reasonably) priced drinks attached to the theater.
You don’t have to be a pro skater to enjoy galactic carpets and a heavy dose of ’90s nostalgia. At Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale, you can get to know your date while tooling around the neon-lit rink or stuffing yourselves with corn dogs at the snack bar. While there are plenty of themed nights, Wednesday nights are always LGBT night and Thursdays are all about old-school tunes. Head there pretty much any weeknight if you’re hoping to avoid literally running into children.
Painting classes are great if you’re the type who never knows what to do with your hands on a first date. Do you leave them in your lap? Clutched around your drink? Flitting about in the air as if they have minds of their own? With a craft project in front of you, you won’t have to think about all that, and while some of these grown-up classes allow drinking (or weed smoking), you can focus on the art instead. Whether you go with Paint Nite, Paint and Sip or the Art Room, there are classes all over the city every day of the week. As a former Paint Nite instructor, I have to say, I’ve seen lots of first dates go down in front of an easel, and while they haven’t all been successful, they’ve definitely all been interesting. The most important tip for a painting class date: Don’t worry about being good at it. In fact, the worse you are, the more entertaining you’ll be for your date.
I know what you’re thinking. Why not just go to a dog park? It’s free and they don’t take reservations. Well, first of all, you won’t find cats there. Secondly, creeping on strangers’ dogs isn’t as charming as it sounds. Depending on which dog park you visit, you might also have a hard time avoiding alcohol. (I’m looking at you, Elysian.) While cat and dog cafes are all about the fur babes, they also have coffee and snacks, which is pretty dope. As an added bonus: If a fart slips out, you can always blame it on one of the pups. Head over to the Dog Cafe in Silver Lake if you’re a dog loyalist or check out Crumbs & Whiskers on Melrose if you’re on #TeamCat. Or go nuts and do both. Life’s too short to pick sides.