No matter what your nagging mother and gross, married Facebook friends say, being single has all sorts of upsides: twice the space to stretch out in bed, never sitting through a dumb movie you didn't want to see in the first place, guilt-free sex with near strangers ... the list goes on! With all that autonomy comes a sense of adventure that tends to dwindle once people have saddled up and settled down. So allow us to interrupt the Valentine's Day static with a list of things to do in L.A. that are definitely more fun when you're single. Hell, maybe you'll even run into your next significant other. Or you might have too much fun to care.
It's a cliché, but shopping with a significant other sucks. In order to get what you really want for the right price, you need focus — not someone complaining about being hungry or tired or bored. Some places that are especially fun to take all the time you want ...
The open-air market Santee Alley has international-bazaar atmosphere in spades. There's makeup, clothing, accessories, luggage and electronics, and the best spoils go to the most creative haggler. Oh, it annoyed your ex when you tried to haggle? Screw him.
If Santee Alley is a bit too cut-rate for your tastes, only a few blocks away is the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Scholarship Store. Directly connected to the FIDM School, the Scholarship Store offers merch by top fashion companies at prices that are exhilaratingly below wholesale: clothes, jewelry, shoes and accessories as well as fabric, thread, mannequins and dress forms. It definitely doesn’t disappoint when it comes to finding something unique for way less than it should be. Plus sales directly benefit FIDM students.
The Rose Bowl Flea Market is a must for anyone who doesn't constantly have someone breathing down his or her neck. Held the second Sunday of every month, this February it falls right on Valentine’s Day. Heidi Klum, Ty Pennington and other luminaries have been known to peruse the market alongside everyday eye candy. Yes, there's an $8 admission fee for adults, but just enjoy the fact that you aren't plunking down twice that for yourself and a whiny tagalong.
Santee Alley, 210 E. Olympic Blvd., downtown. (213) 488-1153, thesanteealley.com.
Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Scholarship Store, 919 S. Grand Ave., downtown. (213) 452-5010, fidmscholarshipfoundation.org/en/store.
Rose Bowl Flea Market, Rose Bowl Stadium, 1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena. (323) 560-7469, rgcshows.com.
Finding your zen
By definition, meditation is best enjoyed alone, whether it's out of curiosity, to recharge or as a step toward enlightenment. If you want to go whole-hog and get away from the city on a meditation retreat, the Dhamma Vaddhana Southern California Vipassana Center in Twentynine Palms might be the thing for you. The Dhamma Vaddhana specializes in the Buddhist practice of vipassana meditation, with “vipassana” loosely translated as “insight” or “clear thinking.” The technique of vipassana meditation is taught in a 10-day residential course, all expenses covered by donations from past students. This remote center is one of more than 120 international vipassana centers with numerous “sister” Dhammas around the world. Dhamma Vaddhana is approximately a 2½-hour drive from Los Angeles and the 154-acre facility has the capability to house 70 students, but there's a strict no-drop-in policy; interested students must contact them ahead and be issued an invitation. Once you have that, presumably the path toward enlightenment is just between you, the sky and the silence of the Joshua trees.
If you want to zone out but stay in town, try the Eagle Rock or Westside Shambhala Centers (there are two outposts in Orange County as well). Shambhala meditation comes from the Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu traditions and is named for a mythical kingdom hidden somewhere within the “Hollow Earth." Beginning and advanced meditation courses are available, and the former generally are free or suggest a donation of $10. Granted, it's probably a little hard to meditate with a Three Dog Night song stuck in your head.
The Dhamma Vaddhana Southern California Vipassana Center, 29 Palms Hwy., Twentynine Palms. (760) 362-4615, vaddhana.dhamma.org.
Eagle Rock Shambhala Center, 963 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock. (323) 255-5472; or Westside Shambhala Center, 3877-A Grand View Blvd., Mar Vista. (310) 390-9009, la.shambhala.org.
Solo music appreciation
Sometimes you get into a relationship and, before you know it, you and your significant other are sharing a record collection and listening to all the same music. With no one spoonfeeding single people Tame Impala albums, they can go out and discover what they like on their own, and there's really no better place to do that than Amoeba. The L.A. landmark is known for its immense size, but if browsing aisles isn't your thing, there are loads of free in-store concerts that tend to be well-attended by attractive people. Another highlight: On Feb. 28 Amoeba hosts Best Friends Animal Society L.A. Pet Adoption Day. Bring home a pet just because no one's gonna yell at you for it!
Amoeba Music, 6400 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 245-6400, amoeba.com.
Taking an improv class
Your ex wouldn't admit that you were the funnier one in the relationship? Prove him wrong by taking improvisation and sketch comedy classes at the Groundlings Theatre & School, which has a brand-new, two-story facility and a ridic lineup of comedic alumni: Kristen Wiig, Phil Hartman, Will Forte, Jon Lovitz and Lisa Kudrow, to name a scant few. The school offers a popular Intro to Improv drop-in class so students can try the experience on for size for the very reasonable beginners fee of $36. Do it for you. Do it because it's fun to meet funny people.
The Groundlings Theatre & School, 7307 Melrose Ave., Fairfax. (323) 934-4747, groundlings.com.
Ballroom and partners dancing
You absolutely don't need a partner to take on ballroom dancing. In fact, single students tend to learn much faster and better than couples, because singles are either partnered with an instructor who is a trained expert or an instructor pairs two students whose abilities are well suited. Plus it's a thing you can do alone but still get steamy and sweaty with another person. There are generally two schools of thought when it comes to finding the perfect dance school: Either you go for one of the bigger schools, where a great deal of the allure is the ability to learn while instantaneously becoming part of a large and vibrant dance community, or you go for the more intimate experience, with more emphasis on paired instruction and a calmer studio environment. Arthur Murray Dance Studios, which has a slew of locations in the area, has an infectiously welcoming environment regardless of background or ability. For the most part, the first class is free, so it is easy to get into the groove and get an honest feel for whether one of their dance packages is something to invest in.
For a quieter studio experience with more of a concentrated focus on one-on-one instruction, Herzog Dance Studio might be more up your alley. Run by the husband-and-wife competitive dance team of Dmitry Nikolaev and Babette Brown, Herzog makes up for its lack of party atmosphere with acute but stress-free attention to detail. While Herzog Dance Studio doesn't offer free trial classes to new students, it does offer two introductory classes as a package deal for $29, which, considering the caliber of the training, is pretty sweet.
Arthur Murray Dance Studios, various locations. arthurmurray.com.
Herzog Dance Studio, 16101 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 377-7575, herzogdancestudios.com/home.html.
Two words: Trapeze school
Even if you aren't planning on joining the circus, the Trapeze School of New York in Los Angeles, otherwise known as TSNY LA, on the Santa Monica Pier is fun as hell. The views of the Pacific Ocean from the edge of the trapeze platform are almost as breathtaking as the actual act of flying through the air above it all. Beginning classes, which start at $57 a pop, are two hours long and taught in groups of up to 10 people. They're also usually professionally photographed, so there's proof that you actually bit the bullet and took the plunge. Should you lose your courage, the rule at TSNY LA is always gentle encouragement — no one will force or push. For those who really take a shine to flying, the school offers special Intensive Flying Workshops, which are 10-week courses that culminate in choreographed student trapeze shows replete with costumes and an audience of friends and family. The current owners of TSNY LA actually caught one another on the trapeze during their first experiences as singles interested in joining the school and then ended up getting married. No promises for future romance, but flying sounds fun!
The Trapeze School of New York in Los Angeles, 370 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica. (310) 394-5800, losangeles.trapezeschool.com.
Learning to cook
Cooking, bartending and sommelier classes are all fun ways to figure out who you are and to make sure you're eating and drinking well. If you're willing to spend the dough — pun intended — for a more classical take on culinary exploits, the New School of Cooking in the gastronomic heart of Culver City is your best bet, with weekend classes ranging from $110 to $250. All classes include a thorough historical and practical look at the food that's being created. You don’t just learn to make something delicious — you learn exactly how your dish came to exist.
For a more spontaneous, rock & roll approach to cooking, Hipcooks, with locations on both the west and east sides of town, is the way to go. The schools have cool Technicolor decor and their three-hour classes start at just $70 — plus they offer cocktail classes. To get more serious about crafting cocktails, consider National Bartenders School, which has eight locations in and around L.A. The stories the instructors can tell about their on-the-job experiences mixing for the rich, famous and drunk are more than worth the cost of admission, even if you don't care to learn your sweets from your sours.
If wine is more your thing, Bar and Garden, an upscale wine and spirits establishment in Culver City, has all sorts of wine tastings, cocktail classes and other events, including a popular “Grapes You May Not Know Yet” series. Lots of the events are free or cheap ($5 to $12 a person) but you can still feel fancy.
The New School of Cooking, 8690 Washington Blvd, Culver City. (310) 842- 9702, newschoolofcooking.com.
Hipcooks West Los Angeles, 2833 Robertson Blvd., Beverlywood. (310) 841-2738, westla.hipcooks.com; and East L.A. at Hip Cooks, 642 Moulton Ave., Los Angeles, 90031, telephone (323) 222-3663, eastla.hipcooks.com.
National Bartenders School, various locations. nationalbartenders.com.
Bar and Garden, 6142 Washington Blvd., Culver City. (310) 876-0759, barandgarden.com.
Relaxing at the spa
If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love anybody else? In that spirit, a decadent day at the spa is in order. Burke Williams Day Spa has several locations in Los Angeles, but the newest and most unique is its sparkling new facility in Woodland Hills. Specifically designed to be reminiscent of a chic beach houses in the Hamptons, the Woodland Hills location has a Custom Blend Bar, a Garden Room and a Style Center. At the Custom Blend Bar, experts blend one-of-a-kind scents to create unique aromatherapy lotions or oils for your massage service at the spa or to take home. In the Garden Room, coed mini-treatments are available in an enchantingly pristine but delightfully faux secret garden. In the Style center, Burke Williams hair experts do blowouts and hairdos. Burke Williams definitely isn't cheap, but it's decadent as all get out.
Burke Williams Day Spa, Village at Westfield Topanga, 6256 Topanga Canyon Blvd, Ste. 2250, Woodland Hills. (818) 200-0260, burkewilliamsspa.com/locations/woodland-hills/photo-tour.
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Shooting arrows at things
All Cupid puns aside, ever since The Hunger Games, archery ranges have become an unspoken cool place to meet some really interesting, adventurous and, ideally, hot people. While there are many places to enjoy this trend, one of the best and least expensive is the free beginners classes Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings at the Woodley Park Archery Range. The Woodley Park Archers provide all the necessary equipment and instruction, but due to limited supplies and out-of-control turnout, it's advisable to show up at least an hour early to get in line and register. With these classes offered weekly from 9 to11 a.m. on Saturdays and 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, only rain stops the fun.
The Woodley Park Archery Range, San Fernando Valley, near the junction of the 405 and 101 freeways. (818) 756-8060, woodleyparkarchers.org.