Times art directors Martina Ibáñez-Baldor and Micah Fluellen contributed to this story.
Time in a pandemic moves like college: slow and stressful in the moment, but gone in a flash. If you looked up (like us) and Valentine’s Day was closing in fast, no worries. We rounded up COVID-safe date ideas in and around Los Angeles for you. That means at home, outdoors or — for our long-distance lovers — through a screen. And for those who don’t believe in the Hallmark industrial complex, all of these ideas also work for friends, roommates, pods or flying solo. Plus, we made you a whole set of printable anti-Valentines, if that’s more your speed.
1. A “Lovely Night” in Griffith Park
There’s nothing wrong with liking a basic thing — even if it’s “La La Land” and you’re an Angeleno. It is, after all, romantic. If you want to re-create Seb and Mia’s iconic spontaneous dance scene — or just catch a pink-hued Hollywood sunset — head to the Cathy’s Corner hiking loop in Griffith Park. If you park at Mineral Wells Picnic Area and follow these directions, you’ll pass by Amir’s Garden, a magical oasis of flowers and vegetation, and the fabled Picnic Table 29 on the way. Spread out a picnic blanket to catch the sunset at Cathy’s Corner.
2. For the long-distance, anti-Valentine’s friend group
Friendship can be just as important (or more) than romantic and family bonds — and you know it. Maybe you have a tight group chat to spill tea and celebrate life updates. Maybe out of the blue, with no context whatsoever, you send your friends TikToks and tweets that remind you of them. Either way, you love your friends and you make sure to remind them of that. We made a set of anti-Valentines just for you, to send either virtually or by snail mail. Print out the cards out here on 8.5-x-11-inch paper and color them in!
3. A healing, cleansing self-date
Rounding the corner into 2021, take time to heal — we all need it. If you’re not in a relationship (or even if you are), invest in a self-date. One option is with L.A. healer Olivia Perez Biera, based near Chinatown. As part of the Indigenous Wellness Collective, she focuses on spiritual healing therapy. The healer can tailor her treatment to your specific needs: pain and stress relief, deep relaxation or recovery from a broken heart. Treatments range from aromatherapy to trauma release. (Perez Biera uses a face mask and shield, but phone or Zoom options are available as well.)
4. A peaceful picnic retreat
If you’re looking to try something new — or for a taste of home — fufu is for you. The West African staple recently went viral on TikTok, and you can find it in Inglewood. Pick up a to-go meal at Veronica’s Kitchen or Aduke Nigerian Cuisine (think: okra soup with fufu or jollof rice with plantains) and drive 15 minutes north to Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area. There, picnic in Olympic Forest, surrounded by Egyptian date palms and Greek sweet bay trees. Or, a short walk away, get comfy next to the koi pond in the Doris Japanese Garden.
5. A laid-back bike ride to cold brews
Whether you live nearby or you’re parking in its lot (off Baker Street), start at the Los Angeles State Historic Park. (There’s a Metro Bike Share dock nearby at College Street and Spring Street.) Bike leisurely around its 1.2-mile loop trail, drinking in its wildflowers and history. This place was once a fertile basin, and Indigenous Tongva people lived in a village nearby. (If you get tired of that scenery, Elysian Park is just across the street.) Once you’ve biked up a sweat, quench it at Highland Park Brewery across the street. Pick up some crisp lagers or bold stouts to enjoy at home.
6. Hike out west to a swing with a view
If you and your partner (or a friend) are explorers with an eye for photo ops, this one’s for you. Head west to Rustic Canyon Park and find parking at the Kenter Trailhead. (Aim to get there around noon to snag a spot.) Take the Kenter Fire Road Whoop-De-Doos Trail (also known as the Lower Canyonback Trail) in a 3.3-mile loop for views of nature, the city and gorgeous houses. To find a picture-perfect wooden swinging bench for two, veer off the trail, toward an offshoot marked with a tall tree. Pause to drink in the view — and some water!
7. Switch out Valentine’s candy for mochi and boba
Valentine’s Day often conjures images of sweets: chocolate-coated strawberries, pastel conversation hearts, discounted chocolates in the days that follow. This year, try a different treat: mochi. Stop by Fugetsu-Do Bakery Shop in Little Tokyo for the Japanese confection made from sweet rice flour. You can trust Fugetsu-Do with your partner’s taste buds: The family-owned store has been in business in L.A. for 118 years. Try various flavors of mochi, manju (made with cake flour) or kiku, a flower-shaped treat. Pair with tea: matcha at the nearby Midori Matcha Cafe or bubble tea at MILK+T. Enjoy your haul in Grand Park.
8. Paddle around the Naples canals
Sure, L.A. is feeling a bit of a winter chill. But don’t let that stop you and your boo from enjoying “the best-kept secret between Los Angeles and Orange County”: paddling in Alamitos Bay. Rent a kayak from Kayak Rentals for $12 an hour (for both single and double kayaks) or grab a stand-up paddleboard (if you’re feeling brave) for $25 per hour. Bundle up and explore the Naples canals. If your budget is a bit higher, book a private gondola with Gondola Getaway, also in the Naples canals. A couples package includes a (mask-wearing) gondolier, cozy blankets and red roses.
9. For the nostalgic movie lovers
Films don’t have to be a couch date: Drive-in movies around L.A. offer something similar to the theater experience, popcorn and all. If you favor old Hollywood glam, the Drive-in Theatre at the Hollywood Roosevelt boasts a stacked lineup for Valentine’s weekend: “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “When Harry Met Sally” on Friday, “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Dirty Dancing” on Saturday, and “Casablanca” and “The Notebook” on Sunday. (Tickets start at $45 per car.) For a more laid-back feel, try the Vineland Drive-in in City of Industry ($10 general admission) or Paramount Drive-in Theatres (also $10).
10. A 4/20-friendly night in
If you prefer to cozy up at home and you’re 420-friendly, cannabis delivery might be up your alley. Sweet Flower, a “cannabis retail boutique,” has locations across the city in Melrose, Studio City, the Arts District and Westwood. To add a romantic twist, consider chocolate edibles, from milk chocolate with chai to spiced dark chocolate with chile. Pair this date with an adult coloring book to complete the vibe. (Art Share L.A.’s “Snapshot: Los Angeles Coloring Book” features 15 artists from the area. Or print out our L.A. Times Food coloring sheets, filled with sweet desserts and fun recipes.)
11. Bring the bar to you
If a night in sounds good but weed isn’t your thing, re-create a bar experience at home — without the Ubers, shouting over music and inevitable drink mixups. First, check to see if your neighborhood spot offers your favorite drinks to go. Plenty of alcohol delivery services have sprung up around town: Sourced Craft Cocktails aims to support bartenders (paying them $15 an hour) and small spirits brands. Their Flor de Caña Valentine’s Day cocktail costs $65.91 for 12 drinks ($5.49 per drink). Birdie G’s in Santa Monica offers cocktail kits online (and Valentine’s specials), and Death & Co. in Little Tokyo has bottled cocktails to go.
12. For the plant person in your life
The Huntington is the spot for plant people. The library and art museums are closed at the moment — but that still leaves 120 acres, 16 themed gardens and 15,000 kinds of plants to explore. Currently in bloom: flowering peach and apricot trees in the Chinese Garden, aloes in the Desert Garden, and camellias in the North Vista and Japanese Garden. As you stroll through the grounds, stop by the pavilions of the Chinese Garden for views of the San Gabriel Mountains and Mount Wilson Observatory. Parking is free, but tickets must be purchased online ahead of time.
13. Drive off into the sunset. Or cruise up the coast solo
A car plus any music streaming app (or the radio) makes for a ready-made date. Retrace popular cruising routes — or “strips” — or simply head up PCH. Chicanos were already paving the way for cruise culture in Boyle Heights in the 1940s. By the 1950s, the Los Angeles River bed beneath the Sixth Street Bridge had become a popular spot. Follow in those footsteps or take a tour through time with this ’70s architecture route. Of course, as Olivia Rodrigo knows, a driver’s license offers an ideal anti-Valentine’s escape too. Here’s a perfect “love sucks” playlist for a drive along the coast.
14. Galentine’s Day, but make gender irrelevant
“Don’t just occasionally think of your friend fondly,” Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman write in “Big Friendship.” “Tell them you love them.” Whether you celebrate Galentine’s Day or tag each other in memes to keep in touch, apps like Teleparty and Scener can help. The former synchronizes video and adds a group chat to Netflix, Disney, Hulu and HBO. The latter goes further, adding a video chat sidebar. Sites like Backyard.co have whole hosts of games to play with friends over video call. (“Doodle” pairs well with whatever’s in your liquor cabinet. “Wordplay” echoes Cards Against Humanity and “Codewords” feels a lot like the Codenames game.)