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The planets align at Griffith Observatory

February 01, 2009|Catherine Ho

2 Perched atop Mt. Hollywood in Griffith Park, the observatory is an excellent, cheap getaway date that doesn't require much getting away. Go at night and the sparkling sea of lights makes for a view so spectacular that you'll almost forget about the stifling traffic you had to sit through to get there.

There's plenty to do at Griffith Observatory to fill the dreaded silence that would be inescapable on a first-date dinner. On a recent Saturday night, two reporters on such an outing wandered the observatory halls -- filled with exhibits about astronomy and other sciences -- debating the demotion of Pluto as a planet and browsing the seemingly endless supply of Albert Einstein paraphernalia at the gift shop.

More motivated stargazers can take a moonlight hike on any of a number of trails leading up to the observatory. Bring a flashlight and a blanket, and you'll be set for a couple hours of conversation and possible cuddling. And because admission and parking are free, you can squeeze in coffee or drinks later without putting a dent in next month's rent.

So the aforementioned reporters took off on an impromptu trip to the cafe next to the Vista Theatre, where splitting a red velvet cupcake and strawberry rhubarb soda totaled less than $8, and people watching provided more than enough fodder to sustain a steady stream of chatter.

A couple of $5 beers at hipster-heavy Club Spaceland in Silver Lake wrapped up a fun evening that didn't break the bank. We even caught the end of a live performance by a New York band whose lead singer was nursing a sunburn from unusually warm January weather.

In short, even if you're not a recent college graduate on a budget -- as these two are -- it's preferable to slum it with good company than spend two awkward hours in a designer dress at a pretentious restaurant that serves unpronounceable appetizers.

Total spending for date: $20. A hint for the gentlemen: Look up the names of a few constellations and rattle them off like you know what you're talking about. Wikipedia is free, but the impressed look on your date's face will be priceless.

-- Catherine Ho

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