Los Angeles is one of the best-known cities in the world, famous for celebrity sightings, gorgeous beaches and warm winters. As any Angeleno knows (native or transplant), these perks come with a cost: a notoriously cutthroat, difficult-to-navigate social scene.
Therefore, we asked our readers to tell us how they made friends in L.A. They responded with a fire hose of charming stories about dating apps, coffee shops, dog parks, desert raves and everything in between.
However, for every endearing tale of found families, there was a cry for help. The words “fake” and “flaky” came up more than a few times. “L.A. is filled with vapid, career-climbing wannabes that have opportunistic motives,” said one particularly passionate responder. Another remarked woefully on the “sheer loneliness of Los Angeles life.”
To these despondent few, we offer the following advice: Don’t give up. We’ve gathered 19 of the quirkiest and most delightful L.A. friendship stories to inspire you to get back out there.
They were in the right place at the right time
Sarah Minslow, Pasadena, English professor
It started in the dank basement of a Pasadena pub, the ideal setting for happy hour trivia. Sarah Minslow, 39, and her husband, Steve, stumbled inside after a tiresome day of unpacking in their new home. They’d just moved to L.A. from North Carolina.
After sitting down at a high-top, they took a minute to look around. Among the noisy groups of trivia-heads, one man was sitting at a table alone, eating a salad.
In her disarming Southern accent, Minslow asked if he’d like to join her team. The salad man (as they still jokingly call him) said yes, and they spent the night swapping stories between trivia rounds. The salad man was going through a divorce.
“I’m not usually one to talk to strangers, but we thought he probably needed some company and so did we,” she says.
They began regularly meeting at that pub for trivia night and got to know the salad man’s friends. Over time, their pod expanded and now consists of nine people (“a family unit,” Minslow says) who get together regularly for backyard barbecues and cocktails.
The group members range in age from 32 to 44, in occupation from photographer to lawyer, and in ethnicity including Australian, Japanese and Puerto Rican. This diversity has proved especially fun when the group cooks together. It’s not unusual to find dumplings next to empanadas and cornbread at their dinner parties.
Erin Finnerty, Los Feliz, executive assistant
When people in L.A. leave their apartment door unlocked, it’s usually an accident.
However, in their small 13-unit building in Los Feliz, Erin Finnerty, 35, and her husband, Michael Sobel, do it on purpose — so their neighbors can pop in and out “Kramer style,” a reference to the classic NBC sitcom “Seinfeld.”
“Getting to know our neighbors wasn’t something I ever thought about when we moved in,” Finnerty says. “But some of them have become like family.”
In Finnerty’s building, most tenants are couples around the same age, and they live in pretty close quarters, which means they often run into one another in the hallway or on the public rooftop. Friendships were not formed immediately but over time as casual stairwell conversation morphed into planned walks around the neighborhood. Now, Finnerty and her husband have a pod of eight with whom they’ve exchanged house keys.
“I actually have no idea how to make friends out in L.A.,” Finnerty says. “I just got really lucky that such cool people lived right next door.”
Allison Henry, Pasadena, housing justice organizer
In 2006, Allison Henry, 47, discovered her local dog park in Pasadena and began to go every afternoon at the same time with her greyhound, Reba.
While her dog raced around in the grass, chasing tennis balls and sniffing behinds, Henry spent the time chatting with other dog owners, particularly those whose pups Reba seemed to get along with.
“The dogs precipitated the humans speaking to each other,” Henry says. “If our dogs got along, why shouldn’t we?”
At its height, Henry’s dog park friend group consisted of a dozen people of all different backgrounds. They bonded over dog breeds, music and theater and began making plans to see each other outside the double gates of the dog park. They went to concerts, plays and staged readings without their furry counterparts (“though admittedly some of us felt guilty leaving them home,” Henry says).
When their dogs got tired of the daily park visits, the group moved their gatherings to a friend’s backyard. Now, Henry still gets together regularly with four friends she met at the dog park.
“Making efforts to see each other beyond the dog park was the best thing we did,” Henry says. “I don’t really even go anymore because I’m busy spending time with the friends I made there.”
Sonya Bowman, Culver City, photographer
By definition, a desert rave is a wild and unpredictable event. For Sonya Bowman, 46, it’s where she met her best friend of almost 10 years, Ashley Whipple.
Both women were dragged to the event by “more partygoing friends” and ran into each other toward the back of the crowd. They started talking and realized they both loved “Star Trek” and had the same favorite band, Modest Mouse. Their compatibility was obvious.
“When you’re standing at the back of a rave and you’re able to have all these deep conversations, you kinda know,” Bowman says.
The pair are 10 years apart in age but hardly realize it. “We introduce each other to things from our own generations,” Bowman says. “And she can take care of me when I’m old.”
Since that rave, Bowman and Whipple see each other at least once a week, and Whipple is now the godmother to Bowman’s son.
For their 10-year friend-iversary, they are planning to throw a best-friend costume party. They’re thinking of going as Patsy and Edina from the ’90s British sitcom “Absolutely Fabulous.”
Jess Gadway, West Hollywood, criminalist
Two months into living in L.A., Jess Gadway, 36, was coming to learn that it was something of a friendship desert. Solo dates were turning into a regular evening activity. One place in particular, a neighborhood bar in West Hollywood called the Den, was a frequent destination. It was walkable from her apartment, and she liked its cozy feel with a brown wooden bar, low lighting, fireplaces and framed photographs of Bill Murray.
“Most other places in L.A. feel superficial or pretentious,” Gadway says. “But the chill vibe of the Den spoke to me. It felt like a friend’s living room.”
Gadway would sit at the bar and make occasional small talk with the bartender or other patrons. Nine years later, she’s a certified regular who credits the Den with connecting her to four of her closest friends in L.A., three former Den employees and one fellow regular.
Of her pod, Gadway is the only one who still frequents the Den, but her friend group gets together as often as possible. They use a shared Google Calendar to find time to go to happy hours together or hit the plant store, and they always do something special for one another’s birthdays.
“It became sort of my ‘Cheers,’” Gadway says, referring to the Boston bar from the classic NBC sitcom. “When you can talk to somebody for an hour or two at a bar, you start to imagine what a friendship would look like out of those stools.”
Those who took matters into their own hands
Javier Moreno, South L.A., registered nurse
When Javier Moreno, 39, and his husband, Michael Harnett, moved to L.A. in 2018, they wanted to find other gay friends in their area, but the bar scene proved overwhelming. Therefore, they decided to make their own scene. They created a post on Meetup for a “GAYme night.”
The idea was they would invite 10 random strangers to their home and get to know them over board games and finger food. They pushed the event out to other subgroups on the platform and got 10 people together. (Moreno vetted the attendees beforehand by checking out their social media profiles.)
At that first gathering, the group sat on couches or the floor, ate barbecue meatballs and played Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens, a card game with LGBTQ themes.
“We just hung out and ate and chatted,” Moreno says. “It was a little awkward at first, but the board games helped break the ice.”
Through the meetup, Moreno and Harnett met a gay couple with whom they still regularly get dinner.
Moreno and his husband recently moved to a new house, which “isn’t quite group-ready yet.” But when it is, they’re excited to revive their GAYme nights.
Sofia Borges, Highland Park, real estate agent and entrepreneur
Sofia Borges, 37, never considered herself a car person, but that was before she understood the power of her husband’s olive green 1970 Dodge Challenger.
“It’s a people’s car,” Borges says. “People want to talk about it. If my husband ever leaves it uncovered in the driveway, there will be a love note on it the next day.”
In the wake of the pandemic, when Borges’ social life was feeling particularly stagnant, she decided to take advantage of the people magnet parked outside and converted it into a roaming floral pop-up shop called the Flower Thing. She filled the car with tasteful arrangements and set up shop in Highland Park. And it worked.
“The people came,” Borges says. “It became a sort of local happening.”
Borges has befriended a handful of her local clients. The decorated car attracts people with a vibrant aesthetic similar to hers, which leads to easy conversation.
“I guess I’ve gotten more into cars since I started the Flower Thing,” Borges says. “But I’m definitely more into the car people.”
Tessa Johnston, Brentwood, senior manager
When Tessa Johnston, 32, moved to L.A. from San Francisco three years ago to follow her boyfriend, she had to leave her circle of friends behind. As a self-proclaimed extrovert, she didn’t think it would be hard to find a new group. But a few months in, she’d made little progress, and not for a lack of trying.
With her birthday coming up, Johnston decided to up the effort. She was determined to celebrate surrounded by a big group of people, so she decided to invite a bunch of Angelenos whom she’d met but wasn’t necessarily close with to a dinner party.
“At the end of the day, everyone loves food,” Johnston says. “Gathering around the table feels like a very natural way to connect.”
They spent the night bonding over their shared cravings for community and good food, and decided to satisfy both by forming a supper club. Since then, they’ve gotten together once every month at a new L.A. eatery to connect. After the meal, they rate the restaurant together. Criteria include food, service and ambiance.
Each month, one member is put in charge of finding the restaurant, making the reservation and sending out a calendar invite to the group. Anywhere from five to 10 people show up each time, with the overall group expanding and contracting regularly.
“The key is not having any feelings toward whether people can consistently join or not,” Johnston says. “It’s just about having a good time with a group of like-minded people.”
Brooklyn Jones, Mid-Wilshire, human resources director
Brooklyn Jones, 38, didn’t sign up for dating apps with the intention of making friends. But that’s what ended up happening when she moved to L.A. eight years ago and downloaded a handful of matchmaking apps.
“I would go on these dates where we had so much in common,” she says, “but there wasn’t really any of that romantic chemistry.”
Still, Jones, 38, believes in the power of the second date. “It’s like making pancakes,” she says. “The first date is like the first pancake — you always kinda mess that one up a little. You can still eat it but it’s a little weird and misshapen. The second pancake is pretty solid. On the second date, I can really determine what kind of relationship I want to have with a person.”
At the end of the second date, if Jones feels like she’s talking to a brother rather than a potential partner, she’ll say so and suggest platonic plans in the future. She’s made two close friends this way, and regularly meets up with them to watch Marvel movies, try a new burger place or go on Ikea runs.
“Whatever we have in common, I try to really stick with that,” she says. “It’s helped me build a bit of a community here.”
Chris Webster, Beverly Hills, actor
Chris Webster, 35, was mourning the loss of his parents when he moved to L.A. from England in 2015. L.A. presented a world of opportunities for Webster, but he was stuck in a state of grief.
At his wife’s suggestion, he signed on to volunteer with School on Wheels, an organization that tutors kids living in shelters, motels and cars. She thought doing something for others would help pull Webster out of his rut.
He was paired with a 6-year-old boy from Mexico named Diego, who was living in a domestic-abuse shelter with his mom and two sisters.
“Up until then, I hadn’t interacted with kids since I’d been a kid,” Webster says. “I was kind of nervous. I didn’t want to let anyone down.”
Webster began tutoring every Saturday morning at the shelter. Diego was a hyperactive, easily distracted boy, and although he spoke English, his family didn’t.
“We were from such different backgrounds that we were both shy at first,” Webster says.
Therefore, he began teaching himself Spanish at home so he could interact with Diego’s mom. He wanted to understand more about Diego’s life.
For two years, Webster visited the family every weekend and began spending time with them between sessions. He was thrilled when they found permanent housing, but it also meant that School on Wheels was going to reassign him to a new student. So he left the organization and continued to visit Diego on his own time.
“I didn’t set out to become anything other than just a tutor,” Webster says. “But I ended up making one of the most meaningful connections I’ve ever made in my life.”
Webster and Diego have been getting together weekly for six years now. Webster still reads books to Diego, using his actor skills to put on the different voices. They attend each other’s family gatherings and they go on trips to different places around L.A. (Webster now brings along his son Jack, who is almost the age Diego was when Webster began tutoring him.) Most recently, the trio went to the lavender festival in Beaumont.
“It’s a relationship I never thought I’d have,” Webster says. “Everyone I knew up until about the age of 22 looked like me and sounded like me. To walk into a quinceañera with my wife and to be invested and welcomed into part of a much bigger world has been truly amazing.”
Celine Torkan, Beverly Glen, social media manager
Celine Torkan, 27, lives five minutes from her L.A. high school in Beverly Glen. Her childhood friends have been in her life for almost 20 years. For Torkan, this thought is both endearing and troubling.
“It was time to branch out,” she says.
Torkan tried the typical outlets: Bumble BFF, Facebook clubs and reaching out to old colleagues she hadn’t spoken to in years. But she kept coming up dry.
Tapping into the L.A. Jewish community was something of a Plan B. Torkan went to Jewish schools until she got her high school diploma but never considered herself religious. Still, she decided to attend a local Purim costume party at a Jewish community center in West L.A. Finally she found success. Torkan now goes to board game nights or Shabbat soirees at this center and others weekly.
“I’ve gotten closer to the people I met in this community in the last six months than I have with the people who have been in my life since middle school,” she says.
Six months after that Purim party, Torkan has learned how to perfect her challah braiding technique and is counting down the days until she and her group will spend a long weekend together at an adult Jewish summer camp.
John Lendman, Koreatown, social media manager
When John Lendman, 36, moved to Koreatown from Chicago three years ago, he did an Instagram search to find local blogs he could follow. Koreatown Run Club immediately popped up.
“I’ve always been a runner, so I thought, ‘Oh, perfect, I’ll check this out,’” he says.
At his first run, he was met by a group of 50 people, all around his age, with running shoes in various stages of wear. He was intimidated. Lendman considers himself to be pretty shy but admits there’s something about a post-workout fist bump that breaks down a barrier.
“You can always commiserate about a sweaty workout with someone,” he says.
He began going twice a week and hanging with a small group of runners afterward in the park or for drinks. At this point, they’ve trained for marathons together, gone on weekend hiking trips and set up a shared Google Calendar with everyone’s birthdays.
“We all run at different paces,” he says. “But we catch up to one another at the end.”
It’s the perfect metaphor.
Kat Alford, Hawthorne, public relations consultant
In 2007, Kat Alford decided to join an adult kickball league. Every Sunday, she would gather with a group of 20-somethings, play a few games and then head to a nearby bar to hang out.
Fifteen years, a marriage and a couple of children later, Alford, 40, still plays soccer every Monday with teammates she met through the league. She’s also now an Angel City season ticket holder despite never having previously followed a pro team.
“That league has given me some of the most meaningful friendships in my adult life,” she says.
At first, Alford admits, her conversations with teammates were surface-level, sticking mainly to kickball and drinking. It took time for the meetups to evolve into backyard barbecues and concerts in the park — and for the group email chain to morph from a means to figure out the weekly roster to a hub for inside jokes, sports commentary and life updates.
“These are people who I never would have met,” Alford says. “We come and we play and we’re cheering for each other. It’s just a lovely positive experience.”
Jenny Jin, Santa Monica, beauty editor and writer
A year into living in L.A., Jenny Jin, 34, signed up for a K-pop dance class to try something new and get some exercise.
Her first few classes, during which she learned complicated choreography from a well-meaning but militant teacher, were “humbling.” Through a shared struggle to master the steps, Jin bonded with the women in the class, talking with them on the side.
As they walked to their cars joking about their shared lack of coordination, Jin and some other participants exchanged numbers and created a group chat.
Jin and her dance friends now get together between classes to practice, eat Korean barbecue and watch BTS videos.
“Someone is always initiating plans in the group chat,” Jin says. “There is something that feels so simple and pure about it. It feels like we’re kids again.”
Chris Hanson, Los Feliz, brand ambassador
Chris Hanson, 30, was on the verge of moving back to New York when he drove by the Friendship Auditorium in Griffith Park.
It’s home to the Los Angeles Breakfast Club, a zany organization founded in 1925 with the sole purpose of fostering friendships among Angelenos.
Hanson was nervous when he walked into his first meeting, but the overly friendly crowd, their songs about breakfast foods and their secret handshakes were immediately disarming.
“No one can take themselves too seriously when singing about ham and eggs,” Hanson says.
Five years later, Hanson is the club manager and goes to meetings every Wednesday morning for breakfast, vaudeville and a guest speaker. Thanks to the club, Hanson has made friends with people who are in their 90s and young college students.
Beyond club meetings, Hanson goes on movie dates with his Breakfast Club friends and will send them postcards whenever he travels and has to miss a gathering.
“It’s a way to start off the day right,” he says.
Haley Parmelee, Koreatown, digital marketing specialist
Some people like to spend their evenings at the bar with friends. Others like to knit. Haley Parmelee, 29, likes to do both — at the same time.
Parmelee is a member of the Eastside Drunken Knitters, a club that does exactly what it says. “It’s silly because we’re a decent-sized group bringing our knitting projects to a bar and drinking together,” Parmelee says. “People always stop by our table and are just like, ‘What are you guys doing?’”
Parmelee usually goes to meetings on Sunday afternoons, but she also regularly hangs out with knitters during the week. They’ll go to sewing classes, get dinner together and cat-sit for one another.
“The meetup has become the epicenter of all of my L.A. friend connections,” she says. “It kind of feels like a spiderweb that keeps coming together in different places.”
Urina Harrell, Long Beach, entrepreneur
Urina Harrell, 28, grew up in L.A. but moved to North Carolina to get her undergraduate degree and then was off to England for her master’s.
She felt like a transplant after she came back to her home state six years after leaving.
It had been too long since she had connected with or seen her childhood friends, and she felt like she was starting from square one. That along with the fact that she was trying to get her small business off the ground while working another job on the side meant there was little time for friends.
That’s when she turned to listings on Eventbrite. “I started looking through the site for local entrepreneur networking events,” Harrell says. “I was hungry for business but also looking to make connections.”
At the events, which ranged in size from a small business meeting to a small expo, nobody knew anyone else. Between pitch competitions and keynote speakers, Harrell struck up conversations with other business owners.
Now she will go to concerts or pop-ups with friends she met at networking events. Recently, she went to one’s engagement party.
“It’s nice that these friends are all doing similar things to me,” Harrell says. “There’s a really nice mutual understanding about our schedules and our passions.”
Javaris Turner, Mid-City, MBA candidate
Javaris Turner, 42, comes from a large military family. He went to the Naval Academy for college and served as an officer in the Marine Corps after graduation.
When he moved to L.A. in April 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he found developing authentic friendships to be difficult. When he saw a flier for a veterans organization on a public bulletin board, it only felt natural to sign up.
He is now a member of a handful of military groups such as Paradox Sports and Higher Ground, which meet weekly or monthly to rock climb, scuba dive, surf and hike. The groups have given Turner some of his most meaningful L.A. friendships.
“With other veterans, there’s a certain level of familiarity with some of the struggles and also a kind of camaraderie that’s really comforting,” he says.
One woman Turner met through these groups has become like an aunt to him. They FaceTime regularly and have hosted a number of events together.
With these friends, Turner has hiked everywhere from Joshua Tree to Yosemite Park. In the next two months, he plans to go on two weeklong trips with military organizations.
“Some of the relationships I’ve made have become closer than my familial relationships,” Turner says.
Eric Slota, Culver City, financial professional
Eric Slota grew up liking cars, as did many of his childhood friends. Unlike them, he never quite grew out of it. Now 24 and living in L.A., he’s the proud owner of a cream-colored vintage Mercedes-Benz and he’s an involved member of the L.A. car enthusiast community.
He belongs to groups such as the 3 Point Social Club and attends events including Cars and Coffee L.A.
“We’re all just a bunch of people coming together based on this common interest,” he says. “No one cares if you’re 24, 54 or 74, if you’re a guy or a girl, or what job you do.”
Slota tries to go to at least one organized car meetup every weekend, driving anywhere from Malibu to Long Beach.
“The moment you get there, you start to mix and mingle with everyone else,” Slota says. “You talk to people who have a similar car or your dream car. It’s a very fun crowd.”
This story is part of a limited series exploring friendship in Los Angeles, from the superficial to the fulfilling.
https://www.latimes.com/lifestyle/story/2022-08-01/how-to-make-friends-in-los-angeles How to make real friends in Los Angeles