L.A. is the best place to speed date. Here’s how to get in on the fun

Jona Xiao has tried just about every form of dating in hopes of finding her life partner.

The business owner and actor, who’s starred in TV shows like “The Flash” and “S.W.A.T,” has used several dating apps. She’s worked with a professional matchmaker and dating coach. She’s gone to singles mixers and even threw her own event last year. And at one point, she shared a “very detailed” Facebook post with images of herself and context on the type of partner she was looking for, just in case her friends had any recommendations.

But it wasn’t until her ex-fiancé, with whom she’s still friends, sent her an ad about a speed dating event on Instagram that she decided to attend one.

“I was excited by the idea of speed dating because I hadn’t really done anything like that before,” says Xiao, adding that she’d participated in virtual speed dating events via apps like the League and Bumble, but never in person.

A box with stripes and a label that says

Two attendees of tantra speed dating hold hands. A missed connection box during a queer-friendly speed dating event at Honey’s at Star Love. (JJ Geiger / For The Times)

Six people sit in a line in a corner against an orange wall

Honey’s at Star Love hosts a queer-friendly speed dating event.

(JJ Geiger / For The Times)

“I just felt like it was going to be an interesting experience regardless of what happened.” She ended up making two matches at a tantra speed dating event and says she’s looking forward to attending more. (Tantra is among the most searched terms related to speed dating in Los Angeles, according to Google Analytics.)

Xiao is one of several Angelenos trying speed dating for the first time in L.A., where the game-like method of going on several dates in a single evening is booming. Every week, you can find everything from tantra to queer and anime-focused express dating events across L.A. County.

There’s a myriad of benefits for speed dating: You have to get dressed only once for multiple dates, catfishing isn’t an issue like on dating apps, safety is less of a concern because you’ll be with other people in a public place, and the dates are quick (which is great if you’re not feeling a romantic vibe). But above all, relationship experts agree that rapid dating gives you the opportunity to get back into the groove, especially if you’ve been out of the game for a while.

“While I love dating apps for their efficiency and how much they expand someone’s dating pool, I never think it’s the only tool you should use for dating,” says Damona Hoffman, an L.A.-based certified dating coach and host of the podcast “Dates & Mates.”

“Speed dating is a great way to practice the skill of dating. If you only have a limited time to talk to someone, you figure out which stories grab people’s attention, how to make a good first impression [and] how to get comfortable talking to strangers. Even if you don’t meet your future spouse, they present a great opportunity to get back out [there] after COVID and familiarize yourself with communication and attraction skills that may have atrophied [during] lockdown,” says Hoffman.

If you’re nervous or still on the fence about going to a speed dating event in L.A., here’s how to make it a fun experience.

A person seated at a table faces other people in chairs, seen from the waist down

Matt Mulvihill was one of dozens of singles 21 to 30 at the Next Fun Thing speed dating event at Pali Wine Co.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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