If you're a fan of cruising, sexual voyeurism and exhibitionism, and hooking up in gyms and saunas, you're probably going to find plenty to make you happy in Los Angeles, with has more gay bathhouses and sex clubs than any city in the United States. In fact, you'll find plenty of keep you busy in Southern California, as there's also a fun gay bathhouse in San Diego, and Palm Springs has more clothing-optional gay resorts than anywhere in the world, many of them with a steamy, sauce-y vibe.
Sorting out the gay bathhouse and sex club options in Los Angeles can be a little daunting, and, of course, it's impossible to predict at any given time who you're going to bump into at one club or another. Some of these places are consistently pretty popular, and on weekends late at night, your odds are pretty strong of finding good crowds at all these hangouts. But given LA's vast distances, a quite logical approach to sorting out the scene is considering which club you're closest to. To this end, the city's gay saunas and sex clubs are organized below by general geography. Of course, bar-hopping is another fun way to meet like-minded guys, and the West Hollywood Gay Nightlife Guide has lots of ideas on where to hang out and play, as does the Silver Lake and Los Feliz Gay Nightlife Guide.
Gay Bathhouses around West Hollywood and Hollywood
Although technically in Hollywood, the conveniently located Melrose Spa (7269 Melrose Ave., Hollywood, 323-937-2122) is part of the Midtown Spa gay bathhouse chain, which has two other locations in the area (Midtowne Spa in downtown L.A., and 1350 Club, in the city of Wilmington - see below for more on both).
On Melrose Avenue close to La Brea, Melrose Spa is open 24/7 and caters to a cross section of WeHo guys, from Latinos to twinks to leather dudes. Compared with some of the discreetly marked and located facilities around LA, Melrose Spa is easy to find and locate - its entrance is right on this busy street.
The club has a full variety locker room and sauna amenities, a sundeck, and a mix of private rooms ($28) and lockers ($18), but a variety of discounts and deals reduce these prices much of the time, especially on weekdays. In terms of having lots of guys to choose from, Melrose Spa is often your best bet.
A bit east more toward the heart of Hollywood, you'll also find the Zone L.A., a highly popular gay sex club, and and the Hollywood Spa, also in Hollywood as well with a branch in the San Fernando Valley city of North Hollywood (see below).
Not a bathhouse but rather a sex club with mostly evening hours (8 pm until 6 am except for Sundays, which are 2 pm until 6 am), Zone L.A. (1037 N. Sycamore Ave., Hollywood, 323-472-6495) is - like Melrose Spa - just beyond West Hollywood city limits; it's a half-block south of Santa Monica Boulevard, just east of La Brea Avenue. The two-story establishment has mazes and blow-job "bullpens", private booths catering to guys seeking a little privacy with whomever they'd locked horns with, and a lounge showing porn.
You can check your clothes here as you would at a bathhouse (lockers and coat-checks are available), but the usual ritual here is to walk around in your street clothes. A novel feature for a sex club, though perhaps not so unusual in Los Angeles: there's free valet parking. Guys who find a lack of younger men and muscle dudes at some of the other saunas and clubs in LA may be a little happier with the crowd here - it's a mix, but you'll nearly always find a few beefy or buff dudes who've wandered in after clubbing in West Hollywood. It can get pretty packed - and stand-and-modelish - in here on weekends, which means your odds of finding what you're looking for can actually be a little better on weekdays, when there's generally less posing.
The other option that had been in this part of LA was Hollywood Spa (1650 Ivar Ave., Hollywood), several blocks northeast Zone and Melrose but right in the heart of Hollywood, near the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine and right off the Hollywood Freeway.
However, this 20,000-square-foot bathhouse has closed.
Gay Bathhouses around Downtown Los Angeles
There's one option that's truly located downtown: Midtowne Spa (615 Kohler St., 213-680-1838), which is a short cab ride or not particular scenic 30-minute walk (not recommended at night) from the main business hotels around Pershing Square and the Civic Center. Part of the nationally known brand (same as Melrose Spa and 1350 Club), Midtowne Spa is a big, impressively designed place (don't be put off by the industrial exterior) that's very well taken care of and pulls in a huge mix of regulars and tourists of all shapes, sizes, and ages. This club stands out for a few reasons - service if professional and courteous, there's secure parking, and the facilities are clean and modern. You'll nearly always find a good crowd here, especially on weekends (nights and during the afternoon),
Gay Bathhouses around Silver Lake and Los Feliz
A short (roughly 10-minute) drive from downtown, you'll find a couple of fun sex-plexes in the lower edge of one of the city's historically gay hubs, Silver Lake. There's Flex Baths (4424 Melrose Ave., 323-663-7786), which is right beside exit 6B of the 101 Hollywood Freeway and is part of the chain of bathhouses with locations in Cleveland, Phoenix, and Atlanta. Flex pulls in reasonably solid crowds most of the time, and its proximity to some of the region's top leather clubs - like the Eagle and Faultline Bar - make it something of a favorite with the leather-bear-fetish crowd. On reputation, it's pretty much a middle-contender in Los Angeles - not the best gay spa in the city, but not the worst.
And just a five-minute drive around the corner, a couple of blocks south of the 101, there's Slammer Sex Club (3688 Beverly Blvd., 213-388-8040), which is also in Silver Lake as well as in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As with Zone L.A., this isn't a bathhouse where you check your towel but rather a club - you can walk around in whatever clothes you arrived in. Admission (cash only) costs $20 for a five-month membership, plus $15 each time you go, but out-of-town visitors can purchase a $27 one-time-use admission. This is also an after-dark hangout - the hours are 8 pm until 4 or 5 am except on weekends, when Slammer opens at 2 pm. There are indoor and outdoor areas for meeting guys and messing around, including glory holes and slings, but you won't find bathhouse features like saunas and hot tubs. Slammer isn't for the faint of heart - guys are here to get down to business, and kink and raunch are the favorite flavors of this clientele. It's a good fit with guys who don't like the posing and games that are sometimes prevalent in gay saunas, but this place isn't everybody's ideal.
Gay Bathhouses around the San Fernando Valley
There's a pretty substantial gay community in LA's San Fernando Valley, but this isn't a part of the metro area that draws a ton of tourists. The most centrally located and established of the valley's two bathhouses is North Hollywood Spa (5636 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood, 818-760-6969), which opened in the mid-'80s and is close to the handful of gay bars in the area as well as Burbank Airport. It's well-regarded for its huge outdoor sunning area, it has a handy little cafe serving food 'round the clock, and the staff takes reasonably good care of the place, although the interior does feel a bit dated.
A few miles west in suburban Van Nuys, the Roman Holiday Health Club II (14435 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys, 310-391-0200) caters mostly to Valley locals and has a strong following among Asian and Hispanic men, tending toward the older set. It's low-keyed, well-maintained, and a bit more affordable than some of the others, but it's probably not worth trekking all the way out here is you're staying in West Hollywood or central LA.
Gay Bathhouses around Santa Monica, Venice, and LAX
Gotta plane to catch in a few hours? Just back from tanning on the beach in Venice? The original locale of the above-mentioned Roman Holiday Health Club (12814 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-391-0200) is super-convenient to the Venice-Santa Monica area and also Los Angeles International Airport, making it a hit with horny West Siders. This is one of the more basic sex clubs in the city, and it caters - for the most part - to the over-40 set. But it's a good find if you're nearby and don't feel like driving all the way to WeHo or downtown.
Gay Bathhouse around Long Beach and South Bay
Part of metro LA's biggest bathhouse group, Midtowne Spa, 1350 Club (510 W. Anaheim St., 310-830-4784) is very, very popular, which you may find surprising if you're not overly familiar with great Los Angeles. Although this facility on a commercial street in heavily Hispanic and working-class Wilmington appears a bit off the beaten path relative to downtown LA, it's the closest area bathhouse to California's seventh-largest metropolis, Long Beach, which is just 5 miles east and is home to a sizable GLBT population. There's a good-size sundeck here, and the crowd is pretty diverse in age and race.