Los Angeles is a bona fide LGBTQ epicenter, and visitors and locals alike are spoilt for choice when it comes to entertainment, attractions, culture, restaurants, and of course bars and nightlife. After all, this is ground base for the entertainment industry, and it’s relatively common to spot a "Drag Race" queen (out of drag, of course) or Hollywood name (maybe openly gay, maybe more discreetly so) while imbibing a drink at a West Hollywood gay bar, soaking in sun at a gay-friendly beach, taking in a gay stand-up comedy show, or wandering around laid-back hipster hood, Silver Lake, or Beverly Hills.
We could easily list hundreds of LGBTQ-friendly recommendations and must-dos, but let’s start with a curated selection of 15. And do consider marking your calendars now with annual events L.A. Pride, OUTFEST LGBTQ film festival, and PRIDE IS UNIVERSAL night at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Born Touko Valio Laaksonen, Tom of Finland funneled a fixation for hyper-masculine uniformed men into an iconic, prolific body of (mostly) NSFW erotically-charged artwork. The subject of an eponymous 2017 biopic, Tom spent the latter years of his career and life (1980-1991) working out of this Echo Park neighborhood craftsman-style house, which today serves as museum, archive, library, event space, and base for the Tom of Finland Foundation. Aspiring Tom of Finlands — or France, Canada, Oregon, etc. — can attend their monthly Life Drawing Session, while an annual Erotic Art Festival and competition takes place in Fall.
A 28-year-old restaurant, bar, nightclub, and de facto LGBTQ community center when a political threat or victory demands a powwow or drink, West Hollywood’s The Abbey is SO the place to be that it was setting of the 2017 E! network reality show, "What Happens at The Abbey." Initially a humble coffeehouse decorated church-style with stained glass windows — hence the name — today’s Abbey includes a 3-year-old, 5,500 square foot sister bar, The Chapel. You’re as likely to rub elbows on any given night with celebrities like Troye Sivan and Lady Gaga, as locals gossiping over elevated comfort food (rosemary garlic fries, Angus beef sliders) and Appletinis. Don’t miss Salvation Saturdays for dancing, while women converge on Wednesdays at the Altargirl party.
Silver Lake’s The Black Cat is the site of the country’s first LGBT civil rights demonstration. In 1967, around 600 people peacefully protested in response to a brutal raid and arrests made on New Year’s Eve: taking place a full two years before the famed NYC Stonewall Riots. It was declared a Los Angeles Cultural-Historical Monument in 2008, with a plaque out front, and today it also serves as a delicious gastropub and prime people-watching spot. Do check out this video on its history and the daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. Hello bargain priced baked oysters, crispy deviled eggs, wine, cocktails, and SoCal craft brews!
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
LACMA’s “Levitated Mass” and Urban Light installations – a partially underground passage topped by a boulder, and square cluster of streetlamps, respectively – are almost compulsory selfie stops for visitors’ Instagram accounts. Beyond that, LACMA demands a visit for its very LGBTQ-inclusive permanent collection (Mapplethorpe, Glenn Ligon) and temporary exhibitions by the likes of queer African-British filmmaker/artist Isaac Julien and photographer Catherine Opie. LACMA is closed Wednesdays, and admission is free on first Tuesdays, while L.A. County residents get free entry all weekdays from 3 p.m. till closing.
Runyon Canyon Park
As egalitarian as they are scenic and invigorating, Runyon Canyon’s trails entail the go-to for a bit of exercise, dog walking, and utterly stunning selfie-worthy views of L.A. (and yes, spotting celebrities like gay Olympic diver Tom Daley and his Oscar-winning husband, Dustin Lance Black). There are numerous trails to pick from, which you can find listed on Hike Speak. Some sections allow leash-free dogs, and parking around the various entry points is limited at best, so make use of your Uber or Lyft apps to avoid time-wasting headaches and monstrously expensive parking tickets or, worse, a tow.
Will Rogers State Beach
Just north of the Santa Monica Beach border in Pacific Palisades, the approximately 3-mile-long Will Rogers State Beach, in fact once owned by the Hollywood legend but donated to California state after his death, has a fabulous gay section dubbed “Ginger Rogers Beach” with volleyball courts and plenty of nearby cafes, restaurants, and cocktail spots. Take the Pacific Coast Highway, find street parking at West Channel or via pay lot, and make your way to lifeguard tower 18. Fun fact: "Baywatch" was shot around here!
Sissy that burger with a side order of drag at this West Hollywood branch of the colorful, kitschy, queer bar and grill chain. The weekly calendar is chock full of dragged-up fun and performances — Lily Tomlin has showed up at Drag Queen Bingo — including weekend Drag Brunch with bottomless mimosas. Good news for the meat-averse: Hamburger Mary’s recently added the vegan, non-GMO, can’t-believe-its-not-meat Beyond Burger to the menu.
Along with Santa Monica Boulevard’s Revolver, Mother Lode, and Rage, Micky’s is a cherished, enduring West Hollywood gay nightlife institution. In 2007, things looked grim when an electrical fire struck, but two years later Micky’s rose like a phoenix, bigger and better than ever. Now the two-floor nightclub features two bars, a dance floor, a patio, and weekly events that attract longtime regulars and fresh-faced baby queers alike, including Showgirl drag Mondays with fan favorite queens from "RuPaul’s Drag Race."
West Hollywood’s ONE Gallery is one of two public hubs for the ONE Archives Foundation, which maintains the world’s largest collection of LGBTQ materials. Birthed from a “homophile” magazine of the same name (first published in 1953), ONE hosts temporary exhibitions at both this Gallery — for example, Stephen Varble’s 1970s genderqueer “gutter art” — and the USC Libraries, where ONE’s main collection is based.
Like an uber-queer, permanent Fringe festival theater, this Silver Lake venue — located beneath the 57-year-old, unpretentious Casita del Campo Mexican restaurant — is where you’ll find some of L.A.’s funniest and most subversive shows, comedy, music, and local drag personalities like Jackie Beat, Sherry Vine, and Ongina. Try to catch Latino drag troupe Chico’s Angels in one of their satirical original productions, and twisted, dragged-out parodies of TV shows and movies like "The Facts of Life and Thelma & Louise." Guaranteed fun!
Once dreaded, Downtown L.A., DTLA for short, is now a percolating cultural and queer destination with its own dedicated annual Pride festival in late summer, DTLA Proud. Dance club/bar/restaurant Precinct was instrumental in this seachange, opening in a former parole office building in 2015 (that same year, DTLA’s Redline, located about 10 minutes away by foot, also joined the scene). Billing itself as a “rock n roll gay bar,” and quite a large one at that, expect go-go boys, underwear parties, bear and Latino-centric nights, and drag shows with "Drag Race" faves.
There’s some irony to the name, since this deliciously divey, neighborhood gay bar is actually DTLA’s oldest. A predominantly Latino crowd and friendly vibes, music ranging from meringue to Reggaeton, lively dancing, cheap drinks, and bilingual Spanish/English drag performances make this a muy caliente and uniquely DTLA delight.
Silver Lake has a hipster reputation, and Akbar backs that preconception up in the best possible way and, opened back in 1996, it was an early arriver to boot. Besides drinking and dancing, Akbar — which is broken into two distinct spaces, a lounge and dance floor, each with its own bar — fills its nights with movie screenings, queer stand-up comedy, themed dance nights (retro disco-indie-electro tunes! Bears!), open mic poetry/storytelling slams, karaoke, and go-go men. While here, make a crawl of it by adding stops at Faultline and The Eagle.
A Denmark-born, openly gay skincare guru, Henriksen achieved first fame treating Hollywood residents’ cystic acne with miraculous results and garnered an A-list client list that’s included Ellen DeGeneres, Cher, Charlize Theron, and Elton John. He opened this discreet spa on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood in 1998, and in 2012 Henriksen’s spa director, Vance Soto, bought the company and has continued to innovate this cozy albeit buzzy oasis of pampering. Don’t be surprised if you see Madonna or Katy Perry come in for a pre-red carpet facial.
Only a block by foot yet a world away from West Hollywood’s Santa Monica Boulevard gay nightclubs and bars, boutique hotel Petit Ermitage fuses Moroccan, Spanish, and Parisian vibes with bohemian chic and a touch of carnival whimsy. Additionally, guests have access to the rooftop’s heated saltwater pool and gorgeous views, daily morning yoga sessions, and Monday night movie screenings on the outdoor fire deck. If you really want to soak in Hollywood old-school glamour and history, the gay-owned Sunset Tower Hotel on Sunset Boulevard is a must, while more contemporary-minded visitors can consider Palihouse West Hollywood.