6 Things to Do on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood

Evening on the Sunset Strip

 Aerial Hollywood/Moment/Getty Images/Plus

Sunset Strip is probably best known for its nightlife and music clubs, and for the wild antics of musicians who performed and stayed there over the years. It's still one of LA's busiest areas for music and clubs, but you can find more than that to do.

The first thing you need to know about Sunset Strip is how to find it. Set your GPS for any address between 8100 and 9100 Sunset Boulevard — or look on a map for the 1.5-mile-long section of Sunset between Doheny Drive and North Crescent Heights Boulevard.

Why is it called the strip, you might wonder. It's not because of strip joints. It's not because it's been stripped of its clothing or its dignity, either. In fact, it's a rather simple explanation: Los Angeles County workers who took care of the street in the early days called it "that strip" on Sunset, and it stuck. That's all there is to it.

Today, Sunset Strip is an area in transition. A project designed by architect Frank Gehry at 8150 Sunset will feature a public plaza and five buildings that bulge and twist in Gehry's signature style. A branch of the London-based Arts Club will soon rise on the former Hustler Hollywood site, and an almost other-worldly-looking hotel/housing development will replace the Viper Room.

But don't worry, while it may be getting fancier, the legendary street will likely remain focused on music and nightlife, at least for the foreseeable future. Here's what you can do there right now.

01 of 07

Check out a Music or Comedy club

Whisky A-Go-Go Club on Sunset strip
GC Images / Getty Images

Try some (or several) of these most popular spots for a fun night out:

  • The Roxy Theatre (9009 Sunset) hosts top indie rock bands, and you feel close to the action due to its small size. It was recently was acquired by Goldenvoice, which means top-notch bookings, excellent sightlines, and a top of the line sound system. They allow people of all ages but require ear protection for small children. And 99% of the time, it's standing only, with no seating available.
  • Whisky a Go Go (8901 Sunset) has been around since The Doors were their house band in the 1960s. It features mostly heavy metal bands these days. All ages are admitted, and they have a valet parking lot that you enter through the alley on Clark St. It's mostly standing room except for a few tables upstairs.
  • The Viper Room (8852 Sunset) was named after a music group but is best known for its former celebrity owner, Johnny Depp. It is styled to look like one of Harlem's great 1920s jazz clubs, but it hosts mostly emerging indie, metal, and rock bands. If you want to go there, do it soon. The property was sold in 2018 and will be redeveloped soon.
  • The Comedy Store (8433 Sunset) has featured virtually every prominent stand-up comedian at one time or another, and the names of many of them are scrawled all over its walls like autographs in a high school yearbook. Many of their alumni continue to use the venue to try out new material, so you never know who will show up unannounced.
  • The Laugh Factory (8001 Sunset) almost always has a recognizable name on their marquee.

If you're looking for a restaurant, bar, or nightclub, you can explore the full list at the Sunset Strip Business District website.

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02 of 07

Check Out the Billboards

Billboards on the Sunset Strip from in front of Book Soup bookstore

Betsy Malloy Photography

Any time of day on Sunset Strip, you can get a look at all the billboards that are part of what makes it famous.

They're enormous. A single ad can cover the entire side of a multi-story building. And they're expensive, with rates second only to New York's Times Square, costing $35,000 to $100,000 (or more) per month.

Netflix dominates the landscape. In 2019, they converted an entire intersection into boards showing scenes from "Stranger Things," rising about the Tower Records building, which was temporarily re-skinned to look like Starcourt Mall.

And if all that weren't enough, the West Hollywood City Council approved a next-generation billboard that blends architecture and digital technology. Called Sunset Spectacular or the Bell Tower, the 67-foot-tall board will be near the intersection of Sunset and Shelbourne Drive at 8775 Sunset Boulevard, in the same location as Pattern Park which features murals by The Art of Chase.

You see plenty of boards as you drive down the street, but one of the best places to stop and gawk at them is looking east in front of Book Soup (8818 Sunset), especially shortly after sunset.

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03 of 07

Enjoy the View

Rooftop Pool at the Andaz West Hollywood

 Andaz West Hollyood

Sunset Strip sits on the shoulder of the Hollywood Hills, with just enough elevation to provide expansive vistas of Los Angeles. These are some of the best places to go for a great view:

The Sundeck at the Andaz Hotel (8401 Sunset) is the highest rooftop pool bar in Los Angeles, and it's open to the general public, serving light fare and cocktails.

Skybar at the Mondrian Hotel ( 8440 Sunset) is for hotel guests only until 1 p.m. It's quieter during the day than in the evening, but you can't beat its city view no matter when you go. If you expect a place with "sky" in its name to be on the highest floor, don't let the street level entrance worry you. From its hillside location, it looks out over the rooftops of everything in the vicinity.

Harriet's Rooftop at 1 Hotel is (as they call it) "an elevated cocktail lounge."

Take a short drive into the hills above Sunset to catch the view from the Stahl House. The private residence built in the 1950s and well worth the trip to see its truly breathtaking site and structure. Reserve a late afternoon or evening tour and do it as far ahead as you can to avoid disappointment

If you're looking for a place to swim, sunbathe, and relax while enjoying the view, try the guests-only pools at the London West Hollywood, 1 Hotel, or the Andaz West Hollywood. The Sunset Marquis and its famous swimming pool (where the Red Hot Chili Peppers once jumped in from their suite stories above it) is just off the Strip.

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04 of 07

Go Shopping

Sunset Plaza Shopping Center on Sunset Strip

 

Glow / Getty Images Plus 

Sunset Strip may be best known for its nightlife, but you can also find some places to shop during the day.

Sunset Plaza between Alta Loma Road and Horn Avenue has lots of chic sidewalk cafes and more than 20 stores. Shops include high-end names you'll recognize, along with some local designers and custom clothiers. Use their map and directory to see what's there and find the hidden gems that are just off the main road. The high-end destination draws an A-list clientele, and you might spot a celeb or two out shopping.

Book lovers shouldn't miss Book Soup (8818 Sunset), L.A.’s largest independent bookstore. Its floor-to-ceiling shelves contain more than 60,000 titles, including limited editions. It's worth checking their author reading calendar for a chance to meet your favorite novelist or hear from an up-and-comer.

Some people say the first edition collection at Mystery Pier Books (8826 Sunset) is so good they should charge admission just to see it.

Famous clothier Fred Segal's flagship store (8500 Sunset) covers more than 21,000 square feet of innovative retail and event space. They host live music, designer trunk shows, and get exclusive product drops weekly. And they have an on-site cafe (run by Tartine Bakery from San Francisco) in case all that shopping makes you "hangry."

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05 of 07

Take a Tour

If you'd rather have someone else plan your route, do the research and tell you about the Sunset Strip, these tours are just the thing for you.

The LA Stories Sunset Strip Experience covers the history of the Strip, with many of the stories from the area's past.

Joe D'Amico's Rock 'n Walk Sunset Strip focuses on insider stories about the music scene on historic Sunset Strip.

The Sunset Strip Experience starts at 8000 Sunset (near its intersection with La Cienega Blvd). It promises to "rip the lid off some of the most iconic locations and stories that shaped and defined a city, culture and the entertainment industry."

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06 of 07

Go on a Trip Down Memory Lane

Rainbow Bar & Grill, Sunset Strip
©Betsy Malloy Photography

If you are looking for the Sunset Strip of yesteryear, these are a few places you can visit for a trip down Memory Lane.

It may not look like much these days, but back when the Rainbow Bar and Grill was called Villa Nova, actress Marilyn Monroe went on her first (blind) date with Joe DiMaggio there. Director Vincent Minnelli chose it as the spot to propose to Judy Garland. And it has a rich rock'n'roll music history.

When his publicist got lost on the way to meet Harrison at a house he was renting at 1567 Blue Jay Way (just about Sunset Strip), George Harrison wrote a song about it: "There's a fog upon L.A., and my friends have lost their way." It was released on the Magical Mystery Tour album. Overzealous fans often steal the street sign, and you may need a map to find it. And please don't be a jerk and bother the occupants.

The television show "77 Sunset Strip" (1958-1964) featured a pair of wisecracking, womanizing private eyes played by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and Roger Smith. You'll find the location of their office not at #77 but at 8524 Sunset Blvd, but the building has been demolished.

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07 of 07

Get Around Without Driving

Traffic on Sunset Strip can be snarled and frustrating, especially during rush hour and on weekend nights, but you have to get around somehow.

Here's an idea: walk. The entire strip is only 1.5 miles long, which would take the average walker about half an hour to cover.

A ridesharing service is always an option, but expect delays during busy times. Some Sunset Strip hotels like the Mondrian Los Angeles offer free limo service within a few miles, giving you a chance to arrive in style and feel like a VIP.

On Fridays and Saturdays, the City of West Hollywood offers a free trolley service called the Sunset Trip, which is a cool way to get to a ton of restaurants, bars, and attractions without having to worry about driving or parking. Check the route, hours, and stops before you go.

Parking can be nearly impossible to find, especially if you aren't prepared. But don't despair. There are more parking lots along the side streets. You could consult a map to find them, but a parking app like ParkMe or SpotHero is more helpful. They may also take reservations, sparing you the annoyance of driving up and finding a "full" sign.

Cannabis is legal in California, but don't go looking for marijuana dispensaries or cafes on the Sunset Strip just yet. The City of West Hollywood is still developing its licensing laws.

If you want to stay overnight, you can't beat the Mondrian Los Angeles for stylish design and its outdoor dining, pool, and bar. But there are plenty more places to stay. Find out how to pick a hotel on the Sunset Strip.

And if you want to explore more in the area, try some of these things to do in West Hollywood. You can also check out things to do in nearby Beverly Hills.

And it's easy to combine West Hollywood and Beverly Hills into a weekend escape.

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