West Hollywood Gay Guide

  • 01 of 07

    Getting to Know West Hollywood - 2016-2017 West Hollywood Events Calendar

    Fountains and colorful plantings, Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood, California, USA.
    ••• Barry Winiker/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    Here are quick links to the other pages that make up the West Hollywood Gay Guide:
    Getting to West Hollywood - the Lay of the Land
    West Hollywood 2016 Events Calendar - West Hollywood Gay Travel Resources
    Exploring West Hollywood - Cool Neighborhoods and Attractions
    West Hollywood Restaurant Guide
    West Hollywood Gay Bar Guide
    West Hollywood Hotel Guide

    A West Hollywood Profile

    The small but bustling city of West Hollywood, which is completely encircled by the city of Los Angeles, has come to be identified as one of the world's great gay meccas. A good many of its nearly 35,000 residents are gay, and the city contains the greatest concentration of gay-popular hotels, restaurants, shops, and bars in greater Los Angeles. It's also the site of some of the area's largest GLBT events, such as Los Angeles Gay Pride, Outfest, and West Hollywood Halloween Costume Carnaval. For gay visitors to L.A., West Hollywood is a must-see, and also a good base for exploring the entire region.

    For a...MORE guide to the gay scene in L.A.'s nearby beach communities, check the Santa Monica and Venice Gay Guide.

    When to Go:

    West Hollywood is a sunny desert city that receives little rain and only limited humidity. There's no bad time to visit, although late spring through summer sees the hottest and calmest days, which means the city's notorious smog can be more stifling then. Winter is cooler and can even be quite rainy, producing occasional floods and mudslides in the hills but also fresher days.

    Average high-low temps are 68F/48F in Jan., 73F/54F in Apr., 88F/65F in July, and 79F/60F in Oct. Precipitation averages 3 to 4 inches/mo. Jan. to Mar., and inch or 2 in Nov. and Dec., and less than an inch at other times.

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  • 02 of 07

    Getting to West Hollywood - the Lay of the Land

    ••• Shops and restaurants line the swanky Sunset Strip, one of West Hollywood's main thoroughfares. photo by Andrew Collins

    The Lay of the Land

    Although it feels like a neighborhood of L.A. and is surrounded by metro Los Angeles, West Hollywood actually incorporated as its own independent city in 1984. It's located at the southern edge of the Hollywood Hills, just east Beverly Hills, west of Hollywood, north of Mid-Wilshire and Century City, and south of the San Fernando Valley. It's very centrally located, just 8 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

    The main thoroughfares in West Hollywood are Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard, which run east-west and are lined with shops and eateries. La Brea, Fairfax, and La Cienega are main north-south avenues. The official border between West Hollywood and surrounding Los Angeles (and neighboring Beverly Hills) isn't especially obvious to visitors, and many attractions and businesses just outside West Hollywood (the L.A. Farmers Market, the Beverly Center shopping mall) are nevertheless mentioned in this guide because they're so close.

    Driving...MORE Distances

    Note that it can take 30 to 60 minutes to drive between many neighborhoods within greater Los Angeles. Downtown L.A. is about 10 miles southeast of the center of West Hollywood, and Santa Monica lies about 10 miles southwest. Driving distances to West Hollywood from prominent places and points of interest are:

    Flying to West Hollywood

    One of the busiest airports in the country, Los Angeles International (LAX) is by the ocean, about 12 miles south of West Hollywood. It's served by direct flights from all over the world. L.A. is also served by a number of smaller airports, many still with numerous direct domestic flights. The best of these if you're visiting West Hollywood is Burbank, a fairly compact and easy-to-navigate facility that's just 10 miles north of WeHo. Other options include Long Beach (25 miles south), John Wayne/Orange County (45 miles southeast), and Ontario (40 miles east).

    A car is your best way to get around, and all airports have car-rentals and ample ground transportation.

    Here are quick links to the other pages that make up the West Hollywood Gay Guide:
    Getting to Know West Hollywood
    West Hollywood 2016 Events Calendar - West Hollywood Gay Travel Resources
    Exploring West Hollywood - Cool Neighborhoods and Attractions
    West Hollywood Restaurant Guide
    West Hollywood Gay Bar Guide
    West Hollywood Hotel Guide

    Continue to 3 of 7 below.
  • 03 of 07

    West Hollywood 2016/2017 Events Calendar - West Hollywood Gay Travel Resources

    ••• The state-of-the-art West Hollywood Public Library is one of the city's design icons - huge murals, like this one by Shepard Fairey (famous for his Obama "Hope" image), have been painted on the exterior walls. photo by Andrew Collins

    Here's a calendar of some of the top events in West Hollywood throughout 2016 and 2017:

    Resources on Gay West Hollywood

    A number of resources out there offer extensive information on the city's gay scene, including the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, the online guide and blog Gay West Hollywood, the popular gay newspapers Frontiers and Lesbian News). The Los Angeles Times) is the city's best mainstream news source, and LA Weekly is a terrific alternative newsweekly.

    For tourism info, check out GoGayWestHollywood.com, an incredibly useful guide to all things gay and gay-friendly, produced by the West Hollywood CVB.

    Here are quick links to the other pages that make up the West Hollywood Gay Guide:
    Getting to Know West Hollywood
    Getting to West Hollywood - the Lay of the Land
    Exploring West Hollywood - Cool Neighborhoods and Attractions
    West Hollywood Restaurant Guide
    West Hollywood Gay Bar Guide
    West Hollywood Hotel Guide

    Continue to 4 of 7 below.
  • 04 of 07

    Exploring West Hollywood - Cool Neighborhoods and Attractions

    ••• Diesel and Alexander McQueen are among the boutiques lining Melrose Avenue, part of West Hollywood's chic Avenues of Arts & Design district. photo by Andrew Collins

    West Hollywood is an extremely compact community, and you'll find popular businesses throughout its roughly 2 square miles. Both residents and visitors to the greater L.A. region tend to think of West Hollywood more as a neighborhood of Los Angeles than a distinct city. Still, there are a few key thoroughfares in West Hollywood of particular note.

    Santa Monica Boulevard

    Santa Monica Boulevard, especially the stretch from Robertson to La Cienega boulevards, has scads of shops, boutiques, gay clubs, restaurants, and coffeehouses - it's ground-zero for gay visitors to West Hollywood.

    The Sunset Strip

    Since the 1930s the hippest and rowdiest nightclubs and music venues have lined Sunset Boulevard from Doheny Drive to Fairfax Avenue. Running north of and parallel to Santa Monica Boulevard, the Sunset Strip is a touristy, glitzy section of West Hollywood. The best place for sidewalk strolling - and celebrity spotting - is Sunset Plaza, a swank stretch of shops and outdoor restaurants....MORE Sunset Boulevard also contains the largest concentration of West Hollywood's hotels, including such high-end spots as Chateau Marmont, the Andaz, and the Mondrian.

    West Hollywood Design District

    The southern end of West Hollywood, chiefly along the thoroughfares of Melrose Avenue, La Cienega Boulevard, Beverly Boulevard, and North Robertson Boulevard, has become known as The West Hollywood Design District (fka "Avenues of Art & Design"), owing to the area's wealth of posh and stylish boutiques, design shops, furniture showrooms, and galleries. This is also an area with some outstanding restaurants. For sidewalk strolling, you can't beat this lively district.

    The area's chief landmark is the dramatic blue-and-green Pacific Design Center contains some 135 showrooms packed with furniture, textiles, and interior-design accessories.

    Highlights and History: West Hollywood

    West Hollywood, which has one of the highest percentages of gay residents of any city in America, first developed its LGBT identity during the 1940s and '50s, when set designers, makeup artists, wardrobe staffers, and other behind-the-scenes workers on TV shows and films moved and worked here, and this part of Los Angeles was known as Sherman.

    From its earliest days the then-unincorporated community was a major nightlife center. Because it fell outside the jurisdiction of the oppressive L.A. Police Department, strip clubs and peep shows opened along Santa Monica Boulevard, and gay bars ran little risk of being raided. Not only gays but many film celebrities and rock stars had West Hollywood addresses by the '60s. The most dramatic surge in the gay population occurred in the '70s, when Santa Monica Boulevard became the gay nightlife mecca it still is today. That being said, WeHo has become increasingly more fashionable with all walks of life, and while it remains a popular locale for gay clubbers, shoppers, and diners, many of the newer establishments in the city cater to a decidedly more mixed - though no less stylish - crowd.

    West Hollywood and the hills above it contain numerous examples of significant 20th-century residential architecture, including the R. M. Schindler House, Rudolf Schindler's 1922 modernist marvel, which hosts rotating exhibits, some of which document the architect's many accomplishments. Tours are available Wednesday through Sunday.

    One architectural achievement that defines West Hollywood as a center of creativity are the dramatic Pacific Design Center, aka "the Blue Whale", at the corner of San Vicente and Melrose (and just a few steps south of the action on Santa Monica Boulevard). Designed by seminal architect Cesar Pelli, the massive building comprising blue, green, and - just built in 2011 - red wings contains offices, dozens of design showrooms, a branch of MOCA (the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles), the offices of the West Hollywood Marketing and Visitors Bureau, and Wolfgang Puck's Red Seven restaurant.

    The city's latest design icon, the West Hollywood Library opened in 2011 across the street from the Pacific Design Center, in a striking contemporary building with magnificent murals by Shepard Fairey, Retna, and Kenny Scharf on its sides, a LEED-Certified design, an LGBT collection and archive, an HIV Information Center, and plenty of comfortable, attractive places to work, read, and study.

    Those interested in America's lesbian-rights movement and history should check out the Mazer Collection at 626 N. Robertson Blvd. (310-659-2478), one of the nation's only lesbian cultural archives. It contains some 2,500 books and a substantial T-shirt collection, plus videos, records, softball uniforms, quite a few misguided psychological studies, some intriguing old pulp novels with wicked portrayals of lesbian love, and many filing cabinets of articles and clippings. It's open to the public the first Sunday of each month from 2 to 5 pm and on Tuesdays from noon to 3 pm (as well as at other times by appointment).

    The nearby Beverly Center functions as something of an unofficial queer community center. Movie theaters, a pretty decent food court, and the usual array of stylish shops (Ben Sherman, H&M, Guess, etc.) make it popular with retail-minded guys and chic lesbians

    Just southeast of West Hollywood, don't miss the L.A. Farmers Market, which offers a true slice of local life. The original market building is a social hub for all types - gay, straight, old, young; it contains some of the best food markets and affordable eateries around. The adjacent and much newer Grove outdoor shopping center contains a number of mid- and upscale chain shops and restaurants as well as a large movie theater

    Here are quick links to the other pages that make up the West Hollywood Gay Guide:
    Getting to Know West Hollywood
    Getting to West Hollywood - the Lay of the Land
    West Hollywood 2016 Events Calendar - West Hollywood Gay Travel Resources
    West Hollywood Restaurant Guide
    West Hollywood Gay Bar Guide
    West Hollywood Hotel Guide

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    West Hollywood Restaurant Guide

    ••• The Abbey Food & Bar, with its gorgeous fountains and expansive outdoor patio seating, is a great people-watching perch and a favorite gay venue for brunch, lunch, cocktails, and late-night noshing. photo by Andrew Collins

    Tiny but swanky West Hollywood has become one of Southern California's culinary hot spots over the years, with a mix of luxury beacons of high-concept dining along with a good balance of more affordable neighborhood spots that are known as much for food as for socializing and hobnobbing. In the latter category, the many eateries lining Santa Monica Boulevard from La Cienega to Robertson boulevards are often packed with GLBT locals and tourists noshing before - or sometimes after - they go clubbing. Up along Sunset Boulevard and elsewhere in the neighborhood, the crowds are more mixed, and in some cases, tables can be very hard to score on weekends (make reservations well in advance on any of the high-profile hangouts, such as Boxwood, inside the London West Hollywood hotel, and Suzanne Goin's fabulous Lucques).

    Inside the chic Hotel Andaz, RH Restaurant and Bar serves stellar Southwestern French-influenced cuisine that showcases regional ingredients. There's a smart wine...MORE list, a tasty charcuterie plate, several dishes featuring foie gras (including the house burger, which also comes with truffled, triple-fried French fries), and a terrific 12-hour-cooked Niman Ranch pork belly with creamed grits.

    A number of standbys have long been hugely popular with WeHo's GLBT set. What began as a cute coffeehouse and has since flourished into a swish bar and eatery with beautiful courtyard dining, The Abbey is a good bet for anything from a light lunch to early-evening cocktails. West Hollywood has a predictably popular and fun Hamburger Mary's, which is known as much for its hefty burgers and other fair-priced cooking as for cocktails and socializing. Eleven, a gay-straight nightclub and restaurant set in a dramatic 1920s building, serves reasonably priced modern American fare, from pastas and salads to great burgers and Kobe beef sliders. Basix Cafe and Marix Tex Mex Cafe serve great food at fair prices and have for years been fun places to gather among both neighborhood regulars and visitors (and even the occasional celeb). The former specializes in creative California-inspired fare, including delicious breakfasts, while Marix is known for its potent margaritas and eclectic Mexican-American food. The French Quarter Market Place turns out well-prepared diner-style fare from morning till evening and is another of the West Hollywood's gay faves. Champagne French Bakery, part of a regional chain, is a good bet for crepes and light lunch and breakfast fare.

    Just southeast of West Hollywood, the venerable - and historic - L.A. Farmers Market contains dozens of open-air cafes and food stalls specializing in everything from sushi to Cajun fare. It's one of the best venues in the area for a light and affordable meal as well as for people-watching. Formerly inside the Farmers Market, Kokomo Cafe is a cool, mod diner nearby on Beverly Boulevard serving home-style inspired comfort fare. The historic Formosa Cafe serves decent American and Chinese food, but the big draw here is the restaurant's history - celebs and movie stars have been coming here since it opened in the '30s, and the walls are lined with autographed posters. The dramatic red interior is quite striking, too.

    Cheap late-night spots for fast-food and the like include Hamburger Haven; the lively Fiesta Cantina, which has great people-watching from its sidewalk dining area and is steps from several gay clubs; and the trendy Debauchery Bar & Grill, which opened in fall 2011 in the former Skewers space and serves tasty tapas and sophisticated cocktails.

    Here are quick links to the other pages that make up the West Hollywood Gay Guide:
    Getting to Know West Hollywood
    Getting to West Hollywood - the Lay of the Land
    West Hollywood 2016 Events Calendar - West Hollywood Gay Travel Resources
    Exploring West Hollywood - Cool Neighborhoods and Attractions
    West Hollywood Gay Bar Guide
    West Hollywood Hotel Guide

    Continue to 6 of 7 below.
  • 06 of 07

    West Hollywood Gay Bar Guide

    ••• One of West Hollywood's most popular and longest-running gay club, Micky's, which was smartly remodeled in 2009 following a fire. photo by Andrew Collins

    West Hollywood is home to the largest concentration of gay bars and clubs in Los Angeles - in fact, other than the Castro in San Francisco, the strip along Santa Monica Boulevard has more GLBT nightlife than anywhere in the western United States. In contrast to many gay nightlife districts, West Hollywood has remained remarkably stable over the past two decades. Plenty of bars have come and gone, but a clear majority of mainstays has continued to thrive here. The most pronounced stretch of bars is along a pedestrian-friendly several-block stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard between La Cienega and Robertson boulevards (sometimes called "Boys Town"), a strip that's also lined with gay-popular restaurants and boutiques. Most of the bars are on the north side of the boulevard.

    The most popular and established gay bars along this stretch include Rage, Micky's, and Revolver - the latter was known as East West Lounge for several years before being relaunched as Revolver, the same...MORE name this see-and-be-seen video bar was known by through most of the '90s and early '00s. Also along this stretch are Eleven (both a restaurant and bar), Gym Sports Bar (a sister to the original Gym Sports Bar in NYC's Chelsea neighborhood), the Mexican restaurant and bar Fiesta Cantina, the stylish cocktail bar and tapas eatery Debauchery, and the laid-back Trunks, which is a fun place to shoot pool or kick off an evening of bar-hopping.

    On the south side of the street, you'll find the venerable lesbian bar, The Palms, and farther west is one of the quintessentially friendly and laid-back gay neighborhood hangout, Mother Lode. Walk just a few blocks west and turn left onto Robertson Boulevard, and you'll find a second cluster of gay nightspots that pull in sizable crowds of both locals and tourists: Here Lounge (run by the same team behind NYC's dapper G Lounge), the Abbey Food and Bar (very much a place to see and be seen), and - across the street - the massive Factory/Ultra Suede complex, which hosts major warehouse-style parties on weekends.

    The other cluster of West Hollywood gay bars along Santa Monica is several blocks east, beyond La Cienega Boulevard - you could conceivably walk the 1.5 miles to these others, but it's far enough that most people drive or take a cab. Here you'll find the West Hollywood branch of the gay burger-and-drinks chain Hamburger Mary's, the old-time-y Gold Coast (which nevertheless has a quite loyal following), and the edgy and hipster-filled Fubar (it feels more like the gay bars in L.A.'s Silver Lake neighborhood).

    What about the fabled nightlife along tony Sunset Boulevard, you ask? West Hollywood's most glamorous thoroughfare more-or-less parallels Santa Monica Boulevard a bit farther up the hill and is lined with historic music clubs like the Viper Room (outside of which River Phoenix tragically overdosed), the Troubadour, Key Club, and the touristy but still-fun House of Blues. Also along this stretch are swank hotel bars that draw a good share of celebs and industry types, such as Skybar at the Mondrian, the Terrace at Sunset Tower, and Bar Marmont at the storied Chateau Marmont.

    And then there are trendy haunts set elsewhere in West Hollywood, like the exclusive Soho House club, The Belmont, and Lola's. In all of these spots, the crowd is mostly hetero, and to varying degrees, you can encounter steep cover charges, long lines, or difficult door policies at some of these places, especially on weekends. But they're all quite gay-friendly, and given their location in one of the world's GLBT meccas, you can be assured you'll likely bump into kindred spirits at many of these spots.

    If you're looking for tips on where to meet guys and get laid while in town, check out the Los Angeles and West Hollywood Gay Sex Clubs and Bathhouse guide.

    Here are quick links to the other pages that make up the West Hollywood Gay Guide:
    Getting to Know West Hollywood
    Getting to West Hollywood - the Lay of the Land
    West Hollywood 2016 Events Calendar - West Hollywood Gay Travel Resources
    Exploring West Hollywood - Cool Neighborhoods and Attractions
    West Hollywood Restaurant Guide
    West Hollywood Hotel Guide

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  • 07 of 07

    West Hollywood Hotel Guide

    ••• A stylish room at the trendy Andaz West Hollywood - ask for one of these south-facing rooms for a spectacular view of West Hollywood and Los Angeles. photo by Andrew Collins

    There are quite a few advantages to choosing a hotel in West Hollywood, even if it's not especially important to you that you stay close to the city's gay scene. West Hollywood is a central location for exploring all of Los Angeles, about midway between the coastal communities like Santa Monica and Venice, and the Mid-Wilshire and downtown Los Angeles neighborhoods, as well as the city's other gay hub, Silver Lake. West Hollywood also border Beverly Hills to the west, and Hollywood to the east, and it's just over the Hollywood Hills from the San Fernando Valley (and the film-industry attractions around Burbank).

    All of the hotels in this small city enveloped by the larger city of Los Angeles are ostensibly gay-friendly, but the properties up along Sunset Boulevard, which tend to be the fanciest and are also a longer walk from Santa Monica Boulevard gay bars, cater to a more mainstream - albeit well-heeled - clientele.

    There's just one hotel in West Hollywood located...MORE directly on the Boys Town section of the Santa Monica Boulevard bar strip, the moderately priced Ramada Plaza Hotel West Hollywood. Despite being identified with a mediocre brand, the Ramada has been nicely maintained over the years and has an unbeatable location for fans of nightlife.

    Within about a block of Santa Monica Boulevard's bars, four different independent, upscale but still reasonably priced hotels are located on quiet residential streets. These include the Petit Ermitage and the Chamberlain West Hollywood, which are steps just north of GLBT bars and restaurants yet well-cloistered from noise and traffic; Le Montrose Suite Hotel, which is just slightly farther north and west of the action but still very convenient; and Le Parc Suite Hotel, which lies just a couple of blocks south of the strip, putting it closer to the fashion and design scene along Melrose Avenue. Although these four hotels are unrelated, they share certain similarities, as each is an all-suite hotel with sizable rooms, most of them with kitchenettes and lots of room to spread out. They're all good bets if you want to be in the heart of the action, are planning a longer stay, and prefer being off of a main thoroughfare. These four hotels typically offer rates in the $200 to $300 range, and the Ramada often comes in even lower, sometimes down around $150 nightly.

    Up along Sunset Boulevard, which is several blocks up the hill from Santa Monica, you can choose among some of the hippest and most stylish hotels in metro Los Angeles. Just keep in mind that the top properties in this area will set you back a pretty penny. A wonderful choice along here is the striking Andaz West Hollywood (formerly the Hyatt), which sits up high on a bluff with spectacular views of the city (facing south) and the hills (if you book a room facing north). The rooftop pool here is fabulous, and RH Restaurant and Bar on the lobby level is one of neighborhood's best-kept secrets. The Andaz is upscale, but not over-the-top pricey.

    Other good choices on (or just off of) Sunset include the stunning and ultra-posh London West Hollywood, the stylish Sunset Marquis, and the historic Chateau Marmont - a favorite crash pad of celebs. Set inside a dramatic art deco building with wonderful views, the Sunset Tower Hotel is also a top luxury option, and the see-and-be-seen Mondrian is a favorite of partiers (just beware somewhat uneven service). Surprisingly affordable, given its location amid several much fancier neighbors, the Best Western Plus Sunset Plaza Hotel is a fantastic bargain.

    If you're on a tight budget and require a basic, no-frills accommodation that's close to gay bars and the Boys Town scene, you might consider the Holloway Motel. It's about as no-frills as you can get, but it's in a safe area, and the rates are rock-bottom.

    Here are quick links to the other pages that make up the West Hollywood Gay Guide:
    Getting to Know West Hollywood
    Getting to West Hollywood - the Lay of the Land
    West Hollywood 2016 Events Calendar - West Hollywood Gay Travel Resources
    Exploring West Hollywood - Cool Neighborhoods and Attractions
    West Hollywood Restaurant Guide
    West Hollywood Gay Bar Guide