Gay Los Angeles: West Hollywood

LA PRIDE Parade | Photo courtesy of LA PRIDE, Facebook

Santa Monica Boulevard leads you into West Hollywood, the thumping heart of Southern California’s gay community. L.A.’s Gay Pride Parade and Festival takes place here each June, and half a million people gather for the annual, much bedazzled Halloween Carnaval. The rest of the year, it’s busy day and night with cafés, gyms, restaurants, bars and dance clubs. It is truly a national phenomenon that so many gay establishments fill the streets of WeHo and have been thriving there for so long.

A classic evening in gay WeHo might start over margaritas at Marix Tex-Mex Cafe, barely more than a covered patio but always a party. For something more exotic, try the delicious Brazilian selections at Bossa Nova.

Then amble down Santa Monica Boulevard to swizzle a sweet martini at Eleven Nightclub. For fabulous mod interiors, check out Revolver, St. Felix and Here Lounge. Dance fanatics head to Rage, Micky’s or The Factory. Meanwhile, the lineup at intimate Fubar might include exotic dancers, drag or a comedy hour, depending on the night. Ladies will find a stop at The Palms or a Friday night at Here Lounge well in order.

You can always opt for an old favorite — drag queen bingo on Wednesday nights at Hamburger Mary’s. For sports bars, the crowd skews a bit older at longtime favorite Trunks, while Gym is a relative newcomer. Among dive bars, Gold Coast or the Mother Lode are always reliable. Then there’s The Abbey, a rainbow world unto itself. It started as a simple coffee shop and has grown into an empire, sporting a Goth-gone-wild style, as well as indoor and outdoor private cabanas.

Low-key more your taste? Try coffee at Urth Caffe or fashionable frozen yogurt (yes, fashionable frozen yogurt) at Yogurt Stop. If your shopping tendencies lean toward all things fashion, you can marvel at the design and clothing boutiques around the Pacific Design Center or the Beverly Center, as well as L.A.’s most famous shopping streets (Melrose Avenue, Beverly Boulevard and Robertson Boulevard). 

North of Santa Monica Boulevard, the clubs and eateries of the Sunset Strip set the bar for the world. Bar Marmont, House of Blues, and the Mondrian and Standard Hotels are good places to start. South of the Boulevard, try delicious steaks and desserts at STK; all-American fare lovingly prepared at Toast; or hearty baked goods, soups and salads at Doughboys. The Ivy is a culinary institution on the celebrity circuit, while Fig & Olive and Ink. are upscale newcomers.