LA is stereotyped as the land of beautiful people, beaches, and relaxed fashion. LA is way more than this tired trope. With LGBT friendly neighborhoods spread throughout the county, LA is the ultimate LGBTQ destination for those looking for an upscale urban retreat. From trendy dining to gorgeous nightlife venues, LA is a city kid’s dream.
You’re going to need a car to get around LA. It’s just unavoidable. Unless you plan on staying in the same general area the entire time or taking a lot of cabs, you’re going to need to drive.
The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
The Hollywood Roosevelt is a high-end luxury property with tons of old Hollywood history. It was home to Marilyn Monroe for two years at the beginning of her career. It’s also where Shirley Temple learned to tap dance. Now it’s well known for it’s modern sophisticated service and impeccable customer service. During my time here I stayed in a Tower Suite and loved it. Check out the Tropicana Bar and definitely don’t miss out on Teddy’s the nightclub downstairs. Rooms start at $470 per night.
A night at the Mondrian is the definition of “Treat Yo Self”. Everything about it is new-school cool. From the incredible floor to ceiling views to it’s white decor with pops of bright color. I stayed in a corner suite that was bigger than my NYC apartment. I couldn’t help but feel a little bit like a princess as I ate my french toast from room service. Don’t forget to grab a drink at the Sky Bar, the outdoor rooftop nightclub of your dreams. Rooms start at $310 per night.
Stay on Main
Stay on Main is an alternative to a motel. It has a bit of a dive like feel to it with shared bathrooms and nightly programming, but you get an individual room and the privacy that comes along with it. They offer a small complimentary continental breakfast and the basic necessities. This is a no frills budget option for someone looking to be close to the action without spending a lot of money. Rooms start at $60 per night.
USA Hostel West Hollywood
The USA Hostel in West Hollywood was a great experience. It’s a bit more than what I’d like to spend on a bunk in a six person dorm, but the people were amazing. The staff was so friendly and helpful, taking the time to answer all of my questions and making recommendations. One helpful staff person even went as far as to teach me how to use a new app on my phone. They offer daily programming and a free complimentary breakfast. I had a lot of great conversations and some really cool people. Bunks start at $50
Gracias Madre is a vegan Mexican inspired restaurant that serves local and sustainable foods. Don’t let the vegan part scare you away. The food was absolutely delicious. So delicious that I went back twice. The first time I tried the Flautas De Camote ($16) they’re sweet potato and black bean based rolled tacos with grilled onions and avocados. In a word, YUMS. Executive Chef Chandra Gilbert really hit it out of the park with this one. Try to get outdoor seating, the patio is gorgeous.
Pump is about as subtle as a Real Housewife. Owned by Housewife Lisa Vanderpump, the over the top decor is it’s real claim to fame. It’s like a group of mythical ferries created a high end eatery in the backyard garden of a gay guy couple in the Hamptons. The French-Italian inspired menu is actually pretty tasty. This is the place to go if you like drinking dirty martinis and making snarky side eyes at THOTs. Try the Chicken Milanese ($24) if you’re there for dinner.
The Church Key
The Church Key is the coolest restaurant in LA. That being said, it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s billed as a rustic chic American dim sum restaurant, but I’ll be honest, I had no clue what the hell that meant when I read it. Basically, the menu is an eclectic cluster fuck of foods from around the world served small plate style. Meanwhile, servers walk around with old school Pan Am carts offering edible oddities like pig ear Cheetos and liquid nitrogen cocktail popsicles. It’s super swanky but not to the point of bougie. Try the Crab Stuffed Crepes ($21) and as many of the dim-sum cart offerings as you can stuff in your mouth.
The Herringbone, located inside the Mondrian Hotel, is the brainchild of celebrity chef Brian Malarkey. The sea to table style restaurant is much an eater as it is an event. The view of the LA Skyline, decor, music and “see and be seen” crowd make Herringbone one of the trendiest restaurants in LA. Go for brunch and try the Lobster Scramble ($24) or the French Toast ($16). I also tried unsuccessfully to find the bottom of the bottomless mimosas ($15), highly recommended.
Mud Hen Tavern
Mud Hen is a cozy restaurant owned by lesbian chef Susan Feniger. It features an outdoor patio and upscale hipster chic ambiance. The food is basically upscale bar food with an international flare. They have a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian options and a cocktail menu that will send you home a happy camper. Try the pumpkin ravioli ($12) or the campfire trout ($18). Pair it with one of their craft beers and you’ve got the perfect semi-casual dinner.
Cecconi is a bougie swank fest complete with celebrity spottings and members only keychains. I sat next to Bob Harper ala Biggest Loser fame while I ate my Chicken Paillard with balsamic ($20). The food is very Italian and super tasty. Make sure to call ahead with your reservation because it fills up quickly.
Out & About Tours
Out & About offers a variety of bus and walking tours around LA. They cover the history of Gay LA and introduce you to the underground gay world of the golden age in Hollywood. Our tour guide, Jim, showed us some of the battle grounds for LGBT rights and offered friendly conversational banter about the modern day LGBTQ scene in LA.
Paramount allows tourists to go behind the scenes on their lots to see movie and TV magic first hand. I asked if they ever had any fangirls go insane on set, turns out there was a serious issue during the filming of GLEE. Our tour guide was the perfect Trivial Pursuit partner and had an insane amount of movie history memorized. We spotted a handful of active sets and a few celebrities while we were on the lot. Tia Mowery was shooting her new pilot and LL Cool J was looking pretty intense in his full police gear. It was cool to hear the history of old Hollywood and learn about the ways to “cheat” for movie magic.
The LA County Museum of Art is known as the biggest art museum in the western US. The museum frequently features LGBTQ artists and has 120,000 works of art on display. LACMA’s take on modern art and social media is really where the museum shines. I really loved the giant installations placed all around the grounds. They made for really fun interactive instagram photos. My favorite was the Urban Lights sculpture by Chris Burden at the front of the museum. Check out the Contemporary Art collection with pieces from Marcel Duchamps, Andy Warhol, Catherine Opie and many others.
The Hollywood Sign
Hiking up to the Hollywood sign is a great opportunity to get some fun photos while working out. It’s about 3 miles and requires a minimum level of physical fitness. You can drive your car up the mountain, park and hike the rest of the way to the top.
The Hollywood Museum is located in the old Max Factor building. For those who don’t know, Max factor was a hair stylist and makeup artists during Hollywood’s golden age. He made Marilyn Monroe a blonde and Lucille Ball a redhead. The building has been turned into a museum dedicated to remembering Hollywood film and movie history. They have a ton of costumes, props and set dec pieces from films ranging from golden years classics to modern Academy Awards winners.
Schindler House is the oldest piece of modern architecture in the country. It’s a beautiful Japanese inspired structure that became a beacon for artistic and social leadership in LA. The house is now owned by the MAK Center and has tours available throughout the week. I really enjoyed the tour, so much so that I reviewed my experience.
There is no lesbian bar in LA, instead the lesbian community has a series of parties and rotating events that take place weekly and monthly. Check out some of my favorites.
The Abbey is arguably the most popular gay bar in LA. Located in West Hollywood, walking distance to… well… everything in WeHo, The Abbey is hopping every night of the week with a mixed crowd, Go Gos and generously poured drinks. Head over on a Wednesday night for the queer ladies’ party.
Fantasy Friday’s is the queer women’s party at Penthouse in WeHo. This is a club like dance party with all the bells and whistles. Multiple DJs spin throughout the large venue and an open courtyard is available when things get a bit hot and heavy inside.
Milk Milk Lemonade
MML is a monthly queer party catering to women and LGBTQs. It’s know for it’s really hip young crowd and throwback themes. It’s a pop up party at rotating venues. Check out their Facebook page for info on the next event.