Without a doubt, there's a lot to love about Los Angeles, Southern California's sun-drenched haven for the LGBT community. While it's never easy to narrow down your favorites, we've taken on the challenge of listing the city's cherished landmarks, celebrated hot-spots and famed destinations, each of which is fun and exciting for the L.A. local or SoCal visitor.
Logo has named The Abbey the best gay bar in the world—twice—and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would disagree. This bar and lounge really has everything for everyone, no matter what your speed. Indoor, outdoor, upstairs, downstairs, bar stool, couch it, what have you. The place is huge and expanding by the minute, and it’s barely ever closed (open 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.). Meet friends for Sunday brunch (there’s a DJ), grab a quick bite during your lunch hour (we suggest the Chick-for-Gay sandwich), or spend a Saturday evening sipping a martini, enjoying the go-go boys and dancing the night away. You can even bring your straight friends along—The Abbey welcomes all. But you might want to tell your girlfriends to stick to Red Robin for their bachelorette parties—as those have been banned (thank you, David Cooley).
Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Not to be outdone by The Abbey, Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice has racked up its own prestigious title: GQ named it "The Coolest Block in America." I mean, it even has its own Twitter feed (@onabbotkinney). That’s a hip piece of real estate. Named after the man who built the Venice Canals, it's where residents and tourists converge to shop, dine and hang. More than 100 boutiques, bookstores, art galleries, fine dining restaurants, design firms, coffee shops, clubs, salons and more line the bohemian-chic boulevard. Every first Friday of the month, merchants join together and feature different artists, gifts, products and music. And on the last Sunday in Septemeber, the community celebrates with the Abbot Kinney Festival, where you can take in local artisan crafts, live music and great food.
The ArcLight provides a no-nonsense movie experience. You won’t find “frugal types” bouncing from theater to theater or gaggles of miscreant teens sneaking in through the exit. The friendly and able staff (they’re called “Usher Greeters”) have the place on pleasant lockdown. For example, before the film rolls, the usher greeters announce that everyone needs to turn off their phones and refrain from texting. There’s also none of that annoying advertising on the screen while you wait—only movie trailers. Five minutes after the film starts, no additional tickets are sold, so you won’t have someone stepping over you in the dark and knocking your Milk Duds out of your hand. The sound and picture are excellent, and with ArcLight’s reserved seating, you can make sure you’re always located within your comfort zone. There are also 21-and-over screenings in which you can consume libations. Added bonus: celebrity sightings aplenty—we saw Faye Dunaway(!) at a screening of Milk.
Malibu, Hermosa, Venice, Santa Monica. Southern California is well-known for its beautiful beaches. Some days you want to jump in the car for a long drive down the coast to take it all in, while others call for an extended stay at your favorite spot with all your gear in tow. And with our great year-round weather, hitting the coast is always an option. Manhattan Beach offers one of the area’s best bike paths (wheels only—there’s a separate path for joggers, which keeps things safer). At the Santa Monica Pier, you can get some lunch, play some games and watch local fishermen cast their lines. Venice Beach showcases the more colorful side of beach living, with a boardwalk chock-full of musicians, artists, philosophers and poets. The go-to gay beach is located on the west side of Will Rogers in Pacific Palisades (known as Ginger Rogers Beach), where you can enjoy the scenery or play a little volleyball.
Clocking in at eight stories high and located in the heart of WeHo between La Cienega and San Vicente, the Beverly Center is a huge L.A. presence. (Prior to the mall’s opening in 1982, the lot was the site of Kiddyland, an amusement park that featured a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, mini-roller coaster and pony rides.) The Beverly Center offers the proverbial one-stop shopping for anything you may need—high-end couture, beauty products, electronics and everyday necessities. Where else in L.A. can you order up some Panda Express orange chicken at the food court and then go shopping at Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani Exchange, Diesel and Prada?
Christopher Street West
This nonprofit organization, which was named after the street in New York City where the Stonewall Riots took place in 1969, produces L.A. Pride every year. What can we say about our beloved L.A. Pride? It’s where we go to celebrate us. Where the community comes together to collectively rally for wins and losses we’ve made. It’s a dance-party, chicken-shish-kabob-eating, dayglo-bead-wearing helluva good time. And it’s where many members of our community will tell you they first felt acceptance. There’s something about seeing huge masses of other people who are “just like you” that makes you smile. The whole weekend is a mash-up of parties and fundraisers that culminates with the Pride parade on Sunday (typical attendance is in the 400,000 range).
Officially known as the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, the Center is an all-encompassing resource site for the LGBT community. It has been building the health, advocating for the rights and enriching the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people since 1971. If you need help, the Center is always here for you. It welcomes nearly a quarter-million client visits each year—assisting everyone from homeless youth to seniors and everyone in between. The Center offers multiple services—HIV testing, lesbian health care, mental health services, meth recovery services, transgender health care, homeless youth services, senior services, legal services, a cultural arts program and a career center, to name just a few. It also sponsors galas, AIDS/Lifecycle, Rapid Quest, An Evening With Women and other fun events.
They’ve been fabulous (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, RuPaul’s Drag Race); they've been fugulous (Some Like It Hot, Tootsie, To Wong Foo). Regardless, any way you slice it, drag queens deserve reverence. Retaining elegance and style—while wearing a size 14, six-inch heel—is not for the faint of heart. If you’ve come to Tinseltown looking for the best that drag has to offer, you’ve come to the right place. It’s not called the entertainment capital of the world for nothing. Hamburger Mary's in West Hollywood is the place to be on Wednesday and Sunday nights for drag queen-hosted bingo. The Plaza on La Brea features campy, Latin-infused drag shows. And the legendary Micky’s serves up Showgirls Monday every week, where you can watch pros such as Raven, Morgan McMichaels, Detox, Samantha Starr and Mayhem.
The Dyke March in West Hollywood is the unofficial kickoff to L.A. Pride weekend festivities every year. It’s where people of all ages and genders gather to celebrate the achievements of the lesbian community and realize the challenges still to come. The event begins with a rally, and then the Dyke March proceeds down Santa Monica Boulevard, returning to the L.A. Pride festival grounds for a free after-party with refreshments and music. Each year, the Etheridge Award is handed out to a lesbian whose community leadership has had a significant impact within and for the lesbian community. Dyke March Los Angeles, a separate event, takes place in Silver Lake annually and includes live music, drag king performances and standup comics.
The Eagle leather bar on Santa Monica Boulevard is the site where the famous gay bar Gauntlet II lived for 21 years. Charlie Matula and his business partner Vince Quattrocchi purchased the Gauntlet II in 2005 and changed its name to Eagle L.A. The original Eagle L.A., located in West Hollywood, closed in 1995. According to Eagle L.A.’s website, “Although that Eagle is of no relation to Charlie or Vince, they are proud to re-establish Eagle L.A. and become the latest in a long line of Eagle bars in cities throughout the U.S. and around the world.” Their mission is to uphold the leather, uniform and fetish traditions set by the infamous Eagle name—a tradition that still holds true today.
Erewhon Natural Foods
Erewhon prides itself on providing the finest selection of organically grown produce, groceries and macrobiotic staples. You can also find a wide variety of natural remedies at this 1,200-square-foot grocery store, including vitamins, herbs and homeopathics. It’s all natural, all the time. So in other words, they don’t sell Twinkies, snack cakes or Monster Energy Drinks. It’s a store you go to when you’re having an “on” week. Let us make it clearer: It’s a kind of place that has a tonic/juice bar, so for god’s sake, bring your recycled bags or you just might be publicly shamed over the loudspeaker. P.S. The fresh soups and deli counter are to die for.
We’re all trying to be healthier when we can. We hit the gym and do our best to turn down the decadent snacks that continuously show up at work. Another easy way to do the right thing is by feeding our bodies fresh, organic, locally grown fruits and veggies. Luckily, we live in L.A., where we can take our pick from a long list of farmer’s markets throughout the city that take place at all different times weekly. There’s nothing better than waking up (somewhat) early on a Saturday, getting out your reusable grocery bags and heading to your favorite farmer’s market. You can stroll the aisles, pick up some items for the week and learn about a few fruits or veggies you’ve never seen before. It’s an easy and painless way to start your ascent to being green. Check out the farmer’s markets in Hollywood (on Ivar), Burbank and the old-school one at The Grove.
French Market Place
Eating at the French Market is kinda like eating at that Disneyland restaurant by the Pirates of the Caribbean—the one you see right before the talking skull insults your boat and you plunge into a pit of overchlorinated water. It’s like that but with the lights on and sans the Japanese lanterns. French Market makes you feel like you’re at an amusement park, perhaps in the middle of the touristy area in New Orleans. You can even eat in a gazebo! You couldn’t get more in the heart of WeHo if you tried—and as soon as you step inside this place, you can feel it. The staff is always warm, and the food is nice and comforting. It’s a perfect place to carb-up before a night out.
Clocking in at 4,210 acres, this beautiful landmark is L.A.’s Central Park. You could spend weekend after weekend taking in all of its attractions and never get to all of them. Griffith encompasses the Autry National Center, The Greek Theater, L.A. Observatory, L.A. Equestrian Center, L.A. Zoo, Travel Town and more. Throngs of Angelenos flock there to picnic, camp, barbecue, go horseback riding, take a spin on the merry-go-round or play a round of tennis—the list of activities is endless. If you’re looking for something a little more unique, check out the performances of Shakespeare in the Park, the creepiness of the Old L.A. Zoo or join in on one of the weekly percussion jam sessions.
When construction for The Grove first started in 1999, it made a lot of diehard fans of The Original Farmer’s Market (opened in 1934) on the corner of Fairfax and 3rd Street a little nervous. Would the new outdoor mall going up beside it spoil the site’s old-school charm? Thankfully, it didn’t, and the two entities co-exist perfectly like neighbors from different eras. The Grove combines great shops (Apple, Gap, Mac Cosmetics, Crate & Barrel, Anthropologie), great eats (Umami Burger, Wood Ranch), and a fun atmosphere that allows you to bask in the sun. The Christmas season is especially nice here, as the Grove props up the city’s tallest tree (110 feet) and produces fake snow periodically during the night.
This beloved bar and grille is located in both West Hollywood and Long Beach. But it’s not just a spot where you can land some killer food—although the burgers are pretty amazing. Mary’s has a long list of events that go on all month long. If you’ve never checked out the legendary drag bingo on Sundays and Wednesdays, you're missing out. There are celebrity judges, fabulous prize packages and gut-busting hilarity. Each Sunday night when bingo is a wrap, it’s time for Mary-aoke with rotating hosts Ben Roman, Wendy Ho and “The Soul Sisters.” They have a new state-of-the-art karaoke machine and hand out a $50 cash prize for the audience favorite.
High Voltage Tattoo
Yes, it’s been hyped to death on LA Ink—and it doesn’t help that owner Kat Von D has had her share of coverage in the tabloids (Jesse James, really?), but the truth is, High Voltage boasts a roster of inkslingers who are raising the bar of what is possible in the tattoo industry. If you want a piece done by the best the shop has to offer—Dan Smith, Kat Von D, Kevin Lewis or Dennis Halbritter—be ready to wait a while. In the new age of tattoos, in which people who get them are no longer considered pariahs and tattooers are tantamount to rock stars, waiting lists grow longer and longer. But the thing is going to accompany you to the grave, so it’s worth doing it right. Take your fresh piece of ink next door and check out the cool art at Kat Von D’s Wonderland Gallery.
Authentic is the word for this Beverly Hills Italian restaurant and bakery. Before we even talk about the pasta, the handmade bread they serve up here may be the showstopper. All dishes emphasize simple, fresh ingredients and Italian cooking methods. Pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven, the pasta is made in-house daily and their dried pastas are imported from Italy. The Il Fornaio menu includes a great selection of antipasti, soups, salads, wood-fired pizza, housemade pastas, grilled and rotisserie roasted meats and a wide variety of desserts. We suggest trying out the Sunday brunch, where you can choose from Salmone Affumicato, Frittata con Zucchine, Cornetto Farcito con Prosciutto Grigliato, Pizza Margherita, Insalata Di Pollo, Conchiglie al Pollo or Penne con Gamberi. That’s amore!
If a regular, run-of-the-mill Cineplex just doesn’t do it for you, IMAX is for you. It’s the difference between simply watching a movie and feeling like you are part of it. IMAX theaters offer mind-blowing images, earth-shattering sound and the ultimate movie experience. According to the company, “IMAX partners with visionary content creators. Together we transport you to new worlds that captivate the imagination and make you wonder, ‘How do they do that?’ IMAX makes you feel the full emotional impact of the visionary creators’ dream.” There are a number of IMAX theaters scattered throughout the city, including one at CityWalk in Universal City.
Joan’s on Third
Joan’s on Third has the same effect on adults that a candy store has on kids. As soon as you walk through the doors of this gourmet marketplace and café, your mouth will start watering. Joan’s started as a catering company (which they still do) in 1995 but has evolved and expanded into a popular café that is proud of its reputation for serving comfort food in a sophisticated setting. Joan’s sells an extensive selection of cheeses, olives, freshly baked pastries and gourmet items from around the world. And their café serves up signature omelets and a grab-and-go selection of salads, dips and dressings. The restaurant is run by Joan, her two daughters and her son-in-law, and the entire family travels the world in search of great new products and culinary ideas.
It’s not always the easiest endeavor to mix a cool, happening spot with amazing food. But Jones Hollywood hits both marks perfectly. This place has that old-school Rat Pack sexiness to it. Located on Santa Monica in WeHo, it’s nice and dim and a great place to meet a group of friends for a late-night bite or some drinks. The service is always stellar—even when it’s packed to the rafters, which is often. Strong and tasty drinks serve as a perfect complement to menu items that include steamed artichokes, fried calamari, fries with aioli and brick oven-fired pizzas. And who doesn’t love complimentary flatbread with olive oil? You didn’t hear it from us, but Jones Hollywood has the best apple pie you will ever taste.
We’ve all had that moment when we’re overtaken by the emotion of a certain song and just can’t hold back the need to sing along. (“My Heart Will Go On” still gets us every time.) Your mirror becomes the screaming audience and your hairbrush the microphone. But you can torture other human beings with your tone-deaf voice instead of just your cat at one of L.A.’s many karaoke spots. Sass it up at Hamburger Mary’s Mary-aoke on Sunday nights in WeHo ($50 cash prize goes to the audience favorite), MJ’s Drag Queen Karaoke (also on Sundays), The Bullet Bar in North Hollywood on Mondays for Spank Karaoke or The Boulevard in Pasadena.
We were lucky enough when this diner opened its flagship location on Cahuenga. But now they’ve expanded with a second restaurant in the center of West Hollywood. Kitchen 24 cooks up classic American comfort food 24 hours a day, seven days a week (note: They do close for weekly maintenance on Tuesday morning from 2 -7 a.m.). You can order standard favorites like huevos rancheros, steak and eggs, chili cheese fries and burgers, or newer culinary twists like the Mediterranean tofu scramble, hash brown salmon florentine and the Sticky Piggy cupcake (maple-and-bacon-infused). Kitchen 24 is known for its homemade signature soups, sauces and baked goods. The early bird special is the Wakey Wakey Eggs & Bakey—two eggs and your choice of applewood bacon, chicken apple or pork sausage, herb-roasted breakfast potatoes or hash browns and two buttermilk pancakes for only $6.95 (from 6-10 a.m. weekdays).
Who says L.A. lacks culture? The city is rife with some of the country’s best museums, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is at the top of that list. The “Urban Light” installation of 202 solar-panel streetlights by Chris Burden was added to the front of the museum in 2008 and has quickly become a well-known landmark. LACMA also holds more than 150,000 works that span the history of art from ancient time to the present. It’s no wonder 1 million guests visit the museum annually. In addition to the impressive collection of art, LACMA also features film and concert series throughout the year. But the museum is not just interested in art that lands on its grounds; in 2010 it partnered with Los Angeles’s Department of Cultural Affairs to preserve the Watts Towers.
Coffee shops may have seen their heyday come and go with the end of the grunge era and the arrival of Starbucks on every corner. It’s too bad, too, because there was a sweet charm about them. Being individually owned and operated, each one had a distinct hippy-dippy feel to them. They were places where you would go to hang out and exchange ideas about the world—or just show off your new nose piercing. They’ve now morphed into staid places where the overworked go to work some more or get recaffeinated for the long day ahead. One coffee shop that has held true to its roots is The Library in Long Beach. In addition to your caramel macchiato or iced mocha-flavored latte, you can get a full meal, like pasta, soup or a panini. And for dessert, The Library offers ice cream, shakes and floats. We're totally onboard.
Marix Tex-Mex Café
Located smack-dab in the middle of Boystown, Marix Tex-Mex Café is guaranteed to be a) packed with hotties—you’re probably going to have to wait; and b) consistently delicious. If you stop by on a Monday, you’ll be in luck, because that’s when they celebrate Margarita Monday Madness with specials on the popular tequila drink all day. On Taco Tuesdays, you can eat all the beef, chicken, carnitas and veggie tacos your belly can handle for $8.95. And then there’s Marix’s standard happy hour, which runs Monday through Friday from 4-7 p.m. The party starts early every Sunday, with crowds packing the bar and extending to the side patio.
Driving down Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood on any given night, it’s impossible to miss this iconic gay bar: loud music, all-night dancing and hot guys streaming out onto the sidewalk. Whether you’re just coming out or living out and proud, Micky’s welcomes you with open arms and an array of tiny, shimmering go-go shorts. Happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 5-9 p.m. and 3-9 p.m. on Saturday, where you get 2-for-1 drinks, a full food menu and a DJ spinning tunes. Check this place out on Mondays for their Showgirls drag show and Tuesdays for dirt-cheap tacos.
Since 1979, The Museum of Contemporary Art has been dedicated to showcasing contemporary art, meaning work produced since 1940—and it's the only one in L.A. to do so. Located in three facilities—MOCA Grand Avenue, The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA and MOCA Pacific Design Center—it houses more than 5,000 works of art from luminaires such as Diane Arbus, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jackson Pollock and more. According to its website, “MOCA identifies and supports the most significant and challenging art of its time, places it in historical context and links the range of the visual arts to contemporary culture.” Leadership is important to the museum, so it works to foster and present new work, emerging media and original scholarship.
You’re just not into the big, blockbuster-type films the masses always flock to with their inane plots, car chases and over-the-top explosions—we get it. There’s a place for you: the Nuart Theatre, which specializes in showcasing the best in new indies, foreign films, documentaries and restored classics. This place is the pure definition of art house, sans the pretention. Starting every Friday, each film gets a one-week run and is played four to five times a day. Then it’s on to the next one—with the exception of Friday nights. That’s when Nuart’s Cine Insomnia takes over the stage with midnight screenings of favorites such as Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Overboard, Pulp Fiction, Army of Darkness, John Waters’ Cry-Baby (starring Johnny Depp), Gummo (one of the most disgusting films ever made), Weekend at Bernie’s and—of course—The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Make sure to attend the latter when Sins O’ the Flesh, one of the longest-running RHPS casts (15 years!), is scheduled to perform.
Natural History Museum
Opened in 1913 in Exposition Park, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County strives to inspire wonder, discovery and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds. This popular field trip location for L.A.-area schools has collected more than 35 million specimens—some that are as old as 4.5 billion years. Along with caring for the museum’s collections, its staff puts on new exhibitions that give visitors the opportunity to explore the bigger picture of our planet: specimens and objects, the stories behind them and the ways the natural and cultural worlds interrelate. As the Natural History Museum’s site states, it “tracks the Earth’s biodiversity, because knowing what is out there is the first step to conservation.”
Oil Can Harry’s
If you’ve gone line-dancing, it was probably at Oil Can Harry’s. Kicking open the doors in 1968, OCH is one of the longest-running gay bars in L.A. (and especially in the Valley, where gay bars go to die). Located in Studio City, it offers a friendly, drama-free vibe with reasonable drink prices—and line-dancing lessons! On Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can get out your cowboy hats and boots and get your boot-scootin' boogie on from 7:45 to 9:15 p.m. Afterward, you can show off your new moves at open country dancing until 12:30 a.m. Happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 7:30 and Saturday from 8 to 10, when you can get two-for-one drinks. And if country isn’t your thing, stop by on Saturday for Harry’s disco night.
ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives
These archives are the oldest active lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning (LGBTQ) organization in the United States and the largest repository of LGBTQ materials in the world. Founder Jim Kepner kept anything and everything related to LGBTQ topics and began his collection in 1942 with the purchase of Radclyffe Hall’s book The Well of Loneliness. ONE Archives now houses more than 2 million archival items that include periodicals, books, film, video and audio recordings, photographs, artworks, organizational records and personal papers. Within its archival collections, you can find personal papers from activists, artists and ordinary citizens. It is part of the University of Southern California Libraries and open to the public (you can conduct research there free of charge).
“Protecting our past. Showcasing our present. Nurturing our future.” Outfest’s mission statement pretty much sums up what the organization does for our community. Outfest screens queer-themed films, but it’s much bigger than that. These stories that document our lives, loves and struggles serve as a living LGBT history. Since 1982, Outfest has shown more than 4,500 films to more than half a million people. It has spotlighted emerging talent, created community between filmmakers and audiences, and offered a forum for stories that reflect and often transform lives. In addition to its year-round screenings and special events, Outfest is well-known for its annual film fest, which includes movies from different countries along with panels and parties. It is also the only nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring our LGBT film heritage is preserved.
From baby dykes to blue hairs, lesbians of all walks of life have converged at the Palms on Santa Monica for the past 40 years. This bar is sort of a rite of passage for lesbians. You go there when you’re first coming out and usually stand in the corner, gripping your bottle of beer as tightly as possible, scared that you might run into your old P.E. coach from high school—and then everyone will know! Then you go there in your late 20s to take advantage of their Sunday beer bust and meet up with friends. By the time you hit 35, old habits die hard and you’re just one of the regulars. They’ve got great bartenders, and the go-go dancers only make things more interesting.
Quality Food and Beverage
It’s pretty straightforward, but the name says it all. Quality Food and Beverage on 3rd St. serves some of the freshest, tastiest fare the City of Angels has to offer. And its menu is solid throughout the day, starting with breakfast options like the Athlete’s Breakfast (chicken breast, side of egg whites, side of sauteed spinach with a blueberry biscuit), Protein Breakfast (N.Y. steak served with egg white scramble and gruyère cheese), and nine-grain pancakes. Lunch and dinner include a wide variety of burgers, salads and sandwiches. But we urge you to try the Portobello Mushroom (served with Swiss cheese, roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomato aioli on ciabatta bread), which gives Umami Burger a run for its money.
This mammoth ship that sits docked in the Long Beach Harbor carries with it a long and colorful history. Dubbed "The Grey Ghost," it’s long been considered haunted. (You can even get a list of spots throughout the ship where strange occurrences have been reported.) But what’s often lost is the sheer beauty of the Queen Mary. It’s well worth taking one of the many tours offered there so you can explore and discover the old-world charm of this vessel. You can spend the night (if you dare), have some lunch or stop by for a drink. Make sure you climb up its seemingly never-ending levels to find cool spots at every turn. Plus, the view of Long Beach from the very top is breathtaking.
Runyon Canyon Park
Great year-round weather and a collective interest in fitness make hiking a popular activity in SoCal. Luckily, we have plenty of spots from which to choose. But the belle of the ball without question is Runyon Canyon Park. As you take in the abundant beauty that surrounds you on the numerous trails, you’d never know you were smack-dab in the middle of Hollywood. That is, until you take a quick break to enjoy some of the most amazing views of the city. Runyon also has a great dog park, so bring your four-legged best friend along. Free daily yoga classes are offered, so you can show off your best downward-facing dog. Namaste.
Want to party uptown or downtown? Want to hang out poolside for a night of debauchery or take a load off during an extended staycation? The Standard has you covered with two locations—one in Downtown L.A. and one on the Sunset Strip in the heart of Hollywood. This super-stylish hotel provides for every amenity you could ever dream up: flat-screen TVs, mood lighting, iPod-ready stereos, free Wi-Fi, Egyptian cotton sheets—and it’s pet friendly. We especially love the room categories: Medium, Large, Double Standard, X-Large, Huge, Gigantic, Humungous, Wow!, Big Penthouse and Bigger Penthouse. The Downtown location boasts a rooftop pool, bar and biergarten, dazzling views of the city, waterbed cabanas, billiards, pool table, photo booth, nightly DJs and a 24/7 restaurant. The Hollywood location offers much of the same, plus Rudy’s Barbershop, a blue Astroturf pool deck and Cactus Lounge Café.
If you surf over to the Swingers Diner website, its history page simply states, “Our restaurant kicks your restaurant’s ass. Swingin’ since 1993.” And that’s all you really need to know. This irreverent attitude pervades the joint in the sweetest of ways. Swingers’ décor is very old-school, but with a new-school twist. Waitresses are tatted up, images of Iggy Pop and Bob Marley are common and the menu is definitely updated (you can get a slice of vegan cheesecake). Oh yeah, and the food is heaven-sent—it’s enlightened and fun diner fare, hold the grease. For breakfast, choose from items such as a jerk chicken omelet, tofu chilaquiles and challah French toast. Lunch has a wide selection of salads and sandwiches. And dinner is comfort food central—chili, nachos, steak and fries, meat loaf, fettucini.
(Gardens of) Taxco
Taxco is not your normal dining experience. When we went to this West Hollywood Mexican restaurant for the first time, the ordering process left our heads spinning a little—and we loved it. There’s no physical menu. Rather, the waiters announce what’s available that day verbally, almost in a singsong fashion, with emphasized phrases thrown in every now and then such as “born in the sauce!” and “not hot, spicy!” We’re not going to say we actually understood it all, and we honestly had no idea what we’d ordered, but it didn’t matter. Every course—there are five—was phenomenal.
The Trevor Project
Named after the Academy Award–winning short film Trevor, in which a teenager realizes he is gay, The Trevor Project was formed in 1998 as a resource for any viewers who may be facing the same issues as the film’s main character. It is now the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. The L.A. office is located on Santa Monica in West Hollywood. The Trevor Project offers a 24-hour crisis prevention line; Ask Trevor, an online question and answer resource; TrevorChat, a free, confidential online messaging service; and a number of other programs and services.
When Umami burger first came to L.A., there was a lot of hype surrounding it. “Best burger ever” declarations were thrown around left and right, making the skeptic in us all very curious. But one bite of Umami’s designer burgers confirms those claims. They really do think out every single ingredient—from beef to toppings and buns—and you can taste it. For instance, the signature Umami Burger houses shitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, parmesan crisp and Umami ketchup. The Manly Burger has beer-cheddar cheese, smoked salt-onion strings and bacon lardon. If meat isn’t your thing, you can choose from an Ahi Tuna Burger, Earth Burger (veggie) or The Greenbird (turkey).
Urth Caffé is first and foremost about the coffee. They sell their own brand of premium, fresh-roasted, whole-bean organic (as in 100 percent chemical free) coffee. There’s a nice selection of tea as well. But their menu is also a great source of healthy entrees, soups, organic salads and sandwiches. They fresh-bake their own delicious desserts, whether you wanna go for decadent, low fat or vegan. The location in West Hollywood is the perfect spot to treat yourself to a relaxing but caffeine-fueled weekend breakfast.
In case you weren’t sure how Venice Beach got its name, developer Abbot Kinney was behind the project to bring manmade canals to the area in 1905 in an attempt to recreate the appearance and feel of Venice, Italy. With the growing popularity of cars, most of the canals were filled in 1929 to make way for roads. The remaining ones fell into disrepair but were renovated in 1992. Now the canals are the perfect place to take a midday stroll, breathe the ocean air, check out the beautiful homes that line the waterway, and enjoy the many fragrant gardens.
Velvet Margarita Cantina
This place is just plain fun. It’s a party for your eyes and stomach. The décor alone at this Mexican restaurant is worth stopping for: mariachi hats affixed to the ceiling, skulls, sacred hearts, piñatas, a day-of-the-dead-themed bar and velvet everywhere—from booths to paintings and everything in between. The food is made from recipes that have been passed down for generations, and you can taste it. As soon as you sit down, you’re treated with chips and a trio of dips that are all delicious. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but our faves include the ahi tuna tacos, turkey empanada and the chicken mole platter. Chase it all down with a shot or two from the long list of tequilas.
Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
Nestled among a line of high-rise office buildings off Wilshire Boulevard, you would never know this place existed. It’s like the entire city of Westwood built up and around it. But the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery holds a ton of Tinseltown significance. It's the final resting place for some of the biggest names from the stage and screen, including Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote, Dean Martin, Natalie Wood, Frank Zappa, Bettie Page, Roy Orbison, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Don Knotts, Peggy Lee, Burt Lancaster, Eva Gabor, Bob Crane, Donna Reed, Eva Gabor and Janis Joplin.
Located in the heart of Watts, these towers were built by Sabato Rodia, an Italian construction worker, in his spare time over the span of 33 years—from 1921 to 1954. They consist of 17 structures and are made of steel pipe and rods, wrapped with wire mesh and coated with mortar. Rodia decorated the structures with items he found—tile, glass, bed frames, scrap metal and shells. He named the towers Nuestro Pueblo (Our Town) and built them by himself using common hand tools. The Watts Towers were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990. Adjacent to the towers, The Watts Towers Arts Center provides tours, lectures, exhibitions, studio workshops and classes that include painting, sculpture, photography, music and dance.
No, it’s not a big and tall store. X-Large, located in Los Feliz, specializes in the latest and greatest in skater attire. When it first opened in 1991 (the Beastie Boys’ Mike D was one of the original investors and is still a shareholder), it was all about urban wear with baggy jeans and oversized T-shirts (you remember the look). But X-Large has evolved with the times and now sells a wide array of skinny jeans, fitted tees and sporty hoodies. You can also get your hands on accessories such as baseball hats, belts and watches. X-Large is not just for the guys; there’s a whole section dedicated to the ladies upstairs.
This restaurant in Little Tokyo touts pies and pints. We’re in. Just don’t ask us how to pronounce the name. All we know is they serve New York-style pizza, nice and thin—the way we like it—and crisp craft beers. Some noteworthy pies include the Furious Pig (tomato sauce, spicy marinated pork belly, onions, mozzarella), the Angeleno (arugula, ricotta, smoked mozzarella, roma tomatoes, fresh basil), the BLT (mozzarella, garlic butter, lettuce, tomato, red onion, bacon) and the Spam ’N’ Eggs (tomato sauce, mozzarella, spam, over-easy eggs). You can also choose from a variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, calzones and pastas.
Every two years or so there is a “dessert fad” that sweeps through town, causing a frenzy in which stores that sell this item pop up on every corner. There are cooking shows about them, news segments covering “the new takeover” and parties themed around the must-eat dessert. Cake pops, bundt cakes and the mother of them all: cupcakes. Designer cupcakes had their long time in the spotlight. But now most of those pop-up stores have shuttered, making way for the next great thing. Not Yummy Cupcakes. Oh, no. Walk into any of the three locations (Burbank, Brentwood or Santa Monica) any time of day or night and you’ll wait in line behind other slobbering customers fiending for their sugar fix. We don’t know what they put in these things, but they are addictive.
Y-Que Trading Post
Remember the “Free Winona” shirts? They got their start at Los Feliz’s Y-Que Trading Post. Now you can purchase a “Free Lindsay” shirt or one featuring any other celeb going through a rough patch. This shop is the king of kitsch. In addition to a wide variety of cool and offensive tees, you can also find all kinds of oddball gifts and gags for your home or office: rings, naked lady pens, bracelets, naked-men playing cards, cucumber incense, candy cigarettes and more. We especially love the neighborhood pride shirts with logos for Highland Park, Los Feliz and Echo Park.
Pizza doesn’t have to be a greasy, calorie-laden experience to taste good, and Z Pizza has proven that. While there are multiple locations all over the city, the one in West Hollywood is our community’s usual stomping ground. It’s a great place to hit before loading up on liquid calories at a local beer bust. Their dough is made from 100 percent organic wheat flour, which is prepared fresh every day, hand-thrown and fire-baked. But they don’t stop the health-conscious approach there. You get skim mozzarella, certified organic tomato sauce, MSG-free pepperoni, additive-free sausage and fresh produce. You can even get an all-vegan slice of pizza pie.
Los Angeles Zoo
It’s just one of those places on the list that you have to take visiting friends and family to when they come to visit. The Santa Barbara Zoo may have an ocean view, and the San Diego Zoo may be bigger, but the L.A. Zoo is ours, and we love it. The zoo brings back fond memories of field trips for anyone who grew up here. Plus, it’s situated right next door to Griffith Park, which you can hit up for a picnic on the way out, and not too far from the heart of Hollywood. So which group will you go see first? Amphibians? Birds? Mammals? Reptiles? Elephants? Kids will absolutely go wild here.