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Los Angeles is home to one of the largest LGBT communities in the world, from West Hollywood, Silver Lake and Los Feliz to the beach cities and the Valley. Countless people move to LA to make it big – music, TV and film – it’s all in Los Angeles. And thanks to Hollywood, it has a reputation known around the world and it’s a hotspot for film, culture, history, LGBT rights and more. LA is a hugely popular tourist destination with millions of international visitors each year.
What’s so great about LA? Ok, so not everything is perfect in Los Angeles, but you take the good with the bad, right? Wannabe models and movie stars with big attitudes way ahead of their would-be success abound – sure. But every city has its pros and cons so let’s look up to LA and talk about some fun and exciting things to do, see and explore – because hey, you’re going to come here anyway, right?
Los Angeles has so much to offer that you’ll definitely need to prioritize your top picks. Perhaps spend one day running around a theme park enjoying as many rides as possible and the next day relaxing on the beach working on that tan. Or spend half a morning visiting a museum and the afternoon hiking to the Hollywood sign from the Griffith Observatory. Another full day can be devoted to exploring the rest of Hollywood’s various attractions.
Table of Contents
1. General Tips
2. Transportation & Airport Transfer
3. Gay Hotels in Los Angeles
4. Sightseeing & Activities in Los Angeles
5. Restaurants and Cafes
6. Los Angeles Gay Bars
7. Gay Beaches in Los Angeles
8. Additional Beaches in Los Angles
9. Gay Events in Los Angeles
10. Day Trips from Los Angeles
West Hollywood is definitely where the biggest LGBT scene is located, unless you’re really, really into the alternative seen. West Hollywood (called WeHo for short) has a whopping 25 gay bars, 26 gay shops and 69 gay friendly restaurants, and counting. Silver Lake, on the other hand, is where LA’s hipsters eat, live and hangout. It’s home to Sunset Junction, the start of the LA LGBT civil rights movement at the famous Black Cat Bar (though no longer a gay place). You’ll find lots of restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques and vintage stores here. Next to West Hollywood, it’s probably the 2nd most popular gay neighborhood in LA.
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Transportation & Airport Transfer
If you arrive by plane you’ll fly into LAX, Los Angeles’ largest and main airport. However, if you’re visiting surrounding areas of LA or happen to find a cheaper flight, you might arrive at one of the other regional airports including Burbank, Long Beach, Ontario or Orange County. When creating your itinerary, do note that while Los Angeles has a decent public transit system of trains and buses, the city’s attractions are spread out. LA is known for having terrible traffic any time of the day and getting around takes time given the sprawling layout of the city. Public transport is not always practical and you’re probably better off with a car to explore, or at least a ride-sharing app like Uber or Lyft. Both apps offer carpool or sharing options to reduce the price of your ride.
You can use the Los Angeles metro services to get around and avoid traffic, however, learning how to use the system for just a short visit might not be worth the effort. The metro’s highest ridership is found en route to favorite tourism hot spots, including Hollywood’s Red Line. Both the Red and Blue lines connect to Downtown Los Angeles.
Another option to get around includes one of the hop-on, hop-off bus routes like Star Line Tours or Big Bus Tours, which can take you to many of the major attractions across the city.
The WeHo Pick Up is WeHo’s free nighttime ride with bus service every 15 minutes. It does a 6-mile loop around the neighborhood so you can drink and party until your heart is content without worrying about transport. Service operates Friday and Saturday from 8pm to 3am.
Gay Hotels in Los Angeles
There aren’t currently any gay hotels in Los Angeles, but there are many gay-friendly options.
Downtown may seem like an obvious option as it’s a convenient location when visiting most large cities around the world. However, this may not be the case for L.A. as most of downtown is more of a business district than a tourist attraction. Hollywood is the next obvious choice because it’s near some of the most popular attractions that the city has to offer. Santa Monica is another great location especially if you’re looking to be close to the beach. For a convenient spot between Hollywood attractions and the beach consider Beverly Hills or West Hollywood. Some additional good places to stay include Los Feliz, the Arts District or Venice. Below are a few recommended hotels to choose from.
Andaz West Hollywood – Just 5 minutes’ walk from the Sunset Strip, the Andaz West Hollywood features onsite dining and a rooftop pool. Rooms feature complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and snacks and free WiFi. RH, the West Hollywood Andaz’s onsite restaurant features seasonal California cuisine. The restaurant works to highlight “market to table” dishes. RH Bar is a chic evening space serving signature cocktails and appetizers.
The Standard Downtown – Located in downtown Los Angeles, this unique and minimalistic hotel is 4 blocks from the Walt Disney Concert Hall. It features a rooftop pool and offers modern décor. The Standard Restaurant is open 24/7 and serves American cuisine. Guests of Downtown LA’s Standard Hotel can enjoy an outdoor lounge with fire pit, foosball and ping pong tables.
The Standard West Hollywood – Located on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, this hotel offers a rooftop pool with city views. Featuring live music and shag carpets, guests can relax in the lounge. Cocktails and fare are available at the poolside Desert Café. Guests can also enjoy the fine art exhibit located on site.
Mondrian Hotel – Located in the heart of the Sunset Strip, this West Hollywood hotel offers unique rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows. Guests can enjoy sweeping views of Los Angeles while enjoying a poolside cocktail at the famed Skybar. Mondrian Los Angeles in West Hollywood offers stylish guest rooms which offer breathtaking views of the surrounding areas from the LA skyline to the glittering Hollywood Hills. The Los Angeles Mondrian offers an outdoor pool with underwater music as well as a fitness center.
The W Los Angeles – let’s talk about fabulous hotels. There are so many options in LA to stay so it’s best to choose your neighborhood first. Located in Westwood just next to Beverly Hills is the W Los Angeles West Beverly Hills. Stylish, modern and gay-friendly, it could be the perfect option to splurge.
The Roosevelt Hotel – perhaps you want to stay in Marilyn Monroe’s former studio apartment? Look no further! The Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood is a classic with so much history plus an amazing outdoor pool. If nothing else, you have to at least pay a visit and have a drink at the bar. And guess what? The Roosevelt Hotel was the host of the first Academy Awards! Talk about history.
The Garland Hotel – found in North Hollywood near Universal Studios, this beautiful seventies vintage-styled hotel is LGBTQ+ owned. Rooms are lavishly decorated, while still remaining on theme and having private balconies. On site facilities include a large outdoor pool, hot tub, gym and even a taco truck. The restaurant out-front offers quality Californian cuisine and their bar serves cocktails to enjoy on an expansive outdoor patio.
The Hollywood Hotel – Within walking distance of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Famous former guests include Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. All warmly decorated rooms are furnished with a table and chairs. Guests of The Hollywood Hotel can enjoy a continental breakfast each morning.
Ramada Plaza West Hollywood – Offering a fitness center and an outdoor swimming pool, Ramada Plaza by Wyndham West Hollywood Hotel & Suites is located near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art/LACMA. Guests an also enjoy the on-site restaurant, Kitchen24.
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Sightseeing & Activities in Los Angeles
The Bradbury Building – ok, this building doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the interior is a real treat. It’s been used as a backdrop for numerous Hollywood films over the decades. It’s free to enter and is worth strolling through during a walk around the historic LA area.
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives – the largest collection of LGBT history archives in the world. The archive itself (located at USC campus) is perhaps not the most exciting place to visit as it’s more of a resource for history buffs or researchers. But you can visit the satellite location in WeHo which is a small Gallery & Museum with rotating exhibits.
Out of the Closet – this thrift store located in West Hollywood plus several other LA locations offers designer clothes at ridiculously low prices. Even better – all proceeds go to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Pharmacy so you can feel good about your purchase.
The Getty Center – this is a cool museum and cultural center in an even cooler setting. It’s located at the top of a hill west of Los Angeles and features various types of art exhibits and amazing views of LA from several different look out points. Some works on display include pre-20th century paintings, drawings, photographs plus a collection of sculptures displayed on the outdoor terraces and in the gardens.
Disneyland Resort – the most magical place on earth needs little introduction as it’s easily the most famous theme park in the world. Technically two theme parks consisting of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, it’s located in Anaheim just southeast of Los Angeles. You could easily spend 3 days between the two parks and not see it all.
Universal Studios – offers a look into the movie studios of Hollywood with a huge variety of rides and experiences. Visiting Universal Studios will easily take up an entire day of your getaway so you’ll want to arrive early and get the most value out of your entry ticket.
Griffith Observatory – you can get a decent view of the famous Hollywood sign from the observatory and it’s also worth a visit itself offering a planetarium, exhibits, telescopes and a cafe. Entrance is free.
Hollywood Sign – get your iconic photo op by visiting the Hollywood & Highland Center in central Hollywood. The design of the center features the sign well in the distance. The center is also worth a visit to check out its shops, restaurants, and most importantly, the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars take place. Stepping right outside the center on Hollywood Boulevard places you on the Hollywood Walk of Fame where you can begin your search for your favorite entertainment celebrity’s star.
The Wall Las Memorias Project – this monument was setup in 1993 and it’s the first publicly funded AIDS monument in the country. It’s an outdoor cultural landmark that honors all AIDS victims and is found in Highland Park.
The Slay Ride – LA is positively brimming with locations which appear in internationally LGBTQ+ loved shows, from contemporary gay favorites like Modern Family to camp classics like Golden Girls to reality shows like The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The gay party bus tour known as “The Slay Ride” takes you on a wild romp around all the main filming locations of these shows as well as to other pop culture landmarks, drag shows and all the best gay bars around the city. As well as cruising – no, not that type of cruising – through the most expensive neighborhoods in LA, you’ll enjoy the luxury bus’s amenities, take part in some rather inappropriate games and even try your hand at slaying yourself in a series of lip sync battles.
Restaurants and Cafes
You can find plenty of dining options all over the city but if you’re looking for something a little more unique, try visiting some of L.A.’s ethnic neighborhoods. If you’re craving Japanese food, head to Little Tokyo located downtown. In East Hollywood, there’s Thai Town which is the only officially designated Thai neighborhood in the United States. Also consider Koreatown, located west of Downtown, which has one of the largest Korean populations outside of Korea. Below are a few specific recommendations worth checking out during your visit.
Marix Tex Mex Café – this restaurant located in West Hollywood is a gay LA institution. Come for the strong margaritas, good food and cute servers. If you’re around on Tuesday, stop by for all-you-can-eat Taco Tuesday for just $8.
Grand Central Market – this indoor market in downtown LA has over 40 merchants selling great produce, snacks, coffees and miscellaneous food items. Go for lunch and enjoy cuisine ranging from Mexican and Asian to Cuban and American.
Pump Restaurant Lounge – recently opened by Real Housewife, Lisa Vanderpump, this restaurant serves up delicious food and drinks by even more delicious servers. Probably all aspiring actors and models, their day job is sadly (or maybe not so sad for you!) to fulfill your order at this fabulous restaurant and bar with an amazing outdoor garden.
Los Angeles Gay Bars
Gay nightlife in LA is diverse and has something for everyone. The best spots are located in West Hollywood, Silver Lake area and downtown LA. Discover these top gay-friendly favorites.
The Abbey – a gay landmark in West Hollywood. It’s a large, welcoming space with indoor and outdoor seating, several bars and a good size dance floor in the back to shake it. You’ll find beautiful people and even more beautiful go-go dancers. This is where LA’s trendy gays come to play.
Flaming Saddles – guys, you won’t find any go-go dancers here. Yes, it’s located in WeHo but this is where you’ll find hunky cowboys line dancing or Coyote Ugly-style routines on top of the bar. Need we say more?
GYM Bar – another totally different type of WeHo bar, unlike the Abby and Flaming Saddles in every sense. This is where the sports fans can go to watch the game. Which game you say? Ya, we’re not sure either but hey, it might just be your thing. It’s also the hub for many of LA’s gay sports leagues.
Akbar – this is Silver Lake’s popular and trendy bar, but don’t worry – it’s not pretentious or snobby. The crowd is more alternative than WeHo and it’s where all the hipsters go out.
The Eagle LA – Bears, leather daddies and the odd harness – or ten – is what you can expect from this iconic bar. It has a biker feel with a pool table, pin ball machines besides also having a large darkroom. It's really busy on the weekends and they run monthly events such as the popular Cruise Nights.
Gay Beaches in Los Angeles
Santa Monica State Beach is an inspired, albeit safe, choice for a day out by the ocean. Down the shore, at Lifeguard tower 18, Ginger Rogers Beach is recognized as LA’s only (unofficial) gay beach. It’s not the best water for swimming, but who cares? This is a place to schmooze, lay out, and hopefully run into your speedo-wearing crush.
Additional Beaches in Los Angles
Marina del Rey – this peaceful 12-acre lagoon is easy walking distance from most of the Marina’s hotels. Staffed by lifeguards, the beach has playground equipment, sheltered picnic tables, and no surf, making it ideal for families.
Venice Beach – swimming, surfing, fishing, bicycling and bike rentals, skating and rentals, volleyball and basketball courts, shopping, weightlifting area, handball courts, racquetball courts, picnic areas, restrooms, and showers.
Gay Events in Los Angeles
West Hollywood is the host to LA pride, the massive Halloween Costume Carnival, and Outfest. These are the largest and most well-known gay events in LA.
Outfest – this is LA’s LGBT film festival with 40,000 attendees each year. It’s LA’s largest and longest running film festival to date.
LA Pride – the gay pride of Los Angeles takes place each summer in June. With more than 500,000 attendees it’s a load of fun and a good reason to visit in June.
Halloween Street Party – the largest Halloween street festival in the world is officially called the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival. This event also draws a crowd of 500,000 people to enjoy food, live entertainment, music and costume contents. Dress to impress – in a costume, that is.
Gay Days Anaheim – an unofficial event in October at Disneyland where more than 30,000 LGBT+ community members where red shirts and visit for the weekend. The event has Special events and parties are organized the same weekend.
Day Trips from Los Angeles
Palm Springs – discover all that Palm Springs has to offer, including stunning desert scenery, luxe celebrity homes and high-end shopping, during this 12-hour day trip from Los Angeles. Ascend into the mountains above town on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, enjoying the amazing landscape below. Then check out the unique flora and fauna at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Finish your day by admiring the exclusive celebrity homes along El Paseo and search for a few designer bargains at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets. Book tour →
Want more info? Check out this Gay LA website from the local tourism office for more inspiration.