July 25, 2019
Progressive, creative and unabashedly cool: we take a look at what makes West Hollywood tick
In a metropolis as sprawling as Los Angeles, it’s easy to get confused by geography. So let’s start by clearing up some misconceptions. West Hollywood, or WeHo to its friends, is not a district of LA, nor is it “Hollywood” in the commonly understood sense – that’s a different neighbourhood altogether, though they lie right next door to each other. West Hollywood is a tiny city in its own right, tucked between ritzy Beverly Hills to the west and the LA neighbourhoods of Fairfax, Beverly Grove and the Hollywood Hills on its remaining sides. So now we’re fully oriented, what’s so great about this fashionable enclave? Here’s a rundown of our favourite reasons to visit.
You’ve already heard of all the cultural icons along the Sunset Strip – like the Whisky a Go Go, the Viper Room and the Roxy – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. From rooftop bars and clubby cocktail lounges to gastropubs, gay bars, dance clubs and legendary music venues, when it comes to nightlife West Hollywood is where it’s at.
For sultry cocktails and an exclusive vibe, head to upmarket Eveleigh for happy hour on the rustic-chic patio. The seasonal West End Rooftop at the plush London hotel has something going on almost every night throughout summer, including taco and tequila Tuesdays (with free tacos!), live music Wednesdays, and Friday Champagne and truffle nights. You can channel your inner musician at Sunset Marquis‘ 45-person-capacity Bar 1200, beloved watering hole of music industry execs, assorted rock stars and whisky fans, while over at self-described ‘urban lodge’ Palihouse off Santa Monica Boulevard, the bohemian rooftop terrace is one of the most laid-back spots in town, open to non-hotel guests from Thursdays – Saturdays.
Looking for something more energetic? The lavish, Asian-inspired Blind Dragon karaoke lounge and restaurant is both ridiculously stylish and outrageously good fun, with private karaoke suites and classic tiki style cocktails. At the other end of the spectrum, Flaming Saddles is a Wild West style, country-and-western themed gay bar where semi-clad, cowboy-hatted bartenders break out into table top line dances several times a night. For a more high-energy experience, hit up the long-established Rage nightclub on Santa Monica Blvd, or the west coast outpost of NYC and Vegas venue 1 OAK, where you can watch LA’s beautiful people shimmy to a setlist of hip hop and EDM.
The rest of Los Angeles County is a different story, but according to Walk Score – a website that ranks cities by walkability – West Hollywood is the most walkable city in all of California, scoring 91 out of 100. The rankings are based on how easy it is to access nearby amenities, like supermarkets, cafes, shops, parks and public transport – and all of this puts it higher on the list than San Francisco, San Diego, and everywhere else in LA.
Once you gain the top spot, you never want to lose it, so WeHo continues to up its game with designated fitness walking routes linking West Hollywood Park to Plummer Park (a distance of around five miles, or 10,000 steps), as well as doing what it can to encourage walking as the primary way of getting around town. There’s also a bike rental scheme, WeHo Pedals, which links up with other bike share networks in Beverly Hills, Century City, Santa Monica and West LA, and two nighttime trolley ride services for those who need to go further afield.
Arguably the best design destination on the west coast, the West Hollywood Design District radiates out from the intersections of Melrose Avenue, Beverly Boulevard and Robertson Boulevard, and is home to interior design and furniture showrooms, design-focused restaurants, flagship fashion stores, art galleries and al fresco cafes, all anchored by the striking Pacific Design Center which caters to the local design community.
In the middle of the last century, the area was very much ‘trade only’ before blossoming during the 1960s into a serious, sophisticated shopping destination. The arrival of artists, dressmakers, upholsterers, interior design studios and other design professionals attracted high end clients to the area, and this wealthy clientele were the perfect reason for haute couture brands, fine dining venues, beauty salons and casual coffeehouses to set up shop.
Want inspiration for your home, even if it’s strictly of the lottery-win kind? Browse interior design showrooms like Camerich USA, Design Within Reach and Restoration Hardware, which has an amazing public rooftop garden with views of the Hollywood Hills. Definitely worth a detour, even if you’re not in the market for a new sofa. For edgy contemporary art head to Art Angels and M+B Gallery, while the best places to caffeinate yourself include Urth Caffé and Verve Coffee Roasters on Melrose.
The city of West Hollywood – where the crosswalks are painted in bright rainbow colours – is the heart of LGBTQ Los Angeles. When it gained independent city status in 1984, WeHo immediately became the first majority-gay municipality in the USA, with more than 40 per cent of residents in the 1.9 square mile community identifying as LGBTQ. Ever since, this tradition of pride and diversity has been celebrated by locals and visitors alike.
Nowhere in Los Angeles is more LGBTQ-friendly, with welcoming restaurants, hotels, and shops lining every street. As for nightlife, don’t miss one of the most famous gay bars and nightclubs in the world, The Abbey, home to go-go dancers and cosmopolitan cocktails. Other great venues include friendly Fubar, or The Bayou for a first rate late-night happy hour. Let your hair down on Sunday nights with drag queen bingo nights at Hamburger Mary’s.
It may have just happened, but it’s worth mentioning that every June, West Hollywood becomes the home base for the L.A. Pride Festival and Parade. There’s also the Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival every July, which showcases the work of local and international LGBTQ filmmakers, and arguably best of all, the raucous West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval, one of the biggest Halloween gatherings in the world.
What if you just want to soak up the vibes and not do very much at all? Fortunately for you, this diminutive city is home to some of the best urban hotels in southern California, where lounging is elevated to an art form. If all you want to do is lie down, read a book, take a dip, then sip an ice cold sundowner, these are our three favourite spots.
It might look a bit different now, but in the 1960s and 70s, Gene Autry’s Hotel Continental, later the Hyatt on Sunset, was the place to stay if you were a rock star of any standing. Especially popular with English groups like Led Zeppelin and The Who, the hotel today is the Andaz West Hollywood, and while it no longer has balconies from where you can chuck your TV (they’ve been enclosed with glass) it’s still one of the coolest hangouts in town. Head straight to the highest rooftop pool in LA for lazy swims and snoozes.
A favourite of maximalists everywhere, boutique hotel Petit Ermitage is an eclectic mix of artworks, artefacts and slightly surreal decor. Guest rooms are a little more toned down, but the public spaces are gloriously eccentric, with influences ranging from Mediterranean gardens and boho California style to Moorish colour palettes and moody Parisian boudoirs. Find the ivy-clad doorway, and help yourself to a luxury poolside cabana shaded by kumquat trees and succulents, or dine in a genuine hummingbird sanctuary in the private rooftop garden.
Quaint, quiet, and quite unlike anything else in the area, the Charlie Hotel is best known for being bought and redeveloped by Charlie Chaplin in the 1920s, but after he sold it a couple of decades later it fell into a state of disrepair that was to last for the next 70 years. Thankfully, it’s now been fully restored by a team of forward-thinking entrepreneurs, and its status as one of WeHo’s most sought-after stays is confirmed. While tiny – it comprises just a handful of standalone bungalows, all named after a celebrity who’s stayed in them – it’s the perfect place to get away from it all in LA. Each unit has a fully equipped kitchen and outdoor dining area, and there’s a lovely communal sundeck with umbrellas, sofas and sunloungers.
Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to Los Angeles – book yours today!