For a fun domestic getaway, give L.A.’s gayborhood three days
Bustling West Hollywood isn’t just the main gayborhood of Los Angeles, but its own incorporated city — albeit one with among the highest percentages of gay residents and businesses of anywhere in the U.S.
With same-sex marriage days away from becoming the law in California, there may be no better weekend getaway for couples. Its wealth of shops, galleries, restaurants, nightclubs and upscale accommodations, and its attractive setting at the base of the Hollywood Hills, makes for a highly enjoyable honeymoon.
Here’s the perfect itinerary for spending three days in West Hollywood, including a few ideas for excursions to nearby neighborhoods elsewhere in greater Los Angeles — and don’t forget to shoehorn in a trip to the justice of the peace while you’re there.
Your first night in town, opt for a casual dinner somewhere in the heart of WeHo. You’ll find scads of popular restaurants along the main drag, Santa Monica Boulevard. Skewers, a cheap and simple Middle Eastern eatery with outdoor tables, provide views of the steady flow of cute pedestrians; Benvenuto CafÃ© is a mid-priced Italian restaurant with elegant garden seating. A more sophisticated option is Bin 8945 Wine Bar and Bistro, a Euro-style space acclaimed for its sensational, globally influenced food and extensive wines by the glass.
From here you’re steps to more than a dozen gay bars and clubs. The Mother Lode and Trunks are a couple of festive neighborhood hangouts, and the Palms is L.A.’s longest-running lesbian bar — it’s been going strong since the mid-1970s. For a stylish lounge with fancy cocktails, check out swanky East/West Lounge.
WeHo has always been a big breakfast town, so excellent options abound. Try the Melrose outpost of the famed Belgian bakery chain, Le Pain Quotidien, which doles out heavenly pastries, hearty egg dishes and great coffee.
In fact, Melrose is lined with a number of fine boutiques, so you might spend the morning shopping. Set aside a little time to visit the striking Cesar Pelli-designed Pacific Design Center, which has its very own branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art. This airy space displays seminal works from MOCA’s permanent collection as well as shows featuring emerging artists.
After lunch at the Farmers Market — which offers scads of great options — stroll the Grove outdoor shopping center, which hosts a selection of high-end chain stores. If you’re a serious shopper, consider venturing over to the massive Beverly Center on the edge of WeHo, where die-hard browsers can while away the afternoon at H & M, Ben Sherman, Diesel and Hugo Boss.
Dress your best and head out to some of WeHo’s trendiest dining and clubbing spots. For a meal, it’s hard to go wrong with either The Abbey, a long-running upscale gay lounge that serves tasty and affordable American chow, or Eleven, a swell-elegant supper club with juicy steaks and pan-roasted seafood, plus lighter sandwiches and salads. Serious clubbers can then move on to the neighborhood’s top gay nightspots — Factory, Here Lounge and Rage.
Sunday and Monday
After sleeping in for a bit, wander over to the always-jumping House of Blues Sunset Strip for the legendary Gospel Brunch (seatings are at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.), where you’ll be treated to a mouthwatering all-you-can-eat Southern breakfast buffet along with exhilarating live music.
A pleasant way to spend a lazy afternoon is to drive a few miles east of West Hollywood to 4,213-acre Griffith Park, whose Observatory and Planetarium played a key role in "Rebel Without a Cause." The park is laced with hiking trails and affords tremendous views of L.A.
Another way to enjoy a break from WeHo’s urban pace is to drive into the Hollywood Hills, which form the city’s northern backdrop. It can be fun, if a bit confusing, just driving around these narrow, steep lanes, taking in the views and admiring the distinctive architecture.
On your final night in town, wander along Santa Monica Boulevard again to catch spots you might have missed, or for something different, drive 15 minutes to another popular gayborhood, Silver Lake.
For dinner, book a table at the cozy Kitchen restaurant, a beloved and gay-friendly neighborhood eatery that serves contemporary American. Then walk next door to the charming gay lounge Akbar, packed with an eclectic mix of hipsters, yuppies and students.
Depending on the exact time of your departure, you can set aside Monday to explore the beach communities of Santa Monica and Venice, which are both rife with cafes, shopping and palm-shaded beach promenades.
WHERE TO STAY
For ideas abut L.A. accommodations, including some gay-only resorts, visit Dallasvoice.com and click Travel.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 6, 2008.