Los Angeles Gay Travel
Los Angeles gay guide to the best hotels, restaurants, gay bars & the West Hollywood gay neighborhood.
The Gay Travel Experience: Los Angeles, California
Los Angles is a classic American gay travel destination and the city has so much to offer gay travelers. Imagine yourself cruising down Sunset Strip on your way to the West Hollywood gay neighborhood, or dancing the night away at one of Los Angeles’ huge nightclubs.
The Los Angeles gay community is enormous. Many gay celebrities call Los Angeles home as well. While strolling through West Hollywood, it’s common to see adorable public displays of affection. Stylish gay men are everywhere!
West Hollywood attracts tons of gay tourists every year and has a very concentrated local gay population. The area is super popular for quick access to nightlife and the vibrant LGBT community.
Gay Los Angeles: Hotels & Where to Stay
Location in Los Angeles is key, since heavy traffic can make getting around the city super frustrating. Below I’ll explain the best neighborhoods for gay travelers visiting Los Angeles and mention some of my personal favorite hotels.
Best Los Angeles Neighborhoods To Stay
The most vibrant parts of greater Los Angeles stretch from the city’s downtown, located about 30 minutes inland from the ocean, to the Santa Monica area, a wonderful beach community along the coast.
Between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica are the West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Century City neighborhoods.
West Hollywood is the famous Los Angeles gay neighborhood. Gay men are always strolling Santa Monica Boulevard past dozens of restaurants, storefronts and gyms.
Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue are two great main thoroughfares in the Los Angeles gay area to book a hotel. Both streets are lively day and night.
Santa Monica Boulevard embodies more of a true gay neighborhood feel, while Melrose Avenue has vibes a bit like a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York City. Melrose is lined with hundreds of boutique shops and unique restaurants, though. I truthfully adore both!
If you choose a VRBO in West Hollywood, I suggest picking a place within walking distance to the gay bars. This will make things more convenient, especially if you’re traveling with a group of friends.
Beverly Hills Hotels
For a more luxurious experience, set your sights on the famous 90210 American zip code of Beverly Hills. If you’re willing to pay a little more, a hotel in this wonderful area will be worth it.
It’s easy to get just about anywhere from Beverly Hills given it’s ideal location. West Hollywood is just a short drive away, and there’s easy access to the ocean via Santa Monica Boulevard.
I stayed at the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills during one if my visits to Los Angeles. They’re located on the border of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.
This boutique luxury hotel was absolutely perfect, with a ton of eye-catching features like sliding mirror-walls in the rooms and provocative art in the hallways.
The staff is friendly and they embody the chill California vibe. They have stellar breakfast options and a relaxing pool deck. I highly recommend!
Other Los Angeles Neighborhoods
Staying in Downtown Los Angeles
I would personally avoid accommodations in downtown Los Angeles, unless of course you are visiting the city for work.
The heart and soul of Los Angeles gay life is in West Hollywood and beachfront communities like Santa Monica, which aren’t really near the downtown center.
Downtown Los Angeles is quite commercial and can be a bit boring in my opinion. It is a little isolated from all the fun activities the city has to offer.
Los Angeles Gay Travel Experiences
Runyon Canyon is my favorite park in Los Angeles. Locals love Runyon Canyon Park for beautiful trails and wide-open spaces. You can go for a casual walk here or decide to go for a steep hike to the top.
The Getty Museum is fantastic place to spend an afternoon. The space is enormous and there is so much to explore. I love the beautiful vistas from the wide-open terraces. Try to get there earlier in the day to avoid lines and/or waiting in the hot summer sun.
If you have a car and love driving winding roads, head to Latigo Canyon. An intensely scenic drive, Latigo Canyon Road hugs the mountainsides at a high elevation. You can see the beaches of Malibu and captivating vistas from these heights.
Will Rogers State Historic Park, popular with the gay locals, is a great place to relax and take in some sun in a grassy field. Will Rogers Park is perfect for quiet walks in a wooded area or to have a little picnic with friends.
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Visit Santa Monica
Santa Monica Boulevard is right near the Santa Monica State Beach, a vibrant and walkable area with a ton of restaurants and shopping. Stroll the boulevard and then head over to the Santa Monica Pier. The area is still very lively after dark.
Abbott Kinney Boulevard
Abbott Kinney Boulevard is a beautiful street near Venice Beach to shop, grab snacks or have an early dinner! Local foodies love Abbott Kinney.
They have a monthly event called “First Friday” where high-quality food trucks line the streets before sunset.
Los Angeles Gay Beaches
Will Rogers beach is the crowd favorite Los Angeles gay beach. To get there, head toward Lifeguard Tower number 18. This is the gay area. There is plenty of parking nearby.
In neighboring Santa Monica, Dorothy Green Park is a popular gay beach hangout. There’s always a fun crowd enjoying the weather and often doing some sort of acrobatic exercises. It’s super fun to watch.
I definitely can’t skip a mention of the famous Muscle Beach in Venice. If you have time for a second beach day, definitely check it out. Even though it’s not an official gay beach, I’m sure there will be some LGBT friends around. Make a point to at least stop by!
Restaurants in Los Angeles
My top recommendation for Los Angeles restaurants is Auburn, located in the Melrose neighborhood. At Auburn you choose four, six or nine dishes from a selection of small plates. Everything is so perfectly crafted.
*Auburn recently announced the restaurant has closed down indefinitely for the COVID-19 pandemic, but is trying to re-open if possible once things start to recover.
The brand-new Westfield Century City Mall is a beautiful complex to spend a relaxing evening with friends or by yourself. There are tons of restaurants and unique little shops amongst the big brands there. The mall has an Eataly, which is very popular with the locals for dinner.
If you have time, make a reservation at Din Tai Fung Taiwanese Restaurant in the Century City Mall. The food was out of this world. Din Tai Fung is super popular, especially on weekends. It’s best to go put your name in, do some shopping and come back afterward for dinner.
Craving amazing soup dumplings? Northern Café in Westwood has the best dumplings around. A casual Chinese place best for lunch or an early dinner, I promise you will not regret making a trip here.
Plan Check Kitchen & Bar is perfect for a cocktail-filled brunch. With locations in both in Sawtelle and West LA, Plan Check Kitchen & Bar has indoor and outdoor seating, a ton of soul food and fantastic service. They are known for their fried chicken! I really enjoyed the spicy custom cocktails too.
Digest afterward by taking a walk through Japan Town. There are a lot of bubble tea shops and fun storefronts to browse.
Brunch Restaurants in Los Angeles
Check out Botega Louie if you’re in Downtown Los Angeles. The entrées are delectable and the pastries are so adorable! Botega Louie is great for lunch or a small pastry to go. You will probably want to make a reservation, since it can get crowded with people who work downtown.
Kitchen 24 is a fun spot for breakfast with a little bit of people watching in West Hollywood. They have a cute and colorful outdoor seating area where you can watch the boys of WeHo stroll the sidewalks. This gay area of WeHo is great to spend a warm summer morning!
Los Angeles Gay Bars & Clubs
Gay nightlife in Los Angeles concentrates in West Hollywood. Driving down Santa Monica Boulevard, you’ll see dozens of gay bars lighting up the streets.
The Abbey & Chapel
The Abbey and “Chapel at The Abbey” are crowd favorite Los Angeles gay bars. They are technically one establishment, but they’re two separate bars.
Most of the time, they use two different entrances. There are times however, that I have visited while have the internal gate between them opened. It seems it depends how crowded things get.
The Abbey is technically a gay bar; however, the crowd is very mixed. Many straight couples also hang out here, but the vibe is clearly tailored to the LGBT community. It is a wonderful and unique change to the typical gay bar. Also, both Chapel and The Abbey have large dance floors in the back!
Micky's West Hollywood
Micky’s is my personal favorite Los Angeles gay bar, located in the heart of West Hollywood. They have an area to hang outside, plenty of room around the bar and a great space to dance in the back.
They’re especially famous for performances by world-famous drag queens, like Alyssa Edwards in the video below!
If you are visiting Micky’s during a holiday weekend when things are very crowded, the bar will have people form a line on the sidewalk. But, they interestingly won’t let anyone in that line enter the bar!
The only way to get in at times like this is to go directly to the door and ask to pay cash to the bouncer. It’s a bit chaotic, but I’ve seen it happen several times while visiting Los Angeles, most notably on New Year’s weekend. Most weekends though will be perfectly fine.
Unfortunately, Flaming Saddles West Hollywood has permanently closed in light of difficulties related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Flaming Saddles was truly one of the most iconic Los Angeles gay bars and will be missed.
I’m hopeful that one day that the establishment can re-open and once again provide a rowdy place to grab a drink or enjoy Drag Race showings.
In the meantime, you’ll have to explore some of the other gay bars in West Hollywood!
More Gay Bars in West Hollywood
Definitely check out FuBar, which is a short cab ride away from the main strip of gay bars in West Hollywood. FuBar is a small gay nightclub that typically attracts a 30+ crowd. I personally love this place!
Looking specifically for circuit parties? Check out these circuit party events to see if any of the US productions will be hosting a party in one of the larger Los Angeles gay clubs.
Downtown Los Angeles Gay Bars
There are two noteworthy gay bars in Downtown Los Angeles I’ll mention, although I haven’t personally been to them.
Redline is a pub-style gay bar with a decently-sized dance area. They’re known for their “Eggplant Fridays” where you can save on some 2-for-1 drink specials.
The Bazaar by José Andrés offers specialty cocktails with cocktail-creation a performance. I loved how the bartender comes over with a small cart to personally make your drink. They are located in the SLS hotel in Beverly Hills. It’s a fun and romantic spot.
Los Angeles Travel Tips
Renting a car will make day trips and moving around Los Angeles much easier. You will need a car if you want to explore most major attractions, drive to great beaches and more.
However, if renting a car is not an option, you can still have a fantastic time by keeping activities local and exploring select gay attractions in the West Hollywood area.
After experiencing the Los Angeles gay scene for the first time while out at the bars, I realized that people here put a lot of effort into the way they dress and present themselves. Everyone seems to have a carefully curated “look.”
Don’t be afraid to dress to impress if you’re headed out on the town. Gay guys in Los Angeles dress up a little more than New York men do.
There are plenty of options for short-term luggage storage in Los Angeles, ideal if you want to stash your bags somewhere more convenient to your departure destination, or if your hotel can’t hold your luggage any longer.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame seems to be on many gay tourist’s list of things to do. While it may be something you wish to see, it is not really the best place to hang out in my opinion. This area is very crowded with tourists, so if you do visit, I wouldn’t stay too long.
Malibu Beaches: Be Careful
Be careful while walking along California beaches especially in the Long Beach, Malibu and South Bay areas. There are frequently globs of tar along the shore. If you step in one of the tar balls, it will be very difficult to remove it from your skin.
These globs are sometimes natural, a result of natural offshore oil seeps, and other times a result of oil spills that have occurred in past years. Keep an eye out.
Using Lyft & Uber in Los Angeles
Ride-share prices at the Los Angeles Airport tend to surge incredibly high as soon as a large flight lets out, especially in the evening. A ride to your hotel can easily triple in price over a few minute’s time.
Try to avoid the surge by either rushing from your flight to the ride-share area as soon as possible or taking things very slowly until most of the other people have left and prices come back to normal.
California Gay Rights
California is a great place to be gay. One of the most liberal states in America, California was one of the first to legalize domestic partnerships. The state provides various workplace discrimination protections for LGBT people and protects the LGBT community from a range hate crime.
In 2008, California courts struck down laws which had banned same-sex marriage in the state. Proposition 8 arose a few months later, a newly created and approved ban on same-sex marriage which received a high amount of media attention across the United States.
Prop 8 remains in effect in the state of California, however the Federal US government in 2015 ruled that gay marriage is legal in all 50 states.