There are a number of great reasons to visit West Hollywood, but to keep things manageable, I will try to focus on three particularly good reasons. I don’t want to overwhelm you with choice
Unlike the other districts in LA, West Hollywood is a city, a city within the city of LA. It is often called a small town and a big city, the beating heart of LA. It grew out of the town of Sherman, being renamed West Hollywood in 1925. It remained outside the jurisdiction of the LAPD, and the absence of effective law enforcement allowed the counter culture movement of the 60’s to flourish. It may have had the reputation of being a little seedy, but it also gave us Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and the Doors.
Although West Hollywood may have lost something to attract the “denizens of the night”, it now is a creative and progressive city which exudes the quintessential style of Los Angeles.
It is situated near the base of the Hollywood Hills, and is adjacent to Beverley Hills. While visitors are often advised to have a car in LA as the city sprawls over a vast area, that is not the case in West Hollywood. It is a walkable city.
West Hollywood consists of three distinct neighborhoods.
- Sunset Strip
- Santa Monica Boulevard
- Design District
The Sunset Strip
This is the beating heart of the city, a playground for the rebellious, for party goers, fans of live music. The famous music venues, the Whisky A Go Go and the Roxy are here. The Roxy gave the premiere to The Rocky Horror Picture Show bask in 1974, while the Doors were, briefly, the House Band at the Whisky a Go Go.
It is not just music and parties here. You should also visit Book Soup, which is not just a book shop but an LA or should I say a WeHo institution . The shop was founded in 1975 and specialises in art, film, photography, music, controversial non fiction and literary fiction. Just the sort of stuff on which modern West Hollywood is built upon.
Fred Segal’s story is woven into the LA scene. In 1961 he opened his West Hollywood store and his fashionable jeans quickly caught the eye of the fashionistas. Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Farrah Faucet were pictured wearing his denim. It became the place to see and to be seen. The store (s) remain relevant today, bringing their cool West Coast Vibe while retaining its diversity and appeal to everyone. Its slogan is “Love one Another,” and targets those who love freely and follow their own fashion heart.
Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica Bouelevard is the Westernmost leg of the famous Route 66, connecting the east side with the Pacific. It passes through Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverley Hills and the west side of LA, ending in Santa Monica itself.
There are three zones,
- West Side, which is renowned for its LGBTQ lifestyle, the LGBTQ capital of West Hollywood.
- Mid, which has a retro flavour
- East, which is the old Hollywood. East is also Russian, where a number of Russian immigrants settled in
The Design District.
The Design District is an upscale shopping district. Not being one for shopping, I imagine that “upscale” means expensive, but the Design District’s Website describes itself as a place where trends are born, and trendsetting is one of the distinguishing features of West Hollywood. It is a zone for art, fashion, food, beauty. More than 250 “style” businesses have set up home between Melrose Avenue, Beverley Boulevard and Robertson Boulevard.
So what can you expect and where should you go?
If you are into interior design, you might pop into the Pacific Design Centre, otherwise known as WeHo Design Centre, which contains the shops, botiques and workshops of more than 100 designers.
Possibly difficult to bring interior design home so I won’t include the PDC as one of our three places to visit, so instead let’s pop into the RealReal, a trendsetting store selling Designer gear for men, women and kids as well as jewellery. As in most of West Hollywood, you will be keeping an eye out for celebrities.
With all this fine dining and shopping, it may be time for a workout, and there is nowhere better to get into shape than the Shape House. It’s tag line is pretty clear, “The science of sweat.” You will be going there to get better skin, sleep, fitness, weight loss, in short a better life with less stress.
But this is WeHo, so it is not a traditional sweat and sawdust gym. There is science here. What they do is subject you to infared heat to make you sweat as quickly and efficiently as possible. You are dressed in a silver sweat suit and lie on infared panels, and sweat. How does lying down make you fitter? According to the science, a 55 minute session is equivalent to a 10 mile run, and produces a more effective detox than a marathon.
After all that sweating, you are probably ready for a really good night out and the Design District will not disappoint. The Peppermint Club is a unique 60’s inspired music lounge with live music, and a slick line up of cocktails and other drinks. It may be retro, but it only opened in 2017 and has quickly established itself as one of the top nightstops in a city that excels itself with night time entertainment.
West Hollywood has 19 hotels, and I cannot feature them all. In general, they are not among the cheapest of LA hotels, but they are among the best. There are more budget friendly offerings in the form of Best Western and Ramada. I will look at just 3 in the course of this post (as three is the unifying theme of the post. I will do mini posts on other West Hollywood hotels in due course.
This is a Hyatt Hotel, but perhaps one of their finest. Well located, luxurious, comfortable, with an amazing rooftop pool. Could you ask for anything else? Top class service is frequently remarked upon on guest reviews, and has a great “rock and roll vibe.” I am not entirely sure what that means, but it seems to be a good thing.
The Mondrian is a luxury, boutique hotel situated on Sunset Strip. It is modern, urban and urbane, beautifully designed. Its website describes it as the best of a surrealist aesthetic and with a dedicated attention to detail. It has great food, a fabulous rooftop bar, pool and great views.
The Sunset Tower
The Sunset Tower has been one of he more ore iconic buildings in West Hollywood since it was completed in the early 1930s. Residents have included John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Errol Flynn, Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra. It has appeared in a number of films including the Italian Job and Get Shorty. John Wayne’s apartment is now a 7,000 sq ft gym. Luxurious rooms, great dining, very well appointed spa, intriguing décor, the Sunset Tower embodies everything all of the reasons why you would visit West Hollywood
Three Events In West Hollywood
WeHo has a number of events and festivals and again I cannot mention them all in the course of this post. You’ve guessed it, I will propose three.
March : The Russian Festival
In the early 1970s the then USSR started to allow some of its people to leave, particularly Jews. Many of those who chose to emigrate to the US came to Los Angeles. At the time the more affordable housing was in the West Hollywood district. The community has grown and flourished into the diverse mix of people that make up the City within a City. AN annual festival is held in May to celebrate Russian arts and culture, and specifically the contribution the Russians have made to their new home. It is a family friendly fun day of music, arts, and stalls selling Russian crafts….WeHo style.
June : One Life One Pride
The LA Pride Festival started in 1974 and moved to West Hollywood in 1979. It started a small event in a car park, but has grown into one of the major Pride festivals of the world. WeHo doesn’t do things by halves. In 2018 it sold out for the first time, and although 2020 had to be moved to a virtual event, 2021 promises to make up for lost ground. Its organisers stress that its purpose is to raise public awareness of gay people and their contribution to society beyond the LGBTQ community
The festival now runs from Harvey Milk Day (May 22 to the end of June, and features pretty much everything you would expect, a parade, performances, speakers, and a joie de vivre running through this most relaxed and diverse community of one people, one city.
October : Halloween
This is West Hollywood so you can expect its Halloween Festivities to be pretty amazing, and you will need to bring your Costume A –Game. There are some pretty weird and wonderful costumes out there moving from party to party. It happens along the Santa Monica Boulevard where you will find multiple live music stages and of course plenty of food trucks serving up ghoulish delights from all over the world. It justly has the reputation of being one of the biggest and best Halloween parties in North America.
West Hollywood is not just a place, it is a feeling, an expression of cultural diversity, of one many communities coming together to become one. From the explosion of personal freedoms in the 60s, represented by the music of Hendrix, Joplin and the Doors to embracing modern design and culture, there is surely something for everyone here.
I have just touched on the surface of this vibrant and exciting destination. There is so much more to see, to do, which I will cover in more detailed, specialised posts.
If you would like some help in planning your trip to West Hollywood, I would be delighted to help. Just contact me and let me know what you are looking to do.