The intersection of Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards with its brightly colored rainbow crosswalks is hands down one of the gayest spots you can find. Of course, it makes perfect sense given that these two streets cross in the middle of one of the most gay-friendly destinations in the world - West Hollywood. Located in Southern California's Los Angeles County, West Hollywood, or WeHo as its called by those in the know, offers visitors plenty of opportunities for shopping, dining, nightlife, and partaking in the celebrity culture.
Sip Cocktails Poolside
Nearly every hotel in WeHo has a pool, and there is is no better way to enjoy a sunny afternoon or an evening sunset than poolside. Following a renovation that finished in May 2012, the pool at the Mondrian continues its reign as the see-and-be-seen spot. Surrounded by a teak deck and modern outdoor furnishings, the heated pool features underwater music. The panoramic views of WeHo and L.A. are also stunning. Of course, it is not just the pool that makes the Mondrian one of the best places to call home when visiting. Originally designed by Philippe Starck and reinvigorated by Benjamin Noriega Ortiz, the rooms at Mondrian offer comfortable luxury with outstanding services to match. As a guest of the hotel, you are guaranteed access to the pool's exclusive open air SkyBar.
Take a Bike Ride
The guilt of too much eating and drinking can ruin a good vacation but adding a 32-mile trek across L.A. with a 2,000 calorie burn is an easy fix (and possibly a little crazy). The L.A. in a Day tour by Bikes and Hikes L.A. starts and ends in WeHo and, along the way, a guide points out celebrity homes and provides interesting facts about the diverse neighborhoods. There are stops at the beautiful Greystone Mansion and the iconic Santa Monica Pier as well as a lunch break at Venice Beach. Thinking this six-hour tour might be too much for you? Don't worry Bikes and Hikes L.A. offers shorter trips as well as customized tours.
Visit the Library
It's not often that I encourage travelers to seek out the local library but the new LEED-certified West Hollywood Library is an exception with its noteworthy design and pleasing landscaping. It is home an expansive collection of LGBT literature and history, including the Ron Shipton HIV Information Center. Not only is this collection of interest to the public at large, it is particularly relevant to the demographics of the City of West Hollywood community, an estimated 35 percent of which identifies itself as LGBT and 10 percent of which is HIV positive. You should make a point of walking around the library's parking garage. Artists Shepard Fairey, Retna and Kenny Scharf each have large public murals displayed on the exterior walls.
Worship at The Abbey
What began as a small coffee shop has become what many consider the best gay bar in the world. If not the very best, The Abbey is certainly among the top of the list. At 16,000 square feet, this massive gay oasis is constantly reinventing itself to stay current. A key to its success is its perfect blending of indoor and outdoor space. On an a warm Southern California day you can be sure the patio will be filled with people, and it is a rare night that the dance floor is not thumping until 2 a.m. Its roster of DJs is only surpassed by its famed selection of martinis.
Tackle Some Tacos
WeHo's dining scene has improved dramatically in recent years - a prime example is Tortilla Republic. Serving creative and updated Mexican cuisine, Tortilla Republic is the spot for refined casual dining. If the large metal tree sculpture in the middle of the main dining room doesn't immediately let you know that are in a special place, a sip of the biting jalapeno margarita or a taste of the inspired duck confit tacos will remove all doubt. It is a good idea to save room for dessert. The flourless chocolate cake with ancho chile and cayenne pepper is worth the extra calories.
More information on visiting WeHo is available at www.visitwesthollywood.com.
Travel Note: Direct flights from the Washington, D.C. area to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) are available from Washington National Airport (DCA) on American Airlines and Alaska Airline; from Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) on Delta Air Lines; and from Dulles International Airport (IAD) on US Airways, United Airlines and Virgin America.