West HollywoodGo West Hollywood – girls in bikinis, convertibles, palm trees and endless sunshine.

We thought it was just a rumour until we headed to the land of celebrities, sexy beaches, and fat free bottled spring water.

Founded as a city in 1984, West Hollywood (part of Los Angeles County) is home to Santa Monica Boulevard,

The famous Sunset Strip and a vibrant gay and lesbian community that claims 1/3 of the city’s 39,000 inhabitants. This is a place where you can share the footpath (sidewalk in American speak) with Jennifer Aniston, dine at Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore’s restaurant Ketchup and party at Los Angeles’ oldest lesbian bar, The Palms.

Firm believers in the ‘when in Rome’ philosophy, scored us a red Mustang convertible, a very fine place to crash, some frozen yoghurt, and thumped the star-studded pavement in our knock-off Monolos and vintage Doc Martens to find all the hot spots in one of the greatest, happiest places on earth (that slogan belongs to Disneyland, West Hollywood’s neighbour. Coincidence? We think not).

If you’re going to be rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous and posing for the paps (the paparazzi), you’ll need stylish digs.

The only place to stay is the fabulous Ramada Inn, located across the street from The Palms and smack in the middle of Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood’s main drag.

We couldn’t figure out what we liked more – the beautiful black and white pinstriped bedding, the awesome – and cheap! – breakfast delivered to our room, or the pool out back. Poolside is a great place to gossip with the other guests (“Did you see Queen Latifah last night in the liquor shop up the road?!”), or to eavesdrop on film executives barking orders into their mobile phones.

Not only does The Ramada offer all this and more, but in addition it’s a gay and lesbian friendly hotel, which means kissing in the lobby doesn’t faze anyone.

West Hollywood is also home to four TAG (Travel Alternatives Group) approved Hotels that meet not only gay and lesbian friendly standards, but also employment policies and support returned to the gay community.

It isn’t unusual to see filming on the footpath,and for those of you who aren’t over The L Word, some of the streets and locations in West Hollywood can be recognised from places filmed in the series.

Where to play –

The Palms Bar on Santa Monica Boulevard is commonly revered as the oldest lesbian bar in LA, still kicking after 36 years! After taking up a post on a bar stool at the Palms one evening, we can confirm that what their website says is true, it really is a venue for all women from ‘Harley Bikers to commuting beach babes’.

The Factory, owned by the ladies who brought you the Girlbar Dinah Shore Week, runs GirlBar LA every Friday night.

Where to eat –

With over 150 restaurants in West Hollywood, there are plenty of options to cater for an array of tastes and budgets.

The Abbey, one of the premier gay and lesbian venues in WeHo, is a place to see and be seen. Styled as a converted Abbey, this venue offers a breakfast/brunch menu, ‘available all day and all night’. The dinner menu is also impressive, and if you are here in the evening, the mood changes to provide hip rooms for the dance floor-ready, as well as quieter dark corners in order to get to know someone a little better.

Pretend you’re famous at the studio commissary at Warner Hollywood Studios (“The Lot” to those in the know). It’s open to the public and popular with locals in ‘the industry’. Is that Angelina Jolie stopping for snack? Only one way to find out.

For more information on West Hollywood visit our California page at lotl.com or West Hollywood’s travel page at visitwesthollywood.com.

In the Know in WeHo

Best Margaritas on the cheap: Fiesta Cantina serves them up for $2.50! Madness! They also have burritos as big as your forearm. Nestled near some of the strip’s gay bars and a hop from The Palms Bar it’s a great place to kick off an evening.

First thing to say “Awesome!” about in your affected American accent: Spy school! Scaling walls, fending off an assailant and the art of disguise are all on the class schedule. www.absolutionla.com

Best date night: Sunset Ranch Hollywood Stables. Come on, cowgirl! Take your ladyfriend for dinner and a night ride over the big lights of the city and around the infamous Hollywood sign.

Shopping: There’s a reason Stella McCartney chose to have her only shop in West Hollywood. It’s a mecca for fashionistas, no matter your budget. Outside of Rodeo Drive, Sunset plaza is the home of higher-end chains. Other options: Melrose Avenue for vintage shopping and cheap Converse sneakers, Kitson for fashionable street wear and celeb spotting, the 665 Leather and Fetish Company for your leather gear needs.

 

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