Gay Los Angeles in a Nutshell:
One of the world's leading gay and lesbian destinations, Los Angeles is much more than a single metropolis - rather, it's an entire collection of both sprawling and in many cases scenic neighborhoods and adjacent cities. It could take a full week just to visit even those areas with the greatest numbers of gay-popular businesses and residential blocks, including West Hollywood, Silver Lake, Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Beverly Hills, Westwood, and even the increasingly trendy downtown.
Los Angeles is an arid, sunny desert city that receives little rain and only limited humidity, thanks to its setting on the Pacific Ocean. There's no bad time to visit, although late spring through summer sees the hottest and calmest days, which means the city's notorious smog can be more stifling then. Winter is cooler and can even be quite rainy, producing occasional floods but also fresher days.
Average high-low temps are 68F/48F in Jan., 73F/54F in Apr., 88F/65F in July, and 79F/60F in Oct. Precipitation averages 3 to 4 inches/mo. Jan. to Mar., and inch or 2 in Nov. and Dec., and less than an inch at other times.
This massive desert basin covers nearly 500 square miles, fringing the Pacific Ocean to the west. The city boundary runs about 45 miles north to south, and 30 miles east to west. Elevation ranges from sea level at the beach to as high 5,000 feet in the San Gabriel Mountains, one of several ranges that either cut through or border the city.
Los Angeles is along a stretch of the Southern California coastline that cuts at a roughly 45-degree angle northwest to southeast. It's about 120 miles north of the Mexico border and within easy driving distance of numerous cities in California and the Southwest.
Note that it can take 30 to 60 mins to drive between most neighborhoods within L.A. Driving distances to Los Angeles from prominent places and points of interest are:
Big Bear Lake: 100 miles (1.5 hours)
Laguna Beach: 50 miles (1 hr)
Las Vegas, NV: 270 miles (3.5 to 4.5 hrs)
Monterey: 330 miles (5 to 6 hrs)
Palm Springs: 110 miles (2 hrs)
Phoenix, AZ: 370 miles (4.5 to 5.5 hrs)
Russian River and Sonoma Wine country: 440 miles (7 to 8 hrs)
Sacramento: 385 miles (6 hrs)
San Diego: 120 miles (2 hrs)
San Francisco: 380 miles (5.5 to 6.5 hrs)
Santa Barbara: 95 miles (90 min)
Yosemite National Park: 350 miles (7 to 8 hrs)
Flying to Los Angeles:
One of the busiest airports in the country, Los Angeles International (LAX) is by the ocean, about 20 miles west of downtown and 12 miles south of West Hollywood. It's served by direct flights from all over the country and the world. L.A. is also served by a number of smaller airports, many still with numerous direct domestic flights. These include Burbank (15 miles north), Long Beach (20 miles southwest), John Wayne/Orange County (40 miles southeast), and Ontario (40 miles east).
A car is your best way to explore the city, and all of these airports have extensive car-rentals and ample ground transportation.
Gay-Popular Events and Festivals:
Early Jan.: Pasadena Tournament of Roses.
late Feb.: Oscars Week (a great time for celeb-spotting).
Early May: Silver Lake Film Festival (LA's top Indie filmfest).
Mid-May: Long Beach Gay Pride.
Early to mid-June: Los Angeles Gay Pride.
Mid-July: OutFest (SoCal's Gay and Lesbian Film Festival).
Mid-Oct.: AIDS Walk Los Angeles.
Mid-Oct.: LA/Valley Pride (San Fernando Valley Gay Pride).
Late Oct.: West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval (a riotous gathering for the gay community).
Resources on Gay Los Angeles:
A number of resources out there offer extensive information on the city's gay scene, including the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, GayCities Los Angeles Guide), the popular gay newspapers Frontiers, and Lesbian News). The Los Angeles Times) is the city's best mainstream news source, and LA Weekly is a terrific alternative newsweekly.
For general tourism info, contact the LA CVB, and for gay-specific tourism information on the region's gay hub, West Hollywood, check out GoGayWestHollywood.com, an incredibly useful guide to all things gay and gay-friendly in that city.
L.A.'s Top Cultural Attractions:
Autry National Center
California African American Museum
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising
Fowler Museum at UCLA
Hollywood Entertainment Museum
Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Japanese American National Museum
L.A. County Museum of Art
L.A. Maritime Museum
Mazer Lesbian Archives
Museum of Contemporary Art
Museum of Latin American Art
Museum of Tolerance
Natural History Museum of L.A.
Norton Simon Museum of Art
One Gay and Lesbian Archive
Paley Center for Media
Petersen Automotive Museum
Walt Disney Concert Hall
L.A.'s Top Outdoor Attractions:
Aquarium of the Pacific
El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument
Hollywood & Highland Center
La Brea Tar Pits
L.A. County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
L.A. County Zoo and Gardens
L.A. Farmers Market
Pacific Park and Santa Monica Pier
Port of Los Angeles
San Gabriel Mission
Universal Studios Hollywood
Warner Bros. Studios
Will Rogers State Beach
Exploring Gay-Popular Neighborhoods of Note:
West Hollywood: The small but bustling city of West Hollywood, which is completely encircled by Los Angeles, is the region's gay mecca. A sizable number of its nearly 40,000 residents are gay, and the city contains the greatest concentration of gay-oriented or gay-popular hotels, restaurants, shops, and bars in metro L.A. It's also the site of some of the area's largest GLBT events, such as Gay Pride, OutFest, and the Halloween Carnaval. For gay visitors to LA, West Hollywood is a must-see, and also a good base for exploring the region.
Downtown: L.A.'s largely corporate downtown has been undergoing a renaissance in recent years, but it's still mostly a place to visit during the week. It's home to some leading musuems, a slew of fine restaurants, and some of the city's more prominent ethnic neighborhoods, including Little Tokyo, Chinatown, and the bustling Olvera Street Latin community.
Hollywood: Once synonymous with glamour, Hollywood became quite dowdy in the late 20th century but, like downtown, has also become quite trendy in areas of late. To the northeast above Beachwood Canyon on the lower slopes of Mount Lee is the immense HOLLYWOOD sign, whose 50-foot letters have graced the horizon for more than 80 years. You can't actually drive up and visit it, but you can tour a number of museums and sights - some tacky, others engaging - along Hollywood Boulevard, from the Hollywood Wax Museum to the beloved Walk of Fame.
Silver Lake and Los Feliz: Just east of Hollywood is Los Feliz, one of L.A.'s hidden gems, a tidy, attractive neighborhood of hilly lanes tucked beneath the dense greenery of Griffith Park. To the east lies L.A.'s second most gay-identified neighborhood after West Hollywood, the quirky and artsy Silver Lake district, where many gays and lesbians reside. You'll find a number of cool bars, restaurants, and shops in Los Feliz and Silver Lake.
Beverly Hills and Westwood: Here's your chance to buy a map of the stars' homes and putter around looking for the abode of Shirley Jones, Elke Sommer, or Dick Van Patten. Yes, more celebrities - plus quite a few has-beens - live in Beverly Hills, Brentwood, and Bel Air than anywhere else on the planet. South of Santa Monica Boulevard toward Wilshire Boulevard are the unbelievably chichi shops along Rodeo Drive.
Santa Monica and Venice: These beach communities to the west are loaded with great shopping, several hip hotels, and plenty of great restaurants - not to mention outstanding beaches.