West Hollywood is home to the largest concentration of gay bars and clubs in Los Angeles - in fact, other than the Castro in San Francisco, the strip along Santa Monica Boulevard has more GLBT nightlife than anywhere in the western United States. In contrast to many gay nightlife districts, West Hollywood has remained remarkably stable over the past two decades. Plenty of bars have come and gone, but a clear majority of mainstays has continued to thrive here. The most pronounced stretch of bars is along a pedestrian-friendly several-block stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard between La Cienega and Robertson boulevards (sometimes called "Boys Town"), a strip that's also lined with gay-popular restaurants and boutiques. Most of the bars are on the north side of the boulevard.
The most popular and established gay bars along this stretch include Rage, Micky's, and Revolver - the latter was known as East West Lounge for several years before being relaunched as Revolver, the same name this see-and-be-seen video bar was known by through most of the '90s and early '00s. Also along this stretch are Eleven (both a restaurant and bar), Gym Sports Bar (a sister to the original Gym Sports Bar in NYC's Chelsea neighborhood), the Mexican restaurant and bar Fiesta Cantina, the stylish cocktail bar and tapas eatery Debauchery, and the laid-back Trunks, which is a fun place to shoot pool or kick off an evening of bar-hopping.
On the south side of the street, you'll find the venerable lesbian bar, The Palms, and farther west is one of the quintessentially friendly and laid-back gay neighborhood hangout, Mother Lode. Walk just a few blocks west and turn left onto Robertson Boulevard, and you'll find a second cluster of gay nightspots that pull in sizable crowds of both locals and tourists: Here Lounge (run by the same team behind NYC's dapper G Lounge), the Abbey Food and Bar (very much a place to see and be seen), and - across the street - the massive Factory/Ultra Suede complex, which hosts major warehouse-style parties on weekends.
The other cluster of West Hollywood gay bars along Santa Monica is several blocks east, beyond La Cienega Boulevard - you could conceivably walk the 1.5 miles to these others, but it's far enough that most people drive or take a cab. Here you'll find the West Hollywood branch of the gay burger-and-drinks chain Hamburger Mary's, the old-time-y Gold Coast (which nevertheless has a quite loyal following), and the edgy and hipster-filled Fubar (it feels more like the gay bars in L.A.'s Silver Lake neighborhood).
What about the fabled nightlife along tony Sunset Boulevard, you ask? West Hollywood's most glamorous thoroughfare more-or-less parallels Santa Monica Boulevard a bit farther up the hill and is lined with historic music clubs like the Viper Room (outside of which River Phoenix tragically overdosed), the Troubadour, Key Club, and the touristy but still-fun House of Blues. Also along this stretch are swank hotel bars that draw a good share of celebs and industry types, such as Skybar at the Mondrian, the Terrace at Sunset Tower, and Bar Marmont at the storied Chateau Marmont.
And then there are trendy haunts set elsewhere in West Hollywood, like the exclusive Soho House club, The Belmont, and Lola's. In all of these spots, the crowd is mostly hetero, and to varying degrees, you can encounter steep cover charges, long lines, or difficult door policies at some of these places, especially on weekends. But they're all quite gay-friendly, and given their location in one of the world's GLBT meccas, you can be assured you'll likely bump into kindred spirits at many of these spots.
Here are quick links to the other pages that make up the West Hollywood Gay Guide:
Getting to Know West Hollywood
Getting to West Hollywood - the Lay of the Land
West Hollywood 2014/2015 Events Calendar - West Hollywood Gay Travel Resources
Exploring West Hollywood - Cool Neighborhoods and Attractions
West Hollywood Restaurant Guide
West Hollywood Hotel Guide