It may be called “The City of Angels” and most well-known for the deep saturation of ‘the industry,’ but in reality Los Angeles is home to incredible culture, cuisine, arts and nightlife, especially for the gay traveler. And as with most international destinations, there are simply some experiences that must appear on your Los Angeles itinerary, especially if you’re a first-time visitor.
Below we’ve taken the opportunity to share some of those experiences. Whether you’re an L.A. virgin or have visited a ton in the past — even if you’ve called Los Angeles home for more than a decade — the perfect L.A. affair will include several of these museums, meals and nights out on the town.
Here are 10 things that should be on every Los Angeles itinerary.
1. Taking a selfie at LACMA
It’s easy to understand why the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is one of the most Instagrammed museums in the world. It’s practically a selfie capitol, starting with Chris Burden’s sculpture Urban Light, an L.A. landmark that has been featured in several films, commercials and photo shoots. LACMA is a millennial’s art world dream of contemporary and interactive art, begging to be shared with your followers.
2. Exploring the city’s rich gay history
Sure, you may be in town for vacation, but your Los Angeles itinerary can still have you learning a thing or two while you play. Out and About Tours will take you through the city’s culturally rich gay history step-by-step, exposing fun, vital and hidden information about the LGBTQ community’s roots.
3. Enjoying cocktails in the city’s new Downtown gay scene
For only a few years now, Downtown Los Angeles (referred to as DTLA by locals) has become a burgeoning neighborhood — really a grouping of a dozen neighborhoods — for spotting LGBTQ people, and part of that is due to the recent springing of gay bars. There are currently no fewer than four gay bars in DTLA, and that’s not even including other venues that welcome queer folks for one-off events.
Bar Mattachine is a sleek, bi-level lounge decorated with dark wood, featuring a stellar craft cocktail program and rotating DJs depending on the night. Precinct, the largest gay space in DTLA, is a “rock ‘n’ roll bar” that turns into a rowdy club on the weekends, when it welcomes popular parties like the Boulet Brothers’ Queen Kong and Latin night Putería. Redline is another modern watering hole with drag performances and stiff cocktails. And New Jalisco Bar, the neighborhood’s longest running queer bar, welcomes a mostly Latinx clientele, drag numbers and cheap cervezas.
4. Devouring tacos at the city’s best taquerias
Don’t even think about not scarfing down some Mexican food while in SoCal, and there are few cities in the United States where the taco game is as en pointe as it is in Los Angeles. While there’s no shortage of delicious taquerias perfect for your Los Angeles itinerary, some of our favorites include B.S. Taqueria , named one of Esquire’s best new restaurants in 2015; Guisados, a chain of taquerias that spans the entire city and offers up all sorts of traditional eats; and, for those looking for delicious deep-fried fish tacos, Best Fish Taco in Ensenada.
5. Drooling over the macarons at Bottega Louie
There’s just something about Bottega Louie that screams L.A. Maybe it’s the expansive space it fills in DTLA, or its luxurious, chic aesthetic of white walls and marble floors. Whatever it is, this 255-seat restaurant, gourmet market, patisserie and café is most definitely worth a visit. Even better, Bottega Louie is about to expand into West Hollywood for its second location, scheduled to open in early 2018.
6. Exploring the foodie paradise that is Grand Central Market
With more than 40 food stalls selling fresh produce, meats and seafood from California and around the world, Grand Central Market has long been a bustling hub of Downtown L.A. (since 1917, to be exact). Over the past few years, the market has turned into the ultimate foodie paradise, housing many of L.A.’s hottest spots, like Eggslut, Wexler’s Deli and Belcampo Meat Co.
7. Meeting a sexy leather daddy in Silver Lake
West Hollywood seems to be a go-to for the gay guy seeking a night on the town, but you don’t have to head to WeHo for dancing, drinking and debauchery. Silver Lake is a vibrant gayborhood in its own right, featuring some of the cities best divey, hipster and gay leather bars. Get away from the city’s glitz and glam at L.A.’s quintessential leather bar, The Eagle, where harnesses are welcomed if not encouraged.
Another Silver Lake highlight is a favorite bar of all Angelenos, Akbar. Among its most popular parties are the monthly disco dance party Full Frontal Disco; Wednesday nights, when you can imbibe with other locals over craft activities; and Bears in Space, one of the city’s most lively parties, in which the parking lot is shut down to welcome a bouncey-house, food trucks, pop-up shops, drag performances and some great international DJ talent.
8. Catching a film at Outfest
L.A.’s largest and longest running film festival of any kind happens to be gay! That’s right, founded in 1982 as the “Gay and Lesbian Media Festival and Conference,” the name was changed to Outfest in 1994.
Today, Outfest is the leading organization with the stated mission of promoting equality by creating, sharing and protecting LGBTQ stories on-screen. The films shown at Outfest are always an amazing crop of gay, lesbian and trans projects, screened over 11 days at venues across the city. Nearly 200 films from 30 countries will be shown, but you’ll need to purchase your tickets with plenty of time to spare. Next year’s fest will take place July 12–22, 2018, so start planning now!
9. Grabbing a bite at the Black Cat Tavern
The Black Cat, located in Silver Lake, has a gay-centric history that predates Stonewall. LAPD raided the Black Cat Tavern in 1967, arresting gay revelers during a New Year’s Eve celebration. Protestors peacefully fought back by staging demonstrations outside the bar against police brutality, using pool cues as poles for their protest signs.
Today the tavern has re-adopted the original name (for a time it was known as Le Barcito) and is an upscale spot serving delicious, modern American gastropub cuisine. It’s open for dinner and drinks seven days a week, and offers brunch on weekends.
10. Wandering the gardens at the Getty
Known for its outstanding architecture, gardens and the views overlooking all of Los Angeles, The Getty features pre-20th century European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture and decorative art.
But even more impressive than the art housed inside The Getty are the outdoor sculptures displayed in terraces and the large Central Gardens designed by artist Robert Irwin. Simply put, The Getty is a must for the Los Angeles itinerary of first-time visitors.
Did we leave off any of your favorite Los Angeles itinerary favorites? Sound off in the comments below!
Featured image by choness via iStockdining Los Angeles museums