First published on Oct. 30, 2011. Revised and expanded in early 2012.
Set an out-of-towner loose to roam the Los Angeles area between West Hollywood and Koreatown, and what can you expect? A food-truck overdose, perhaps. Or the bold suggestion that we extend our subway system westward. (Hey, we're working on it.) Or maybe just your basic Asian-Russian-Latino-gay-vegetarian-barbecue-automotive-modernist-tar-pit-chili-dog weekend.
In other words, it's a trip worth taking, and a great way to catch the city in the act of reinventing itself, from the Japanese department store that's now a car museum to the Jewish avenue that's now a skateboarder haven.
Here are the makings of nine great days in West Hollywood, the Miracle Mile, the Fairfax district, West Hollywood, Koreatown and a few neighboring territories.
1. The heart of WeHo
Neon artwork stands along Santa Boulevard. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
West Hollywood is what you get when you place a 1.9-square-mile neighborhood between Hollywood and Beverly Hills, fill it with a booming gay population and an enduring community of Russian immigrants, then give it cityhood (which happened in 1984). Along WeHo's Santa Monica Boulevard, which used to be part of Route 66, you'll find scores of nightclubs and restaurants with names such as Fubar and Mother Lode. Farther west, the Troubadour nightclub (9081 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; www.troubadour.com) is where Jackson Browne, Elton John, Carole King, Steve Martin, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor and others played big gigs early in their careers. Dan Tana's steakhouse (9071 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; www.dantanasrestaurant.com) dates to 1964. And if you believe every story about the original Barney's Beanery (8447 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; barneysbeanery.com), then Jim Morrison was ejected for public urination, Janis Joplin had her last drink in the dining room, and Quentin Tarantino wrote much of “Pulp Fiction” here in his favorite booth. For peace, quiet and pumpkin pancakes, Hugo's Restaurant (8401 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; www.hugosrestaurant.com) is a better choice. And if you want to sleep near the action for less than $200 a night, check out the Ramada Plaza Hotel (8585 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; www.ramadaweho.com). But beware Halloween,New Year's Eve and the annual Gay Pride festival and parade (June 8-10 in 2012). WeHo goes bonkers on those days. For the city's Halloween Costume Carnival, authorities have been known to ban cars from Santa Monica Boulevard for 18 hours. Banning cars in L.A. County? How crazy is that?
2. Rockin' on SunsetThe Sunset Strip has action and pop-culture history, so people come. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
In the '70s, they say, the Led Zeppelin guys rode motorcycles through one or more Sunset Strip hotel lobbies. Now that you're here, you realize they were probably just looking for parking. The Sunset Strip has action and pop-culture history, so people come. It's where John Belushi overdosed in 1982 (Chateau Marmont hotel), where River Phoenix overdosed in 1993 (in front of the Viper Room, 8852 Sunset Blvd.) and where photographer Helmut Newton was killed in a car crash (leaving the Chateau Marmont, 2004). You start the day at the Chateau Marmont (8221 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; www.chateaumarmont.com), a 1929 landmark with 63 rooms and suites. The hotel offers closely guarded privacy to its guests, mostly working showbiz folk paying more than $400 a night. But nonguests are welcome to dine in the lobby-adjacent restaurant (which welcomes dogs) or nearby Bar Marmont (if they leave their cameras behind). Pay about $20 for a salad Nicoise in the dining room by the lobby, admire the arched doorways and peek at the half-hidden naughty French postcards behind the mirror. Pretty soon you'll feel like European nobility going gently to seed or Jeff Beck between licks. While away the day browsing along Sunset at Boot Star (8493 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; www.bootstaronline.com), Cigar Lounge (8420 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood) or maybe Book Soup (8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; www.booksoup.com). Soon you'll find your way to the nightclub of your choosing (about two dozen are listed at www.thesunsetstrip.com), but give extra consideration to whomever is playing at Whisky a Go Go (8901 Sunset Blvd., www.whiskyagogo.com) or the Viper Room. Both are within two blocks of your last stop for the night, the London West Hollywood (1020 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood; www.thelondonwesthollywood.com), a 200-room isle of British style with a Gordon Ramsay restaurant and a staffer whose job it is to brush smooth the hotel’s suede walls.
3. Art and tar
"Urban Light" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)