The people who live and work in West Hollywood are a diverse group. Among their ranks are actors and athletes, comedians and musicians, small business owners and major executives, the LGBTQ community and native Russian speakers — and everyone in between.
But these people share more in common than a five-digit ZIP code or favorite local restaurant. In many cases, their passions intersect and overlap, creating a brilliant blend of subcultures, niches, and identities.
While it’s not possible to paint WeHo with only a few broad strokes, we just had to share some of the city’s most unique subcultures. Without further ado, we’d like to introduce the people of West Hollywood.
Of all the subcultures that most people associate with Southern California, the skater scene is one of the most prominent. After all, skateboarding emerged in California in the early 1950s, when surfers wanted something to do when the ocean’s waves were flat. At first, people called the new sport “sidewalk surfing,” although “skateboarding” quickly became more common. By the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, L.A.-based companies like Roller Derby and Val Surf were mass-producing skateboards, and in 1963, the world’s first-ever skate competition took place in Hermosa Beach.
Skateboarders didn’t wear safety equipment back then, so parents, doctors, and city governments decried what they saw as a dangerous sport. Things began to change when helmets, gloves, pads, and safer wheels appeared on the market, quickly becoming omnipresent from coast to coast. And when a major drought prompted many of California’s homeowners to drain their swimming pools, skateboarders snuck into backyards to ride the empty concrete bowls. It wasn’t long before the state’s first skatepark opened in Carlsbad, with many others springing up in the following years.
Given how perfectly everything came together, it’s no wonder that skateboarding became a mainstay in Californian culture. And although none of the sport’s major historical events took place in West Hollywood, there’s no denying that the city is home to quite a few skateboarders. Today, they buy everything they need from local skate shops like Brooklyn Projects, LA Skate Co., Grizzly Griptape, and Pharmacy Board Shop.
If you’d like to meet them (or, better yet, see them performing their tricks), just head to one of the many skateparks near West Hollywood. Some of the popular ones include the Cove in Santa Monica and West LA’s Stoner Skate Plaza. (Despite what the name seems to suggest, the latter is actually named after its location on Stoner Avenue.) But the most iconic one is undoubtedly Venice Beach Skatepark — a sunken park that’s built right into the sand. So, if you’re planning on spending some vacation time at the beach, you might as well combine it with a field trip to the skatepark!
You’ve probably heard of Chicago’s comedy clubs, but you might not know that West Hollywood’s comedy scene is just as legendary. In fact, the entertainment industry wouldn’t be the same without those WeHo venues, which have trained, mentored, and featured many of the world’s most famous comedians.
The Comedy Store is possibly the best example of West Hollywood’s influence. Almost everyone has seen movies and TV shows starring the club’s most famous alumni — a group that includes Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman, and Jay Leno. Founder Mitzi Shore prided herself on the club’s identity as an “artist’s colony,” and today, the Comedy Store continues to showcase rising and established comedians 365 days a year. Grab some tickets, and get ready to laugh!
And just a half-mile away is Laugh Factory, which opened its doors in 1979 and has since expanded to four additional locations all over the country. Laugh Factory hosts open-mic nights every Tuesday, as well as an eight-week summer camp for children, with former instructors including Adam Sandler and George Lopez. Those who are a little too old for the camp, or who would rather watch a show than perform on stage, needn’t worry — the venue also has nightly shows.
Other nearby clubs and schools include Groundlings and the Hollywood Improv, so you’ll have plenty of ways to connect with the comedy scene during your time in Southern California. Whether you meet the comedians after a show or just listen to their sets from the audience, their impression will last long after you leave West Hollywood.
West Hollywood has long been a mecca for music lovers, so you’ll quickly realize that its streets are full of both musicians and fans. Together, they create a citywide energy that you can almost hear.
Three of West Hollywood’s live music venues — the Viper Room, the Roxy, and Whisky a Go Go — are especially noteworthy. Each of these places is a legend in its own right, partly for launching the careers of famous bands and musicians, partly for being a popular celebrity hangout. All three clubs are located on the Sunset Strip, and all are great places to go to find new music or listen to old favorites.
Of course, those venues are only the tip of the iceberg. Between West Hollywood’s record stores, rock ‘n roll hotels, and recording studios, it’s almost too easy to tune into the city’s musical side. In fact, if you really like music, you just might want to plan your trip around it — we recommend browsing the books and vinyl records at Book Soup or reserving a stay at the Sunset Marquis.
So, whether the people that you’d like to encounter are vocal artists, band members, celebrities, or music fans with similar taste, you’ll find them in West Hollywood’s musical sites. Just remember to play it cool if you bump into someone famous!
WeHo is home to one of the most vibrant, accepting, and lively LGBTQ scenes in the U.S. Plenty of local nightclubs, businesses, and institutions roll out the welcome mat for people of all sexual orientations and genders, drawing crowds from L.A. and beyond.
As you might expect, June is an exciting time in West Hollywood, as it’s Pride Month. Every year, WeHo celebrates the occasion with a 40-day arts festival called One City One Pride; in 2018, it included documentary screenings, a concert by the world’s only LGBTQ mariachi band, a musical written and performed by LGBTQ seniors, and a film festival featuring titles by transgender and gender non-conforming filmmakers and actors.
In addition to One City One Pride, West Hollywood also hosts the annual LA Pride Parade and Festival — an event complete with live performances, colorful outfits, food vendors, and more. Whether you’re proud to belong to the LGBTQ community, or you’re an ally excited about showing your support, the festival makes for a great weekend.
Late October is another excellent time to dive into WeHo’s LGBTQ scene, since the community has lots of Halloween spirit — but really, there’s no bad moment to check out the local nightlife. All year long, you’ll find plenty to do on Santa Monica Boulevard, a famous street that’s home to a high concentration of gay bars. The Abbey is the two-time winner of MTV’s Best Gay Bar in the World, and its neighbors include other staples like Revolver, Fiesta Cantina, Flaming Saddles, Micky’s, Rage, Gold Coast, and Fubar.
During the daytime, things are a little quieter, but that’s not to say that there’s nothing to do. At the West Hollywood Library, you’ll find an inviting space with a collection that includes LGBTQ sections. The library also hosts events like writing workshops, Scrabble club, movie matinees, and (one of our favorites) Drag Queen Story Hour.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways to connect with West Hollywood’s LGBTQ community, so look around and see how you can get involved. You’re bound to meet some wonderful people!
Interested in getting to know WeHo’s residents a little better? Dive into their subcultures in greater depth with our full guides to West Hollywood’s comedy, music, and LGBTQ scenes!