Things to do in West Hollywood
Originally a destination for decorators and design snobs, PDC has become more than just a house flipper marketplace. With the addition of a MOCA exhibition space to the design complex in 2000, PDC finally turned the corner from glorified shopping mall to serious art destination. Over the past few years, a focused effort has been made to further raise the artistic profile of the center, enticing art dealers to its cavernous halls in hopes of building PDC into a gallery hub.
Sleeping baskets on the roof, communal kitchens and a revolving-door salon of artists. Nope, not a Burning Man camp: This is the Schindler House, designed by Austrian architect Rudolf Schindler, who built it as a dual-family residence. These days, it's home to the MAK Center, a Vienna-based institute that runs a fantastic program of events in the space (think experimental fashion shows, innovative performance art and concerts of new compositions). From Wednesday to Sunday, you can tour the house and imagine yourself as part of the freewheeling LA bohemia of the 1920s and 1930s.
This storied club has a rich musical history: Randy Newman got his start here, and Elton John made his US debut on its stage in 1970. It hasn't lapsed into irrelevance in the time since, often showcasing bands on the rise: Interpol, Joss Stone and Franz Ferdinand all played early US shows here. The sound is great and the views are decent from almost anywhere in the room—just stay out from under the balcony.
This long-standing indie book shop has been a staple amidst LA bookies since 1975. The variety of stock at Book Soup is huge and diverse (60,000 titles to be exact), even if the space itself is a little squeezed. It's also a regular stop on literary luminaries' book tours.
The Abbey's unwavering success is also one of its downsides. Not so very long ago, it was the nucleus of gay life in West Hollywood, but as its popularity has grown, increasingly the crowd (particularly at night) seems to be made up of tourists and a hodgepodge of bar flies. All that said, make no mistake, the Abbey is the granddaddy of gay bars in Los Angeles and as such it still rules the roost. Other bars and clubs come and go, but, bitch and moan as some may, every gay in West Hollywood still worships at the altar of the Abbey from time to time.
This LA County library is startlingly nice, with a ground floor cafe, views of the Hollywood Hills, an LGBT collection and a parking garage that bears both Retna and Shepard Fairey murals. It also hosts a respectable slate of cultural activities and speakers, as well as major events like LA Pride at the attached West Hollywood Park (you'll find the city's famous rainbow crosswalk just north of the park on San Vicente).
This art gallery-like furniture store (formerly known as Restoration Hardware) is great if you're in the market for luxury midcentury-inspired furnishings. But chances are you don't need a couch at this moment. You do, however, need to visit the space for its semi-secret rooftop. Architect James Gillam topped off the retail space with a park that overlooks the surrounding Hollywood Hills and Pacific Design Center.
Just below the star-studded Hollywood Hills, West Hollywood’s mile-and-a-half stretch of Sunset Boulevard has long been the epicenter of a unique mix of sleaze and glam. It’s nearly impossible to miss the building-sized billboards, kitsch—Mel’s, Pink Dot, Carney’s, Saddle Ranch—and legendary clubs that line the famous street. Though the music scene has mostly fled east, you’ll still find industry types mingling in Sunset Plaza’s high-end restaurants and boutiques.
In its 30-plus years as a Sunset Strip stalwart, the Roxy has been both a major player (hosting early Springsteen and Guns N' Roses shows) and a disappointing has-been (insert name of horrible '80s hair band here). Now that the Roxy has settled comfortably into middle age, the club offers metal, punk, indie rock, singer-songwriters and the occasional local up-and-comer.
The Doors were once the house band at the Whisky, until the owner objected to the lyrics of "The End" and banned the group. Its place in Sunset Strip lore can't be denied, but these days the music comes mostly from classic-rock tribute acts (Led Zepagain, anyone?) and young bands of the punk/metal variety.
This Sunset Strip spot can trace its history back decades, but it was actor Johnny Depp's investment in the ailing club in 1993 that put it on the map. Johnny Cash played here, and Hunter Thompson drank at the bar. While it no longer draws as many famous attendees or acts (perhaps because Depp is no longer affiliated with the club) it’s still a great intimate room to see a show.
This dark, old-school comedy club is a must-visit just for the history alone. Three separate stages host a monstrous array of stand-ups more or less every night of the week. Sometimes the acts reek of comedic desperation, but that smell is never sweeter than in the place where it belongs. The show rooms are haunted by the ghosts of Sam Kinison, Richard Pryor and Andy Kaufman. Marc Maron was the door man here. 'Nuff said.
One of the many beautiful things about this Hollywood Hills fixture is that it's barely changed throughout the decades. The hotel, bar and restaurant still attracts the brazen and the beautiful (everyone from Led Zeppelin to Lindsay Lohan has stayed here; John Belushi OD-ed in bungalow 3); it still offers a quintessentially glamorous LA experience; and it still promises its guests absolute discretion.
Though just on the outskirts of WeHo, this Sunset Strip staple is where Dave Chappelle and Dane Cook once had a competition to see who could perform the longest. It's where an audience member captured Michael Richards and his racist rant on video. In a nutshell, the Laugh Factory is where to go if you want to see comedy celebrities.
While its address is open to interpretation—West Hollywood-adjacent? Beverly Grove?—this behemoth is the epitome of the city's one-time mall obsession. It won't win any architectural awards, but this hulking, ugly mall is a good one-stop all-rounder. It's anchored by two department stores, Bloomingdale's and Macy's, and a list of high-end fashion retailers.