Forget the urban legend (and hit ‘80s anthem) which suggests that only a nobody walks in Los Angeles. It’s time to trade those expensive designer loafers for your most sensible walking shoes, and hit the streets.
Touring gay L.A. on foot is the best way to get an insider’s look at the city, and allows you to see more than you might on a double-decker bus that creeps, crawls and honks through gridlock.
Plus, you can gain a gay-perspective that goes beyond the rainbow power of legendary Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. Explore off-the-beaten-gay-path queer locales with guided tours of Hollywood and Downtown L.A. and venture out solo to explore the Wilshire district.
Hollywood Walking Tour
Be aware that there’s much more to Hollywood than the Walk of Fame and the famous courtyard at the Chinese Theatre.
- Start at the old Max Factor building in the epicenter of Hollywood (it’s located on Highland just south of Hollywood Blvd.), which now houses the Hollywood Museum. It features the most extensive collection of memorabilia from Old Hollywood anywhere — and, incidentally, this structural gem was named for the man who created unique make-up blends for our most gay-adored stars, such as Joan Crawford and Jean Harlow.
- If you’re lucky, there might be a show that day at the Hollywood Bowl. It could be an opera, or a rock concert, or a play — all summer long, there’s a nonstop parade of talent at the Bowl.
- Skip on down Hollywood Blvd. and keep your eyes on the ground: it’s the world-famous Walk of Fame. Sure, you mightbe hard-pressed to identify some of the obscure stars of decades past. But on every block you’ll find a familiar famous name. This is how Hollywood remembers who’s who.
- Pop in to Madame Tussauds to see some eerily realistic celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe and Brad Pitt, in wax. Like life-size Barbies, they’ll stare beseechingly into your soul.
- Just down the street is Amoeba Records, mecca for music lovers. Browse through the stacks of vinyl and rediscover hits from the past, or the next big thing.
Downtown Los Angeles Walking Tour
Even many locals are unaware of downtown L.A.’s rich gay history. If you’re looking for a tour guide, Out and About Tours’ GAY L.A. Downtown Walking Tour will cover a lot of ground — literally and figuratively — because it’s a two-and-a-half-hour tour that never bores (bathhouses, speakeasies, porn theaters, oh my!). These tour guides really know their stuff, with tidbits and intricate details that delve past what you’ll find in any tour book.
- When you’re ready to start your own self-guided tour, head over to The Pickle Factory at 1001 East First Street. It’s the last Victorian warehouse in LA, and a recent addition to the National Register of Historic Places.
- Next, visit Angel’s Flight, an adorable old-timey railroad-style funicular that climbs a hillside. It’s currently closed, but still well-worth a look.
- Walk on down to the Disney Concert Hall next. It’s a twisty, shimmering structure that either looks like a gorgeous work of art or a giant wad of silver toilet paper.
- Next, wander into Pershing Square to admire the view. It dates back to the 1800s, and got a trendy makeover the the 1990s. There’s plenty of colorful local vendors nearby where you can grab a snack.
- Take the Metro down to Exposition Park and check out the lovely rose garden next. There’s a science museum there with a real life space shuttle, and plenty of casual places to eat nearby.
- If you’re feeling extra-exporatory, head next door to the Natural History Museum. The Become Los Angeles exhibit charts the growth of California’s most sprawling city.
Mid-Wilshire Walking Tour
Ask any two Angelinos where mid-Wilshire begins and ends and you may be forging an endless debate. Technically part of L.A. proper, this area is almost a city unto itself with pockets of neighborhoods that run the gamut from quaint 1920s bungalows to spots teeming with glistening modern architecture. Buildings and geography aside, there’s plenty to see on foot for the ambitious.
- Start at West Third Street or Beverly and walk south on Fairfax toward Wilshire, where you’ll find a string of eclectic restaurants and shops.
- Move on to the Farmer’s Market and the Grove, a love-it-or hate, Disney-esque outdoor shopping mall.
- After a nibble and a libation, continue south and you’ll find the La Brea Tar Pits and the prestigious L.A. County Museum of Arts. You can easily spend an hour or more just roaming around the Tar Pits — and even more in LACMA — but if you want to see more than fossilized saber-tooths and you prefer your fine art in the form of sculpted flesh-and-blood men, there’s plenty of people-watching while you sit and sip and nibble at Farmers Market or the Grove. After all, what’s gayer than gossiping, shopping and cocktails?
- Pop into the Petersen Automotive Museum to see the cars that made L.A. what it is today. Check out the massive motorcycle exhibit, the Batmobile, and a fun tribute to Hot Wheels.
- While you’re in the neighborhood, catch a flick at the New Beverly Cinema. Preserved by Quentin Tarantino, this charming local theater is full of surprises. No mainstream Hollywood blockbusters here: only the finest curated artsy, indie, and classic movies.
Photos courtesy Discover LosAngeles