West Hollywood has never lacked for gay tourists—there’s even a rainbow crosswalk on Santa Monica Boulevard. And while most people associate WeHo with gay nightlife, the concentration of artistic queers adds to the neighborhood’s diverse cultural offerings. Not every place needs a rainbow flag to be gay-friendly, of course, and sometimes you’re ready for a change after a night at the Abbey.
Here are nine high-minded institutions when you’re ready to feed your brain.
Pacific Design Center
8687 Melrose Ave @ North Highland Ave
Indulge your inner Tom Ford with a trip to this design showroom, where brands like Ralph Lauren Home, Baccarat, Jacuzzi, and Terra Firma show off their goods. Even if you can’t fit a steampunk chandelier in your suitcase, there’s film screenings, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, and a revolving roster of art installations.
What CBGB was to New York’s punk scene, Whisky a Go-Go has been to the West Coast’s new wave and rock cultures. Borrowing its name from the 1940s Parisian Le Whisky à Go-Go, this Sunset Strip institution opened in 1964 and launched the careers of countless acts from the Byrds, Alice Cooper and the Doors (who were actually the house band for a while) to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and Mötley Crüe. It might not be the Louvre, but it’s definitely a seminal L.A. landmark.
9041 Sunset Boulevard btwn Doheny and Wetherly Drs
Most people hear “Sunset Strip” and think of rock clubs and expensive bars. But the Thai-oriented Night Market – a food “pop-up” housed inside inside Talesai restaurant – is helping change that perception. Based on the concept of aharn klam lao or “food for drinking,” the innovative eatery offers a changing menu (though, sriracha chicken wings, curried crab, and fatty hog colla are staples) that’s perfect for a late-night munchies run.
Sundance Sunset Theater
8000 W. Sunset Blvd @Crescent Heights
If your idea of movie night is Only God Forgives or Keep the Lights On, make way to this art-house cinema on Sunset Boulevard is the place to be. But its not just the films that are a draw: The theater itself has been redesigned and offers an outdoor patio, bar, art gallery and a beloved 21-and-over policy. Check the schedule for regular director’s screenings.
Lexington and Melrose Aves between La Brea and El Centro Aves
It ain’t Broadway (or even of-Broadway) but this collection of 15 theaters does offer first-rate original and revival works. The Hudson Theatres have hosted original runs of Reefer Madness, Julia Sweeney’s Letting Go of God,” and the original stage production of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. And, founded in 1982, Celebration Theater is dedicated to presenting works that examine the LGBT experience—in ways both dramatic and humorous.
Levantine Culture Center
5998 W Pico Blvd @ Stearns Dr
Devoted to encouraging a peaceful resolution to the Middle East conflict and eradicating misinformation and stereotype, this WeHo institution offer numerous cultural exhibits and events—dance, art, lectures, a monthly film series and more.
8375 West 3rd St @ S Kings Rd
A holdout indie bookstore, Traveler’s is actually on the border of West Hollywood and L.A. proper (but we ain’t gonna nitpick). It’s survived Amazon and Barnes & Noble by zeroing in on travel books, from guidebooks and maps to global cookbooks and travel memoirs.
835 N Kings Rd between Waring and Wiloughby Aves
A radical departure from contemporary homes of the 1920s, Architect Rudolf Schindler’ open-floor-plan edifice surprising lacks a living room, dining room or bedrooms. (Residents slept in rooftop “sleeping baskets.”) The concept was a space that would serve as a live-in workspace/home for Schindler’s family. We’re not exactly dying to move in, but design elements like concrete walls and sliding glass panels make it a must-see. Also worth of note: The Schindler House was also one of the first spaces to incorporate the “bring the outdoors inside) aesthetic that is de rigeur in Southern California now.
West Hollywood Public Library
625 North San Vicente Blvd
Books are great. But books are even greater when paired with beautiful architecture, art from Shepard Fairey and Kenny Scharf, free wireless access, and– yes, it’s true– rooftop tennis court. The WeHo book repository also offers an impressive LGBT section and the Ron Shipton HIV Center, offering books, DVDs, and other information related to HIV and AIDS research and prevention.