Those in the know call it WeHo, short for West Hollywood. Visitors may think this is simply the western part of Hollywood. In fact, though West Hollywood only makes up 1.9 square miles in size, it’s a city all its own. Population 36,000.
Location - at the base of the Hollywood Hills, and adjacent to Beverly Hills, makes it a perfect spot to access some of the best areas of Los Angeles and it is divided into three main sections: Sunset Strip, Santa Monica Boulevard and the West Hollywood Design District makes it easier to navigate.
We’re ultimately heading north along the coast to hit a few of Southern California’s finest spots. But, before we do, we’re taking advantage of WeHo’s walkability.
A fair amount of celebrity spotting can be done here, with more than a few A-listers living locally. Others come to shop, eat, drink, and work out. The main boulevards are lined with classic, well known spots and more modern choices with a countless number of vegetarian, vegan and health food on offer.
They say no one walks in LA, but for the curious, WeHo offers opportunities to stroll down any number of the side streets that form a grid-like pattern, giving way to a fascinating, informal tour of the varied architectural styles ranging from Spanish colonial and Craftsman to Tudor, and contemporary.
We have just one day in WeHo and we begin with famed Stumptown Coffee at Alfred Coffee on Melrose Place. Yes, THAT Melrose Place…for some, a reminder of a certain coming-of-age TV show from the 80s, and now, a street associated with couture designer boutiques, interiors galleries and pretty courtyards. We grab a couple of their lunch boxes to take away; Kobe beef salad and seared tuna Nicoise – packed with protein and perfect for a post-workout meal after we hit the West Hollywood Aquatics Center, whose name perhaps make it sound more grand than it is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely outdoor pool with incredibly helpful staff and lanes that get quickly filled up with Masters swimmers, but if you’re imagining an Olympic-sized training center, you would be wrong. Instead, it’s a great place to take a break from warm temps and pounding pavements with showers and changing rooms and a public park with picnic tables next door. Guests staying in local hotels pay only $2 for entry.
Just opposite, a large library hosts art exhibits and next to it, is a set of three buildings impossible to miss – one is red, another green and the third blue. They make up the Pacific Design Center - HQ for all things, you guessed it…design-related. There are nearly 100 boutiques, and international showrooms available to the trade. But unlike most design centers – which separate industry from consumer, this campus blends the two, with public and private spaces for screenings, lectures and special events. The award-winning structures also host two restaurants by Wolfgang Puck, he who came up with the original California Pizza Kitchen, as well as a luxury, state-of-the-art cinema and a Michael Graves-designed fitness center. Yes, really.
We head down Beverly Boulevard, and after some 20 blocks we arrive at the Farmer’s Market, a world heritage site established in 1934, we nourish ourselves with pizza, cabernet ice cream, and other nibbles before grabbing a bus back down Beverly.
Before departing the following morning, we wake before dawn and hop in a Lyft (think Uber, but better) to Runyon Canyon, where early morning hikers arrive in time to watch the sunrise and tourists snap photos with the Hollywood sign in the distance. It’s a wonderful way to set off.
One day is not nearly enough to brush the surface of what’s on offer, from the fantastic eateries that range from healthy California-style, to down and dirty comfort food, Mexican grub, and the bustling nightlife with its lounges and live music at places like the Skybar, the Viper Room and The Roxy. We could easily fill a few days here.
Insider tip: Renting a car at the Hertz location in Beverly Hills will save oodles of time. The LAX location is off-site and suffers long queues. Beverly Hills is a short cab ride from WeHo and tends to be much quieter.