Have you been to downtown LA lately?  If not, plan on a visit soon. I hadn’t and was stunned to see that the downtown core has been totally re-purposed a cool hipster hangout complete with Arts District and no less than 4 gay bars (three of which are new). The downtown core is full of revitalized historic buildings (and many new ones) including hotels, bars, condos, and restaurants. 

SEE-DTLA is an art deco wonderland. The Central Library is amazing as is City Hall. Union Station is another must. Built in 1939, the rail station was the last Union Station built in the country. Across the street is a state park which features the original Los Angeles settlement. 

STAY-I spent three nights at the new Freehand Hotel at 416 W. 8th Street (which also has properties in Chicago, New York, and other cities). It’s in the old Commercial Exchange Building and features a rooftop pool and bar which are worth a trip even if you don’t stay there. It has a cool hipster vibe. However, beware of the $25 charge if you ask to have the food removed from your room. They call it the “Minibar Removal Fee”. The Freehand has both regular private rooms as well as shared rooms which seemed popular with the younger set and European travellers. I opted for the private which was a bargain compared to other downtown chain hotels. Don’t miss the roof top pool parties or jazz in the lobby bar. 

I also stayed two nights at the JW Marriott in the LA Live neighborhood (1201 S. Figueroa), which also has a pool that serves food and drinks.  Service was excellent and it was very handy. The Grammy Museum is nearby.

GETTING THERE-I hopped on the free G Line shuttle to the Green Line Light rail and connected to the Silver Line rapid bus. It was about $2.50 one way (a steal and only took an hour from LAX).  You can also take the Flyaway Bus to Union Station and hop on the light rail to your hotel. 

EATS-The new Whole Foods at 788 S. Grand is great for a healthy meal including a fresh juice bar. 

Next door to the Freehand you will find great fast casual dining options including-

  • The Shake Shack, the NYC burger chain (with great fries)
  • Sweetgreens, my favorite California-style healthy eats joint. Their salads are great.
  • Paris Baguette for great pastries

Coffee lovers will like the Philz Coffee at 801 S. Hope where each cup  is brewed individually.  The Julie’s Ultimate Blend was to die for.  Also good was nearby Andante Coffee which also makes each cup individually. 

DO—The DTLA Proud Festival was held August 24-26 in Pershing Square to celebrate the diverse  LGBTQ+ community of downtown Los Angeles. Details at www.dtlaproud.org. Indigenous Pride is scheduled for October 7 in Barsnall Park. (Details at indigenouspridela.)

You will find the new Arts District east of Downtown off Third Street. Grad a bite at the Grand Central Market which is an historic food mart. 

If you need a break from DTLA, the Expo Light Rail Line goes to the beach at Santa Monica. 

NIGHTLIFE-I liked the Redline at 131 E. 6th. Happy hour runs until 8 p.m. where the wine is just $5.

Across the street I went to a speakeasy party at The Varnish (118 E 6th). Although not gay, it was a lot of fun.

The Precinct at 357 S. Broadway is a later crowd. The Bar Mattachine at 221 W 7th is also fun as is the New Jalisco Bar at 245 S. Main. Look at West Hollywood and Silverlake (the 2 other gayborhoods) as DTLA is hopping. 

For more DTLA ideas or news about the community, pick up a copy of the Los Angles Blade (or read it on line at losangelesblade.com). The LGBT Latino Magazine Adelante is also good (adelantemagazine.com) as is The Fight-A Queer Revolution (www.thefightmag.com). DTLA Weekly (DTLA-Weekly.com) also has a great tourist guide which also lists the microbreweries, historic theaters, restaurants, and more.


Bill Malcolm is a freelance travel writer as a hobby focusing on LGBTQ+ value travel. He also has a community affairs column in The Broad Ripple Gazette and writes also for ALL ABOARD INDIANA. His travel column has appeared in The Windy City Times, GRAB Magazine, The Blade, the Indianapolis Eagle, The WORD, and Between the Lines.