Hooray for West Hollywood

Walkable Santa Monica Boulevard.

The Los Angeles area is so vast that the first decision that a traveler must make is where to stay. West Hollywood (many residents refer to it as WeHo), which was once part of LA but became an independent city in 1984, is an excellent choice for numerous reasons.

Traffic has long been Los Angeles’s biggest problem. West Hollywood is centrally located, so you can get to both Downtown to the east or its legendary Pacific Ocean beaches to the west in a half-hour.

Unlike a lot of Southern California towns, you can walk all over WeHo and even stroll over to neighboring Beverly Hills. Another Southern California anomaly is that you don’t need a car because of its frequent bus service.

There is no shortage of dining options here. Among the well-known restaurants are SUR and Pump, which were made famous by the popular Bravo TV series “Vanderpump Rules”; the venerable Italian restaurant Dan Tana’s; and the airy Fiesta Cantina, which serves top-notch Mexican cuisine. If you’re homesick there’s both Shake Shack and Kitchen 24, which is a Queens-style diner that’s open around the clock. For breakfast, try Urth Caffé on Melrose Avenue, where you can have a pizza with lox toppings to go with freshly squeezed juices.

The aforementioned Kitchen 24 is located adjacent to the Ramada West Hollywood, which has a Miami Art Deco exterior. The WeHo Ramada has spacious rooms and suites at very reasonable rates. It also boasts a good-sized pool where you can cool off from the warm California sun.

West Hollywood has long been known for its nightlife. It’s home to the legendary Sunset Strip, where you’ll find such iconic rock clubs as the Roxy and the Whisky-A-Go-Go, where both Johnny Rivers and the Doors got their starts. (The Doors also recorded at various studios in West Hollywood. There is a plaque in the building next to Shake Shack which states that they recorded their classic album, “L.A. Woman” there). Another legendary rock venue, the Troubadour, is located a few blocks south on Santa Monica Boulevard.

If you want to see “the beautiful people of LA” it’s worth a late night stop at The Abbey, the nightspot that is showcased in a weekly reality series on cable’s E!

West Hollywood borders its famous namesake, the Los Angeles neighborhood of Hollywood, which is of course synonymous the world over with the film industry. The Academy Awards are held each year at the Dolby Theater, located inside the Hollywood & Highland Complex.

Starline Tours has its headquarters at Hollywood & Highland as well. I highly recommend taking its three-hour Turner Classic Movies Tour, in which knowledgeable guides take you via bus to various LA locales where famous film scenes were shot including Union Station, the Bradbury Building and Echo Park. Starline is also the originator of bus tours of the homes of movie stars.

Hollywood is nirvana for wax museum enthusiasts. The Hollywood Wax Museum specializes in the likenesses of classic film stars such as Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper and Humphrey Bogart, while Madame Tussaud’s places more emphasis on contemporary performers such as Beyonce and Jason Derulo. You can even take a photo with a lifelike facsimile of President Obama.

Hollywood is also home for the offbeat. Scott Michaels, who once worked for the defunct and cleverly named Grave Line Tour, started his own company a few years ago, Dearly Departed Tours, which visits the burial places of celebrities such as Dean Martin and comedy genius and Kew Gardens native Rodney Dangerfield. There are now so many customers that buses have replaced the kitschy hearses that had been used for touring. Michaels has added a new excursion, the Helter Skelter Tour, which delves into all things relating to Charles Manson.

In a similar vein, just up the road from Dearly Departed is the Museum of Death. Yes, there is a large assortment of memorabilia and news articles relating to Charles Manson, as well as artwork from infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy, but there is a lot more to this museum than satisfying morbid curiosity. It meticulously documents the history of both forensics and mortuary science.

If you haven’t been in the Los Angeles area in a while, you should take a movie studio tour. Having already been to Universal Studios, I decided to try the newer Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Burbank. A tram takes you through various sound stages and outdoor sets, including a very realistic New York street. You also learn how sounds get incorporated into a film.

JetBlue has frequent service between JFK and Los Angeles International, which is often referred to as LAX. If you want to splurge a bit, try JetBlue’s version of first class, which they call Mint Service. You get great food and extra leg room at a price that is less than first class from most other carriers.

For additional information, log onto visit

westhollywood.com or call the West Hollywood Visitors Bureau at (800) 368-6020.

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