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The LGBTQ+ Side of Santa Monica, L.A.'s Beach Destination

Friday June 17, 2022
Originally published on June 14, 2022

The LGBTQ+ Side of Santa Monica, L.A.'s Beach Destination

First time travelers to Los Angeles are often surprised to discover that Santa Monica isn't just a boulevard in West Hollywood — it's also an entire LGBTQ+-friendly city unto itself, a perfect beach-hugging haven for travelers looking to spend time on the gorgeous coast of the Pacific Ocean while still keeping close to the glitz and glamor of Hollywood and Beverly Hills. A charming seaside escape with all the culture, events and urban amenities of a world-class metropolis, Santa Monica's oceanfront setting, world-class dining, extraordinary selection of hotels and famed shopping options — all set on one of California's most iconic stretches of shoreline — collectively create a truly unforgettable destination.

What's more, Santa Monica is at the center of some of the top LGBTQ+ sights and venues in Southern California. For a city its size (only about 92,000 people), Santa Monica also has a remarkably long and strong LGBTQ+ history, having been home to countless queer icons like writer Christopher Isherwood and his longtime partner Don Bachardy, a "Queer Alley" of gay bars in the 1950s, and one of the country's first out LGBTQ+ mayors, Judy Abdo, who first took office in 1990.

Queer Hotspots In and Around Santa Monica

When LGBTQ+ Angelenos and tourists are ready to hit the beach, they flock to Santa Monica's Will Rogers State Beach, located in the Pacific Palisades just north of Santa Monica. The Los Angeles area's unofficial queer beach, Will Rogers has its own LGBTQ+ section known as "Ginger Rogers Beach" that's situated near lifeguard tower 18. Well-maintained and a popular surf spot, Will Rogers offers amenities like volleyball courts and gym equipment, as well as access to many popular biking and hiking trails. For even easier beach access from downtown Santa Monica, Santa Monica State Beach also has its own LGBTQ+ section, located near lifeguard station 26 in front of Dorothy Green Park where Ocean Park Boulevard ends.

Culture mavens will love the globally esteemed Highways Performance Space, one of the top centers for experimental theater, dance and performance in Southern California. While not expressly LGBTQ+, Highways' roster is always filled with exciting queer performers from a broad variety of media and backgrounds. Special bonus: it's also just steps from the 17th Street station on the Metro E Line, making it easy to get to in this green city where sustainability is everything. On that note, in Santa Monica you can even bike to the queer bar. Just south of town and easily bike-accessible is the quirky, laid back, and locally iconic Roosterfish, which has proudly served Venice's Abbot Kinney area for more than 40 years.

Popular with gay and straight travelers alike, Socalo is one of the latest restaurant offerings from award-winning local lesbian chef/entrepreneur Mary Sue Milliken and her business partner Susan Feniger. Located within the Gateway Hotel Santa Monica, Socalo offers tasty Mexican fare all day long in a modern casual environment.

Santa Monica's Most LGBTQ+-Friendly Hotels

For that perfect combo of centrality, beach proximity, and queer-friendliness, you really can't do better than Viceroy Santa Monica, a beloved L.A. beach scene institution for more than two decades, and a member of the World Rainbow Hotels collection, where each property is carefully curated for its commitment to welcoming LGBTQ+ travelers. Viceroy's latest additions include an all-new poolside experience with expansive outdoor patio and open-air cabanas, a revamped fitness center, a breathtaking new art collection, and an indoor-outdoor restaurant called Sugar Palm Ocean Avenue.

Another World Rainbow Hotels member and a newcomer to the Santa Monica accommodations scene is Santa Monica Proper, which introduced a looser kind of luxury to the city when it opened in 2019, becoming the first new destination hotel to debut on L.A.'s Westside in over a decade. Located on sun-drenched Wilshire Boulevard and still within easy walking distance of the beach, Santa Monica Proper boasts the only rooftop pool deck on the Westside, soothing interior designs by Kelly Wearstler, and a spa dedicated to Eastern-inspired wellness.

Other especially-LGBTQ+-friendly hotels in Santa Monica include the swanky and beachside JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot; the smaller and delightfully quirky boutique property Palihouse Santa Monica, set in a quieter part of town and in continuous operation since 1927; and the personalized residential-style luxury of Huntley Santa Monica Beach, with its 18th floor restaurant and bar The Penthouse offering unparalleled panoramic views of the Santa Monica skyline, the Malibu mountains and even the Hollywood sign.

For a wealth of more great information on Santa Monica attractions, beaches, restaurants, shopping, bars, hotels, hotspots, and everything you might need to help plan your perfect trip no matter where your interests and needs may lie, check out Visit Santa Monica's official website.