This summer was my first time ever visiting Los Angeles. I went with my three best girlfriends from high school. We hadn’t seen each other in over a year and we were ready to paint the town red. We wanted to leave it all on the dance floor. (But not all of our money). A few Google searches on clubs in LA had me feeling apprehensive. A $1,500 minimum table reservation was definitely not in the cards for us.
Where could we go for maximum fun at a reasonable price? After much research and a little bit of “living in the moment” spontaneity, our night moves landed us in a tequila bar, a mafia-esque restaurant, two gay bars, and finally, the wildly fun Harlowe Bar. Not coincidentally, 4 out of 5 of these places are located in West Hollywood. It was definitely a vibe! Read on to discover what we loved about each of these spots! Add them to your LA itinerary and you are guaranteed a fun night out.
The only place on this list NOT located in West Hollywood is Lanea, a trendy tequila bar in Santa Monica. Our AirBnB was in Santa Monica and we wanted somewhere easy to walk to on Friday night. They offer margarita flights and a handpicked selection of over 400 tequilas and mezcals. How is that even possible? I myself ordered a simple margarita on the rocks (I did say this was a basic girl’s guide), while my friends opted for unique cocktails such as Watermelon.Sugar.High and Paloma. I recommend Lanea to all you basic girls out there because its stylish lounge vibe will have you feeling like a sexy someone sipping your adventurous mezcal cocktail. (Just pretend to know the difference between tequila and mezcal). The music selection was also perfection!
#2 The Nice Guy
As a first-time visitor to LA, I conjured up many ideas of where to go in the city from Instagram influences and YouTubers. (Not proud). That being said, I of course tried my luck with Nobu in Malibu and Catch in West Hollywood. No dice. A month in advance wasn’t good enough apparently for a reservation. Somewhat miffed, I continued my research and landed on an absolute gem of a restaurant: The Nice Guy. This bar and restaurant with its low lighting and vintage design oozes Mafia era vibes. The four of us girls kicked off our Saturday night here with dinner and cocktails. I made my basic-self proud by ordering something dangerous — Squid Ink Campenelle as an entree and the Spicy Siena as a cocktail. We also ordered truffle fries (BASIC!) and Brussel sprouts as appetizers.
I recommend the Nice Guy to all you basic girls out there because it’s an enticing alternative to the disgustingly flashy Catch (I’ve never actually been there, LOL). It makes you feel like you’ve been transported to the ’20s and you can start your night off in a decisively sophisticated way. As they say, pay more for the fancy drinks and the beginning of the night. We all know what happens later.
Here’s where the gears shifted. From the Nice Guy we walked to Santa Monica Boulevard (not at all near Santa Monica, I don’t really get it). Rocco’s was a place that we stumbled upon by accident on our way to somewhere else which we never actually found. It is a gay bar with AMAZING music and a crowd that isn’t afraid to dance. We thought about leaving so many different times but good songs kept coming on and we couldn’t bear to leave the dance floor.
I recommend Rocco’s to all you basic girls because it is undeniably fun and you can wear whatever the hell you want and you’ll probably fit in. You can also watch some shirtless cowboys ride horses on the TVs which is great. We soon discovered that this was just one of MAAANY gay bars on Santa Monica Boulevard. If it isn’t obvious you certainly don’t have to be gay to hang out/party at Rocco’s. It truly is for everyone! The party started early with the dance floor filling up around 10:30, 11ish. It is a great place to turn the notch up on your evening out!
#4 The Abbey
WOW. Please don’t leave Los Angeles without a visit to the Abbey. It is a world famous gay bar also on Santa Monica Boulevard, only a few minutes walking from Rocco’s. Going to the Abbey was an EXPERIENCE. To start, this place is huge and has many different areas with distinct vibes. You could lay low by the bar, chill/eat on the patio, or move to house music alongside the dancers. A section of the Abbey is called The Chapel. They are actually two different venues but they flow together seamlessly, allowing you to move from one to the other.
The Chapel will have you feeling dark and dangerous with its gothic lighting and medieval statues. The DJ booth is reminiscent of a pulpit with stained glasses windows. The DJ when we were there was an old woman with gray hair…amazing, right? I recommend the Abbey to all you basic girls out there because it guarantees an unforgettable experience complete with elderly DJs, risqué dancers, and playful sacrilege. (Sorry, not sorry.)
*The Abbey requires proof of vaccination upon entry
#5 Harlowe Bar
The Harlowe is just a short Uber ride from the Abbey. This is where we ended our night and definitely where we had the most fun. (Although the level of alcohol in our systems could have also contributed to that). The entrance was a bit rocky because of the anti-vax protestors stationed outside the bar. Nothing kills a vibe like being called a nazi…and a litany of other things. But we shook it off and inside was a much different story.
The bar was packed and had an amazing atmosphere. The DJ and the dancing made it feel like a club but the small, intimate setting gave the impression of a private party. We met many people in a short amount of time, quickly feeling like locals ourselves. Service was top notch and one of the bartenders even gave us free shots for our friend’s “birthday.” They also have a small outdoor patio available for that one friend who randomly announces she needs a cigarette. (Even though she never smokes sober). I recommend the Harlowe to all you basic girls out there because you will make so many drunk friends who you’ll subsequently follow on Instagram. They will forever remind you of that crazy night out in West Hollywood.
*The Harlowe requires proof of vaccination upon entry
Well, basic girls. There you have it! Although I am just a first time visitor, I feel these are solid recommendations if you’re looking for fun places to go out in Los Angeles that won’t have you waiting in long lines and/or shelling out thousands of dollars. I would go back to all of these bars/restaurants on my next visit to Los Angeles and hopefully some new spots as well!
If you like what you read, please be sure to check out my Cayman Islands blog posts and get ideas for your next Caribbean vacation! Thanks for reading!
Hi, I’m Kate! I’m a Wisconsin native who traded her snow boots for flip-flops in May of 2020 when I packed my whole life into two suitcases and moved to the Cayman Islands with my partner, Bryan. I created Island Diaries as a way to document my island adventures and share about the Cayman lifestyle. A Midwest girl at heart, I bring a fresh perspective to Caribbean life, serving as a guide for locals and tourists alike on all things Cayman Islands. Whether you are local to Cayman, planning to visit, or just curious about island life, I invite you to explore Island Diaries and let this site guide you on your next island adventure!
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