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Garden Path at Sunset Marquis Hotel

A West Hollywood Walking Tour With a Local!

New York City to West Hollywood

I moved to West Hollywood, a city within Los Angeles, from New York City, and I feel there are several phases of getting accustomed to the different modes of getting around these two vastly different cities. In New York City, I was the one always mentally calculating how long it would take to get from my doorstep, to the train, onto the train, to another train, onto that train, and from the train to the destination. If that time took the same as just walking a couple miles, I would do that instead.

My first phase when I moved to Los Angeles was to think, “I’ll treat this city like any other!” and strike out on foot. A couple lonely walks in a new city with no biped in sight, merely cars whizzing by, and I decided, “Eh, better just drive.”

Phase two: I drove everywhere. From 0.2 to 30 miles, it was gas-powered all the way. The final phase (or the third phase that seems to have stuck) is discovering that West Hollywood, in many ways, is a lovely walking city. You just have to know when and where.

Discover West Hollywood

West Hollywood at Sunset.
Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood at Sunset. Photographer: Scott Crawford

One of my first ventures into phase three was discovering the historical district of West Hollywood. Albeit I discovered this with a long-distance now ex-boyfriend, but I believe it took my first guest to show around my new home to prompt my discovery of the historical district’s potential.

We decided to extend an after dinner walk and meander through West Hollywood. Evening walks are a preferred routine of mine, and the ex acquiesced. We came upon La Mirada at night; its white facade stared blankly down at us from dusty, windowed eyes.

I loved the building instantaneously and got far too excited for a normal person. So, I quickly googled its sad story and read it aloud to a fairly disinterested companion. The Judy Will kidnapping! The storied fight between mean Mr. Nash and every other human he encountered! The resulting Ellis Act?! This dramatic historical place was the city I had the pleasure of living in? The article mentioned the “Historical District of West Hollywood” of course. I had – in passing – seen the sign before, but I hadn’t taken the time to truly explore.

Historical District of West Hollywood

Naturally, I scoured the internet for more information. Opening up tab after tab, digging deeper into the bottomless well of the Internet, I found an obscure blog post or article – I don’t remember which – in a menial place. But the site had all of the information I needed. This resulted in a two-hour hunt through the historical district of West Hollywood for all the locations named.

To name a few for you: a variety of Spanish Revival Villas with stunning bohemian interior courtyards; much Leland Bryant architecture; a building built to look like a sailing boat; Marilyn Monroe’s apartment; the Four Gables, which lives up precisely to its name in terms of infrastructure; and La Fontaine, where Bette Midler and Dane Cook, among others, have lived.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tara House & Colonial Revival

There are two most magical buildings for me on the tour. The first is the Tara House, which was built in 1914 and resembles the home in Gone with the Wind. It is the last of the Colonial Revival architecture in West Hollywood. It has a wonderfully rich history that stars Elsie Weisman, the original owner who fought tooth and nail for the home to be donated to the city in the form of a park.

The Tara House was home to the Modern Forum, a mid-twentieth century Los Angeles think tank that welcomed thought leaders like Einstein, Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the like. My other favorite destination is an apartment in which F. Scott Fitzgerald lived for a time and did a lot of writing. It is very, very difficult to find this information, because – despite Hollywood’s reputation – West Hollywood is often immensely private about her inhabitants, past and present. I go to that building often and stare up at it with shivers and big eyes; there is an undying enchantment about the place.

Meet The Sunset Marquis

Secret Garden at the Sunset Marquis
Secret Garden at the Sunset Marquis

I was introduced to the Sunset Marquis eight months ago now, and it instantaneously became a premier destination on my walking tour. My tour has been requested by curious friends and friends searching for a personal guide for their soon-to-be-arriving parents.

The Sunset Marquis has either been the first destination and the inspiration for the rest of our walk, or the final destination and the place for a meal or drink or feet in the pool afterwards.

I feel that the Sunset Marquis fulfills many fun “historical” entertainment requirements – from Billy Bob Thornton’s years of living there to Cardi B’s popping in and out surreptitiously these days. But the hotel’s rock and roll history – unprecedented and likely unrepeatable – is its primary focus. There are six blogs about the hotel’s history on this website, so I am going to merely direct you to those to learn more.

Start Your Tour of West Hollywood

The Sunset Marquis is not only a launching and landing pad for my historical tour, but I and many others use it to launch and land throughout West Hollywood. A best-kept secret in West Hollywood – as I have alluded to earlier in this blog – is that there are unpretentious parts of Hollywood.

People here want to walk their dogs and frequent local havens like Alfred’s Coffee, Melrose shopping, The Grove. Even Target bags are seen bobbing by on the street outside my house. Not all of Hollywood is Hollywood, and the Sunset Marquis is a place where you can escape the noise and bustle outside to catch up with a friend or think about your next project.

Walk around West Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard, Melrose, Santa Monica, or many other smaller streets to discover petite parks and small groupings of neighborhood watering holes. See where there are people and hop out onto the sidewalk. Enjoy being on foot all day – when it’s not too hot for you – and especially enjoy the long sunset in the West. Talk to locals; because we love this city, I’m sure you’ll get happy recommendations. But don’t expect the busyness of New York City or other metropolises. The Los Angeles sidewalks are much quieter, and the anonymity and space – once you adjust – feel great.

Garden flowers at Sunset MarquisOn top of the naturalness of walking in West Hollywood, the city has even invested in several free buses for our city’s inhabitants. My favorite is the brand new Sunset Trip Trolleys, which were released in the beginning of June this summer. The Sunset Marquis had the pleasure of receiving the guests of the launch event, and I had the pleasure of tagging along to hear the Sunset Marquis’s general manager Rod Gruendyke’s fabulous tour of the hotel property. Me and (historical) tours – it’s a thing.

Plan Your Visit

In case you’re wondering, the original link I found that inspired my historical walking tour is no longer in existence, which is too bad because it inspired me so much. This is not a full replacement for it either. Should I write a personal Historical District of West Hollywood Walking Tour for future generations? Or maybe I’ll engage the spirit of oration to help my tour live on? I do employ both the written and the oral to spread the word about the Sunset Marquis.

Historical buildings to walk past, look at, and inspire your imagination are one thing. A living, breathing museum of the past and a haven for future, creative history-makers is of a whole other importance. You will walk through, live in, and experience the brilliant history and the life that history has fostered today at the Sunset Marquis.

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THE SUNSET MARQUIS HOTEL & VILLAS

Mark “Marquis” Rosenthal
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