You want to see the world, but sometimes the world is an unfriendly place. That’s why HelloGiggles is bringing you Feminist Passport, a guide to all of the most inclusive hotels, restaurants, shops, bars, and sights to visit on your next big adventure. Because travel should be for everyone.
About four months prior to my birthday, I made a goal to celebrate in a place I’d never visited before. As a native Floridian who doesn’t have many opportunities to travel, I concluded that if I was going to indulge in the rare (and domestic, for now) vacation, I was at least going to leave my time zone. A month later, I received an email about an unbelievable deal for round-trip flights to Los Angeles for less than $200. Without much of a second thought, I booked my trip within the hour.
I planned a six-day visit under the assumption that I was giving myself plenty of time to take in the long-imagined star-powered glamour that, for me, characterized the City of Angels. By day five, I realized that six days were not nearly enough time to explore even half of the city’s complex beauty—the array of food options alone would warrant an extended stay. By the time I had (reluctantly) left, I felt like I had experienced a mere glimpse of what L.A. has to offer.
Something I learned almost immediately after settling in: there really isn’t a singular image that fully encompasses Los Angeles. Whatever notions I carried were quickly dispelled as soon as I chatted with local friends, all long-time California residents who helped me navigate the city. The truth is, when you say that you’re visiting L.A., that can mean a hundred different things. Downtown L.A. is wholly different from Culver City, which is a separate experience from Koreatown and Hollywood, and so on. Each neighborhood has a distinct vibe, with its own treasure trove of independent businesses—many of which are owned, operated by, and support women and the LGBTQ community—yet they’re all vital threads of the city’s fabric. More importantly, each spot made me feel not only welcome, but also like there was plenty of room for me to carve out my own unique space there.
So here are just a few places you should check out if you want to begin to understand one of many versions of Los Angeles.
Stay at Hotel Figueroa
There’s a lot of history within the bricks of one of L.A.’s oldest hotels. Dating back to 1926, Hotel Figueroa once served as a women’s-only hostelry. Today, it thrives in the Downtown area after an extensive renovation, which will soon include the reservation-only Bar Alta. Between its decadent design and on-site fine dining, nobody could really blame you for not wanting to leave your room (although you should try).
If Hotel Figueroa isn’t quite within in your budget, don’t stress. Check out Airbnb’s wealth of modern, trendy Los Angeles spaces that are just a quick ride away from anywhere you want to go.
Pick up a good (and sexy) book at The Ripped Bodice
This pink-hued Culver City gem was easily my favorite part of my voyage. A product of a successful Kickstarter campaign, The Ripped Bodice is a bookstore dedicated to the wonderfully vast romance genre. I was fortunate enough to stop by when one of the sibling owners, Leah Koch, was stationed at the register. She kindly offered me a tour of the nearly three-year-old space and I soon found myself overwhelmed by the wide availability of stories at my fingertips.
The romance sections at those giant bookstore chains pale in comparison to what the Koch sisters have curated for their enchanting shop: historical romance, LGBTQ romance, space erotica…it’s all there among the litany of different sub genres. There’s even a section for children, which offers such an inclusive, intersectional array of stories that it nearly made me weep as I grabbed a few titles for my own daughter.
Another unexpected treat within The Ripped Bodice: the oddly comforting bathroom, where the walls are covered with inspirational notes scrawled on Post-its from fellow patrons. You would never guess that you could leave a single-person restroom with a sense of community but alas, that is just one of the many charming aspects of this innovative store.
Just how innovative is The Ripped Bodice? The only other store of its kind exists in Australia.
Grab some wine from Vinovore
If you wander into the Silver Lake area in the east end of L.A., you can stop by Vinovore and grab a bottle of delicious wine to fuel your trip. Vinovore is the creation of Dean Harada and Coly Den Haan, one of L.A.’s first female sommeliers. The shop offers a plethora of wine from over 100 female winemakers worldwide, and there’s a bottle for just about every price range. If you plan on including Vinovore in your itinerary, make sure to check out their events page first and you might be lucky enough to catch a tasting or workshop.
Enjoy the art (or film, or burger) at LACMA
While “go visit a museum” may not be the most original suggestion when discussing travel, you’ll want to visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for a number of reasons. First, it’s the largest museum on the West Coast with a collection that is as far-reaching as it is thought-provoking. Beyond that, LACMA offers a number of truly amazing film screenings that are available to the public, some of which may include Q&A sessions with the filmmakers or even some of the stars. I happened to be in town in time to see Welcome to Marwen, starring Steve Carrell and Janelle Monae, a week before its worldwide release. The museum also makes an effort to feature work from local creators that explores the city and state’s history, such as the Pacific Standard Time exhibition in 2017.
Prior to the film, I enjoyed a bite to eat at the restaurant on-site, Ray’s & Stark Bar, where I had a burger au jus and passion fruit mousse so divine that I’m still thinking about them weeks later. Will I ever know joy like that again? Let’s hope.
Freshen up your wardrobe at The Plus Bus
How often do plus-size women get to partake in a boutique experience that caters exclusively to us? In L.A., The Plus Bus Boutique has new, used, and vintage fashions that will leave you feeling like an absolute queen. The store buys and sells trendy threads from a number of well-known brands, and their representatives are dedicated to helping you leave with just the right outfit for any occasion. And there’s a bonus: on most Wednesdays, the shop hosts a dance aerobics class called Fat Kid Dance Party. Slip into your workout gear, have a blast with some new friends, then shop around afterwards.
Wind down with a latte at Cafe Americano
The cozy atmosphere of Cafe Americano in Koreatown was the ideal cap to my day. Owned by Rahn Kim, this charming, chill spot has the lovely ambiance of a boutique, a lavender latte that’ll blow your mind, and enough power outlets and speedy WiFi for those of us who need a quiet space to work. Also—and this is no mundane feature—there’s free parking, which is a rare commodity in L.A. Cafe Americano has a modest but mighty food menu as well, so if you’re in the mood for a hearty breakfast sandwich (made fresh in-shop) or something sweet, the super kind staff of Cafe Americano have got you covered.
When asked what she thought was the best thing about owning a coffee shop in L.A., Kim swiftly mentioned one thing: L.A.’s diversity. “We’re right on the edge between Koreatown and Downtown, so I get to see all of the different people from both sides, right outside of our window,” she tells HelloGiggles. “I’ve lived here since I was 2 years old, and I’m still amazed by it.”