Travel

Let Drag Icon Monique Heart's Guide to West Hollywood Inspire Your Next Trip

'Tis the season for a fabulous getaway.

Photo courtesy of PRYSM Management
Photo courtesy of PRYSM Management
Photo courtesy of PRYSM Management

Monique Heart is one of the most memorable drag queens in the herstory of RuPaul’s Drag Race, having competed on the show’s 10th season and on the fourth season of All Stars. She’s also the queen who’s blessed us with some of the best catchphrases in pop culture, including “Facts are facts,” “Giving you the ooh ah ah sensation,” and “Stunning,” just to name a few.

Now she’s gifting us with her very own guide to West Hollywood and Los Angeles, right in time to inspire a fabulous getaway with your tribe during the holidays. Heart moved to LA from Kansas City, Missouri, in February 2019; in October 2020, she relocated to Palm Springs, and, today, she continues to spend time in LA for work. Between her music, hosting (catch her on Amazon Music’s The Walk In), and running her own beauty company, she’s gotten to know the city-and, more specifically, West Hollywood-in a unique way.

We caught up with Heart on a call where she filled us in on how to experience West Hollywood, from where to get coffee to what bars are cashless to where to learn about queer history in LA and even where to propose.

Eat & Drink

Verve Coffee Roasters: “It’s where I go when I don’t want to go to Starbucks. They were open during the Covina. It was a lovely place just to go outside. They have a cute little patio area where you can wait outside for your coffee and can look at cute people.”

Gracias Madre: “It’s a vegan-Mexican restaurant. Very fabulous. It has a mezcal bar, which I’m making one of my favorites. I went there last night for dinner again. You need to go, especially if you’re like me; I’m a carnivore, but I’m trying to be better. So if I can at least cut some of my meat consumption, then I feel like I’m doing my part. The Soy Beef Chorizo and the Crab Cakes-it was so good, I didn’t know the difference. It’s a fabulous place to check out.”

Pura Vita: “I like this Italian-vegan restaurant off of Santa Monica. I think it was the first time that I had mushroom and it didn’t taste like mushroom and it tasted like meat. My manager used to bring me there.”

Nightlife

“When I’m in town, I’m probably hanging out with Assaad Yacoub. He’s the one who did my video for “Brown Cow Stunning” and he also just did Trixie Mattel’s new video. Hello. So I’ll go hang out with him and Carti G, the drag queen. We’ll go to Beaches. It’s not generally balls to the wall. I feel like I can breathe, you know what I mean? Rocco’s if I can get a little outdoor patio moment. I’ll go to The Abbey for happy hour. She will never fail you. I’ll go see Mayhem [Miller] on a Tuesday.

Also Revolver‘s a good time, but know that they do not take cash. So make sure that your debit card and credit card is paid. Most people take money out when they go to the bar, then it’s cashless. So you will be screwed.

And before the pan dam, Fubar [temporarily closed], baby, that was the place. I really enjoyed the fact that it was a dark little hole in the wall and there weren’t a thousand and one people. Everybody was kind of chilling in their own vibe. It also was a little less, like, darling scene, which, that’s just not my energy.”

Photo courtesy of PRYSM Management
Photo courtesy of PRYSM Management
Photo courtesy of PRYSM Management

Shopping

Circus of Books: “It’s the queer bookshop on Santa Monica. If you want to hear some great history about queer LA, they’ll also talk to you about it.”

The Grove & Rodeo Drive: “If you want good money management, you can go to The Grove. If you have money to throw away and wear somebody else’s last name, then you can go to Rodeo Drive, or you can stop on Rodeo Drive, honey, and just shop the clearance, okay? You can go get a vintage Chanel brooch, put it on a jacket, and then the whole thing is Chanel. Very that.”

The Santee Alley: “I do get my lashes from Santee Alley. If we have any people who are fashion people, you need to pick up some fabrics, some appliques, some frames, some sequins, some Ostrich feathers. You want to go to Santee Alley. Valentina Textile: That’s where I get all of my tafeta from. I get little sequined fabrics from Castle Fabrics.”

© 2021 ORBITZ, LLC, AN EXPEDIA GROUP COMPANY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
© 2021 ORBITZ, LLC, AN EXPEDIA GROUP COMPANY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
© 2021 ORBITZ, LLC, AN EXPEDIA GROUP COMPANY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The holidays are a perfect time to take a trip with your best friend, partner, or chosen family. As an active ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, Orbitz is committed to helping everyone travel freely and take up space, wherever they go. Their LGBTQIA-welcoming hotels filter features properties that have taken an inclusivity pledge, so that you can feel comfortable and accepted exactly as you are. All you have to do is pick a destination. Visit Orbitz.com/Pride to learn more.

Hotels

The Chamberlain and W Hotel: “Stay at the Chamberlain. She’s very cute. I felt very bougie. I was like, ‘Whoa, girl.’ They have money. Stay at the W. It’s real cute. The room’s fabulous. The W gives you that Vegas feeling-it’s just huge. I don’t know if it was the weekend that I was there, but it was just a bunch of things going on.”

Photo courtesy of PRYSM Management
Photo courtesy of PRYSM Management
Photo courtesy of PRYSM Management

Pro Tips

Rainbow Crosswalk: “Create a reel, a boomerang, or a story post walking across it. It’s a great place to take a photo, hand held, you get your feet-that’s the photo. If you want to propose, that would be real cute. The homos would see and then lose their mind and create a whole fantasy.”

Out of the Closet: “It’s a secondhand store, but you can go get tested for HIV. I feel like if you’re going to be doing things, girl, just pop in. You’re walking down the strip anyway. I think that’s something very romantical. You’re like, ‘Hey, let’s go get tested together.’ Boom, lovely. And if you are afraid, I think that should tell you something right there that you should go deal with it. Bring you a friend, but you should at least know and not be saying, ‘I got tested… eight months ago.’ Eight months ago, that’s a long time. You got to go get checked out. Also, they can give you information about PrEP or PEP. It’s lovely.” 

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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