EXPLORE Exciting Things to Do in los angeles
Hollywood boasts an international reputation that no other neighborhood in Los Angeles has. Urban and gritty, refined and glamorous, Hollywood still sparkles with gems of cinematic history, celebrity hangouts and an emerging commercial cityscape. We've listed some of our favorite spots in the iconic move town along with a few stops away from the crowds just outside its borders.
The hollywood sign
Originally created in 1923, the then "Hollywoodland" sign was supposed to be up for only a year and a half, yet here it is over 90 years later. There's plenty of parking to view the sign by Lake Hollywood Park, the easiest to reach viewpoint. The streets get pretty narrow so make sure you drive extra slow. Looking to get even closer? Lace up for a trek along the dirt road on Mt Lee Dr to where you will be standing directly above the Hollywood Sign and can experience a total 360-degree view of the cityscape.
This gorgeous outdoor amphitheatre has been hosting concerts since the LA Philharmonic first played here in 1922. Nestled in an aesthetically blessed fold in the Hollywood Hills, the 18,000-seat venue can bring out the romantic in the terminally cynical. It's the summer home of the LA Philharmonic (who host free weekday open rehearsals; call the venue for more info), but it's hosted everyone from the Beatles to Big Bird, and today mixes classical concerts with all manner of rock and pop.
sunset ranch hollywood
If you keep driving up Beachwood Drive in search of the Hollywood Sign, eventually you'll hit a dead end at Sunset Ranch Hollywood's cluster of horse stables. The ranch offers a variety of daily trail rides through Griffith Park, and you can book ahead on their website. Pricier and longer rides include meals or a trek to the top of the park or Mt Lee, but even the basic one hour ride ($40) lets you snag a close-up look at the Hollywood Sign along with sweeping views of the hills and LA cityscape below.
It's still a great place to catch a movie but most people come to the Chinese Theatre for the hand and/or foot imprints of around 200 Hollywood stars. The courtyard is usually choked with snap-happy tourists measuring their own extremities against the likes of John Wayne and Judy Garland, but you can avoid the crowds by catching a flick inside, where the auditorium is as stunning as the IMAX screen's projection quality.
hollywood Walk of fame
Granted, you will encounter suspect superheroes, large crowds and a never-ending line of gift shops, tattoo parlors and lingerie stores, but there’s actually a lot of old Hollywood history and glamour to discover along the Walk of Fame. The immortalized names on those famous five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars run from the Walk’s western extreme at the Hollywood and La Brea Gateway to the Pantages Theater at Gower, and additionally on Vine from the Capitol Records Building down to Sunset, near where the original movie studios sprang up a century ago.
Despite a name change after the theater's main sponsor switched from Kodak to Dolby in 2012, this 3,400-seat center remains one of LA's most impressive live entertainment venues, with a year-round series of high-profile screenings, premieres and events. Just ask the Academy Awards—they've signed on to host their annual star-studded broadcast here through at least 2033.
hollywood & highland
Emblematic of the Hollywood commercial renaissance, this ambitious mall has become a popular destination for shopping and gawking at the Hollywood sign from its upper level catwalks. The stores appeal to a younger crowd, but old-time film bluffs will appreciate the central courtyard's colossal homage to DW Griffith's iconic Intolerance set, elephant-adorned columns and all. The parking entrance is on Highland Avenue.
Capital records building
This cylindrical tower is so closely tied with postcard pictures of sunny California that it’s hard to separate the building from the lore. (It looks like a stack of records? Purely a coincidence.) But that’s also part of its appeal; whenever you see its blade-like spire rising above the 101, its cool, white shades make you feel like you’re living the dream.
This 160-acre park at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains has one main loop, plus a bevy of dirt hiking trails. The sea of buff trainers and their sleek, sweaty clients can get to be too much during the busy morning and weekend workout traffic, but you'll be rewarded with some of the best views of the city (and, if you're lucky, a chance to gawk at power-walking celebs). The southern entrance is at the end of Fuller Avenue in Hollywood; the northern entrance is off the 7300 block of Mulholland Drive.
Yearning to relive your childhood and indulge in a Disney flick? El Capitan's your spot—the lavish 1926-built theater screens Disney's most current feature along with classics in between releases. Tickets are indeed pricier than other nearby cinemas, but then again, where else do you get to dine at a classic fountain and see a 2,500-pipe organ be played before the show?
Though technically outside of the neighborhood, this LA landmark feels like an essential party of any Hollywood visit. The vista here is stunning, particularly at night when Los Angeles twinkles below. Inside you'll find a bevy of exhibits, including a Foucault pendulum, Tesla coil and planetarium show. Give yourself plenty of time before the 10pm closing to gaze through the 12-inch refracting telescope on the roof, otherwise you can look through the far less crowded modern, reflecting telescope on the front lawn.
As iTunes has erased CDs from our collective memory, the LA branch of SF's Amoeba Music could easily be seen as a mausoleum to actually leaving the house to buy music. But this, the largest independent record store in the US, is very much alive. The variety of stock (CDs and DVDs, new and used) is awesome, the prices are fair and the staff know their onions.
Built as a private art museum in the 1920s, this Japanese palace is a spectacular structure with extraordinary views of Hollywood. For years, it was a beautiful building in which to eat bad food, but Jason Park's new kitchen team has made a major difference: the restaurant is now worth a look even if you don't get a table with a view. Japanese, Korean and Chinese traditional items are presented alongside sensible and occasionally daring fusion ideas. It may not be the cheapest option, but did we mention that view?
Even if you’ve never seen it in person, you’ll undoubtedly recognize the Stahl House (Case Study House #22 for you modernist fanatics) and its twinkly vista. There’s barely more to it than a roof, floor-to-ceiling windows and a swimming pool, but the Hollywood Hills house emits that magic that so many of us have found—or spend our lives chasing—in Los Angeles.
hollywood bowl overlook
This overlook in the Santa Monica Mountains has fantastic views of the downtown skyline all the way to the ocean and it's right on top of the Hollywood Bowl. It's a prime place to be on a clear night or when your favorite band is playing a sold out show at the Bowl. Get there as early as possible—the parking lot is tiny and while there is street parking, the park is in a particularly curvy spot on Mulholland Drive and cars whiz by even at night.
Hollywood forever cemetery
The owners of Hollywood Forever have been criticized for promoting the place as a tourist attraction, but any cemetery that houses the remains of such celluloid luminaries as Cecil B. DeMille and Jayne Mansfield would probably become one regardless. It's also the resting place of Rudolph Valentino; legend has it that a mysterious "Woman in Black" still stalks the cemetery, mourning the demise of Hollywood's original loverboy. Aside from popular posthumous celebs, Hollywood Forever is also home to summer outdoor movie screenings; Cinespia-hosted sleepovers with projected films, live music and games; as well as a number of unique concert events.
musso & frank grill
Open since 1919, the Musso & Frank Grill is Hollywood's oldest restaurant, a steak-and-cocktails joint formerly favored by Charlie Chaplin and Raymond Chandler. With its many obscure dishes and individually priced sides (and salad dressings!), the menu can be daunting. However, some dishes are fail-safes. At breakfast, grab an order of crêpe-thin flannel cakes; later in the day, the grilled meats are excellent. And every table gets a half-loaf of house-made sourdough bread, the perfect accompaniment to a dry martini.
Built by the same man who erected the Chinese Theatre and El Capitan Theatre, the Egyptian was faithfully restored by American Cinematheque in 1998. The not-for-profit company continues to deliver a wide range of excellent themed mini-festivals and one-off Q&As with legendary figures, as well as classic films and contemporary indie cinema.
barnsdall art park & hollyhock house
Just outside the Hollywood border, this hilly park is the home of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House. Originally intended as a massive arts complex, the site still fulfills that role with exhibitions in a variety of different gallery spaces and public tours of the Hollyhock House ($7, Thu-Sun, 11am-4pm). In the summer, the park hosts a variety of al fresco cinema nights, wine tastings and cultural events that bring out a nice mix of singles, couples and young families.
hollywood strip helicopter flight
Take to the skies to experience Los Angeles and Hollywood in a whole new way on this exhilarating helicopter tour. Choose from three different flight itineraries to suit your interests: Fly over the glamorous Hollywood Strip, admire LA's beautiful coastal cities, or spot the luxury celebrity mansions of Beverly Hills and Bel-Air. Each flight includes informative commentary from an expert pilot, and hotel pickup and drop-off is available.