Hollywood Travel Guide

What can I say about Hollywood? It's influence is so wide-reaching that it has become as much of an idea as a place. If you've never been there before, all I can safely say about it, is that it's probably not what you would expect. Rich in history? Definitely. Glamorous? Very and... not so much. In other words, it's a lot like the the movie industry itself. It depends what you choose to see.

Fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl
Hollywood Bowl 2010 credit: MargaretNapier some rights reserved

For example, maybe you want to see where the celebrities live. In that case you're best bet is to drive up Mullolland Drive in the Hollywood Hills. In this locale, you can find homes owned by Denzel Washington, Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone, and Mark Wahlberg, to name a few. Even if you don't see a celebrity, the drive is worth it: a curvy, old (slightly scary) two-lane road than offers some breath-taking views.

The history of what most people think of as "Hollywood" began in 1911, because that's when the first film studio was opened there. Between the 1920's and 1950's Hollywood established itself as the capital of film glamour. But by the 1960's many of the stars and upscale shops started migrating to places like Beverly Hills. However, recent years have seen a slow but steady progression of largely successful renovations designed to restore pieces of the city to its former glory. Today, Hollywood remains synonymous with the film industry even though only one major studio (Paramount) can still be found within the city limits.

Don't worry though, the studios didn't move very far. In neighboring Burbank you can find several of the larger studios. Or, if you are looking for some of the smaller, more independent production companies, they can be found next door in Studio City. And of course there's always nearby Universal City, home to Universal Studios Hollywood. If you would like to see a TV show being taped and be part of the studio audience, check below for a list of options...

Hollywood Studios

Things to See and Do

Many of Hollywood's attractions can be found along Hollywood Blvd...

Grauman's Chinese Theatre
6925 Hollywood Blvd. What trip to Hollywood would be complete without stopping at the forecourt of this historic theatre? Ever since 1927, when since silent film star Norma Talmadge accidentally stepped in wet cement, Hollywood royalty has been immortalizing their hand and foot prints at Grauman's. It's hard to resist matching your own hands and feet. Also, be sure to also check out impressions of Betty Grable's leg and John Wayne's fist.
Walk of Fame
Located along Hollywood Blvd. and Vine St., are these famous pink and bronze star plaques embedded in the sidewalks. Each star pays tribute to a celebrity who contributed to Hollwood's legacy.
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Located about a block from Grauman's is this bit of Hollywood history that has also managed to recapture much of its Hollywood glamor. Among other things, this elegant hotel was the setting for the very first Academy Awards ceremony. Many stories are told about this locale, not the least of which is that it's rumored to be haunted, by both Montgomery Cliff and Marilyn Monroe!
Sunset Blvd
Still one of the world's most famous streets, and known for its nightclubs, including the notorious Viper Room.
Hollywood Bowl
The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association presents concerts throughout the summer at the Hollywood Bowl. One of the largest natural amphitheaters in the world, the bowl is an unforgettable place to take in a performance.
El Capitain Theatre
6838 Hollywood Blvd. With it's plush interior and dazzling marquee, the El Capitan is one of America's original movie palaces. Disney has done an outstanding job restoring this Hollywood classic, and it has become one of the highest-grossing single-screen theatres in the country.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
6000 Santa Monica Blvd. (next to Paramount Studios). Rudolph Valentino, Jayne Mansfield, Bugsy Siegel, are a few of the celebrities buried here. This cemetery offers historic celebrity memorials and unique LifeStory theaters. During the summer, horror movies are screened outdoors in a picnic atmosphere.
Hollywood Wax Museum
6767 Hollywood Blvd. Well, if you don't see any stars on your trip to Hollywood, you can always come here. More than 180 life-size figures of celebrities are on display. The Guinness World of Records Museum is also nearby.

Places to Eat

If you get hungry in Hollywood, here are a few restaurants where you can get a side order of Hollywood history to go along with your meal...

Pink's Hot Dogs
A Los Angeles tradition since 1939. The long lines can attest to the popularity of their chili dogs. But on the plus side, the line moves pretty fast, the dogs are pretty reasonably priced, and you might just see a celebrity (a few have been known to grab a quick meal here).
The Pig and Whistle
Take a trip through time when you walk inside this recently restored slice of Hollywood glamour. Established in 1927, this restaurant was designed by the same architect as the El Capitan Theatre. Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, Spencer Tracy, Loretta Young, and Howard Hughes (to name just a few) all dined here.
Yamashiro Restaurant
This replica of a palace in the Yamashiro mountains of Kyoto, Japan, was built as a private mansion in 1911, just up the hill behind the Grauman's Chinese Theatre. It features Cal-Asian cuisine, a romantic atmosphere, and a wonderful view. It isn't cheap, but is a good place to try and spot celebrities.

Keep in mind that some areas of Hollywood can be a bit unsavory. When visiting, you are advised to avoid the rougher areas at night, and to keep a general attitude of alertness.