Things to Do in Los Angeles
Marilyn Monroe? 6774 Hollywood Blvd. James Dean? 1719 Vine St. Elvis Presley? 6777 Hollywood Blvd. No, not last known addresses, just the exact spot for the brass star honoring these celebrities on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
These stars and many others are sought out, worshiped, photographed, and stepped on day after day long this stretch of sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard. Since 1960 more than 2,000 performers - from legends to long-forgotten bit-part players - have been honored with a pink-marble, five-pointed sidewalk star.
Follow this celestial sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard between La Brea Avenue and Gower Street, and along Vine Street between Yucca Street and Sunset Boulevard.
One of LA's most distinguishing icons, the famous HOLLYWOOD sign proudly stands on the hillside of the Hollywood Hills, overlooking its namesake city and the movie industry it has come to symbolize.
LA's most famous landmark first appeared on its hillside perch in 1923, as a advertising gimmick for a real-estate development called Hollywoodland. Each letter stands 50 feet (15 m) tall and is made of sheet metal painted white.
Once aglow with 4,000 light bulbs, the sign even had its own caretaker, who lived behind the letter L until 1939. The last four letters were lopped off in the 1940s as the sign started to crumble along with the rest of Hollywood. In the late 1970s, Alice Cooper and Hugh Hefner joined forces with fans and other celebrities to save the famous symbol.
This legendary 1.5-mile stretch of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood extends east-west from Beverly Hills to Hollywood, laid end to end with music venues, comedy clubs, boutiques, restaurants and hotels that attract music, TV, film and fashion celebrities. An assault to the senses in terms of both traffic and visuals, the Sunset Strip is studded with a trademark array of huge, colorful advertising billboards.
First developed as a haven for Prohibition-flouting bars and casinos in the 1920s, rising to prominence in the 1930s and '40s for its glamorous nightclubs full of Hollywood glitterati, and eventually becoming a magnet for the hippie counterculture in the 1960s, the Strip hit its most lasting stride in the 1970s and early '80s, when the drug and fashion excesses of disco, glam metal, rock'n'roll and stand-up comedy made the area both famous and infamous.
Stand in the footprints of your favorite silver-screen legends in the courtyard of this grand movie palace. The exotic pagoda theater - complete with temple bells and stone Heaven Dogs from China - has shown movies since 1927. In fact, it's still a studio favorite for star-studded premieres, captivating crowds of all ages.
It's somewhat of a tourist rite of passage to compare your hands and feet with the famous prints set in cement at the entrance court. There are some 160 celebrity squares to discover including R2D2's wheels, Jimmy Durante's nose, Betty Grable's legs, or Whoopi Goldberg's braids. Rumor has it that the tradition was started when silent film star Norma Talmadge accidentally stepped in wet cement the night of the theater's premier of Cecil B. DeMille's King of Kings.
Southern California’s quintessential bohemian playground, Venice Beach is a haven for artists, New Agers, homeless people, and free spirits of all stripes. This is where Jim Morrison and the Doors lit their fire, where Arnold Schwarzenegger pumped himself to stardom, and where Julia Roberts and Dennis Hopper make their homes today.
Life on Venice Beach moves to a different rhythm and nowhere more so than on the famous Venice Boardwalk, officially known as Ocean Front Walk. It’s a nonstop Mardi Gras of fortune tellers, street musicians, and characters of all colors, shapes, and sizes. This is where to get your hair braided, your karma corrected, and your back massaged qigong–style.
Encounters with hoop dreamers, a Speedo-clad snake charmer and a roller-skating Sikh minstrel are pretty much guaranteed, especially on hot summer days. The Sunday-afternoon drum circle draws hundreds of revelers for tribal playing and spontaneous dancing.
Arguably the most famous shopping district in Los Angeles County, Rodeo Drive (pronounced row-day-oh) serves as the commercial heart of Beverly Hills. A magnet for well-heeled tourists and status shoppers, the area is home to a large array of glitzy, high-end boutiques for brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Cartier and Tiffany.
Designed as a business district by city developers in the early 1900s, its name honors a Native American history as "The Gathering of the Waters," which, translated into the Spanish of California's Mexican past, is "La Rodeo de las Aguas." These days, the Rodeo Drive area offers many places to water and feed yourself, including glamorous hotels like the Regent Beverly Wilshire and Montage Beverly Hills.
Three of the area's most popular landmarks are: the 40-foot-long Beverly Hills sign on Santa Monica Boulevard, surrounded by an impeccably-manicured swath of gardens and walking paths.
One of the largest urban green spaces in the country, Griffith Park is a wonderful playground for all ages and interests. The park embraces an outdoor theater, the city zoo, and observatory, two museums, golf courses, tennis courts, playgrounds, bridle paths, hiking trails, Batman's caves, and even the Hollywood sign.
For astronomy buffs, the landmark Griffith Observatory opens a window on the universe in its planetarium with the world's most advanced star projector; the Big Picture, a floor-to-ceiling digital image of the universe bursting with galaxies and stars; and rooftop telescopes. At the Los Angeles Zoo, you can wander among some 1,200 finned, feathered and furry friends, which promises to enthrall the kids.
Also here is the delightful Travel Town Museum, with its displays of dozens of vintage railcars and locomotives; the Bronson Caves, where scenes from Batman and Star Trek were filmed; the Museum of the American West.
Renamed in 2012 when sponsor Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy, this 180,000-square-foot, 3,400-seat theater now showcases Dolby Laboratories' state-of-the-art sound technologies. Situated in the popular Hollywood & Highland mall complex, the elegant Dolby Theatre hosts both the Academy Awards and Cirque du Soleil's Iris, a resident stage show which celebrates the history of film.
Periodically, the Dolby also plays host to charity benefits, movie premieres, special events and other televised award shows. The theater's soaring stage, one of the largest in the United States, has featured the national premiere of Pixar's Brave, the American Idol finals, the Daytime Emmys, the American Ballet Theatre and even President Barack Obama, while out on the campaign trail.
Whether it’s hiking or horseback riding, biking or busing, there are plenty of ways to explore the well-heeled neighborhood of Hollywood Hills. Its famous bright white Hollywood sign has become an iconic California image and its panoramic views of downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley have made it worth venturing outside the city for tourists hoping to capture the perfect sunset picture.Travelers can climb to the top of Mt. Hollywood or wander through scenic Griffith Park. John Anson Ford Theater, the Hollywood Bowl, the Hollywood Reservoir and Forest Lawn Memorial Park are also popular sites on a visit to this famed high-rent neighborhood, but visitors would do just as well to drive around the quiet streets taking in some of the most classic (and impressive) residential architecture in California.
More Things to Do in Los Angeles
Stretching 21 miles along the eastern ridgeline of the Santa Monica Mountains and the Hollywood Hills, a drive on at least one portion of this iconic street should be a part of any first-time visit to Los Angeles. Built largely in 1924 as the scenic highway it remains today, Mulholland (as it’s locally known) offers unparalleled views of the L.A. Basin, San Fernando Valley, the Hollywood Sign and more.
If you only have time to drive one section of Mulholland, try either one of these routes: Cahuenga Pass to Laurel Canyon, which winds up above downtown Hollywood and the Hollywood Bowl, past Runyon Canyon and above Universal City, where a significant turnout allows you to linger on views of the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains.
Laurel Canyon to Beverly Glen Boulevard, which offers real-estate-heavy views of the Westside on one side (including West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Bel-Air), and the wide, flat, mountain-rimmed San Fernando Valley on the other.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Dennis Rodman and Shaquille O’Neal are just five of the celebrated basketball players who have worn the purple and gold of a Los Angeles Lakers jersey. Today’s lauded star, Kobe Bryant, led the Lakers to three national championships in a row from 2000 to 2002, and again in 2009 and 2010.
Needless to say, the NBA team is one of the country’s most worshipped, and catching a game at the Staples Center is an LA must-do. If you’re not a sports fan, keep your eyes open for the A-list stars who frequent the floor seats – particularly Jack Nicholson, who has had season tickets since the 1970s. You may also see Tom Cruise, Snoop Dog, Jack Black, Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz.
Catalina Island is a rocky island getaway, whose 22-mile (35-kilometer) distance from the coast of LA often feels like 22,000. The ferry ride from Long Beach, Dana Point, San Pedro or Newport Beach takes about an hour, and the minute you step off the boat in the island’s only incorporated town, Avalon, you’ll feel like you’ve left the country. The Mediterranean-esque island offers a blissful breather from LA’s constant flurry. Stay for a day or a week – your goal is to slow down and take advantage of the island’s tranquil pace.
Shopping in Avalon’s small boutiques, dining in a seaside restaurant and admiring the harbor, dotted with shiny white yachts, can fill up a morning or afternoon. Then, throw on your swimsuit for some snorkeling, rent a bike to see more of the island or try your luck with a fishing pole. Golf, Segway-rental, scuba diving, kayaking, camping, hiking and parasailing are also available.
The Golden-Age glamor image of Hollywood may not be as evident as it once was, however, its very name is synonymous with the entire movie industry. For this is the shrine to the movie industry: stars in the sidewalks, the sign, glorious old theaters, the places where the movie industry grew up.
Most of the sights line up neatly along a 1-mile (1.6 km) stretch of Hollywood Boulevard between La Brea Avenue and Vine Street. Find your favorite stars along Hollywood Walk of Fame, the celestial sidewalk gallery on Hollywood Boulevard.
At the grand entryway to Grauman's Chinese Theater, you can actually match your handprints and footprints of stars who've have had theirs embedded in cement. Other famous theaters include the Eyptian and El Capitan, all flamboyant icons from Hollywood's glitzy past.
A historic Los Angeles landmark, the Los Angeles Farmers Market is a bustling market of food stalls, eateries, prepared food vendors, produce markets, and much more. You can easily spend a morning or afternoon here browsing the more than 100 restaurants, grocers and tourist shops.
Opened in 1934, the Farmers Market is a popular destination for foodies in search of the market’s wide assortment of flavors and cuisines. The market started when a dozen nearby farmers would park their trucks on a field to sell their fresh produce to local residents. It quickly grew in popularity, especially when CBS Television City opened next door and began providing those working or visiting that television studio a convenient place to shop or eat.
If you like spending time on the water, San Pedro should be on your Los Angeles must-visit list. This popular neighborhood is home to The Port of Los Angeles World Cruise Center. A large number of major cruise lines sail in and out of the port in route to destinations like Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska, making San Pedro an easy and enjoyable place for folks to stay before or after a cruise.
It’s also a launching point for trips to Catalina Island. Catalina is only a 22-mile trip from San Pedro. Most boat trips are only about an hour, and service is available all year long. It always seems to be whale-watching season in San Pedro, so depending on the month, you could see gray whales, blue whales, dolphins and sea lions. Open every day except on Thanksgiving and Christmas, the USS Iowa (BB-61) is yet another itinerary possibility.
Rising 13 round stories above Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame, this city landmark, built in the mid-1950s to house the first West Coast outpost of a major record label, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Famed for being the site of recordings by Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and many other big artists, the distinctive tower, designed by Louis Naidorf and Welton Becket (the latter, architect of the nearby Cinerama Dome and other prominent L.A. buildings) was purportedly meant to symbolize a stack of record albums on a turntable.
The building houses a series of working recording, mixing and mastering studios, including a unique echo chamber designed by guitarist and inventor Les Paul. Though the building has made a handful of appearances in popular entertainment, it was most dramatically featured in the 2004 disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow, being smashed to the ground by a giant tornado (and computer-generated effects).
Unlike her lifelike figures, Madame Tussaud was a real human being, a wax sculptor in 1770s Paris who became an art tutor at the Palace of Versailles. During the French Revolution, she was forced to prove her allegiance to King Louis IVX by making death masks of executed aristocrats; lauded for her work, she eventually left for Britain with many of her works in tow. In the early 19th century, a showcase for her wax likenesses of famous -- and infamous -- contemporary figures was built in London; the Madame Tussauds brand has since become a popular global franchise, spreading across Europe, Asia, Australia and several American cities.
One of the most-visited Madame Tussauds sits on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. The wax figures featured here depict famous Hollywood icons, contemporary movie stars and TV actors, auteur film directors (such as Alfred Hitchcock) and movie-franchise characters (like E.T. and the X Men).
One of L.A.'s most visited tourist attractions, this 387,000 square-foot shopping mall and entertainment center makes an enormous, colorful splash on the sometimes scruffy Hollywood Walk of Fame. The complex includes the Dolby Theatre (formerly known as the Kodak Theatre) which hosts both the Oscars and Cirque du Soleil's Iris, a resident stage show which celebrates the history of film.
The core of Hollywood & Highland is arranged around a three-story courtyard, where soaring, elephant-topped columns evoke the Babylon set of D.W. Griffith's 1916 epic, Intolerance. Fanning out from here, you'll find over a dozen restaurants ranging from food-court outposts to destination dining, two night clubs, a bowling alley and 75+ retail shops, including large national chains like Gap, Build-A-Bear and Sephora. Adjacent to the main mall is the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, an ornate movie palace festooned with Far East flourishes and featuring a cement-paved forecourt.
Set beside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in Mid-City's Hancock Park, these are real live cesspools in the heart of Tinseltown. While the asphalt here was first excavated back in 1915 (when this spot was home to the city’s natural history museum), the pits themselves were discovered as many as 40,000 years ago by hapless saber-toothed tigers, dire wolves and ground sloths who fell in and drowned. The misfortune of these bygone beasts is symbolized by life-size statues of imperiled woolly mammoths caught in a still-bubbling pool of tar.
Preserved for an aeon or so, the Pits' amazing Ice Age fossils are tagged in various excavation sites around the park. Work is generally slow, however, as the ground here is constantly evolving; around the park and out on Wilshire Boulevard you can still see black, sticky asphalt oozing up from cracks in the road and sidewalk.
Los Angeles is full of shopping and entertainment diversions, but one of the most famous areas is Melrose Avenue. Even before the popular 1990s show Melrose Place was set in the area, at least part of the avenue was already a shopping and hangout destination for the burgeoning new wave crowd. The neighborhood remains an excellent spot for shopping, with more than 300 boutiques lining the street, as well as trendy restaurants and bars.
Unlike in the TV show, the actual Melrose Place doesn't have apartment buildings – it has yet more shops. In addition to the places to shop and eat, Melrose Avenue is also home to some of LA's best-known street art. Artists whose work you can see along the corridor include Annie Preece, Sebastien Walker, Ivan Preciado, and Jules Muck.
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