Although it is technically part of Los Angeles, Hollywood has long been known worldwide for its film and entertainment industry. Home to Universal Studios, the Chinese Theatre, the Sunset Strip and Hollywood Boulevard, this area delivers a wealth of famous sites. The neighborhood lies about 8 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, where visitors can see the signature, hillside Hollywood sign.
1. Walk of Fame
The famous Hollywood Walk of Fame runs along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. Here Hollywood’s most recognized faces and names are represented by “stars” dedicated and laid in the sidewalk. The list of names to be found along here include prominent actors, musicians, directors, personalities, and other important people from the areas of motion picture, TV, radio, recording, and live theatre/performance. Stars are still being added.
The tradition began in 1960 and was the source of much controversy. Who would be included and more importantly, who would not be included, became the problem. There is a nomination process with new nominees being announced each June. Today there are about 2500 stars on the sidewalks with a small number are added each year.
2. Universal Studios Hollywood
The Universal site is divided into several areas including a theme park, a working studio, and also City Walk, an area of restaurants and shops. The park offers some of the most innovative and interesting theme park rides to be found anywhere in the United States. There are several classic rides but new rides are being developed all the time, based on popular movies and TV shows.
In addition to the rides and amusements, a studio tour is also available. Here visitors get to take a trip behind the camera and see what goes into making a Hollywood film extravaganza. The tour involves riding a tram throughout the backlots and former movie sets that include such classics as the War of the Worlds, the Bates Motel, and Wisteria Lane. For a bite to eat, some shopping, or to catch a movie, wander over to City Walk where there are dozens of restaurants, cinemas, comedy clubs, and even indoor skydiving.
3. Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood’s main east-west axis, has been compared with New York’s Broadway because of its nightlife. However, instead of theaters, Hollywood has extravagant cinemas, such as the Chinese and Egyptian Theaters, built originally by Sid Grauman in the twenties. The elegant shops which once lined Hollywood Boulevard have long since disappeared, as the film stars moved to other districts. Hollywood Boulevard is probably most famous for the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
For movie buffs, the Kodak Theatre, home of the Academy Awards, where the Oscars are awarded each year, is also located here. This street is mostly about the night scene, when these famous places are lit up and throngs of people come down here to walk around. There are some good restaurants in this area so you may want to combine a walk along the boulevard with a dinner out.
4. TCL Chinese Theater
The Chinese Theatre was built by Sid Grauman in 1927 and has had many titles over the years. After the last change of hands, the theater became known as the TCL Chinese Theater. This famous theater features Chinese design and decoration, and is home to the “autograph collection” of famous footprints and handprints in the forecourt.
5. Sunset Strip
Located in West Hollywood, the famous Sunset Strip is a portion of Sunset Boulevard. This area, between Hollywood and the high end neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, is very eclectic with restaurants, retail, and entertainment venues towered over by huge billboards. At night the street comes to life with neon signs and throngs of people walking the streets or cruising the strip. It is not the glitzy high end street it once was, but it still has plenty of character.
The Sunset Strip is still a place to see and be seen; where famous people sometimes hang out and those waiting to be discovered congregate. Some Hollywood celebrities do live in the area. If you are planning on visiting you may want to simply walk the strip and have a look around, do some shopping, and have a meal. However, the busy and exciting time, with the best chance to see celebrities is in the evening.
6. Hollywood Sign
The famous hillside Hollywood sign, is perhaps the most iconic site in Hollywood. The first sign, built with a much different intention than the one that exists today, was conceived in the 1920s. The original sign read Hollywoodland, advertising a new residential development. It was never intended to be a permanent sign and was not built to last throughout the decades. Eventually the sign was changed to simply Hollywood and became a recognized symbol of the city. You don’t need to drive far to see the sign, it is visible from all over during the day.
7. Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl is an outdoor concert area set in a natural amphitheatre. The area can hold up to 30,000 people, although this includes standing area as well. There is seating for approximately 20,000 people. The history of the Hollywood Bowl dates back to the 1920s and has attracted top performers over the years.
Today the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra performs here throughout the summer months with its “Symphonies Under the Stars”. There are also special evenings with the Hollywood Bowl’s tradition of fireworks. Performances cover everything from jazz and classical, to country and pop.
8. Capitol Records Building
The unique Capitol Records Building is a circular shaped multi story building. It was built in 1956, designed by Welton Becket, who intended it to look like a stack of vinyl records sitting on a turntable complete with a stylus on top. Although, the younger generation of music fans may not recognize what is now an obsolete piece of equipment. The building is a bit of an icon in Hollywood and can be appreciated with a simple drive by. A 1972 mural by local artist Richard Wyatt pays tribute to the artists and clubs that made Hollywood a center for innovative jazz.
9. El Capitan
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?
10. Egyptian Theatre
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.