Hollywood 101

So Many Hollywood Attractions, So Little Vacation Time!

Strategizing Your Hollywood Vacation

Grauman's TheaterWow, how do we best tell you what the locals know about Hollywood attractions? For one thing, we are not going to try and compete with what are some terrifically cool and helpful websites produced by others (with very deep pockets), but instead will introduce you to them and give you a few quick pointers, later on this page.

There is so much to say that you need a few websites to do it justice. We see our job as to give you a bit of perspective, as if we were in your living room thinking through your vacation plans about which Hollywood attractions are most important.

This leads to some questions to be asked in strategizing your Hollywood vacation. But first, perhaps some Hollywood History would be of interest; that history includes mention of the major movie studios in and around Hollywood. Our page will give you a brief history, along with some information about the major studios.

An Overview

Hollywood is part of the city of Los Angeles, but obviously has a distinct identity. The most visible Hollywood attractions and landmarks are the theaters and media-oriented destinations like the Kodak Theater where American Idol and the Academy Awards are often held; we will put you in touch with those shortly. One of the most famous stretches of road (along with Rodeo Drive in neighboring Beverly Hills) is the Sunset Strip.

The Sunset Strip runs along Sunset Blvd west from say Highland Avenue into West Hollywood (which is a separate city). But there are industrial districts within Hollywood where the real work is done. You’ll find Paramount Studios, the most well-known full-blown studio still in the heart of town (a lot of Los Angeles studios are not in Hollywood, but are nearby).

Universal Studios is in North Hollywood (also the city of Los Angeles) and includes the theme park as well as a working studio. This is one of the favorite Hollywood attractions, with something for everybody.

Warner Bros. is just down the hill from Universal. You’ll also find many smaller studios for post production, photography, audio recording, etc. There are prop rental warehouses and headquarters for production companies.

Many celebrities live in the Hollywood Hills, which divide Hollywood, Beverly Hills and other portions of central Los Angeles with the Valley on the north (Malibu is another favorite residential community, especially the private-access beachfront Malibu Colony).

Mulholland Drive is one of the highest Hollywood attractions, a scenic highway that runs generally along the top of the hills, and providing vistas for countless movies, record album covers and photographs. Homes in the hills offer stunning views of the city, and all the way to Catalina Island on a clear day!

If you’re interested in getting a glimpse of the real working Hollywood, drive along Santa Monica Blvd. and the side streets within several blocks of Highland Avenue. The interiors of some of those funky old structures have been totally rebuilt into state-of-the-art facilities to serve the TV and film industry. We’ve got some additional information on the larger studios like Universal Studios Hollywood,

Now, what about planning your Hollywood vacation? We want to help you plan it and put you in touch with some good resources. Are you a fully devoted fan of Hollywood, or is the visit to Hollywood just a small part of the bigger picture? If you are really drawn to the entertainment indusry, you should get a hotel near the Hollywood attractions; perhaps one of the two nice hotels adjacent to Universal Studios Hollywood or any one of the many others offered on the accomodations page of the Discover Los Angeles website.

Between walking and public transit, you can cruise Sunset Blvd, Hollywood Blvd, Melrose Avenue, Santa Monica Boulevard (Sheryl Crow fans can watch the sun come up) and Highland Avenue among many other cool and funky areas. You will find some of the most interesting Los Angeles shopping in these neighborhoods. Be careful at night; there are some areas that are best visited during the day. Ask your hotel concierge or a local cop if in doubt.

How Much Hollywood Would You Like?

Hollywood is definitely an exciting and intriguing place. It really is worth some time out of your vacation, since it plays such a huge role in our culture and if just very interesting. Yet, FYI, there is only a rather small percentage of locals who spend a great deal of their time and energy on Hollywood attractions. We see it in the news and in the media, but most of the 10 million folks in the L.A. basin are more likely to think about the beach, at least in the summer. I only say that to reduce pressure on you to spend more time on it than you want out of a precious vacation week.

So if you are not a big entertainment industry fan, you don’t need to feel guilty, or that you’re missing out on a lot, if you spend only a small part of your vacation on Hollywood.

Hollywood Sign

If you are mildly interested in Hollywood attractions, consider a studio tour and hit Universal Studios, drive through town and maybe stop at a handful of landmarks such as the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Kodak Theater (if you pass the initial American Idol auditions you’ll spend some time in this building) and the nearby entertainment retail projects, Capitol Records building (which you can see from the 101 Freeway), drive past Paramount Studios and along Sunset between the 101 Freeway and the 405 Freeway (or a portion thereof if time is limited).

You can use our sources to locate a couple of your favorite celebrity homes and/or cruise through Beverly Hills. Spend a chunk of one day on this; longer if you do a studio tour. This would allow you to take home some nice photos and memories of a world that is as imaginary as Disneyland at times.

For young adults, there are a lot of popular restaurants and clubs that don’t directly scream “We’re in Hollywood!” These joints could be in a lot of other major cities. But it happens that there are many such choices in Hollywood and nearby, and they attract people in at night and on weekends from the whole area. You can feel like you’re in rush hour traffic on the 101 Freeway on a Saturday night. Hollywood is as busy at 2 am as Denver is at 10 pm, maybe busier. So check out the nightclub scene with the links we provide below if that’s of interest but don’t expect that to satisfy the urge to experience the Hollywood entertainment world.

If you’ve come to really immerse yourself in Hollywood, there are attractions aplenty for you. I’d expect you to hit multiple studio tours—Universal, Warner Bros, Paramount. Buy the VIP tours if you have the money. You will get a lot out of that! Make a list of the landmarks you’d like to visit in advance; we’ll help you with that shortly. You could spend literally days driving celebrity homes.

You can put in a little advance effort and obtain tickets to a TV show; sometimes you can get tickets at the last minute. The TV show taping is definitely worthwhile for a true Hollywood fan, especially if you’ve never seen how it is done. Have lunch at one of the restaurants on the Sunset Strip. Hit CityWalk in the evening.

Go to the Hollywood Bowl for a concert; this is a very popular Hollywood attraction for locals! We do occasionally see a celebrity at the Bowl and other concert venues. Cruise the side streets around Santa Monica Blvd and La Brea Blvd and Highland Avenue to see real Hollywood industry businesses doing their daily thing.

Planning Ahead

Decide ahead of time how many days you can allocate to Hollywood and related destinations. You could easily spend 3-4 days, and up to a week if you prefer a leisurely pace (and enjoy seeing every location, every tour, every opportunity).

Now, as part of your research, you’ll want to visit a handful of great websites that offer very detailed information about Hollywood. For a very helpful overview, along with good pages of recommendations and even short videos, visit the main page of the Discover Los Angeles site. This is the official city visitor’s site and it is quite good. You’ll find that it has pages for transportation, hotels and scoop on the whole Los Angeles area—not just Tinsel Town.

Another site of great interest to those with a real gravitation to the entertainment business is Seeing Stars. Surf a few pages. Here is where you’ll learn more about Hollywood attractions and history, filming locations, weird facts, restaurants where you are guaranteed to see your favorite star (and they’ll ask you to come spend the evening with them back at their estate. Yeah, that’s it! And they’ll have you visit them on the set of their latest movie. Uh, yeah. It will be really cool, ya’ know?)

A third site we think is worthwhile also covers much of Los Angeles, but does have some good specifics on Hollywood. We already gave you links to another page on this site: visit L. A. Touristfor activities, nightclubs, recommended driving tours and a lot more. You’ll see that this site embraces fully the capitalistic and marketing mindset that is the entertainment business; there are lots of ads on the site but don’t let that throw you.

Closing Thoughts

In summary, think about how much time you have to spend on your Hollywood experience, and how deeply you want to immerse yourself (and your traveling companions). You may think you need several days when you are planning things at home, and find after a day or two that you are ready for the many other vacation opportunities in SoCal.

Prioritize the list, with some Hollywood attractions listed as optional, depending on how you feel on the trip. Even one or two good days would give you a taste, if planned carefully. Two to four days would be a lot of time and would really scratch your itch. A few folks will want even longer; you know who you are…