Did a full day walking tour of LA. Our tour guide Damien was very knowledgeable & passionate about giving us all the information in a clear & concise way. The tour was very well planned & organised & was not tiring.
We did The Real Hollywood tour & loved it! The tour was at a great pace & the guide (Vicky) was very knowledgeable & made the tour fun. Thank you!
Stuart was so knowledgeable & was worth the day with him. I had been to LA multiple times before but this is the first time I had taken a tour – so thrilled to have this experience with my mom & sister. I would recommend this tour again & again.
We had an amazing DTLA Murder Mystery Ghost tour with Damien & Dante… thank you very much from the Italian girls… very interesting & funny… absolutely recommended!
This tour was awesome! Stuart is very knowledgeable, likeable & fun. The stops on the tour were very interesting & I learned a lot. I’ve been on quite a few tours of this nature & this was one of my favorites – highly recommend!
Did a walking tour of LA (LA in a Day). Vicky started us off with the Hollywood tour & Damien (who is also the owner) was our guide for the rest of the day. The entire day was awesome, I suggest this tour. There isn’t that much walking, to be honest. It’s very fun!
10 Things to Do in Hollywood
For most tourists coming to Los Angeles visiting Hollywood is the must-do activity, like going to Times Square when visiting New York, or the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Many wander along the Walk of Fame, hoping that this will give them an insight into this most storied of places, usually ending up at Hollywood and Highland (which to be fair is Los Angeles’ very own Times Square, complete with Superhero impersonators, CD-selling hustlers and open-top bus tour touts). However this can be a dispiriting experience and visitors often find little in the way of connection and understanding of the area and what happened here. So what we wanted to do with this list is to let you know of 10 things to do in Hollywood, excluding the Walk of Fame (since everyone knows it), that will give you a truly memorable and genuine Hollywood experience and will allow you to properly connect with the area and its rich history.
1. PARAMOUNT STUDIOS
Back in the 1920’s and 1930’s many of the big studios were based here, but one by one they all left, leaving Paramount as the only old-time Hollywood studio still based in the area. Visiting the studio must be somewhere on your list of things to see in Hollywood (although it is expensive). Way too many famous movies have been shot on the lot to mention here, but The Godfather (which was a Paramount movie) famously made use of the backlot, when Tom Hagen comes to town to make a studio chief an offer he really shouldn’t have refused.
2. HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY
Originally much bigger (half of it was sold to Paramount to build the studio’s backlot), Hollywood Forever Cemetery is still enormous and it’s chock full of famous dead people! From Douglas Fairbanks, the original “King of Hollywood”, all the way to Anton Yelchin, who tragically died in 2016, via important Los Angeles figures such as Harry Chandler, one time owner of the Los Angeles Times and a hugely important figure in L.A. history, the list is endless. Too morbid for you? Think again, it’s well worth a visit.
3. DO A TOUR OF HOLLYWOOD
The reality is many visitors to Hollywood are disappointed by it. Partly that’s because it’s almost impossible for this Los Angeles neighborhood to match up to the heightened expectations of most visitors. If you think about when you first became aware of the fact that there was a place called “Hollywood”, where movie stars live and play and movies and TV shows are made, it’s likely that you were still quite young, so it’s a place that you’ve likely been fascinated with for years. Partly it’s because a lot of people confuse it with Beverly Hills, thinking that it’s going to be glamorous and high-end, when in fact it’s never really been that. Most visitors don’t realise that to a certain extent the area is still frozen in time from its peak in the 1930’s, during the era known as the Golden Age of Hollywood.
The fact is there’s a ton of interesting – and important – history in Hollywood and for visitors willing to let go of their preconceptions a visit to the area can be very worthwhile. The best way to do that is on a tour like our Hollywood tour. Walking the streets with a guide allows for a much better exploration of the myth-making nooks and crannies of this historic neighborhood (many of which are hidden in plain sight) and facilitates a true understanding of why it was that this city suburb came to dominate the world’s entertainment industry and the imagination of countless millions of people.
4. ROOSEVELT HOTEL
You’ve heard of the Academy Awards (aka the Oscars), right? Probably at the top of the places you want to visit in Hollywood is the Dolby Theatre, where the annual awards bash is held now. Well, the Hollywood Roosevelt is where it all began in 1929 with the very first ceremony ever. There were only 250 guests and the whole thing lasted just fifteen minutes! Quite a change from the marathon event that we get now. Funnily enough even by the following year it had outgrown the Roosevelt, but this historic hotel (which opened in 1927) has hosted numerous stars since then, including Marilyn Monroe, who called the hotel home for several months, Montgomery Clift and Clark Gable amongst many others. It’s been beautifully restored and has a great bar in the old lobby. Oh! And it’s almost opposite the Dolby Theater.
5. TCL CHINESE THEATRE
It’s one of the most visited attractions in Los Angeles, it’s where many stars have had their hands and feet set in concrete and it still hosts 3-4 movie premieres a month (check here to see if there’s one during your visit). The entrepreneur behind the Chinese Theatre was Sid Grauman and, in addition to creating the concrete footprint attraction (which was inaugurated at the opening of the theatre, in 1927), he also invented the red-carpet premiere itself. The historic auditorium still shows movies – why not go see one and save yourself the price of the tour?
6. BEST VIEWPOINTS FOR HOLLYWOOD SIGN PHOTOS
Instantly recognizable, it’s an icon of Los Angeles and almost everyone who comes here wants to see the Hollywood Sign, but where is the best spot to get that all-important photo? There are several good spots – bearing in mind that you can’t visit the sign itself (for some reason L.A. seems unable to create a good visitor attraction from its most famous landmark). Griffith Park has many good viewpoints (the Hollywood Sign is actually in Griffith Park), including some great angles from the Griffith Observatory, and Beachwood Canyon is a popular spot too. If you have the time and energy (it takes at least two hours of walking) you can get an Instagram-worthy shot of Hollywood and Los Angeles from behind the sign itself (the closest that you can get to it). Probably the best hike to the Hollywood Sign is the Wonder View Trail, which goes past the Wisdom Tree and over Cahuenga Peak. It’s quite steep in parts, but very picturesque and well worth the effort.
7. HOLLYWOOD HERITAGE MUSEUM
Filmmaking in Hollywood is now accepted as beginning with In Old California, in 1910, the first movie to be shot in Hollywood itself. The film industry at that time was still young, but some ambitious people were beginning to realize that there were immense amounts of money and fame to be made from it. Within a couple of years film production companies were rapidly proliferating in the small country town, which had only just been annexed by the city of Los Angeles. Drawn by the year round moviemaking-friendly weather and varied scenery, amongst other reasons, they set up their studios all over the area. The Hollywood Heritage Museum has preserved one of those early studios (which was a converted barn). See it to get an idea of what it was like in those early, pioneering, days.
8. HORSE-RIDE OR HIKE THE HOLLYWOOD HILLS
Bearing in mind that the Hollywood Hills are slap-bang in the middle of the second largest city in the United States, it’s surprising how much of an unspoiled wilderness feel the area has retained. One of the best ways of experiencing it is by saddling up and riding a horse from Sunset Ranch through the ravines and over the peaks.
Another way to do it is our Mount Hollywood Hike. It starts in Griffith Park, at the Greek Theatre, and from there goes all the way to the top of Mount Hollywood, which has some of the best views of L.A. in the city. After that we walk down to Griffith Observatory, which is definitely a must do if you’re visiting.
9. BARNSDALL PARK AND HOLLYHOCK HOUSE
Many people don’t realize that Los Angeles has a very rich architectural heritage. You can find beautiful buildings scattered throughout the city, especially in downtown, but also in many other areas – including Hollywood. Frank Lloyd Wright, one of America’s greatest architects, actually lived in the city for a while and completed several buildings here. One of the most famous is Hollyhock House, which he designed for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall. A very interesting lady herself, Ms Barnsdall reportedly fell out with the celebrated architect (who was assisted extensively on this project by Rudolph Schindler) and ultimately, in 1927, she gave the house and grounds to the city of Los Angeles which turned it into a public park.
10. WALK DOWN CAHUENGA BLVD TO SUNSET BLVD
As mentioned here before, Hollywood is in many ways little changed since the 1930’s, as first the big studios moved out and then much of the residential areas became lower income, meaning that whatever development did take place was small scale and piecemeal. However that’s changed recently as property prices in Los Angeles spiral ever upwards and developers finally realize what’s obvious to anyone looking at a map of L.A. – Hollywood, which was once a suburb, is at the center of the expanded city (and has been for decades). So new developments, including apartment towers, hotels and offices, are springing up on an almost monthly basis. With new, better off, residents moving in trendy cafes, bars and shops are following.
The whole gentrification debate is better saved for another time, but to see a nice part of the neighborhood that’s less touristy (and that’s one of the most difficult things to do here) take a walk down Cahuenga between Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. Once on Sunset take a left and walk east. On your right you’ll pass several of the original Hollywood Studios, Sunset and Gower and Sunset and Bronson. Originally these were the Warner Brothers and Columbia (now Sony) lots (for more on this check our self-guided Hollywood and Vine tour). Now Netflix have moved onto the old Warner Brothers lot as they ramp up production of their own films and TV shows. Once again Hollywood, the entertainment industry – or should that be the content industry – is being disrupted. Is Netflix’s arrival here be a symbol of things to come? Perhaps, but it’s surely instructive that even for these new tech companies, if they want to be in the entertainment industry, they have to be in Hollywood.
If you have any feedback on our list of things to do in Hollywood, or if you have some recommendations of your own, please email us and let us know. We’ll be sure to take it into account.
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