Looking to experience movie magic? Go to Hollywood, of course.
The entertainment capital of the USA shines bright in the West Coast city of Los Angeles, California, about 12 kilometers northeast of downtown. What many visitors don't realize, however, is the entertainment industry extends well beyond central Hollywood to celebrity playgrounds like West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Most of the major film studios lie outside Hollywood proper as well. This guide rounds up all of Tinseltown's must-see attractions, from the famed Hollywood sign to movie studios where you just may hear a film director yell, "Lights, camera, action!"
Four Hollywood Must-Sees
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street, more than 2,500 entertainers are honored with stars embedded in the sidewalk. Plus you'll see stars for fictional characters like Mickey Mouse and Godzilla. To find your favorite celebrities, use the official website's star search feature, or download the app on iTunes.
TCL Chinese Theatre (originally Grauman's Chinese Theatre)
If any single building symbolizes Hollywood and its legends, it's the Chinese Theatre. Showman Sid Grauman opened his Chinese dragon-adorned movie palace in 1927 and hit upon a brilliant promotional idea to have famous actors leave imprints of their hands and feet in cement in the theater's forecourt.
Perched atop Mount Lee, the 13.7-meter-tall letters spelling H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D are visible from all over town. The view from the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue makes for a fine photo. Hang around and explore the outdoor three-story shopping mall in the heart of Hollywood or take a tour of the Dolby Theatre, which hosts the annual Academy Awards ceremony. Then head to the Griffith Observatory, located on the side of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park. The sign is distant, but on clear days you'll achieve enviable results with a zoom lens.
Musso & Frank Grill
Step inside Hollywood's oldest surviving restaurant, open since 1919, and it's easy to imagine one-time regulars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall sipping martinis in a high-backed red leather booth. Celebrities still frequent the elegant grill with its lofty ceilings, dark wood and an elegant oak bar, a setting fitting for a film noir scene. Red-jacketed, bow-tied waiters circulate through the dining rooms, serving steaks, seafood and signature martinis.
Stars along the Walk of Fame spanning 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard
Four Hollywood Insider Tips
Experience a movie at a grand Hollywood theater
On Hollywood Boulevard, the lavish Spanish colonial-style 1926 El Capitan Theatre screens the newest Disney movies, many of them preceded by a live stage production featuring the movie's characters.
Attend a live studio taping of a TV show
Late-night talk show "Jimmy Kimmel Live" often welcomes big-name guests and tapes in a studio next to Hollywood's El Capitan Theatre; free tickets are offered via 1iota.com. TV comedies and talent competition shows tape at studios such as Warner Bros. and CBS Television City. Tickets are available through Audiences Unlimited and On Camera Audiences. You'll want to reserve them in advance as the free tickets can be taken quickly.
See the Sunset Strip
Head a few kilometers southwest to the Sunset Strip – Sunset Boulevard roughly between Havenhurst and Sierra drives – where you can catch rock bands and comedians at legendary clubs like the Whisky a Go Go and the Comedy Store.
Catch a concert at the Hollywood Bowl
A natural hillside amphitheater, the famed Hollywood Bowl has hosted artists ranging from Frank Sinatra to the Beatles. During summer, the concert venue presents an impressive lineup of live music, including classical, jazz and major pop rock acts. Bring your own picnic dinner and a bottle of wine (permitted for most performances).
El Capitan Theatre couples new Disney movies with live stage productions
Movie Studio Tours
In 1915, Universal Studios Hollywood began the then-novel practice of giving the public a behind-the-scenes peek at its movie factory. Today, Universal has mostly morphed into a theme park with thrill rides and shows, but its classic Studio Tour tram still offers a fun overview of moviemaking.
More focused on the details of film and TV production is the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. Aboard an oversized golf cart, you're whisked around the studio's facility in Burbank, visiting outdoor sets, a working soundstage and a museum packed with original movie props and costumes. In the same vein, the Paramount Pictures Studio Tour (near central Hollywood) and Sony Pictures Studio Tour (about 12 kilometers southwest of Hollywood in Culver City) offer small-group walking tours that explore their respective studio lots.
Behind-the-scenes tours at Universal Studios' Hollywood lot