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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As the main hall of the Los Angeles Music Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is home to some of the best musical performances in the LA area. It was built utilizing a “total design” aesthetic, meaning that every detail from the carpeting to the engineering was coordinated for uniformity of design. Historically its halls and stage have been home to everything from the LA Philharmonic to the Academy Awards, though these days it’s the site of the LA Opera and Glorya Kaufman dance performances (which often brings in traveling dance troupes.)
Excellent acoustics create resonating sounds across its four-tiers of seating, while crystal chandeliers and wide stairways add to the ambiance of elegance. The Los Angeles Music Center that it is part of it is one of the three largest centers for performing arts in the United States, and some of classical music’s greatest performers have graced its stage.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), set within L.A.'s Hancock Park beside the La Brea Tar Pits, is an exciting place to explore both the world of art and the art world. Here you can purchase a ticket to the latest big-budget show (like lily-pad-loving Monet or local anti-hero Tim Burton), take a comfy seat in the busy lecture/movie hall, or immerse yourself in rare and varied collections.
Much of LACMA's art represents the area’s diverse citizenry. Mayan sculptures honor the city's huge Mexican community; the spiral-path Asian wing reflect three of L.A.’s most influential populations — Japanese, Korean and Chinese; Persian tile-works and intricate paintings allude to the city’s thriving Beverly Hills community of Iranian expats; and mysterious carvings and totems from Tonga, Papua New Guinea and more are a nod to L.A.’s often-direct-flight proximity to the islands of the Pacific Rim.
The Hard Rock Cafe has become a center of international pop music and nostalgia, presenting some of the industry’s best memorabilia alongside service of classic American meals. What began in London in 1979 has since grown to be present in over 60 countries, each presenting its own unique style. This location in particular has quite a rock star heritage — in fact, it’s right beside the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As such it routinely has access to some of music’s best memorabilia across all genres, including The Doors, Metallica, and Ray Charles (to name a few!)
At 20,000 square feet in size, the Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood is one of the largest as well. There is a live music area regularly featuring fantastic performers, with a bar, retail store, and interactive touchscreens which allow visitors to experience the other Hard Rock locations worldwide.
Los Angeles’s Broadway Theater and Commercial District is the first and largest theater district in the United States. Los Angeles has always been a performing arts and entertainment hub, and the artistic area was listed and entered into the National Register of Historic Places. It consists of twelve historic movie theaters lining six blocks of Broadway Street. The theaters were built as early as 1910, when Los Angeles was comparatively quite small in population. By 1931, when a few of the theaters were completed, Los Angeles had the highest concentration of cinemas in the world.
Walking along Broadway Street, with the many marquees and lavishly decorated exteriors, one gets a true sense of the era frozen in time. Routine efforts are made to ensure the conservation of the area architecture and cinematic palaces and to keep the history alive in the district. Though these days, most of the theaters are used for special events or markets rather than showings of films.
Los Angeles is one of the cities closely tied to the fashion world, and although the area in the city known as the Fashion District is largely catering to the industry it's also a tourist attraction that's partly open to the public.
LA's Fashion District is a hive of design activity – more than 100 blocks where fabric makers and wholesale clothing distributors occupying huge warehouses. These places don't sell to the general public, but there are some retail businesses in the neighborhood – and even some that are typically only open to the industry have special sale days once each month during which they sell off samples.
Inside the boundaries of the Fashion District are two popular tourist areas. The Los Angeles Flower District, where you'll find hundreds of wholesale flower shops (even if you're not shopping, it's gorgeous scenery); and Santee Alley, a bustling pedestrian street lined with shops that's known for its bargains.
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.
Stretching from Santa Monica Beach all the way up into the neighborhood of Brentwood, this palm tree-lined street is a Los Angeles local’s favorite for shopping and strolling. Breezes from the nearby beach lend to its casual yet chic feel. Known for its open-air boutique shopping, both upscale and bohemian clothing and jewelry, as well as furniture and home goods, can be found here. The relaxed vibe combined with a variety of independent stores makes this a unique shopping destination.
The avenue is also home to some of the best restaurants in Los Angeles, including Father’s Office — a gastropub famous for its delicious house-made burgers. You can also find coffee shops, bakeries, salons, and a theater. Despite being one of the trendier shopping destinations, the area still maintains its original neighborhood feel.