Beyond Movie Magic – Hollywood’s Best Attractions

Hollywood's best attractions include this world famous sign ... photo by CC user Adrian104 on wikimedia

The mere mention of Hollywood, CA stirs notions of celebrity and fame.  And though the city is ground zero for movie making, tourists also find worthy distractions outside the film industry.  Whether star-spotting, shopping for fashion, or simply enjoying Hollywood hotels and restaurants, you’re sure to fill your next visit with relaxing entertainment.

Hollywood’s best attractions include this mix of celebrity inspired spots and other destinations found in the Los Angeles area.

Paramount Pictures

It is impossible to visit Paramount Pictures without feeling like part of filmmaking history.  The golden age of Hollywood envelopes you there, as you take-in more than 100 years of movie making magic. Not only that, but you’re likely to witness the next wave of cinematic excellence, as tours often happen upon filming underway.

Guided Paramount tours include two options.  The two-hour version takes small groups through the studio’s historic high points, while the 4 1/2 hour VIP tour adds greater depth and access to additional exhibits. Visitors to Hollywood’s longest operating studio benefit from local lodging, including the Hollywood Historic Hotel, a 1927 property that is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hollywood Bowl

There is no shortage of entertainment venues in and around Los Angeles, but the storied Hollywood Bowl is among the most noted destinations for theater, dance and music.  Tickets for concerts and other events are available from Scorebig and other vendors. In addition to shows, The Bowl operates a museum tracing the history of the iconic venue.

The Hollywood Bowl Museum is open leading-up to each nightly show, as well as during daytime hours year-round.  Visitors enjoy special limited engagement exhibits, which include features about entertainers and Bowl history.

Runyon Canyon

Travelers seeking to leave the beaten path find welcomed relief in the Hollywood Hills.  Runyon Canyon affords hiking trails and breathtaking urban views.  The open air destination is a stone’s throw from the city’s action below, but you’ll feel insulated as you enjoy the natural setting.  Like it’s sister property, the Travelodge San Francisco Airport North, in South San Francisco, Hollywood’s Travelodge Vermont Sunset provides affordable lodging for California travelers.  The facility is located just a few miles from the Runyon Canyon trails.

Hollywood Boulevard

The Los Angeles area gains a spot on the Forbes list of 2015’s preferred travel destinations.  LA’s number nine ranking joins San Francisco (#7) on the list, prompting ambitious travelers to fly in to San Francisco International Airport before meandering southward, toward Hollywood and other Southern California destinations.

Perhaps more than any other LA attraction, Hollywood Boulevard captures the glitz and glamour of celebrity life.  In fact, your experience on the Boulevard showcases several individual landmarks.  Grauman’s Chinese Theater, for example, features ornate architecture, as well as the famous hand and foot prints of Hollywood heavy-hitters. The neighboring Kodak Theater hosts the Academy Awards, and though it is now known as the Dolby Theater, a long-term contract cements the venue’s place as Oscar host for the next twenty years.

Iconic Eateries

No Hollywood travel compendium is complete without mention of some of the area’s noted restaurants.  The unrivaled California epicurean tradition is on display in Los Angeles at high-profile restaurants with star power of their own (think Gordon Ramsay).  The famous TV chef and other up-and-coming culinary talent push the envelope of West Coast dining, but the city also harbors select throwbacks to Hollywood’s golden age.

For an authentic experience in the heart of Hollywood, Musso and Frank Grill has been serving classic chops and roasts for nearly a century.  The 1919 restaurant is located on Hollywood Boulevard, near other popular attractions.  The Pacific Dining Car is another traditional alternative, serving patrons since 1921.  The operation now has two locations, including its original spot in a railroad car.  The fine-dining restaurant captures the spirit of Hollywood, offering 24-hr service to jet-setters and insomniacs alike.  Yamashiro Hollywood is more than fifty years old, serving sushi and other Asian fare with a superlative view of the city.  Gardens and Koi ponds complete the Japanese inspired dining experience.

Progressive Epicureans appreciate inventive Hollywood cuisine that is a departure from classic supper club fare.  New additions to the Hollywood food scene include Butchers and Barbers, operated by successful LA restauranteurs, the Houston brothers. And when you want to dine with the stars, try Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard or Spago in Beverly Hills.

Hollywood Sign

Steeped in Hollywood lore, the iconic 1923 structure is a must-see for visitors to the Los Angeles area.

Located just a few miles from Sunset Blvd, the remote placement of the sign discourages visitors from getting up-close and personal with the storied beacon of Hollywood excess and over the top celebrity lifestyles.  The mountainside site does draw daily visitors, but the best vantage points are from a distance.  Try these locations for the best views of the Hollywood Sign.

Wax Museums

As if the silver screen is not enough to preserve Hollywood history, many of the district’s important stars and scenes are immortalized with wax likenesses. Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood is a wax museum and tourist attraction worthy of a double-take.  That’s because its realistic statues will have you believing you’re actually keeping famous company.

Hollywood Wax Museum provides another venue for viewing celebrity facsimiles.  From Charlie Chaplin to Angelina Jolie, the wax exhibits are on-display 365 days a year.

Guided Tours

When in doubt, leave the driving to tour operators, who are well-prepared to show you Hollywood’s sights.  Open top bus tours originate on Hollywood Boulevard and generally run for 2-3 hours each.  As a rule, big-name tours have a polished, professional quality about them, while budget options can be hit-and-miss.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions before committing to your tour, especially if you have particular interests.

Though it’s tempting to reduce Hollywood’s appeal to a single note, the district offers attractions above and beyond the movie making industry.  World-class dining, hiking, and stage shows, for instance, furnish worthy sidebars to the area’s film production history.  If you’ve traveled to Hollywood and come away with helpful tips or must-see attractions, please share them with our readers!

Author Bio: Brad Lowry is an author, photographer and travel enthusiast.  When he’s not helping out as a Hipmunk contributor, he’s probably cooking-up his next warm weather getaway.

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