There are lots of ways to have a unique experience in Los Angeles, but when you visit Hollywood, the real experience is about giving into the kitsch of it all and letting yourself be starstruck. Hollywood is the keeper of the city's glamorous film history, which makes up a large chunk of American pop culture. Not only can you see the mark of that history in the form of handprints on the Walk of Fame, but also in behind-the-scenes tours of studios and theatres. Here are some fun things to do in Hollywood from the museums to the hills.
Boasting a world-class sound system, the Dolby Theatre has seen many celebrities pass through its doors and has witnessed many unforgettable moments as the hosting venue of the Academy Awards since 2001. This is where Ellen Degeneres took one of the most famous selfies of all time in 2014 and where chaos unfolded when Faye Dunaway read out the wrong movie when announcing the winner of the Best Picture category in 2018. You can take a tour of the theatre and have your own red carpet experience that includes looking at a real Oscar statue and learning more about the theatre's history.
For something offbeat to do, the La Brea Tar pits offer a chance to take a break from Hollywood history and learn a little bit about the city's ancient history. These sticky pools of tar aren't exactly picturesque, but the science of how they work is interesting and you can learn more about how these pits trapped wooly mammoths during the Ice Age. It's free to walk around the pits outside, but you'll have to pay admission to get into the museum which houses the fossils and skeletons of animals recovered from the tar.
See a Show at the Troubador
Hollywood may best known for its movie and television stars, but there's quite a bit of music history too. Music lovers should do their best to get tickets for a show at the Troubadour, Los Angeles' most famous and storied concert venue. This venue has seen some incredible moments like the arrest of comedian Lenny Bruce in 1957 and the American debut of Elton John in 1970. You'll find the roster of upcoming shows on the Troubadour's official website. Keep an eye out for huge stars who often come back for their "Return to the Troubadour" shows.
Visit the Hollywood Heritage Museum
The small Hollywood Heritage Museum is housed in the former Lasky-DeMille Barn on Highland Avenue across from the Hollywood Bowl. The barn, built in 1895 on a citrus ranch on the corner of Selma and Vine, changed hands a couple of times before becoming the base where, in 1914, Cecil B. DeMille and Jesse Lasky produced the first feature film ever produced in Hollywood. The building was moved to the backlot at United Studios (now Paramount Studios) in 1926.
The barn was moved to its current location in 1983 and opened as the Hollywood Heritage Museum in 1985. It houses an archive of photos, props, and memorabilia from some of the earliest years of Hollywood filmmaking.
See Hollywood Relics at the Hollywood Museum
The Hollywood Museum in the Max Factory Building, also known as the Hollywood History Museum, is one of the best collections of movie memorabilia around from the silent film era to the present day. They have an extensive Marilyn Monroe display, Cary Grant's Silver Cloud Rolls Royce, Rocky Balboa's boxing gloves, Elvis' bathrobe, and Hannibal Lecter's cell from Silence of the Lambs. Downstairs they have also recreated the Max Factor hair and make-up rooms.
Stroll Along the Walk of Fame
In addition to great people-watching, a walk along the Walk of Fame is always enjoyable to see who you recognize among the singers, actors, radio personalities, and other celebrities honored with stars on Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. You can also measure your hands and feet against the imprints of your favorite stars from Fred Astaire to Kevin Hart in the Forecourt of the Stars in front of the Chinese Theatre.
There are lots of places with a view of the Hollywood Sign, but one of the most accessible spots to see the sign and take a photo is from the viewing bridges at the Hollywood & Highland complex right next to the Chinese Theatre. The shopping and entertainment center has all the big brand stores, plus great restaurants where you can enjoy the view of the sign like California Pizza Kitchen, Jinya Ramen Bar, and the lounge at the Lucky Strike bowling alley.
Take a Sightseeing Bus or Trolley in Hollywood
You'll need a car to get around Los Angeles, but you can also make sure you see all the sights by hopping on a bus tour. Los Angeles has a dizzying array of sightseeing tours by bus, trolley, or van, from the ubiquitous Hop On, Hop Off Tours to Movie Stars Homes Tours, Ghost and Crime Tours, and other specialty tours that depart from Hollywood. This is a great way to make sure you get to all the Hollywood sights, especially if you don't have a lot of time in Los Angeles.
If you ever wanted to be part of a live studio audience, the good news is that it won't cost you a cent. The bad news is that you have to be very lucky. TV taping tickets are based on a lottery system, which you can either apply for through an audience-management company like Audiences Unlimited or directly with the show's official website, which is how it works for Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.
With its pink-arched gateway, Paramount Studios is a Hollywood landmark and the filming location of legendary movies like Forrest Gump, Saturday Night Fever, King Kong, Ghost, Star Trek, and many many more. It's the only working studio that's actually in Hollywood that you can take a tour of. And if that's not exciting enough for you, there's always the possibility that you may spot a celebrity in between scenes!
The Museum of Illusions is a fairly new addition to Los Angeles' museum scene and like many places in L.A., it offers an interactive experience where visitors become a part of the installations. Every room in the museum offers a different 3D illusion, including an upside-down house where it looks like you're walking on the ceiling. It's a great place to take young kids, snap some novelty photos, and enjoy some wholesome fun.
The Guinness World of Records Museum on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard isn't just a fun stop on the main tourist strip, it also happens to be housed in the oldest standing movie house in Hollywood, originally built in 1913. The Hollywood Theatre got its iconic art-deco facade in 1938 and had one of the first neon marquees in the country. Inside, the museum houses a collection of photos, videos, and artifacts representative of the thousands of amazing and sometimes disgusting world records.
Hollyhock House is the first house Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the world's most famous architects, designed in Los Angeles as a home for the oil heiress Aline Barnsdall. It's located at Barnsdall Art Park, a 36-acre hill park in East Hollywood. and after being closed for years, this historic landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site is now open to anyone who wants to tour the home.
The Hollywood Wax Museum is one of the originals. Since 1965, it's housed the wax museum's ever-changing collection of wax movie stars and a permanent collection of past presidents and horror figures. The Hollywood Wax Museum has been on the boulevard far longer than its nearby neighbor, Madame Tussauds, which opened in 2009. However, Madame Tussauds has a much bigger collection of wax figures, which many agree are more lifelike than the Hollywood Wax Museum.
This 160-acre park in the Hollywood Hills is an excellent place for people-watching and you can take a break from the city to appreciate a little nature. You'll see all types of people from the super athletes running the hill trails and moms and nannies with strollers on the flatter cross-canyon trails. Winter and spring are the best times to go hiking in L.A. because the skies are clearer and there's more greenery. The summer and fall can be hot and hazy, so you'll be very sweaty and won't have as nice of a view.
If you're a music fan, Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood has a wide selection of used and new music on vinyl, cassette, CDs, and more. You could get lost in the store for hours exploring different music genres and it is generally a very cool place to be. The store is also known for hosting live music events from time to time, so keep your eye on their calendar.