What Is Hollywood and Highland?
The simple answer is that it's where two streets intersect: Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. At that location, you'll find an active, three-story, shopping/dining entertainment complex, a twenty-first-century landmark that constantly tips its hat to the past.
From references to D. W. Griffith's 1916 film Intolerance in the multi-story "gate" at the end of the courtyard and the elephant statues surrounding it to the stories captured in the "Road to Hollywood," this place celebrates the film industry's past. And for that alone, it's fun to visit. You could spend almost an hour just reading all the stories and trying to guess whose they are.
Hollywood and Highland is also a good base to start a walking tour, of Hollywood Boulevard and the best place to park while doing it. Nearby you can also see the Chinese Theater, the Dolby Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Here's a tip to save money: parking is cheaper with validation. Even if you didn't buy anything, you'll save money if you get a coffee or bottle of water at Starbuck's. Some shops will validate if you ask nicely, even if you didn't buy anything there, but do be polite about it.
You'll often find street performers on the sidewalk in front of Hollywood and Highland, dressed up as everything from Batman to Shrek. If you take a picture with them, keep in mind that they earn their living doing this and give them a tip.
Road to Hollywood and the Babylon Courtyard
The Road to Hollywood starts at street level and runs up the steps. It's a tribute to Hollywood's ability to transform even the most ordinary-seeming of individuals. Follow it up and across the courtyard.
When the Road to Hollywood reaches the courtyard, it transforms into something a bit like the Yellow Brick Road; only this one is red and black. Along its length, stories of Hollywood wannabes are inlaid in mosaic tile, from a performing lion to a welfare mother-turned-superstar. The only credits are "Actress" or "Director." You'll recognize some, but not others. They're all fun to read and a great reminder of why Hollywood holds such a prominent place in some people's version of the American Dream.
The Road crisscrosses the courtyard a few times and then heads toward the back of the complex, where you can get a good view of the Hollywood Sign.
The Babylon Courtyard
The Babylon Courtyard and the gate that towers over it draw their inspiration from the elaborate set for the film Intolerance made by director D. W. Griffith in 1916. If you thought some of today's films were long, this one was a 3.5-hour epic that followed four storylines over several centuries.
Curbed LA called Hollywood and Highland the ugliest building in Los Angeles shortly after it was completed. That may have been a bit of hyperbole, but if you step back and take a look, you might agree. The thing is, you never do that unless you're an architecture critic. Instead, you're more likely to get caught up in all the references to Hollywood's glamorous past and its titillating excesses.
A Movie Star's Story on the Road to Hollywood
This is just one of the many stories on the Road to Hollywood, but one that typifies the thrill of early-day Hollywood. A few other stories we like:
"I realized that if I didn't do something pretty soon, I was going to be digging ditches in Chicago for another twenty years. So I came out here. I got work as a security guard for movie stars, and they helped me find an agent. I was just about to give up when I got my first part. Now I've got an Oscar nomination." - Actor
"I bought a camera in a pawnshop and eventually managed to become a Life magazine photographer. At age fifty-seven I broke into films, becoming the first African American to produce and direct at major studio movie." - Director
"You've got to come to Hollywood," they said. "Movies is the biggest business in the world. Safety razors is first, corn plaster second, and movies third. So I went. - Cowboy star
This over-sized piece of furniture is the most popular spot for a photograph at Hollywood and Highland.
The term "casting couch" originated with unscrupulous casting agents, whose office furniture could be used for sexual activity with aspiring actresses looking to get an advantage. The "cast" on this particular couch is more likely to be a gaggle of friends taking selfies that end up on social media within minutes.
This spot is the end of the Road to Hollywood. Looking out beyond the casting couch, you'll see the Hollywood Sign, another icon of Hollywood's long-lasting allure.
The arch frames a terrific view of the Hollywood Sign.
Depicted on its facade are Assyrian gods Ashur and Nisroch (the one with the eagle's head). Walkways cross the center of the arch, and if you look very carefully, you can see the white swath of the Hollywood sign, just above the top walkway.
The Babylonian set for which the original gate was designed featured thousands of scantily-clad extras - a scandal at the time. Their costumes may have been deemed "scanty" at the time, but today's tourists sometimes wear far less.
Red Carpet Stairway
On Oscars night, the stars arrive right out front and walk up a real red carpet to the awards ceremony, but the rest of us have to make do with this red-tiled tribute. Flanking the Grand Staircase are lighted columns bearing the name and year of every Academy Award-winning Best Picture since 1927. And the empty spaces should carry them well into the 21st Century.
In case you've watched the ceremony on television and are thinking it doesn't look the same, you're right. Before awards night, draperies are hung to hide the storefronts, and lots of lighting is brought in to set the scene. Rumor has it that the steps were specially designed to make it easier for all those richly-clad celebrities to walk on in ultra-high-heeled shoes.
Built as the permanent home of the Academy Awards in 2001 and initially called the Kodak Theatre, the Dolby Theatre is one of the largest entertainment halls in the country, specially constructed to facilitate the annual, televised awards extravaganza. The first Oscars ceremony was held there in 2002, just across the street from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where the first-ever Academy Awards were given out in 1929.
It's also is the site for other awards ceremonies. In the offseason, it is used for concerts and traveling shows like the Chinese-themed extravaganza Shen Yun. When it's not busy for other things, you can tour the Dolby Theatre.
And just so wondering about it doesn't keep you up at night, it's said that the Kodak Company paid a record $75 million for the naming rights, but then they sold them in 2012, which is why it's now called the Dolby Theatre instead. News reports were vague, but rumor has it that Dolby paid "substantially above" what Kodak's annual rate.
What You Need to Know About Hollywood and Highland
Hollywood and Highland is open daily, but hours for its businesses vary. There is no entrance fee, but you will have to pay for parking. The parking lot accepts validations and offers very low rates for the first few hours.
If you want to tour the Dolby Theatre or the Chinese Theater, there is an extra fee for that. Browsers should allow a half hour and shoppers could stay several hours
The best time to go is in the afternoon or evening, especially in summer.
Before and during the Academy Awards, streets in the entire Hollywood and Highland area are closed. Don't even think about trying to drive there then. If you must go, use the LA Metro subway to the Hollywood/Highland or Hollywood/Vine stop. You can get this year's date for the Oscars on the Academy website.
Getting to Hollywood and Highland
Hollywood and Highland's location is obvious: It's at the intersection of Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave. Its official address is 6801 Hollywood Boulevard. You can get more information about it on the Hollywood and Highland Website
You can drive there and park in their underground structure or take public transit. Just steps away from the entrance to the complex is the Los Angeles MTA (Metro Transit Authority) Red Line.