Hollywood, AKA Tinseltown, has gone through an evolution from the glamorous birthplace of the movie industry, through a seedy period the final quarter of the last century into a renaissance of renewed glamour in the new millennium. Hollywood is once again a thriving center of tourism and entertainment, although in the last couple years, the local police have given up trying to keep the homeless off Hollywood Blvd, so they keep a strong presence to keep the panhandling under control.
Take this virtual photo tour of Hollywood landmarks from the Hollywood La Brea Gateway east on Hollywood Boulevard to Gower (with a couple north and south detours), then West on Sunset to the Hollywood Athletic Club with a side trip to Paramount Studios on Melrose at the end. You can take the mobile version with you when you're touring so when you wonder about that interesting building or piece of public art you're seeing, you'll have the answer.
Gateway to Hollywood
The Gateway to Hollywood is at the southeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea in Hollywood.
The Gateway to Hollywood sculpture, officially called the Hollywood La Brea Gateway, is the stainless steel gazebo on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea. It is more commonly known around LA as the Four Ladies Statue. Created by production designer ("Vanilla Sky," "Laurel Canyon," "Tombstone, "Three Kings") and director ("Thirteen," "Lords of Dogtown") Catherine Hardwicke in 1993, the sculpture is a tribute to the multi-ethnic women of Hollywood. The four life-size silver ladies supporting the structure represent Mae West, Dorothy Dandridge, Anna Mae Wong and Dolores Del Rio.
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is the original home of the Academy Awards and has hosted many historic events as well as many celebrity guests over the years. It's worth a stop to check out the lobby and take a peak at the swimming pool with it's swirly bottom painted by David Hockney.
Disney Entertainment Center
El Capitan Theatre
Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Studio Store
The Ghirardellii Soda Fountain and Studio Store is located in the same building as the El Capitan Theatre at 6834 Hollywood Boulevard next to the Disney Entertainment Center. In addition to an old-fashioned ice cream soda fountain, they sell Disney merchandise.
Ghirardelli took over the Soda Fountain part of the operation in November 2013, redecorating and converting to their traditional menu.
This version of the Soda Fountain has replaced the old-fashioned ice cream parlor and soda jerks with their signature sundaes and a few shakes and floats, as well as a full coffee menu. The chocolate is Ghirardelli from San Francisco, and the ice cream is from Dreyer's, a Nestle company. The non-sweet menu has been eliminated, so no more Mickey Mouse PB&J or grilled cheese for the kids. The interior lost some of its charm in the makeover as well, but the Soda Fountain is chock full of sugary choices if that's what you're craving.
Although the Mickey Mouse sandwiches are gone, Disney fans may enjoy the Pin Trader Delight Sundae that comes with a limited edition Disney trading pin. Four pins are released at a time from different Disney movies and you can choose which one you want to go with your Sundae.
The right side of the shop is still the Disney Studio Store with Disney DVDs and merchandise and some children's costumes from various Disney movies. An interactive kiosk gives you access to the entire Buena Vista Home Entertainment catalog with old, new and hard to find Disney DVDs and videos. Check the Disney Store Hollywood Facebook Page to find out about new pin releases for the Pin Trader Delight Sundae and special Disney Studio Store events.
TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood
The TCL Chinese Theatre was formerly known as Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and sometimes now called simply the Chinese Theatre or the Hollywood Chinese Theatre. This most visited Hollywood landmark, with its Forecourt of the Stars, was one of several movie palaces on Hollywood Boulevard built by Sid Grauman. There's a fee to tour the theatre, but visiting the Forecourt of the Stars is free.
Read more about TCL Chinese Theatre. More Free Things to Do in Los Angeles
Dolby Theatre in Hollywood
The Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center next to ITC/Grauman's Chinese Theatre was the Kodak Theatre from 2001 to 2011. It is the permanent home of the Academy Awards as well as hosting other performances and events throughout the year. When it's not being prepared for the latest Oscar celebration, you can take a tour.
Read about the Dolby Theatre Tour.
Hollywood & Highland Center
Hollywood & Highland Center opened in 2001 as the first step in redevelopment of the run down Hollywood strip. It has become the center of modern Hollywood with restaurants, shopping, nightclubs and concerts at the Dolby Theatre and is connected to the upstairs cinema entrance at the back of the Chinese Theatre. TV shows are regularly taped right on the sidewalk in front of the complex, where you'll also find dozens of costumed characters available to pose for photos for tips.
The Babylon Courtyard at Hollywood & Highland Center was based on the ancient Babylon set from D.W. Griffith's 1916 epic "Intolerance." The columns topped with standing elephants and the archway over the viewing bridges are modeled after the film set.
The Hollywood Sign was originally an advertisement for a real estate development called Hollywoodland when it went up in 1923. After the last four letters fell down, it took on a different significance and the community became attached to the landmark. It became a symbol of the glamor of the film and television industry.
After falling into disrepair, the sign got a complete makeover in the late 1970's with various celebrities helping to foot the bill. Alice Cooper sponsored an O and Gene Autry paid to rebuild an L. The famed Hollywood landmark got its most recent paint job in 2006.
You can see the sign from many different places in Hollywood, but the easiest is probably from one of the viewing bridges at Hollywood & Highland Center.
Read more about the Hollywood Sign and the Best Views of the Hollywood Sign.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is one of the area's most visited landmarks. It was introduced in 1958 to add a little glitz to the neighborhood. Since then the number of stars has grown to over 2500 and new ones are added regularly.
Read all about the Hollywood Walk of Fame and how you can attend a Star Ceremony.
Magic Castle Hotel and Club
The Magic Castle (7001 Franklin, 1 block north of Hollywood Blvd. at Orange) is a three story 1908 Victorian mansion that is a private club for magicians and their guests. It is the headquarters of the Academy of Magical Art. You can't get in unless you know a member, but the Magic Castle Hotel is a member, so staying there can get you access to the Magic Castle.
The Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl at 2301 N. Highland Avenue is the largest natural amphitheater in the United States. To figure out how best to situate the stage, Soprano Anna Ruzena Sprotte and composer/pianist Gertrude Ross trucked in a piano to test the acoustics from a platform at the bottom of the hill.
The Hollywood Bowl is the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and hosts a variety of other musical performances each year. The on-site Hollywood Bowl Museum is open before performances and during the day year round.
For more information and photos, check out the Hollywood Bowl Visitors Guide.
Hollywood High School
The "Portrait of Hollywood" Mural was painted on the Hollywood High School Auditorium in 2002 by artist Eloy Torrez. The original Hollywood High School, built in 1906 one block south of Hollywood Boulevard on Highland, was damaged in the Long Beach earthquake in 1933 and had to be rebuilt.
Famous alumni of Hollywood High include Michey Rooney, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Carol Burnett, Ricky Nelson, Rita Wilson, Barbara Hershey, James Garner, Lawrence Fishburne, Scott Baio, Mike Farrell and many more.
The Hollywood Museum at 1650 Highland Avenue, just south of Hollywood Blvd, is located in an Art Deco pink and green marble building that used to be the Max Factor makeup studio and factory, opened in 1935. The bottom floor preserves Max Factor's original four makeup studios, decorated to compliment the coloring of blonds, red heads, brunettes, and what he dubbed "brownettes".
The three upper floors and basement are crammed full of movie props and costumes and tributes to film stars, including Marilyn Monroe and Bob Hope. The basement exhibits include props and costumes from a variety of horror movies and TV shows.
Hollywood Wax Museum
Since Madame Tussauds moved in down the street, the Hollywood Wax Museum has become kind of the homely older sibling. Most of the figures aren't nearly as realistic as Tussauds, and they're behind barriers, so you can't pose next to them. But it's kind of entertaining to see how bad they are, and they have some figures you won't find down the street.
More on Hollywood Wax Museum
Guinness World of Records Museum Hollywood
The Guinness World of Records Museum in Hollywood is totally kitschy and has a wonderfully gaudy marquee, which makes it a fun backdrop for selfies. If you've seen one somewhere else, you've probably don't need to go inside. If you haven't, and you're curious about the biggest, smallest, most, least of everything, you'll find it here.
More on the Guinness World of Records Museum
Ripley's Believe It or Not
Ripley's Believe it or Not is another of LA's Pop Culture Museums that wouldn't be high on my To Do list, but, like the Guinness Museum, some people are fascinated by the oddities of the world, from two-headed goats to historic torture treatments.
More on the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum
Pig'n Whistle Restaurant
The Pig'n Whistle Restaurant at 6714 Hollywood Blvd. This 1927 landmark was a variety of businesses over the years, but in 2000, it was restored to its original name and decor, reopening in 2001 once again as the Pig'n Whistle.
In between landmarks, Hollywood souvenir shops sell movie posters, plastic Oscar statues, T-shirts and other memorabilia.Some of the souvenir shops, like The Hollywoodland Experience, have become popular selfie stops themselves.
The Egyptian Theatre at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard was designed by architects Meyer & Holler for Sid Grauman. It opened in 1922 with the first-ever Hollywood movie premier, Robin Hood with Douglas Fairbanks. It was the first of many theatres built by Sid Grauman, who opened the Chinese Theatre a block west a few years later.
American Cinematique offers film-festival-style offerings all year long and tours of the Egyptian Theatre once a month. Visit the Egyptian Theatre web site for more information.
Musso & Frank
Musso & Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard is Hollywood's oldest restaurant, opened in 1919. The menu hasn't changed much since then, and some of the waiters have been around almost as long.
"You are the Star" Mural
The "You are the Star" mural on Wilcox, just south of Hollywood Boulevard, painted by Tom Suriya, puts you on the stage or screen with an audience of movie stars watching you.
Dolores del Rio Mural
The Dolores Del Rio Mural is on the east side of Hudson Avenue just north of Hollywood Blvd.
Warner Pacific Theatre
The Warner Pacific Theatre building was built as the Warner Brothers Theatre in 1927. Carol Burnett was an usherette here in 1951. The largest theatre built in Hollywood, it is currently undergoing restoration.
The Warner Pacific is rumored to be haunted by Sam Warner, who died in Los Angeles of a brain hemorrhage six months before it was completed.
Hollywood Toys and Costumes
The Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel at 1714 North Ivar was once the playground of Hollywood hot shots. It's now an apartment building for seniors.
Interesting moments in the Knickerbocker's history:
- 1920s - Rudolf Valentino is said to have arrived on horseback from his home in the Hollywood Hills to party in the hotel bar.
- 1936 - Beth Houdini, widow of famed escape artist Harry Houdini, held a seance on the rooftop on Halloween in a 10th and final attempt to try to reach the spirit of her dead husband.
- 1943 - police dragged actress Frances Farmer through the lobby wrapped in a shower curtain after she missed a meeting with her parole officer.
- 1948 - film Director D.W. Griffith dropped dead under the chandelier in the lobby.
- 1954 - Marilyn Monroe used to sneak in through the kitchen to meet her future husband, Joe DiMaggio, in the bar.
- 1962 - a well-known MGM costume designer, Irene Gibbons, slashed her wrists and jumped to her death from her 11th floor room.
Capitol Records Campus
The 13-story Capitol Records Building, just northeast of Hollywood & Vine in Hollywood, was designed by architect Welton Becket to look like a stack of 45 RPM records. Artists such as Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Nat "King" Cole and the Beatles have recorded here. At night the beacon on top spells out HOLLYWOOD in Morse code.
The 88 x 26-foot "Hollywood Jazz" mural was painted by artist Richard Wyatt, Jr. in 1990 and restored by him in 2013.
Hollywood & Vine Skytrackers
The Hollywood & Vine Skytrackers were designed by Tom Ruzika, a lighting designer for theatre, architecture and theme parks. They were installed as a public art project at the four corners of Hollywood and Vine in 1994. You rarely see all of them on at once, but even one of the blue lights criss-crossing the sky adds a little glitz to this famous intersection, now a hub of Hollywood nightlife.
Pantages Theatre The 1929 Art Deco Pantages Theatre was built by Greek immigrant and movie theatre magnate Alexander Pantages. The Academy Awards were held here in the 1950s. The elegant theatre continues to host touring Broadway productions.
The Henry Fonda Theatre
The Carter DeHaven Music Box opened in 1926 as a live stage theatre featuring Broadway-style musical comedies. It was a movie theatre for a while in the 40s, and was known as Hollywood Pix before it closed in the 1970s. It was restored to its original condition in the 1980s and rededicated as the Henry Fonda Theatre. It is most commonly used for live music performances.
The Hollywood Palladium
The Hollywood Palladium at 6121 Sunset Boulevard opened the night before Halloween in 1940 with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and his vocalists, including Frank Sinatra. The Palladium dance hall is still used for performance events. It was completely remodeled including a totally new facade in 2008 after Live Nation took over operation. It's dance floor accommodates over 7000 people.
The Cinerama Dome opened at 6360 Sunset Blvd in 1963 as a prototype for what was intended to be hundreds of geodesic dome theaters, but the others were never built. The 900 seat theater has a 32 by 86 foot curved screen. It is still under the auspices of Pacific Theatres, who have refurbished the original dome and surrounded it with a new building which includes additional theaters, a cafe bar and gift shop, offices, a gym and parking structure.
Amoeba Music in Hollywood
The Hollywood branch of San Francisco-based Amoeba Music is a Mecca for music lovers looking for old vinyl and new independent releases. You can get the latest stuff too, but it's more interesting browsing through music history. You might also find some of your favorite music legends and movie stars browsing in the bins beside you.
Amoeba is also known for its popular in-store concerts.
Crossroads of the World
Crossroads of the World was constructed in 1936 in the shape of a cruise ship with a rotating globe on top. It was the city's first shopping mall. It was built by the widow of crime boss Charlie Crawford after she demolished the original building on the site where her husband was shot and killed. It is currently an office complex.
Paramount Studios at 5555 Melrose Avenue was built in 1926 and is still a working film and television production studio. It is one of the studios in Hollywood where sitcoms and other television shows are still taped. You can get free tickets to be in the audience ar take a daytime or evening tour of the studios.
Read more about Attending a TV Show Taping or taking the Paramount Studios Tour.