Things to Do in Hollywood: Top Dozen Sights

The Hollywood Sign
The Hollywood Sign. Betsy Malloy Photography
  • 01 of 14

    Take a Studio Tour

    Warner Bros. StudioTour
    Warner Bros. StudioTour. Courtesy of Warner Bros Studios

    These pages are a place-by-place list of the most fun and popular things to do in Hollywood, interesting activities and best sights, from Hollywood Boulevard to the Sunset Strip. Where did this list come from? It's a compilation of the most popular things to do and some of the author's top picks, but readers of this website voted for the things they like best, so the order is theirs.

    Touring the Movie Studios

    The backlot tour at Universal Studios is fun for what it is, if you want to go behind the scenes at a real, working movie studio, try a different studio. At several of the working studios in and around Hollywood, you can reserve a guided tour that will take you onto the back lot, behind the scenes and often onto sound stages and sets. This is the way to see how the real Hollywood works, at least a little.

    Pros and Cons

    Going behind the scenes is fun, but these are working studios that (for the most part) aren't open on weekends - and the real work always takes precedence...MORE over the tour, so some sets may be off-limits when you visit. Don't expect to see a celebrity on your tour (although some do) and for some of them, be prepared for a lot of walking.

    More About Hollywood Studio Tours

    If you're convinced you want to go, check out the Go Los Angeles Card, which includes some studio tour admissions.

    If you need more information, check the Complete Guide to Studio Tours. It will give a summary of each one, what to expect, when to go and how to get reservations.

  • 02 of 14

    Guided Tours: See the Stars' Homes?

    Tour bus and Hollywood Wax Museum
    Tour Bus at the Hollywood Wax Museum. Richard Cummins / Getty Images

    You'll find a couple of tour companies vying for your business along Hollywood Boulevard. "See the stars' homes!" they promise.

    Your imagination may conjure up images of your favorite actress walking out the front door, or a popular actor walking the dog, but the reality can be quite different. Few (if any) modern movie stars live in Hollywood these days. They're all up on their Montana ranches, or in Malibu, tucked away behind locked gates and security checks. What you will see are places where someone famous may have lived years ago, along with a lot of hedges and gates that your tour guide will say block the view of so-and-so's house.

    A quick scan of online reviews of those tours turns up lots of phrases like "boring," "inaccurate," "disappointing" and "rip off." Read more about the tours here.

    That's the bad side of Hollywood tours, now here's the good one. A few tour companies provide some really fun, informative tours...MORE of Hollywood that are worth your time. They include:

    • Dearly Departed Tours: This is one tour company that prides itself on the accuracy of its facts, as well as keeping you entertained. They offer a Hollywood Movie Tour, a Tragical History Tour and if you're intrigued by the Tate and LaBianca murders carried out by the Manson Family, they have a tour that's dedicated to that.
    • Felix in Hollywood: This walking tour that takes in the lore, history and sites that that made Hollywood famous.
    • Hollywood Forever Cemetery Tour: The stars at Hollywood Forever aren't likely to come out to greet you - this is their last resting place - but a list of those who are buried here reads a lot like a who's who of Hollywood history: Cecil B. DeMille, Rudolph Valentino, John Huston. A tour of the lovely grounds gives a great chance to pay your respects to them.
    • Paramount Studio Tour: It's the only working studio left in Hollywood proper, and their walking tour lets you get a peek behind the scenes.
  • 03 of 14

    Be In a Studio Audience

    Gates at Paramount Studios
    Gates at Paramount Studios. veroyama / Flickr

    How fun! With just a little bit of planning, you can be part of a studio audience while they're filming a sitcom, reality show or game show. Even better? It's free - and you get bragging rights when you get back home and watch the episode with your friends.

    Quite a few popular (and not-so-popular) shows use studio audiences and they'll let you in on the fun. It takes a little advance planning, but it's well worth it: We had so much fun watching a Becker filming back in its day that we're still boring our friends talking about it.

    Pros and Cons

    Being in a studio audience will give you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at how television programs are made. On the downside, it takes up quite a bit of time (2 hours or more for a 30-minute show) and you have to be in Hollywood on the right day of the week and at the right time of year (which varies depending on the show). Studio audiences are adults-only affairs, so this isn't a family activity.

    More About How to Be in a...MORE Studio Audience

    If you need more information, check the Complete Guide to Being in a Studio Audience. It will tell you about hours, how to get tickets, admission discounts, how to get there and the best time to go.

  • 04 of 14

    Get Your Theme Park Fix at Universal Studios Hollywood

    Universal Studios Hollywood
    Universal Studios Hollywood. Prayitano/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Just to set the record straight, we aren't geographically challenged. Universal Studios is not in Hollywood proper, but in the San Fernando Valley west of Burbank. It's a short drive away from Hollywood at Highland on US Hwy 101 and with "Hollywood" in its name and its connection to all that name signifies, it's a natural part of a visit to Hollywood.

    It started out as a studio tour, but in true Hollywood style, Universal Studios morphed into a full-fledged theme park. It's still part studio tour, but more focused on entertaining the visitors than giving them a look behind the scenes at a working studio. The rest is theme park, with many rides taking their theme from Universal's films like Jurassic Park and Revenge of the Mummy

    Universal Studios earned its reputation by delivering a fun day of entertainment and it's especially fun for anyone who loves cinema. Universal also runs the goriest, most over-the-top Halloween season spectacular that pays homage...MORE to all those gruesome slasher films.

    Pros and Cons

    You can have a lot of fun at Universal, and we think they have the best mix of shows, gentle rides and thrill rides in the Los Angeles area.

    On the downside, Universal is not the place to go if you're looking for an inside peek at how films are made. For that, try one of the studio tours listed here instead. Universal's location can also be very hot in the middle of a summer day. And this should be obvious: if you don't like theme parks, it's not for you.

    More About Universal Studios Hollywood

    If you need more information, check the Complete Guide to Universal Studios Hollywood. It will tell you about hours, how to get tickets, admission discounts, how to get there and the best time to go.

    Take a photo tour of Universal Studios Hollywood to see what it's like.

    Things to Do for Free in Hollywood | What to Do in Hollywood at Night

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  • 05 of 14

    Watch the Hollywood Christmas Parade

    Balloon in the Hollywood Christmas Parade
    Balloon in the Hollywood Christmas Parade. David Livingston/Getty Images

    Held at the end of Thanksgiving weekend (fourth Thursday of November), the Hollywood Christmas Parade is equal parts hometown Christmas parade and star-studded fun. You can watch for free anywhere along the route, or rest your legs and reserve a grandstand seat.

    Pros and Cons

    The parade is fun, free and it's an easy way to see some celebrities. On the downside, it's not as glammed up as you might expect, you'll have to deal with the inevitable crowds and of course, it's only held once a year.

    More About the Hollywood Christmas Parade

    Find all the details at the Hollywood Christmas Parade website.
  • 06 of 14

    Take in an Al Fresco Concert at the Hollywood Bowl

    Hollywood Bowl
    Hollywood Bowl. Michael Li/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

    There's no better place in all of Los Angeles to see an outdoor concert than the Hollywood Bowl. We can't count the number of excellent evenings we've had there over the years, each one special and memorable.

    The Hollywood Bowl is an open-air amphitheater set in a natural bowl in the Hollywood Hills that make it feel like it's a place set apart. Every summer, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and a wide range of other musical stars perform in its iconic band shell, and several times a season, the performance includes a sparkling fireworks finale.

    Pros and Cons

    A seat under the stars, an alfresco picnic with a favorite beverage and top-rate performers make the Hollywood Bowl experience unparalleled among California outdoor concerts. The wide range of performers will appeal to everyone except the staunchest heavy metal or hip-hop fan. On the downside, the season is limited and the best seats expensive, although you can enjoy the ambiance and the sound even in the quite affordable...MORE top-row seats.

    More About the Hollywood Bowl

    If you need more information, check the Complete Guide to the Hollywood Bowl. It will tell you about the season, how to get tickets and have a great picnic, how to get there and how you can see a performance for free.

  • 07 of 14

    Visit the Los Angeles Farmers Market

    Farmers Market Los Angeles
    Farmers Market Los Angeles. Betsy Malloy Photography

    Hollywood is an area of Los Angeles, not an official city with defined limits, but by most anyone's definition, the Farmers Market isn't quite in Hollywood proper. Nevertheless, we always think of it along with the rest of Hollywood and it's only a short drive away. It's our favorite spot for a meal, a glass of wine or a little shopping.

    It started out as a real farmer's market, out on the edge of Los Angeles in 1934, but it's grown into a more permanent spot, with a mix of food vendors, eateries, shops - and some of the best people-watching in Los Angeles. A surprising number of its food stands earn top marks for their cuisine. Next door, The Grove is a relative newcomer, a shopping area with bigger stores, movie theatre, sit-down restaurants and dancing water fountains. For the most enjoyable visit, go in early evening, after tour buses depart and the locals' edge in.

    Farmers Market and the Grove are at the corner of Third and Fairfax, a little south of...MORE Hollywood Boulevard and east of Beverly Hills.

    Pros and Cons

    The Farmers Market and The Grove are energetic, fun spots, with lots of dining choices. In fact, the Farmers Market is an excellent choice for a group of picky eaters, who can each branch off to find something that pleases them and then re-group to enjoy it all together at one of the signature, Formica-topped tables.

    On the downside, parking can be frustrating at best, made worse because the parking lots are run by two different businesses who don't cross-validate. And - if you aren't hungry and don't want to shop, this may not be the place for you.

    More About Farmers Market and The Grove

    If you need more information, check the Complete Guide to the Farmers Market and The Grove. They'll tell you about hours, how to get there and the best time to go.

  • 08 of 14

    Check Out Grauman's Chinese Theater

    TCL Chinese Theatre's Raising Of The World's Largest IMAX Screen
    Chinese Theatre. Imeh Akpanudosen / Getty Images

    Most people go to Grauman's to see the famous footprints in the forecourt, pointing, taking photos and sticking their appendages into the imprints to see how they measure up. Besides that, Grauman's is also a beautiful movie theater from the golden age and a fun place to see a first-run film.

    Pros and Cons

    You'd have to be rabidly anti-celebrity to resist the appeal of all those handprints, footprints, hair prints, paw prints and assorted other memos of stars current and past. There's no admission to go in and mill around, so most people will probably spend at least a few minutes checking it out.

    On the negative side, the place gets annoyingly crowded at times and you'll be assailed by people hawking guided tours - and by the costumed characters on the sidewalk out front, all of them wanting you to take a photo with them (and give them a tip, of course).

    More About Grauman's Chinese Theater

    If you need more information, check the Complete Guide to Grauman's...MORE Chinese Theater. It will tell you about hours, how to get tickets, admission discounts, how to get there and the best time to go.

    Take a photo tour of Grauman's Chinese Theater to see what it's like.

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  • 09 of 14

    Cruise the Sunset Strip

    USA, California, Los Angeles, Sunset Boulevard, Sunset Strip traffic
    Sunset Boulevard. Hisham Ibrahim / Getty Images

    It got the name "strip" from road workers who referred to it as "that strip of Sunset." It's a part of the longer, famous Boulevard famous for nightclubs and comedy spots. You've no doubt seen pictures of the winding road, the big billboards and the night spots along it.

    During the day, Sunset Strip is much like other Los Angeles neighborhoods, with people shopping, dining and wanting to be seen at Sunset Plaza. At night, the lights come on, the clubs open and it's a popular spot to club-hop without driving around, and especially on weekends, the sidewalks are full of party-goers.

    Sunset Strip is also not in Hollywood proper, but in West Hollywood, an incorporated city just next to the Hollywood neighborhood. It runs between Crescent Heights and Doheny Drive.

    Pros and Cons

    Sunset Strip is iconic and you might remember the 77 Sunset Strip show based on it, or the more recent Studio 60 on Sunset Strip. If you enjoy nightclubbing, this is a good place for it, but...MORE if you don't, you won't find much to do. Even worse, parking can be almost impossible in the evenings.

    More About Sunset Boulevard

    If you need more information, check the Complete Guide to Sunset Strip. It will tell you about hours, how to get tickets, admission discounts, how to get there and the best time to go.

  • 10 of 14

    Stroll Down the Hollywood Walk of Fame

    Walking on the Walk of Fame
    Walking on the Walk of Fame. Betsy Malloy Photography

    The Hollywood Walk of Fame is the section of Hollywood Boulevard decked out with embedded stars that honor those who have made a name for themselves in radio, television and movies.

    This is a can't-miss attraction if you go to Hollywood - you can't avoid it if you go there and walk down the sidewalk because it's right under your feet.

    Pros and Cons

    The appeal is almost irresistible, and it's a staunchly, anti-celebrity individual who can make it through a couple of blocks without pointing out a few recognized names. On the downside, it's hard to find favorite stars among so many strung out over so much area and some folks are disappointed, expecting something grander than a bunch of stars embedded in a sometimes-dirty sidewalk.

    More About the Hollywood Walk of Fame

    If you need more information, check the Complete Guide to the Walk of Fame. It will tell you how to find your favorite celeb's star in advance, when to go and what to expect. Take a photo tour of the Walk...MORE of Fame to see what it's like.

  • 11 of 14

    See the Hollywood Sign

    The Hollywood Sign
    The Hollywood Sign. Betsy Malloy Photography

    This one is a sight you can see in more than one spot in Hollywood, the iconic sign that's a must-photograph, I-was-there kind of a shot. You can see it from all over town, but don't expect to get too close. It's protected from vandals behind fences, with some pretty strict electronic monitoring.

    Pros and Cons

    You can see the Hollywood Sign from so many places, you could make a game out of collecting photos from all of them, but for picky photographers, some of the angles are crossed by wires, cluttered with poles and other distractions.

    More About the Hollywood Sign

    If you need more information, check the Complete Guide to the Hollywood Sign. It will tell you where all the best spots are to see and photograph it.

    Take a photo tour of the Hollywood Sign to see what all those spots look like.

  • 12 of 14

    Shop, Eat at Hollywood and Highland

    The Corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue
    The Corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. Zhu / Flickr

    The center of the Hollywood renaissance is a shopping/dining complex that our readers have selected as the best thing to do in Hollywood. The shops at Hollywood and Highland are nice and so are the restaurants, but the most fun, Hollywood thing here is the mosaic-tiled walkway inlaid with quotes from the famous and not-so-famous. And the views of the Hollywood Sign.

    The big parking lot at Hollywood and Highland is the best spot to launch your visit to Hollywood Boulevard.

    Pros and Cons

    We always enjoy the in-your-face Hollywood theming, reading those sidewalk stories and watching the people. Hollywood at Highland is also a good place for I-was-there photos and better-than-average souvenir shopping. Because it's the best place to park in the area, with low-cost validated rates, most visitors are going to start their visit here. If you're not much into shopping, you just may not stay long.

    More About Hollywood and Highland

    If you need more information, check the Complete Guide to...MORE Hollywood and Highland. It will tell you what's there, how to get parking validation for the lowest cost, how to get there and the best time to go.

    More Things You Can Do in Hollywood

    There's a lot more to do in Hollywood than just these few things, even though they are the most popular. 

    There's a lot to do in Hollywood that doesn't cost a single dime. You can find them in the Guide to Things to Do for Free in Hollywood. If you want to keep having fun after the sun goes down, find out what you can do at night in Hollywood.

    Continue to 13 of 14 below.
  • 13 of 14

    How to Save Money While Doing it All

    If you're planning on visiting Universal Studios and taking some tours, a multi-attraction pass could save you a lot of money. You buy the pass for a fixed price and it gets you into a list of Hollywood- and Los Angeles-area attractions.

    Two companies' offer them and you should do a little digging to figure out which is best for you. These are your options:

    Southern California CityPass

    If you're planning on buying three-day tickets to Disneyland, look no further.

    CityPass offers admission to Disneyland and Universal Studios, as well as Sea World and the San Diego Zoo. You'll pay just a little more for the combination than you would for three-day tickets to Disneyland alone, making it an exceptional value for money if you're visiting anything else it covers - and you have 14 days to do it all in. Find out more about whether it's the right choice for you in the Southern California CityPASS guide. 

    Go Card

    The Los Angeles Go Card includes all of the attractions in this...MORE list that have admission fees except Disneyland and is your best choice if you're not going to Disneyland or only visiting it for one day. Use this handy guide to find out all you need to know about it.

  • 14 of 14

    Hollywood Map - Top Things to Do

    Map of the Top Hollywood Sights
    Map of the Top Hollywood Sights. Map Data ©2015 Google

    This map shows where all the top things to do are located.

    View Hollywood's Top Things to Do in a larger, interactive map