Hollywood is known for the glamour of the TV and movie industry, and you don't have to go far to find those influences during your trip, with many of the neighborhood's best activities revolving around film, movies, and celebrity culture. Catch a glimpse of the world-famous sign, tour a studio backlot, and more with this list of 12 fun things to do in Hollywood.
Tour a Movie Studio
While 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.
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 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.
The Warner Bros. studio tour is among the most popular. Visitors will get to see the original set for Central Perk from the TV show Friends and the Picture Car Vault that displays some of the most famous vehicles from the movies.
"See" the Stars' Homes on a Guided Tour
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 famous actor walking the dog, but the reality can be entirely 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.
That's the bad side of Hollywood tours, now here's the good one. A few tour companies provide some really fun, informative tours of Hollywood that are worth your time. Dearly Departed Tours offers 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. You can also take a Hollywood Forever Cemetery Tour. While the stars at Hollywood Forever aren't likely to come out to greet you—this is their last resting place—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.
Be In a Studio Audience
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. It's free, and you get bragging rights when you get back home and watch the episode with your friends.
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 (two 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.
Get Your Theme Park Fix at Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios is not in Hollywood proper but the San Fernando Valley west of Burbank. It's a short drive away from Hollywood at Highland on US Highway 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 a 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 to all those gruesome slasher films.
To find out more about what the park is like, check out the Universal Studios slideshow to see it all - without leaving your chair.
Watch the Hollywood Christmas Parade
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. The parade is fun, free, and it's an easy way to see some celebrities.
Take in an Al Fresco Concert at the Hollywood Bowl
There's no better place in all of Los Angeles to see an outdoor concert than the Hollywood Bowl. 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. 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 top-row seats.
Visit the Los Angeles Farmers Market
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 the 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 Hollywood Boulevard and east of Beverly Hills.
Check Out Grauman's Chinese Theater
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.
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.
Cruise the Sunset Strip
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 favorite 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.
Stroll Down the Hollywood Walk of Fame
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.
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.
See the Hollywood Sign
This one is a sight you can see in more than one spot in Hollywood: The iconic sign. Don't expect to get too close, as it's protected from vandals behind fences, with some pretty strict electronic monitoring. For a particularly poignant view, go just inside the Hollywood Forever cemetery gate and look behind you. Unfortunately, one of the trails with the best views of sign closed to hikers in April 2017.
Shop and Eat at Hollywood and Highland
The center of the Hollywood renaissance is a shopping and dining complex that many think is among one of the best place to visit in Hollywood. The shops at Hollywood and Highland are nice and so are the restaurants, but the most fun attraction here is the mosaic-tiled walkway inlaid with quotes from the famous and not-so-famous. There's also great views of the Hollywood Sign.
Where All These Sights Are Located
Some of the sights above are close enough together than you could walk from one to the next. For others, you will need transportation. This map can help you get organized to see them all.