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Pagoda Bar at Yamashiro Hollywood
Photograph: Neil Kremer Pagoda Bar at Yamashiro Hollywood

The 21 best things to do in Hollywood

Find the best tours, attractions, restaurants, bars and things to do in Hollywood, both on and off the Walk of Fame

By Michael Juliano

Let’s start with the bad news: Hollywood can be pretty disappointing. Yes, the list of things to do in Hollywood boasts big-name attractions like the Walk of Fame, the Chinese Theatre, Paramount Studios and the iconic Hollywood Sign. But Tinseltown is also filled with a lot less glitz and a lot more grime than out-of-town visitors may expect.

But here’s the good news: Hollywood is having a moment right now. High-end celebrity hangouts and hotel bars feel right at home with tucked-away cocktail bars and bespoke coffee shops—and there seem to be more and more of the latter two by the day.

Hollywood is centrally located within Los Angeles, served by the 101 freeway and multiple Metro Red Line stops. The sizable area greets the scenic Hollywood Hills to the north, as well as Universal Studios just on the other side of the hill; stylish West Hollywood and the eclectic Fairfax District to the west; lively Koreatown and adorable Larchmont Village to the south; and a slew of neighborhoods to the east, including East Hollywood, Thai Town and Los Feliz.

So take in the sights on Hollywood Boulevard, but also hit up the trendy water holes on Cahuenga Boulevard, see underground comedy in Franklin Village, hike inside the Hollywood Bowl and make plans for the rest of these standout things to do in Hollywood.

The 21 best things to do in Hollywood

Hollywood Bowl
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Ian D. Keating

1. Picnic at the Hollywood Bowl

Things to do Event spaces Hollywood

This gorgeous outdoor amphitheatre has been hosting concerts since the LA Philharmonic first played here in 1922. Nestled in an aesthetically blessed fold in the Hollywood Hills, the 18,000-seat venue can bring out the romantic in the terminally cynical. It’s the summer home of the LA Phil (and boozy picnics); as long as there’s no performance, it also doubles as a public park.

Chinese Theatre
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Tim Wang

2. See a movie at the Chinese Theatre

Movie theaters Multiplex Hollywood

It’s still a great place to catch a movie but most people come to the Chinese Theatre for the hand and/or foot imprints of around 200 Hollywood stars. The courtyard is usually choked with snap-happy tourists measuring their own extremities against the likes of John Wayne and Judy Garland, but you can avoid the crowds by catching a flick inside, where the auditorium is as stunning as the IMAX screen’s projection quality

Spare Room
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

3. Bowl a few frames at the Spare Room

Bars Cocktail bars Hollywood

Tucked away on the second floor of the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel, the Spare Room is like stepping into another era: one where classic cocktails, tiki-leaning concoctions and punch bowls pour freely, and people make merry all night long. The big draw here, beyond the expertly made drinks, is the gaming. This bar sports an antique, two-lane bowling alley, which looks great with those George Esquivel–designed bowling shoes and argyle socks.

4. Survey the ’hood from the Hollywood Bowl Overlook

Things to do Hollywood

This overlook in the Santa Monica Mountains has fantastic views of the Downtown skyline all the way to the ocean and it’s right on top of the Hollywood Bowl. It’s a prime place to be on a clear night or when your favorite band is playing a sold out show at the Bowl. Get there as early as possible—the parking lot is tiny and while there is street parking, the park is in a particularly curvy spot on Mulholland Drive and cars whiz by even at night.

Hollywood Sign
Photograph: Courtesy Hollywood Sign Trust. All rights reserved.

5. Find the best possible view of the Hollywood Sign

Attractions Sightseeing Hollywood

Originally created in 1923, the then “Hollywoodland” sign was supposed to be up for only a year and a half, yet here it is almost a century later. Getting close to the Hollywood Sign, though, is an often contentious issue thanks to pressure from local homeowners. You can catch a dead-on glimpse of the sign on Beachwood Drive, or farther up the hill near Lake Hollywood Park. Looking to get even closer? Go horseback riding at Sunset Ranch or lace up for a trek along the dirt road on Mt. Lee Drive to where you will be standing directly above the Hollywood Sign and can experience a total 360-degree view of the cityscape.

6. Visit dearly departed screen legends at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Attractions Cemeteries Hollywood

Any cemetery that houses the remains of such celluloid luminaries as Cecil B. DeMille, Jayne Mansfield, Rudolph Valentino and Mel Blanc was bound to become a tourist attraction. Aside from popular posthumous celebs, Hollywood Forever is also home to Cinespia’s summer outdoor movie screenings, an annual Day of the Dead festival and concerts, both outside on the lawn and inside the property’s Masonic lodge.


7. Sip a stiff martini at Musso & Frank Grill

Restaurants Steakhouse Hollywood

Open since 1919, the Musso & Frank Grill is Hollywood’s oldest restaurant, a steak-and-cocktails joint formerly favored by Charlie Chaplin and Raymond Chandler. With its many obscure dishes and individually priced sides (and salad dressings!), the menu can be daunting. However, some dishes are fail-safes. At breakfast, grab an order of crêpe-thin flannel cakes; later in the day, the grilled meats are excellent. And every table gets a half-loaf of house-made sourdough bread, the perfect accompaniment to a dry martini.

Amoeba Music
Photograph: Courtesy Amoeba Music

8. Thumb through stacks of records at Amoeba Music

Music Music venues Hollywood

As streaming services have erased CDs from our collective memory, the L.A. branch of San Francisco’s Amoeba Music could easily be seen as a mausoleum to actually leaving the house to buy music. But this, the largest independent record store in the country, is very much alive. The variety of stock (vinyl, CDs and DVDs, new and used) is awesome, the prices are fair and the staff know their onions.

Starline's Hop-on Hop-off Tour
Photograph: Michael Juliano

9. Look down at—but maybe don’t touch—Hollywood Walk of Fame

Things to do Hollywood

We’ve spent enough time in Hollywood to know that you probably don’t want to put your hands on those grimy bits of star-dotted sidewalk—better to look but not touch. If you can stomach the suspect superheroes, claustrophobia-inducing crowds and never-ending line of gift shops, tattoo parlors and lingerie stores, there’s actually a lot of old Hollywood history and glamour to discover along the Walk of Fame. The immortalized names on those famous five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars run from the Walk’s western extreme at the Hollywood and La Brea Gateway to the W Hotel and Pantages Theater at Gower, and additionally on Vine from the Capitol Records Building down to Sunset, near where the original movie studios sprang up a century ago.

10. See and be seen during a hike at Runyon Canyon

Attractions Parks and gardens Hollywood

This 160-acre park at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains has one main loop, plus a bevy of dirt hiking trails. The sea of buff trainers and their sleek, sweaty clients can get to be too much during the busy morning and weekend workout traffic, but you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views of the city (and, if you’re lucky, a chance to gawk at power-walking celebs). The southern entrance is at the end of Fuller Avenue in Hollywood; if you want to cut out most of the hiking and just beeline it to the tob, use the northern entrance off the 7300 block of Mulholland Drive.

Good Times at Davey Wayne's
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

11. Walk through the fridge at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s

Bars Dive bars Hollywood

Good Times at Davey Wayne’s takes us back to the 1970s via garage. Walk past the knick-knacks to find the portal to this booze-fueled time machine: an old refrigerator. Step through its door and you’re instantly transported to a house party in the era of hard rock, sideburns and shag carpeting. Vintage beer cans and retro tchotchkes surround the tufted bar, where staff whip up craft cocktails with forgotten spirits and draught beer is served in cans and novelty mugs.

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