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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

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano
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What’s the deal with Hollywood?

Let’s start with the bad news: Hollywood can be pretty disappointing. Yes, there are still some movie studios here, and yes, there’s some worthwhile history. But it’s probably not the Tinseltown paradise you’re expecting: Hollywood is basically just a district in L.A. with a lot less glitz and moviemaking magic than you’d hope for and a lot more decay and traffic.

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 by the day.

Where exactly is Hollywood?

Hollywood is centrally located within Los Angeles, served by the 101 freeway and multiple Metro B 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.

Is Hollywood part of Los Angeles?

Yes, Hollywood is simply a neighborhood within the City of Los Angeles, and has been since 1910.

What will you find in Hollywood?

Well, you know, other than disappointment: the sort of big-name attractions you’ve seen in movies and on TV, including the Walk of Fame, the Chinese Theatre, Paramount Studios and the iconic Hollywood Sign. If you insist on seeing some of the most touristy landmarks, just keep it quick; your time is much better spent elsewhere in L.A.

But there are also a few less-touristy pockets, most notably an actually-worth-visiting row of restaurants and bars on Cahuenga Boulevard and its parallel streets, between Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards.

If you only do one thing

See a show at the Hollywood Bowl—assuming it’s between roughly May and October. The rest of the year, a screening at one of the local movie palaces would top our list.

The 21 best things to do in Hollywood

  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • Hollywood
  • price 2 of 4

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.

  • 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

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Hollywood
  • price 3 of 4

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.

  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • Attractions
  • Cemeteries
  • Hollywood
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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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Steakhouse
  • Hollywood
  • price 3 of 4

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.

  • Music
  • Music venues
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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, one of the largest independent record stores in the country, is very much alive (albeit at a new location). The variety of stock (vinyl, CDs and DVDs, new and used) is awesome, the prices are fair and the staff know their onions.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Hollywood
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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.

  • Movie theaters
  • Multiplex
  • Hollywood
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Yearning to relive your childhood and indulge in a Disney flick? El Capitan’s your spot—the lavish 1926-built theater screens Disney’s most current feature along with classics in between releases. Tickets are indeed pricier than other nearby cinemas, but then again, where else do you get to dine at a classic fountain and see a 2,500-pipe organ be played before the show?

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Go horseback riding at Sunset Ranch Hollywood
  • Things to do
  • Griffith Park
  • price 2 of 4

If you keep driving up Beachwood Drive in search of the Hollywood Sign, eventually you’ll hit a dead end at Sunset Ranch Hollywood’s cluster of horse stables. The ranch offers a variety of daily trail rides through Griffith Park, and you can book ahead on their website. Pricier and longer rides include meals or a trek to the top of the park or Mt. Lee, but even the basic one hour ride ($50) lets you snag a close-up look at the Hollywood Sign along with sweeping views of the hills and L.A. cityscape below.

  • Things to do
  • Hollywood

Speak the secret phrase to the owl sculpture in the lobby of this private club (we’re serious here), and the rest—well, we don’t want to ruin the surprises in store for visitors at this magical institution. The mansion that houses the Magic Castle is over a century old, but since 1963 it’s been the home of the Academy of Magical Arts, an exclusive organization made up of roughly 2,500 American magicians. Sorry to be cryptic, but if you can bag yourself an invite, you’re guaranteed to have a night you’ll never forget. If you can’t find a member of the Academy to tag along with, stay at the adjacent Magic Castle Hotel for access.

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  • Music

You’re bound to find something worth listening to just about any night of the week in Hollywood. The Fonda and the Hollywood Palladium are the go-to picks for touring acts, while Avalon and Academy L.A. specialize in DJ-fueled dance parties. For a more sedate evening, expect singer-songwriters at the Hotel Café or intimate outdoor shows at the Ford, just up the canyon from the Bowl.

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • East Hollywood
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With endless celebrity photos and numerous“"Best of” lists on the walls, this Thai Town restaurant is one of the city’s cult favorites. If perusing the lengthy menu leaves you feeling dazed and confused, the green mussel curry—succulent New Zealand mussels piled high and bathed in an aromatic Southern curry flavored with lemongrass, sweet pineapples and chiles—is a good place to start on the extensive list of fiery Northern and Southern Thai specialties.

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  • Restaurants
  • Fusion
  • Hollywood
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Built as a private art museum in the 1920s, this Japanese palace-like restaurant is a spectacular structure with extraordinary views of Hollywood. If you don’t want to splurge on a meal but still want to take advantage of those views, look out for the free night market on Thursdays during the summer. Alternatively, we love the minimalist Japanese-inspired menu at the adjacent Kensho.

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  • Movie theaters
  • Independent
  • Hollywood
  • price 1 of 4

Temporarily closed for renovations, with plans to reopen in 2022.

Built by the same man who erected the Chinese Theatre and El Capitan Theatre, the Egyptian was faithfully restored by American Cinematheque in 1998. Though the building itself is now owned by Netflix, the not-for-profit company continues to program a wide range of excellent themed mini-festivals and one-off Q&As with legendary figures, as well as classic films and contemporary indie cinema.

  • Things to do
  • Cultural centers
  • Los Feliz

Barnsdall Art Park is open, however tours of the Hollyhock House are temporarily suspended.

Just outside the Hollywood border, this hilly park is the home of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House. Originally intended as a massive arts complex, the site still fulfills that role with exhibitions in a variety of different gallery spaces, including the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, and public tours of the Hollyhock House. In the summer, the park hosts a variety of alfresco cinema nights, wine tastings and cultural events that bring out a nice mix of singles, couples and young families.

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Take a tour of Paramount Studios
  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • Hollywood
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Tours temporarily suspended.

Believe it or not, Paramount is the last major studio to keep its headquarters located in Hollywood—and the only one there to open its doors to the public. Inside the famous wrought iron gate, you’ll be treated to a guided tram tour through soundstages and a sizable New York backlot.

More essential things to do in Hollywood

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Upcoming events in Hollywood

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
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  • Hollywood

Sure, ramen is delicious, but have you ever stopped to admire the bowl it’s served in? This Japan House exhibition pauses to appreciate the donburi itself with 30 artists’ ramen bowl designs.

  • Movies
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  • Chinatown

It isn’t summer in L.A. until the first cemetery screening brings hoards of movie-lovers to Hollywood Forever, toting folding chairs, picnic blankets, snack spreads and lots of booze. Each year, Cinespia brings classic cult favorites to the hallowed resting place of Old Hollywood greats—and a couple of off-site screenings, too. For its first batch of summer screenings this year, Cinespia will be showing Mean Girls (May 28), Back to the Future (May 29) and American Psycho (June 4), The Wizard of Oz (June 12), Aliens (June 18) and But I’m a Cheerleader (June 25) at Hollywood Forever, plus Jurassic Park (May 13), Twilight (June 3) and Selena (June 24) at L.A. State Historic Park. Then, come the Fourth of July, the series will present three fireworks-accompanied screenings over the long weekend: The Fast and the Furious (July 2), Purple Rain (July 3) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (July 4). The rest of the month includes Almost Famous (July 9), Showgirls (July 16), Jackie Brown (July 23) and The Birds (July 30) at Hollywood Forever, plus Pretty in Pink (July 22) at LASHP.  For each evening, pack a picnic, pose in the photo booth and enjoy DJ sets, dance parties and all sorts of other magical mischief that’d otherwise be strictly forbidden behind the cemetery gates. It’s an L.A. rite of passage, a quintessential summer experience and one of the best film venues in the city. Just be sure to get your ticket early, arrive early, pee early… it’s a popular affair, to say the least.

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  • Performances
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  • Long Beach

The beloved Getty Center turns 25 years young in 2022, and to celebrate the hilltop museum is hosting a series of free festivals across L.A. On most weekends this summer, the Getty will collaborate with a different local community partner on a two-day arts fair filled with music, workshops and food. The lineup includes events in Inglewood (May 14, 15), Lincoln Heights (May 21, 22), Long Beach (June 4, 5), Koreatown (June 11, 12), Pacoima (June 25, 26), Reseda (July 9, 10), El Monte (July 16, 17), Wilmington (July 30, 31), Crenshaw (Aug 13, 14) and Watts (Aug 27, 28).

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