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Pagoda Bar at Yamashiro Hollywood
Photograph: Neil KremerPagoda 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

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano
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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

  • 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.

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.

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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.

Visit dearly departed screen legends at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
  • Attractions
  • Cemeteries
  • Hollywood
  • price 2 of 4

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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Sip a stiff martini at Musso & Frank Grill
  • 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
  • Hollywood
  • price 1 of 4

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.

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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.

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.

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  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Hollywood
  • price 2 of 4

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.

More essential things to do in Hollywood

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Upcoming events in Hollywood

  • Art
  • price 2 of 4
  • Hollywood

After a brief tease and a couple of false starts, “Immersive Van Gogh” has finally hit Hollywood with animated projections of the artist’s recognizable paintings like Bedroom in Arles and The Starry Night. That’s basically how you could describe any of the five similar shows touring the country right now, but this one, from Lighthouse Immersive and Impact Museums, certainly sells the loudest take on the Dutch painter. “Immersive Van Gogh” is inhabiting Amoeba Music’s former Sunset Boulevard record store through at least the beginning of 2022 with three main rooms, all covered with same 35-minute loop that plays out across 65 projectors. Check out our full preview of the show.

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • price 3 of 4
  • Hollywood

Breathe, breathe in the air at this exhibition celebrating the world’s most legendary psychedelic band. The Nick Mason-approved touring show will make its North American debut at Hollywood’s Vogue Multicultural Museum, the old movie theater just down the block from Musso & Frank. The chronologically-organized exhibit starts with the Syd Barrett years and tackles all of the landmark albums, with over 350 instruments, lyrics, sketches and props, including stage designs from the Dark Side of the Moon era, a model sheep that was fired above the crowd in support of Animals and recreated inflatables from The Wall. Of course, no exhibition about the laser show favorites would be complete without some sensory overload, so things wrap up with an immersive listening space that includes a recreation of the band’s last performance in 2005.

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  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • price 3 of 4
  • Hollywood

Raise a glass: The touring production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s immeasurably popular musical will relaunch in August 2021. Awesome. Wow. Before the world turned upside down, the hip-hop history of Alexander Hamilton’s life had just returned to the Pantages Theater in the spring of 2020. But as events across L.A. were canceled, so too progressively were performances of Hamilton—initially for just a few weeks but eventually for a year and a half. Now it’s back with new run dates—August 17, 2021 through January 2, 2022—but you’ll need to be fully vaccinated to attend any performances through October 10 (at least), and wear a mask as well. Unlike some events that’ve simply asked you to check a box online, Pantages requires that guests 12 and older bring a photo ID and proof of vaccination to the theater (with some exceptions; those people will instead be required to show proof of a negative test result within the past 72 hours). Also, the #Ham4Ham digital lottery returns: Starting every Friday at 10am and until the next Thursday at noon, you can enter for a chance to purchase a pair of $10 tickets to the following week’s performances. Then, just wait for it: If you win, you’ll be notified on Thursday between noon and 4pm and have an hour to claim your tickets. 

More of the best of Hollywood

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