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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
Explore the Walk of Fame while learning a bit of Tinseltown history with these Hollywood tours.
Tour the iconic movie town’s must-visit attractions along with a few stops away from the crowds.
Peruse our picks of Hollywood restaurants for the top places to drink and dine in Tinseltown.
Forget clichéd, tourist spots and velvet-rope attitude; instead, check out our top bar picks in Hollywood.
Here are the best hotels in Hollywood for every traveler’s budget.
There are many ways to explore Hollywood, but there’s only one perfect way to spend a day in the famous neighborhood.
Upcoming events in Hollywood
The self-consciously campy jukebox musical filled with hits from the ’80s returns to its roots on Hollywood Boulevard with a permanent home at the Bourbon Room, a custom-built theater designed for this immersive theatrical and dining experience.
Do you want to build a... rainy day fund to save up for tickets to a smash hit Disney-inspired Broadway musical? Good, because Frozen is coming to L.A. The Broadway musical based on the 2013 animated Disney film, will kick off a national tour with a string of fall 2019 performances at Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre. Check out our review of the Broadway production in Time Out New York.
In case “uncensored” wasn’t enough warning, make sure you leave the kids at home for this one. Part puppet show, part improv show, “Puppet Up! Uncensored” combines top puppeteering talent with music, jokes and shenanigans. It’s not just about watching the puppets either—you’ll be mesmerized by the sheer skill of the puppeteers on full display, who are coming up with songs on the fly while manipulating puppets on stage. If you’re a Jim Henson buff, this show is not to be missed: it’s put on by Henson Alternative (the official adults-only arm of The Jim Henson Company), and you’ll see recreations of Henson classics with a twist. The show will host a string of special performances on the historic Jim Henson Company Lot in Hollywood, formerly Charlie Chaplin’s studio.
Billy Wilder’s 1950 classic about a washed up screenwriter who seeks refuge in a seemingly abandoned Sunset Boulevard mansion is a searingly accurate satire of Hollywood. Catch a 70th anniversary screening at the Chinese Theatres (the multiplex behind the famous auditorium) that includes a Q&A with Nancy Olson, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role, and the film’s last surviving star.
More of the best of Hollywood
If you’re specifically looking to see the Hollywood Sign tour, consider one of these tours.
Check out these classic watering holes to see a side of the real Hollywood.
Whether you’re interested in big name bands or local acts, this ’hood has it all packed into one lively place.
Stop in to these Hollywood stores for unique shopping experiences and finds.
Our list of the best clubs in Hollywood is the cream of the party-spot crop.
Take a break from the Tinseltown madness with a stop at one of the neighborhood's best coffee shops.
Take a joyride on the classic highway in the hills and stop at some of our favorite overlooks.
Relax underneath the Hollywood Sign at this hilltop park.