Things to do

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

Posted: Monday June 10 2019


Photograph: Neil Kremer
Pagoda Bar at Yamashiro Hollywood

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.

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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Ian D. Keating
Things to do, Event spaces

Picnic at the Hollywood Bowl

icon-location-pin 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.

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Movie theaters, Multiplex

See a movie at the Chinese Theatre

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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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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Bars, Cocktail bars

Bowl a few frames at the Spare Room

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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.

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Things to do

Survey the ’hood from the Hollywood Bowl Overlook

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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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Photograph: Courtesy Hollywood Sign Trust. All rights reserved.
Attractions, Sightseeing

Find the best possible view of the Hollywood Sign

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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.

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Attractions, Cemeteries

Visit dearly departed screen legends at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

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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

Sip a stiff martini at Musso & Frank Grill

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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.

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Photograph: Courtesy Amoeba Music
Music, Music venues

Thumb through stacks of records at Amoeba Music

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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, 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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Photograph: Michael Juliano
Things to do

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

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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.

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Attractions, Parks and gardens

See and be seen during a hike at Runyon Canyon

icon-location-pin West 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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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Bars, Dive bars

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

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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.

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Movie theaters, Multiplex

See a classic Disney flick at El Capitan

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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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Things to do

Go horseback riding at Sunset Ranch Hollywood

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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.

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Photograph: Michael Juliano
Things to do, Walks and tours

Take a walking tour of Hollywood history

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Local Hollywood historian Philip Mershon’s entire tour of Hollywood takes place within a quarter-mile radius of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street and makes no mention of the Walk of Fame or the Hollywood Sign. Yet by the end of the tour, you’ll have visited the origin of nearly all the major Hollywood studios and their immortal works of pop culture.

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Movie theaters, Independent

Watch cinema gems at the Egyptian Theatre

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Built by the same man who erected the Chinese Theatre and El Capitan Theatre, the Egyptian was faithfully restored by American Cinematheque in 1998. The not-for-profit company continues to deliver 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.

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Restaurants, Thai

Bring on the heat at Jitlada

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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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Photograph: Liezl Estipona, courtesy UCB
Comedy, Stand-up

See future sitcom stars perform at the UCB Theatre

icon-location-pin Franklin Village

The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre offers three or four shows per night across a variety of disciplines: There’s stand up, improv, sketch and off-kilter comedy. The signature show is ASSSSCAT, which still counts co-founders Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh among its hosts. See it on Saturday nights for a few bucks, or on Sunday at the nearby UCB Sunset for free.

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Restaurants, Fusion

Hit up a night market atop Yamashiro

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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; you’ll find parking for $10 at Mosaic Church (7107 Hollywood Blvd), which runs a free shuttle every 15 minutes.

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Things to do, Cultural centers

Tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s handsome Hollyhock House at Barnsdall Art Park

icon-location-pin Los Feliz

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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Things to do, Walks and tours

Take a tour of Paramount Studios

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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.

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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia/UpdateNerd
Movie theaters, Multiplex

See something in the Cinerama Dome at the ArcLight Hollywood

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A Hollywood favorite since 2002, the ArcLight offers comfortable assigned seating for all of its films. It’s the most appealing modern multiplex in L.A., but is also a vintage classic due to the Cinerama Dome, a fabulous and unique domed movie theater that opened in 1963. Seeing most current blockbusters in the dome is fine, but catching the occassional classic flick made for the ultra-wide format is a real treat.

Photograph: Matthew Murphy
Theater, Broadway

‘Miss Saigon’

icon-location-pin Pantages Theatre, Hollywood
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The Anglo-French 1980s megamusical comes to town with its special effects-filled story of a Vietnamese woman and an American G.I. just before the fall of Saigon.
Photograph: Courtesy Kimmi Cranes
Movies

Rooftop Cinema Club

icon-location-pin Multiple venues
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The masters of alfresco rooftop movie viewing have returned for another season of screenings in Hollywood and Downtown L.A. Known for excellent film choices and a steady supply of snacks and booze, Rooftop Cinema Club is your snazzy, comfortable and less stressful alternative to other outdoor movie screenings. You don’t even need to bring your own blanket or camping chair—Rooftop Cinema Club provides you with your very own comfy lawn chair, as well as blankets on request for the ultimate cozy experience. And instead of listening to the movie over loudspeakers, you’ll get a set of wireless headphones so you never have to miss a word. Want to win two tickets to Rooftop Cinema Club? Enter now!
Photograph: Courtesy All My Single Friends
Comedy

All My Single Friends

icon-location-pin The Copper Still, Hollywood
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Partake in an evening that’s party comedy show and part live dating experience during All My Single Friends. Here’s the gist: All attendees wear a sticker that says whether they’re taken or up for grabs while comedians Avra Friedman and Daliya Karnofsky host interviews with singles and comedians. After the show—and a couple of tequila shots—single attendees jot down who they’re interested in and the hosts reach out on their behalf. Use the promo code HOT for $5 off tickets.
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Comedy, Stand-up

Joel Kim Booster

icon-location-pin Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (UCB Franklin), Franklin Village
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Booster is the sort of comic who gives the impression he was destined for the stage. Here from Chicago, by way of New York, he is winning over the indie scene with a skeptical point of view, tight jokes and a quiet charisma.
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