"Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood, and you will find the real tinsel underneath." -- Oscar Levant
I like to start my posts with a quote, and no quote better describes my version of LA - my version of Hollywood - than the quote above. Before moving to California, I would have argued against liking Los Angeles with the best of them.
It has horrible traffic.
The complaints go on and on. And I get it - Los Angeles has to grow on you, and for some it never will. Those who take the time to get to know the city, however, I think will find an endless supply of history, culture, and wonderment. That said, I too have my own love/hate affair with Hollywood itself, so it's always refreshing to have people visit from outside so I can remember and appreciate the parts of it that are unique and special. This post will focus on Hollywood specifically, continuing with our theme of film locations and even a short jaunt to visit some of the studios over the hill in Universal City/Burbank.
2800 E. Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA
After being awed by the costumery at FIDM, we hopped back in the car to head north towards Griffith Park in search of the observatory. Griffith Observatory has been part of the Los Angeles landscape since 1935, sitting high atop Mount Hollywood that overlooks the city below. The views from the observatory are some of the best around - you can easily see downtown and the Hollywood sign most days, and can even see as far as the ocean when the air is clear. It's a beautiful art-deco marvel, and is home to telescopes, a planetarium, and a Tesla coil! Best of all? Admission is free (although certain special exhibits may require a small fee, but you can enjoy your visit without them).
In addition to being a well-known landmark and attraction, the Griffith Observatory has also played a role in several films and TV shows (you can see a pretty good list at Wikipedia here). Its most famous appearance is in Rebel Without a Cause, starring the late James Dean. The above statue of Dean was commissioned originally by Dean himself, although the artist didn't start work on it until the night of his untimely death. Griffith and the locals of the Hollywoodland and Lake Hollywood neighborhoods would like you to think the above location is the best place to view the Hollywood sign, but...
Lake Hollywood Park
3204 Canyon Lake Dr, Hollywood, CA
You knew I could get you a better view than that, right? Haha. Despite not being a huge fame junky, the golden age of Hollywood has always appealed to me and I have always been obsessed with the Hollywood sign. It was during one of my many trips to Los Angeles before moving to California that I finally researched it, and found the answer on another blog! After piquing Eugene's interest at Griffith, I drove him through the winding Hollywood hills to what I like to call the best view of the sign - just below it at Lake Hollywood Park. This is a great spot because you not only get to see the sign up closer and personal, but you also get a great view of Lake Hollywood and the city. I highly recommend it! (Note: I actually got closer to the sign last year by hiking to it - you can read that here. This hike is harder than it looks, and you need to plan for at least 2-3 hours to do it... but the views are one of a kind!)
Warner Brothers Studios
3400 S. Riverside Dr, Burbank, CA
We drove past the lake and over the hills to our next destinations - the studios of the San Fernando Valley. Our first stop (which I failed to get a picture of this time) was the Universal Studios backlot top secret view... located in the hills at 3400 Blair Drive. From this residential road, you can get a sneak peek at the Universal Studios backlot - viewing the War of the Worlds set, Grinch Who Stole Christmas set, and Universal's new Wizarding World of Harry Potter castles. (Another cool spot I learned from Lindsay - you can read her post here, or see my first post about it here). From there, we made our way to Burbank to check out what we could see from the road of the Warner Brothers and Disney studio lots.
Warner Brothers Studios is easy to stalk from the outside - you can drive along Riverside and see Gate 4, which Ellen DeGeneres uses to access the studio for her show each day. You can see the famed WB Water Tower from multiple locations. And if you're interested, you can get a sneak peek of their backlot from their parking lot on the corner of S Avon St and Warner Blvd. Nearby Gate 5 is a film location too - this is the gate that Carrie Bradshaw used when she went to meet with executives at Warner Brothers in the Sex and the City series.
Disney is far less accessible, but worth a drive-by. (Use 500 S. Buena Vista St, Burbank, CA to locate the Disney Studios block.) You can easily see the animation studio from Riverside Dr, and view the outside of most of the stages and buildings by driving around the block. My favorite thing is to show people the seven dwarves that hold up one of the main buildings on Alameda Ave - you can view that from the street just southwest of the main gate. Super cute! (Note: When I started this post on Tuesday night, I never in a million years thought I would get to see more of the Disney Studio than what you can view from the street. On Friday, however, that changed and I got to go inside! I will post about that in a future post.)
Grauman's Chinese Theatre (aka TCL Theaters)
6801 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA
From Burbank, we popped back over the hills and headed to Hollywood! Hollywood is one of the world's most famous landmarks, and one of the dirtiest. That said, there is a certain charm to it and I'm happy I got to share it with Eugene. Parking in the Hollywood area can be tricky and expensive, so here's a pro-tip: park at the garage located under Hollywood & Highland (read directions here or use the Lowe's hotel address 1755 Highland Ave for your GPS to find it). You get parking here for $2 with validation (covers 2 hours if you do any shopping, or 4 hours if you watch a movie at the famed Chinese theater).
The Hollywood & Highland intersection is home to many of the most famous Hollywood attractions, including Grauaman's Chinese Theater (pictured above), Dolby Theater (where they hold the Academy Awards every year), Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (home of the first Academy Awards), El Capitan Theater (Disney's premier theater), Jimmy Kimmel's studio, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I won't bore you with histories of each as you can read most of that on an old post of mine here.
Eugene and I had a great time visiting this area. Funny enough, we realized that this visit coincided with our visit to Marilyn's grave earlier in the day - we saw her star on the Walk of Fame, visited her handprints at the Chinese Theater and saw a picture there of the day she did it, and looked for her ghost across the street at the Roosevelt (her former home that she supposedly haunts today). We didn't mean to embark on a Marilyn journey, but it was fun!
Las Palmas Hotel
1738 N. Las Palmas Ave, Hollywood, CA
One of our favorite films is Pretty Woman, and another friend recently showed me where the ending balcony scene was filmed... so I thought it was only fitting that we walk down the street to see the Las Palmas Hotel while we were in Hollywood. Located about 2 blocks east of the Hollywood & Highland Center, and just north of Hollywood Blvd, you will find a tiny, unassuming hotel called Las Palmas. Eagle-eyed fans of Pretty Woman, however, will note that this is not just a hotel - it's the hotel where Vivienne lived in the movie. See the fire escape behind Eugene? That's THE fire escape that Richard Gere climbed to "rescue" Vivienne at the end of the film. Shout out to Shika for helping us find this spot!
1999 N Sycamore, Hollywood, CA
Just up the street from Hollywood & Highland is one of the best kept secrets in Hollywood... Yamashiro Hollywood restaurant. Several friends have told me to visit this restaurant, and it has made it on to some of the "must" lists for Hollywood, but for some reason it had never worked out when I tried to visit. When I read on Curbed:LA that the site was sold and Yamashiro may be booted out, however, I knew I just had to take Eugene there while we still had the chance! The building itself is the former private residence of wealthy brothers. It's also one of the oldest buildings in LA, dating back to 1914. The pagoda pictured above is one of the oldest, if not THE oldest, structures in LA - it's over 600 years old, having been relocated here from Japan. The restaurant has a great history write up that you can read here. Eugene and I were lucky to have a city and sunset view, and enjoyed a meal just as good as the view. The owners published a notice saying that the restaurant will be closing in June, so go while you have the chance!
Sprinkles Cupcake ATM
9635 S Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA
Eugene and I were very tired after dinner, but we still opted to take the scenic road home to enjoy the sights and sounds of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. While we enjoyed the colorful lights and people we saw in WeHo, we were surprised to find the city of Beverly Hills almost empty. I had mentioned to Eugene that there was a cupcake ATM on our way home, however, so we made sure to stop and grab dessert before we meandered through now quiet Rodeo Drive. Sprinkles proclaims to be home to the first cupcakery, and they are also home to the first cupcake ATM. The one we visited was the first, but they now boast ten locations (with two more to come!). The cupcakes are more expensive at the ATM then they are in the cupcakery next door, but who can resist using a cupcake ATM? :) And they were delicious! You can find locations near you here.
Once we had scarfed down our cupcakes, it was time to hit the hay. We had a big hiking day planned for us in the morning, and needed to get some sleep. Thirteen hours of touring Los Angeles can take its toll on you, but we had fun! My next post will tell you all about our hiking adventures, so stay tuned!
Until next time...