WHERE is Hollywood?
Briefly its own city, Hollywood merged with the municipality of Los Angeles in 1910 and has a remained a business and residential district within LA since then. You can think of Hollywood as situated between Downtown Los Angeles (east), the “Valley” particularly North Hollywood/Burbank/Studio City (north), West Hollywood and Beverly Hills (west) and just above Hancock Park and the Fairfax district. Three well-known boulevards are fascinating and ever-evolving attractions to Hollywood: Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood Boulevard and Melrose Avenue.
WHAT characterizes Hollywood?
Hollywood is an essential part of the Los Angeles experience. As the cradle of American cinema, Hollywood became synonymous with the film industry, and with it the glamour, fanfare and star power. Later, television studios moved to Hollywood adding more allure and worldwide recognition to the area. In the late 20th century, when the entertainment business spread beyond the literal boundaries of Hollywood, much of Hollywood’s glitz and appeal began to fade. But not for long! Hollywood has been breeding new music, musical stars, elaborate attractions and massive renovation bringing it back to a new heyday. Tourists, as well as residents, are back in droves discovering Hollywood’s vibrancy and eclectic offerings.
One of the landmarks etched in the minds of tourists is the TCL Chinese Theater, formerly known as Grauman’s or Mann’s Chinese Theater, and having its official name-changing in January 2013. The iconic theater, recently renovated, resembles a giant red Chinese pagoda with fantastic detailing on its façade. The overwhelming steady lure to the theater was less about its architecture than an accident that occurred in 1927, when a footprint, presumably Mary Pickford’s, was embedded in the wet concrete in front of the new building. Today, there are over 200 Hollywood celebrity handprints, footprints, and autographs in the concrete of the theater’s forecourt. In September 2013, an amazing state-of-the-art IMAX theater opened within the Chinese Theater premiering an IMAX 3D version of The Wizard of Oz assuring its place as more than a historical monument.
The area surrounding The TCL Chinese Theater, mostly on Hollywood Boulevard, is rife with tourist attractions and revitalization. The Walk of Fame consists of over 2000 star plaques with the names of old and new celebrities. Grauman’s Egyptian Theater and the El Capitan Theater hold Hollywood history too and still fill to capacity. The Hollywood Wax Museum is the longest running Wax Museum in the United States, and nearby, the Ripley’s Believe it or Not is well, what it is!
For many modern decades, shopping in the area consisted of an endless array of souvenir shops and the ever-famous Frederick’s of Hollywood for Tinseltown’s homage to glamorous lingerie. Then in 2001, the Hollywood and Highland Center opened, further elevating the status of the Chinese Theater and housing chic stores, top restaurants, fabulous nightclubs and the Loews Hotel. Many of my local friends and I began revisiting Hollywood for ourselves, not just to traipse around our visiting relatives!
And for all of the approachable symbols of Hollywood, none could ever compare to the unapproachable Hollywood Sign! The 45-foot-tall, 350-foot-long world-famous sign is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. I venture to say that the famed Hollywood Sign garners more affection from Angelenos than any of its landmarks combined.
To the outside world, Hollywood may be mostly known for all of
its symbols and its relationship to the magic of movies. But residents know Hollywood as a district beyond kitsch. The Griffith Park Observatory reopened in 2006 with extensive science exhibits. Thousands of local students and residents visit yearly. And especially popular with Angelenos is Runyon Canyon Park. Super-fit 20-and-30-somethings (and okay, older too?) jog to the top almost daily for mesmerizing panoramic views of the city. Not to name drop, but how many times have I seen Jake Gyllenhaal running down? Too many to count! Runyon is an off-leash dog park too and one of LA’s best-kept secrets. Oops.
Nightlife flourishes in Hollywood. From the magnificent Hollywood Bowl for the finest acoustics to the ever-popular Lucky Strike Bowling Lanes, going out in Hollywood has it all! Despite the health fanatics running up Runyon Canyon in the mornings, Hollywood attracts more partying singles at night than any other area. Big clubs have doormen and lines seven nights a week. Dive bars, funky bars and old school ones have their regulars and newbies. Large and small music venues bring young and old. Restaurants highlighting every conceivable cuisine are hopping throughout Hollywood. The Pantages Theater on Hollywood Boulevard brings huge splashy national touring companies of Broadway productions and draws audiences of all ages from every corner of Southern California.
Hotels abound in Hollywood and many with recent renovations. So, too, are residences popping up all over the area’s landscape. A recent drive through Hollywood’s streets had me quite agape at the amount of huge condo edifices under construction in the heart of Hollywood. Old estates remain in the hills and still-fabulous houses are dotted throughout the sloping streets above Melrose. The gentrification of Hollywood is in full-effect.
WHO is in Hollywood?
It is fair to say that Hollywood as a residence does not have a large draw for raising families. Hollywood attracts urbanites. There is so much to do on foot and public transportation options are aplenty. The culture of residents is widely diverse and perhaps surprisingly so is the age range. Statistically, there are more single men than women living in Hollywood. More and more, pre-middle-age to middle age singles with upper scale incomes have discovered the charms of Hollywood and may be able to get more bang for their bucks than in neighboring districts to the west.
DINE AT THE TOP:
DINE IN THE MID (range):
DINE ON A BUDGET:
Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles
Stella Barra Pizza
DRINK RESPONSIBLY AT:
Library Bar and The Spare Room (both at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel)
Wood and Vine
The Writer’s Room
Velvet Margarita Cantina
SHOP TIL YOU DROP:
(Divided by shopping areas not individual stores)
Hollywood and Highland Center
Hollywood Boulevard – sidewalk stores for souvenirs, kitsch and miscellaneous
La Brea Ave. – particularly for home design
Melrose Ave. (east of Fairfax = hipster, west of Fairfax = upscale)
A classic store worth noting is the world-famous Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard, the country’s largest independent music store.
LIVE (and thrive) HERE:
Condos average (coming soon)
Single Family Residences (coming soon)
A one-bedroom apartment averages (coming soon)
Hollywood landed on everyone’s mental map because of its association with the illustrious entertainment industry. It has stayed there because of much more. Though billions of people all over the world still tune in for the annual Academy Awards Show televised live from Hollywood, we locals are tuning into Hollywood for its new trends too. I’d be lying to say that I don’t turn my head every time I see a new red carpet installation preparing for that night’s movie premiere staged on Hollywood Boulevard. The excitement is still palpable even for many of us too cool to admit it.