15 Things to Do in Downtown Hollywood

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 7:36 am

This list of 15 things to do in downtown Hollywood was inspired by my recent trip to Los Angeles for the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. Hollywood is filled with all manner of sights and sounds, and tourists can often overlook some of the more interesting sites in all the chaos. I’ve tried to narrow the options down to the essentials, but I’ve also thrown in a few interesting diversions for the non-traditional visitor. From theme parks for the family to a museum dedicated to death, these 15 things to do in downtown Hollywood should cover the complete spectrum of La-La Land.

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Hollywood Museum – If you’re looking for a vast collection of movie memorabilia, then look no further. From the boxing gloves worn by Rocky to the cell that contained Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, this museum has it all. The make-up and hair studios of Max Factor have also been recreated in the downstairs area, and fans of Marilyn Monroe will want to take some time to view her extensive display.

Madame Tussauds HollywoodThe Hollywood Wax Museum is right down the street, but no name can match Madame Tussauds when it comes to wax duplicates of famous personalities. It opened next to Grauman’s Chinese in 2009, and it’s been a routine stop for tourists ever since. From the stars of yesteryear to modern-day celebs, they’re all on display for your amusement.

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre – For the last 75 years this theatre has been drawing crowds in Hollywood, and over four million tourists flock to the location each year. The Walk of Fame passes right in front, and the famed forecourt features handprints from stars ranging from Will Smith and John Woo to Darth Vader. Just be prepared to rub elbows with other onlookers, as the entrance can get awfully crowded.

Universal Studios Hollywood – Combining a movie studio and theme park, Universal Studios offers the following features to wide-eyed tourists: T2 3-D: Battle Across Time, Shrek 4-D, Jurassic Park: The Ride, Revenge of the Mummy, and Transformers: The Ride. You can also tour the soundstages and backlots of the studio, taking a look at the Bates Motel, Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives, the shark from Jaws, and much more. Just be sure and bring your credit card, as a day at the park can be pretty expensive.

Hollywod Walk of Fame – The groundbreaking for the Walk of Fame was in 1960, and Joanne Woodward holds the distinction of being the first star unveiled. There are thousands of stars as of this writing, and one or two are added every month in the fields of film, television, radio, and live performances. The Hollywood Walk of Fame runs on both sides of Hollywood Boulevard, from Gower to La Brea, and on both sides of Vine Street from Yucca to Sunset. Just keep an eye on where you‘re going, as the stars are right in the middle of the crowded Hollywood sidewalks.

The Hollywood Sign – Standing over four stories high, the famous Hollywood landmark can easily be seen from the crowded L.A. freeways, but the best place to get a look is from the famed Griffith Observatory. Originally constructed in 1923 to read Hollywoodland, the last four letters were removed to create the modern-day tourist attraction.

The Hollywood Bowl – If you’re looking to catch a concert while you’re in Hollywood, why not check out this well-known amphitheatre? Since opening in 1922, here are just a few of the performers to grace the stage: The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Itzhak Perlman, Gwen Stefani, Barbra Streisand, and Luciano Pavarotti.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not – Located on Hollywood Boulevard, this museum of the bizarre (known as an Odditorium) features part of the massive Ripley collection, including cartoon panels, artifacts, and photographs. Even if you miss this site on your trip to downtown Hollywood, you may still be in luck: Ripley’s currently has 35 Odditoriums located around the world.

Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre – The site of the first-ever Hollywood movie premiere, this famous Hollywood venue opened in 1922. Containing two theaters (one seating 616 and the other 77), the Egyptian features massive columns, hieroglyphics, a fountain, and numerous palm trees. If you’re going to take a look at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, you owe it to yourself to see this one, as well.

Hollywood & Highland Center – Located next to Grauman’s Chinese and the Kodak Theatre, you can get a view of the legendary Hollywood sign, as well as the famed Hollywood hills. 75 shops are included in the facility, plus a bowling alley, nightclub, restaurants (including the headquarters of Wolfgang Puck), and Mann’s Chinese Theatre. A great place for tourists to unwind and do a little shopping.

Whisky a Go Go – If you’re a fan of rock music, be sure to check out this venue located on Sunset Boulevard. It was the origin point of the Go-Go dancer, and bands such as The Doors, Alice Cooper and The Byrds got much-needed exposure from playing there. Also a major player in the punk and heavy metal scenes, everyone from The Runaways to Metallica would perform for packed crowds.

The Body Shop – If you’re looking for something a little more raunchy during your stay, pop over to The Body Shop, a fully-nude strip club located on the Sunset Strip. Each night, over 200 dancers entertain patrons on two stages, and a VIP area lets you get up close and personal with the lady of your choice. Admission is $10 with a two drink minimum, and they’re open from 12pm to 4am Monday thru Saturday (6pm to 4am on Sunday). Note: no alcohol is served on the premises and smoking isn’t allowed, either.

The Magic Castle – While only magicians and their guests can enter this unique private club, it’s still worth a look from the outside. There are no front doors visible, and anyone arriving must speak a secret phrase into a stone owl to gain admittance. Inside, there are dining facilities and magic displays constantly being performed, and amateur magicians such as Johnny Carson and Neil Patrick Harris have put their talents on display. Of course, if you’re friends with a member, be sure to get an invite. Located at 7001 Franklin Avenue in Hollywood.

The Laugh Factory – Located on the Sunset Strip, this comedy club opened its doors in 1979. Richard Pryor was the first comic to take the stage, so that should give you an idea of the quality of the performers. In case you’re still not convinced, here are few others who’ve played to audiences over the years: Chris Rock, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, Jerry Seinfeld, Dane Cook, Adam Sandler, Dave Chappelle, Roseanne Barr and Nick Cannon. And Tuesday is Open Mic Night, so head on down if you think you’ve got what it takes.

Museum of Death – Found on Hollywood Boulevard, this museum offers a rather bizarre attraction for visitors to Hollywood. They have the world’s largest collection of serial killer artwork, plus a body bag and coffin collection, autopsy and crime scene photos, replicas of execution devices, and an art gallery next door. Parking is free and admission is $15. Open from 11am to 8pm on Sunday thru Friday and 11am to 10pm on Saturday. We’re all going to die someday, so drop in and get a peek at what it may look like!

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