No one really knows why, but Los Angeles has somehow monopolized the entertainment industry, and Hollywood in particular has become the number-one hub for film sets, celebrity real estate, and A-lister hangout spots.
If you’ve always wanted to go to Los Angeles to see how the stars live, or if you are a movie buff who wants to check out some of the city’s innumerable classic Hollywood locations, the following list should help get you started and provide you with an insider’s look at the unique culture of Hollywood.
1. Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
The Hollywood Roosevelt is the City of Angels’ oldest continually operating hotel and has the history to prove it.
The first Academy Awards ceremony debuted at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in 1929, and it was the site of many noteworthy films and television shows, including the 1988 film Sunset starring Bruce Willis and James Garner and the 1989 film The Fabulous Baker Boys with Michelle Pfeiffer and Jeff Bridges. An episode of I Love Lucy was also shot at the hotel in 1955, where the Ricardos and Mertzes visit Hollywood.
Marilyn Monroe lived at the hotel for two years at the beginning of her career and is said to have met husband and famous playwright Arthur Miller at the hotel’s Cinegrill nightclub. In 2007, Prince also performed a legendary five shows at the hotel, including a two-hour performance, a post-set jazz jam, and dinner with his personal chef.
2. Point Dume
Take the scenic drive along nearby Malibu’s Westward Beach Drive and you’ll reach Point Dume, a particularly stunning white sand beach with spectacular headlands and extraordinary whale-watching opportunities. And, oh, it’s also where they shot the memorable finale of the original 1968 Planet of the Apes film.
You may also recognize Point Dume from the second Austin Powers film, The Spy Who Shagged Me. In this film, Point Dume served as Dr. Evil’s Volcano Island. It was also where Jackie Treehorn’s beach party took place in The Big Lebowski, and the pilot episode of I Dream of Jeannie was filmed here too.
Lying to Point Dume’s immediate northwest is Zuma Beach, arguably one of the most popular beaches in the entire the Golden State, known for its wide sands and world-class surf.
3. Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
Currently called the TCL Chinese Theatre, anyone who knows anything about classic Hollywood will still refer to this historic building as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
One of the only great movie houses left in Hollywood, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is situated in the heart of Hollywood Blvd, a great spot to check out all of the renowned concrete celebrity hand and footprints.
Grauman’s was the site of several significant film premieres, such as Cecil B. DeMille’s The King of Kings and the very first Star Wars film that had queues wrapping around the building at its 1977 debut.
The most famous of all historical happenings at Grauman’s, though, is undoubtedly its appearance in the opening scene of Singin’ in the Rain, the 1952 musical that is still considered one of Hollywood’s all-time classics. Movie buffs won’t want to leave Los Angeles without stopping by this celebrated theater.
4. Griffith Observatory
While many movie-goers will likely recognize this location from its most recent appearance in the 2016 romantic drama La La Land starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, my personal favorite Griffith Observatory scene is the knife fight between James Dean (Jim) and Corey Allen (Buzz) in the 1955 classic Rebel Without a Cause.
Maybe because I go weak in the knees for a bad-boy James Dean, but watching this scene shot at Griffith Observatory — with the stunning backdrops of L.A. to the southeast, Hollywood to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest — made me force my parents to let me visit the Greater Los Angeles area when I was just 12 years old.
When visiting Griffith Observatory, be sure to catch a live show at the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, including Centered in the Universe, Light of the Valkyries, and Water is Life.
5. Musso & Frank Grill
Musso & Frank Grill had to be included on our list of classic Hollywood locations, and that’s because, when talking about Hollywood, everyone seems to know it. That may be the reason it’s even been called “the genesis of Hollywood.”
Known for its servers in red coats and for being a longtime hangout of legendary movie stars, literary giants, and politicians, Musso & Frank Grill opened in 1919 and has fed anybody and everybody from Kurt Vonnegut and Raymond Chandler to F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, and Charles Bukowski.
Walking into Hollywood’s number one restaurant is like walking into a time machine filled with dim lights, old-school waiters, coat racks attached to booths, and an elegant bar and dining room.
6. Venice Beach
Originally created in 1905 to mirror its Italian namesake, Venice Beach has completely morphed into an unruly and bizarre smorgasbord of street performers, skateboarders, the infamous Muscle Beach Gym, and a lot of marijuana smoke billowing in the fresh Pacific sea breeze.
In the 1950s, Venice Beach became a hub for the beatnik subculture, so much so that director Orson Welles cast the seedy city in his 1958 film noir classic Touch of Evil, in which it served as the fictional border town of Los Robles. Venice Beach was also a common hangout spot for celebs like Jim Morrison and Olivia Newtown-John.
To get a closer look at locally-shot films in Venice, check out Venice Beach Walking Tours, dedicated specifically to classic Hollywood locations, uncovering the hidden stories and salty past of this enchanting artists’ community.
7. Santa Monica Pier
An iconic California landmark, Santa Monica Pier has been a filming location for several acclaimed Hollywood movies, including Iron Man, Forest Gump, and 1973’s The Sting, a classic heist film starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman. The pier’s 1922 antique Looff Hippodrome Carousel is where Paul Newman worked in the film and is also a registered National Historic Landmark.
This jam-packed carnival of tourists and amusement park rides is best known for its massive Ferris wheel and previously mentioned carousel. Pacific Park is a full-service amusement park that welcomes millions of visitors annually, featuring a dozen rides, midway games, ocean front specialty food outlets, and seaside shopping.
The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium features hands-on presentations and interactive exhibits, with the chance to gaze upon seahorses, East Pacific red octopuses, moray eels, and anemones.
8. Will Rogers State Historic Park
Last but certainly not least, Will Rogers State Historic Park was the former home of Will Rogers, the highest paid Hollywood actor in the ’30s. Rogers starred in classic Hollywood films such as Judge Priest, Steamboat Round the Bend, In Old Kentucky, and Doctor Bull.
Visitors can tour the Will Rogers house and surrounding stables and even get the chance to catch a game of polo. It has also served as a popular filming location for classic Hollywood films such as The Young Philadelphians, Dynamite, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
When visiting Will Rogers State Historic Park, be sure to take advantage of some of the area’s many hiking trails with spectacular views of the city.
We hope you enjoy your time in Los Angeles, and we hope you get to take in a bit of cinematic history while you’re there. Happy trails!