Hola! Being still fresh from my first Keystone Kops Land trip, I thought it would be fun to share a few suggestions for how to plan a trip of your own. Because if you love silent movies (which you do) and haven’t been to Hollywood yet (aw, why not?) you simply have to go (asap!).
These tips are by no means comprehensive, since there’s a bunch of places I didn’t get to see. They’re also from my budget-travelling, see-everything-in-a-few-days, just-walk-everywhere-as-much-as-possible-for-Pete’s-sake-it’s-not-going-to-kill-ya perspective. But I’m hoping they might come in handy!
First, here’s my custom-made, incredibly professional Handy Map of Hollywoodland. Click on it to see details:
So here’s my #1 travel tip in general, aside from something obvious like “pack lightly”: No dressing like a tourist. None of this floppy hat + windbreaker + fanny pack + Rick Steves travel vest nonsense. Wear normal clothes and shoes that won’t give you blisters. Other general tips: Always have on hand your phone and camera (or your smartphone), your travel guide or at least a map, a bottle of water, and sunblock. And a plastic baggie. You never know when you’re going to need a plastic baggie. Maybe it’s for snacks or souvenirs or for protecting your phone if it rains. Bring a baggie. With these things, you can conquer the world.
- Before leaving for your trip, take time to study maps of Hollywood so you arrive with the gist of where everything is and know how to plan your days. Figure out where the main streets (like Sunset Boulvard and Santa Monica) are, and what direction to take to get to different sites. E.g., if you want to visit the Music Box steps, it’ll be east of Hollywood and a little south.
- Much of Hollywood is arranged in a grid, which makes it easy to plan travel routes.
- Let the Hollywood sign be your guide! (I’m assuming you’ll be staying by Hollywood Blvd, yes? It’s fun.) If you’re going east, the hills with the sign will be on the left, and vice versa.
- A lot of the “tourist-y” Hollywood area is very walkable, including Cahuenga Blvd where a lot of comedians filmed. Farther sites are doable but will involve a LOT of walking. You can totally trek to Paramount Studios, the Hollywood Forever cemetery and the Keaton studio site, but be forewarned that it’s a haul. I’m strongly in favor of the fact that you can do it. Or maybe just take a bus. Because….
- …You could rent a car…if you like that sort of thing. Despite practically living in my car most of the time at home, I’m not the biggest fan of driving, and the last thing I want to do on Fairbanks’s green earth is spend half my vacation is trying to navigate the traffic in an unfamiliar city. My solution: BUSES.
- Seriously, take the local buses! L.A. buses are frequent (depending on your destination), pretty punctual, easy to figure out, and many of the locals are friendly. And a one-way trip is around two bucks. Two bucks to sit, relax, look out the window and await your destination. You can even take buses to the area of the Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills and Forest Lawn Glendale cemeteries (they’re less frequent and you might end up hiking to the cemeteries themselves, so study those routes! Glendale in particular is enormous and basically requires a car.).
- Yup, I studied the bus routes thoroughly before leaving for my trip, which saved a lot of time and guesswork. I also made sure I knew what neighborhoods the buses would take me through–you do have to be careful in some areas of LA. This site was my guide during my trip: http://www.metro.net/riding/nextrip/
- UPDATE April 2018: The Metro Rail, the LA subway system, is super handy and is the best way to get to, say, Union Station from Hollywood Boulevard. My experience is mainly with the red line–other lines can travel through sketchier neighborhoods, so make sure to plan carefully! https://www.metro.net/
The Walk of Fame
- Once you start reading the Walk of Fame stars, it’s going to be darn near impossible to stop. Set aside an afternoon or morning just for strolling around.
- If you want to take pictures, know that selfies just won’t work due to your arm not being long enough to capture the whole star, so wait for a mild-mannered looking tourist to walk by, smile, and ask them to take your picture.
- This is one of the sites that’ll tell you the address of each star: http://projects.latimes.com/hollywood/star-walk/list/ However, it’s much more fun just to walk and randomly stumble onto your favorites.
Hollywood Boulevard itself
- Don’t miss the signs about Hollywood history sprinkled along the Boulevard!
- You will see lots of people in costumes milling around by the Grauman’s and Dolby theaters. Edward Scissorhands, Batman, Pocahontas, the list goes on. You can take pictures of them, but if you want a picture with them you’re gonna get charged (sometimes over $10!).
- You will see at least one Spiderman, if not two. At the same time.
- The Grauman’s and Dolby theater area is pretty kid-friendly, but if you’re heading east on the Pig’n Whistle side of the street you’ll eventually run into some bong shops and stores selling lingerie that look like something Lady Gaga designed for a joke and then tried to destroy in a blender.
- Souvenir shops are less expensive the farther east you are from intersection of Orange Drive and Hollywood Blvd. Walk enough blocks and you’ll even find souvenir “outlets.” You’ll also find 3 for $9 screen-printed t-shirt deals.
- There’s thousands of little Oscar replicas for sale, but look closely and you’ll notice that none of them are designed exactly like the real thing–they always hold a wreath or a star instead of a sword!
- Food options range from Subway to Chinese food to the prestigious Musso & Frank, which opened in 1919. I say, eat at the less expensive places for a few days and then treat yourself to Musso & Frank.
Enjoying the Sights/Sites
- So let’s say you want to get to Echo Park from the touristy area. All you have to do is take a bus east on Sunset Boulevard, then catch one west to get back. Voila!
- The Music Box Steps are on Vendome Street, which is off Sunset Blvd. (I walked there from Echo Park; it wasn’t that far.) Become at one with Laurel and Hardy’s suffering as you walk up all 147 steps.
- If I had more time I would’ve loved to visit some of the beach towns, via a bus/train. [UPDATE 2016: On my last visit to Hollywood I successfully took the bus from Hollywood Blvd to Venice Beach and then back via Santa Monica–it was a breeze to figure out, although traffic delayed the return trip a bit.]
- There’s a Hollywood Heritage museum on Highland (north of the touristy area as you’re heading toward the sign). I wasn’t able to squeeze in a visit, but still am highly recommending that you stop by.
- If you go to Hollywood Forever, know that the mausoleum where Valentino is buried closes at 2, and the other one closes at 4. Paramount Studios is literally right next to the cemetery (sadly I didn’t have time to drop by).
- Forest Lawn Glendale is where a ton of stars are buried. Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills has far fewer, but they’re Buster Keaton and Stan Laurel, so go visit.
- Cahuenga Blvd, which intersects with Hollywood Blvd, is where Keaton, Chaplin, Lloyd, etc. frequently filmed. The famous alley featured in Cops is a must and is south of the intersection, just down the first block–can’t miss it!
- A great time to go to Cahuenga is 9 or 10 in the morning, when traffic is light and there’s hardly any people walking around. Later in the day it’s a lot busier (popular cafes/bars are on this street).
- It’s hard to “see” old Hollywood. So many old buildings have been either knocked down or extensively remodeled. But for some reason, in the late afternoon and early evening, while strolling down Hollywood Blvd., I can see it. Just a little bit. I can see them in their ’20s outfits and shiny, fancy cars. Something about that time of day, and the warm low sunlight.
Have you been to Hollywood? Do you have any useful travel tips? Feel free to share in the comments section!