Silent-ology’s Handy Tips For Visiting (Silent) Hollywood

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:

Handy Map of Hollywoodland

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.

Getting Around

  • 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, clean, easy to figure out, and the locals are friendly and considerate. And a one-way trip is 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 over in Universal City (they’re less frequent and you might end up hiking to the cemeteries themselves, so study those routes!).
  • Yup, I studied the bus routes thoroughly before leaving for my trip, which saved a lot of time and guesswork. This site is gold: http://www.metro.net/riding/nextrip/

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.
  • 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, 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!

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30 thoughts on “Silent-ology’s Handy Tips For Visiting (Silent) Hollywood

  1. While still a splurge if you order off the appetizers or sides menu at Musso and Frank it’s doable. Like the Shrimp Cocktail with a cup of French Onion soup. Served with that great sourdough bread it’s quite enough!

  2. Hola Ms. Lea!

    This is a mighty fine tip list you have created. I’m a Los Angeles native, as well as a fan of Ye Olden Hollywood and if you don’t mind, I would love to add to your list:

    -Los Angeles is very much a car city. If you rent a car, you are more likely to see more things, regardless of traffic. That being said, buses can be helpful, as can the subway. The subway stops on Hollywood and Highland, as well as Hollywood and Vine. If you’re feeling adventurous, the subway does go all the way to Downtown Los Angeles, Universal City, and North Hollywood.
    -Hollywood Forever does offer tours on Saturdays, I believe at 10am. The guides are very knowledgeable and very friendly. Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills and Forest Lawn Glendale are both huge and are considerable hikes. I would bring a good pair of shoes if you plan on trudging up and down the hills looking for famous folks’ final resting places. FL Hollywood Hills is worth visiting, especially if you’re a silent cinema fan since that’s where the great battle in “The Birth of the Nation” took place. The topography is quite different now, but still: You’re in Griffith country! FL Glendale is further away and the staff aren’t as friendly. I was only able to enter the Great Mausoleum after I persuaded an apprehensive employee that I was here to visit my great great aunt Edna May Oliver.
    -The Musso and Frank Grill is indeed frightfully and forbiddingly expensive. However, if you go there for brunch, you not only get a delicious meal–they have some of the best flannel cakes in the LA area–but a considerably cheaper meal.
    -The Egyptian Theatre is an active theatre. Better yet, its a revival house so it shows a lot of classic films. Depending on when you are in Hollywood, you can see a movie there. You just have to check their schedule online.
    -Last, but not least, I concur that the Hollywood Heritage Museum is well worth the visit (I should know, since I am a docent there!) The museum specifically caters to silent film lovers and, despite its size, has a lot to offer. Right now the museum is closed due to renovation.

    • Thanks so much for these detailed tips, I love ’em! You know, after returning home I realized there was one thing I’d forgotten to research: where those famous Birth of a Nation battle scenes were filmed. And now I realize I WAS THERE. Fantastic!

      The next time I’m in Hollywood (for there shall be a next time) the Heritage museum will be a must. Perhaps we’ll meet in person one day! 😉

  3. Love this! No matter how many times I’ve been to Hollywood, there is always something new to see there because it holds so much history. I also adore that last bit, the one where you wrote about seeing a glimpse of Hollywood’s past come to life for only a brief moment… It’s so true.

  4. “Sacred alley.” Love it! As for recommendations, Paramount gets my vote for best studio tour. Lots of history there since its really 2 studios in one (Paramount and RKO).

  5. Love your website! I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you on my walking tour, there’s lots of silent movie filming that happened on my route (as well as later filming, radio, television and recorded music). Next time you come out perhaps! felixinhollywoodtours.com

    • Your tour was exactly the sort of thing I’d been hoping to find before leaving home–too bad I wasn’t aware of your site! Next time! (Because there WILL be a next time!)

  6. Pingback: One Week From Now, I’ll Be… | Silent-ology

    • True–thanks! Hollywood Heritage is a “can’t miss” on the sightseeing list this time! (I didn’t have quite enough time last year, although I think it was closed some of the days too.)

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