Perhaps more than anywhere else in the country, Hollywood represents the glamorous West Coast lifestyle and high-profile world of movie stars and moguls that visitors from all over the globe find particularly alluring.
Hollywood is located just a stone’s throw from downtown Los Angeles and is situated in the center of some of the area’s most exclusive residential and business areas, like Burbank, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica.
Many of the city’s most prominent attractions focus on its long history in the film industry, but it’s far from a one-trick pony.
Guests will also have access to natural and historical attractions, tons of live entertainment venues, and some of the world’s top-ranked eateries.
1. The Hollywood Museum
Spread over multiple floors along North Highland Avenue in Hollywood, the Hollywood Museum is home to one of the country’s most impressive collections of music and showbiz memorabilia.
Items on display include costumes, props, original film, and first-hand accounts of the actors and actresses who starred in some of the biggest blockbuster hits over the last century.
Perennial favorites include dresses worn by Marilyn Monroe and the eerie cell that held Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs.
For first-time visitors, it’s definitely one of those places that shouldn’t be overlooked, and it’s conveniently located near other worthwhile attractions.
2. Hollywood Walk of Fame
Unlike many of the area’s most iconic attractions, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a public space that’s always open and doesn’t cost a dime to visit.
The Walk of Fame has been around for more than 50 years and includes more than 2,000 individual stars commemorating some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.
The attraction draws millions of visitors per year and is one of the most photographed sites in the state.
Expect to run into celebrity impersonators and street performers that make for a fun, unique, and engaging experience.
Consider visiting early in the morning if you’d like to avoid the crowds.
3. Hollywood Sign
When it was originally built nearly 100 years ago, the famous Hollywood sign perched on the desert hills overlooking the city actually read ‘Hollywoodland.’
Back then, it was just a humble advertisement for a real estate development, but over the years, it has morphed into one of California’s most treasured cultural icons.
Each letter is nearly 50 feet tall, and the sign is often featured in films set in Los Angeles.
It’s located in nearby Griffith Park, and though access to the sign is prohibited, it’s possible to get relatively close for those who don’t mind a moderate hike.
4. Dolby Theatre
Like sun, palm trees, and movie stars, historic theaters are in no short supply in Hollywood.
Located on Hollywood Boulevard, the Dolby Theatre is most well-known as the home of the annual Academy Awards.
That makes it one of the biggest red-carpet venues in Southern California, and it’s open to visitors and guided tours nearly every day of the year.
The impressive theater features a majestic staircase and wide stage from which the awards are doled out to Hollywood’s elite actors and actresses.
Guided tours are a great way to delve into the theater’s amazing history. Most guests spend a few hours on-site before heading off to other attractions.
5. Hollywood Wax Museum
What do James Bond, Marilyn Monroe, and Hulk Hogan have in common?
For starters, their likenesses are all captured in wax at the Hollywood Wax Museum on Hollywood Boulevard.
And they’re just a few of the hundreds of celebrities, politicians, sports stars, and movie characters that guests will discover while exploring the popular museum.
The Hollywood Wax Museum is the oldest attraction of its kind in the country, and visitors are encouraged to get up-close-and-personal with the figures for truly unique photo-ops.
Exhibits include interesting and educational information, and guests can view a demo to see how the figures are made and repaired.
6. Warner Brothers Studio
Located just north of Hollywood across California Route 101, the Warner Brothers Studio in Burbank is another must-visit attraction for film and music buffs visiting Southern California.
Warner Brothers has produced some of the country’s most-loved music, movies, and television shows over the years; they run the gamut from Casablanca and The Perfect Storm to Big Bang Theory, Friends, and songs from The Grateful Dead.
Professionally guided tours are available in three and six-hour offerings, both of which give eager visitors unique insights into some of the studio’s biggest hits and the A-list performers who helped make it all happen.
7. Griffith Observatory
From the hills overlooking downtown Los Angeles, it’s possible to get amazing views of the sprawling desert city below and the heavens above.
The Griffith Observatory is home to one of the area’s most advanced planetariums. It’s a favorite destination for those looking to take advantage of its comfy chairs and chilly air-conditioning while experiencing a virtual tour of the universe.
When the weather is cooperating, the observatory on Mount Hollywood also offers impressive views of the famous Hollywood sign and other premier attractions.
The facility hosts a variety of regularly scheduled events, so consider checking out their website to see what’s on the calendar for when you’ll be visiting.
8. Chinese Theater
Few places in Hollywood capture the essences of the old and the new like the Chinese Theater.
The facility seats nearly 1,000 spectators and features one of the country’s largest IMAX auditoriums.
Though much of the theater’s stunning Chinese architecture is original, it’s undergone a number of renovations since it was built in the ‘20s, which means it now features state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems too.
One of the theater’s claims to fame is the nearly 200 hand and footprints of Hollywood stars, some of which date back almost 90 years.
Tickets go fast for popular shows, so plan accordingly if you’ll be visiting during peak times.
9. Museum of Death
What could possibly be more fun and cheery than spending a few hours exploring a museum dedicated to death in all its wonderful forms?
Not much, according to previous guests who’ve forsaken the area’s more traditional attractions for a glimpse into the world of hitmen, serial killers, and ghastly execution contraptions.
The museum’s fascinating but dark collection includes works of art produced by crazed killers, original photographs from heinous crime scenes, and other tidbits of local lore not typically found in more mainstream attractions.
Self-guided tours last about an hour and are probably best reserved for mature audiences with relatively strong constitutions.
10. Hollywood Heritage Museum
The ground on which the Hollywood Heritage Museum now sits was the site of the first feature movie to be filmed and produced in the city of Hollywood.
That was more than 100 years ago, and one of the producers was showbiz icon, Cecil B. DeMille.
Back then, much of the Hollywood area was comprised of large citrus farms, but the museum has carved out its niche to preserve and promote the region’s rich film tradition.
The museum sports an impressive collection of film-related memorabilia, but it’s small and low-key compared with many of Hollywood’s more touristy attractions, making it a real gem that shouldn’t be overlooked.
11. Runyon Canyon Park
At just over 150 acres, Runyon Canyon Park isn’t Los Angeles County’s largest natural area, but it’s just a hop skip and a jump from Hollywood.
Located off Mulholland Drive, it offers fit, outdoorsy types a convenient opportunity to experience Mother Nature without driving halfway across the state.
The canyon features an extensive network of trails open to hikers and mountain bikers. It offers unobstructed views of the desert and Santa Monica Mountains just inland from the Pacific Ocean.
The canyon is often crowded with hip entertainment types and out of town stargazers, so consider visiting during the week or in the afternoon when it’s generally less crowded.
12. Hollyhock House
Nearly 100 years ago, the Hollyhock House was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for an heiress to an oil fortune who preferred the serenity of the Hollywood hills to the hustle and bustle of the downtown area.
The home is located on a 12-acre site overlooking East Hollywood, and after years of renovation, it’s once again open to the public.
The architecturally unique house is now one of the premier attractions in the Barnsdall Art Park and was recently designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historical significance.
The cost of admission is dirt cheap by LA standards, and most guests show themselves around for an hour or two.
13. Museum of Illusions
Every year, seekers of fame and fortune from all over the country descend on Southern California to make their mark in the film and music industries.
Though most of their dreams are little more than illusions, there’s one place where illusions of a different kind are actually fun, engaging, and downright entertaining.
The Museum of Illusions is an interactive attraction allowing fun-loving guests to enter a world of fantasy and mind-bending optics that make for unique and exhilarating experiences.
The museum is a great option for families traveling with little ones and tends to stand out as a favorite for those who’ve had their fill of film memorabilia and wax movie stars.
14. Sunset Strip
For those interested in experiencing the unique mix of glitz and seediness that blend together to make Hollywood what it is, there’s really no better place to do it than the Sunset Strip.
This world-famous portion of blacktop and concrete on Sunset Boulevard sits squarely between Hollywood and Beverly Hills; it’s about as full of local charm and character as you’re likely to find anywhere in the area.
The strip is open 24-7 and is characterized by eclectic shops, live entertainment venues, and restaurants and bars catering to a wide range of clientele.
It’s not uncommon to see celebrities, too, especially in the evenings and on weekends.
15. La Brea Tar Pits and Museum
Tens of thousands of years ago, when the city of Los Angeles didn’t exist, the area around Hollywood and La Brea was home to a number of tar pits that ended up as the final resting place for a variety of animal species that are now extinct.
The La Brea Tar Pits and Museum are some of the area’s most unique natural attractions; they feature the fossilized remains of careless beasts that fell into the pools.
The attractions are located in Hancock Park and are especially notable for the life-size replicas of mammoth, bison, and saber-toothed cats that once roamed the California hills.