In my last article, I shared about my love for the gorgeous Art Deco stage known as The Pantages Theatre. Yet, there are many more theaters, restaurants, and experiences to be had on Hollywood Boulevard. Not to mention the iconic stars embedded in the sidewalks along the way. These permanent reminders of current and past celebrities make up the well-known Hollywood Walk of Fame. Construction on the sidewalk began in 1960 and with approximately 24 induction ceremonies a year, this tourist attraction is constantly evolving.
Now before we get too far into this review, I must note that it’s not all glam. This street is a major tourist attraction so there are plenty of crowds with cameras and cheesy souvenir shops. Aside from that, there is some seediness in between the sights. There are bums and other unsavory characters on the street. There is a reason Pretty Woman starts on Hollywood Boulevard. With the good, comes the not-so-good. If you have little ones, keep them close and if you are traveling in a group, just be smart about your surroundings.
A few blocks away from The Pantages, is the Hollywood and Highland Center (H&H). This is a muli-level complex of shopping, dining, and nightlife. I recommend parking here since it’s fairly reasonable ($2 to start), well lit, and a central location. Restaurants include the California Pizza Kitchen, the Hard Rock Café, and the Cabo Wabo Cantina. We recently ate at Trastevere Ristorante Italiano. This restaurant is located on one of the upper levels and offers a quieter atmosphere with good food. There is plenty of shopping from the fabulous Louis Vuitton to the more accessible Fossil. You can always find me buying makeup at the MAC store. Those looking for an edgy bowling experience can hit up Lucky Strike Lanes. There is a nightclub called Level 3. I have not checked this out, although, there was quite the line outside. The complex also includes the Dolby Theater, which is the current home of the Academy Awards. You can walk right where the red carpet usually rolls out. A cool element to H&H is its buildings are constructed at an angle so that the Hollywood sign is in perfect view. The icon looks down on the city like a radiant angel. All those dreams. Who will be the next star?
Just pass the Dolby is the TCL Chinese Theater, formerly known as Grauman’s. Here you will see the famous foot and handprints. Don’t be shy – get in there like the rest of them and see how you measure up to Tinseltown’s elite. This is where I found out that my hands are the same size as Judy Garland’s and my feet are alarmingly close to Humphrey Bogart’s. Across the street is the El Capitan Theater – a great spot to see a movie. Disney owns this stage and often runs special movie viewings with set pieces on display. I have seen a few films here, including 2003’s The Haunted Mansion. While the movie was a bit blah, the set pieces were really cool. The full-scale mausoleum was constructed behind the theater. As we walked around the crypt, I was in awe of the detail. Until the “zombies” started to climb out of the caskets. I was not okay with this. I quickly shuffled away from the screaming victims and proceeded to the next display. Personal fears aside, the El Capitan is an interactive experience. Plus, there is a fun soda fountain and gift shop out front.
The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is near the El Capitan and I consider it to be the gem of the Boulevard. The first Academy Awards were held here and many of Hollywood’s bright stars have walked through its doors. Marilyn Monroe actually stayed here quite a bit, especially when her career first took off. She posed on the pool diving board for a magazine and her resume grew from there. There are even stories of Marilyn’s ghost traveling its corridors. One such story indicates that she was seen in a mirror located in one of the hallways. Supposedly, it was later discovered that it was the mirror from the room in which she regularly stayed. I made it a point to seek out this mirror once. All I saw was a little-known writer wearing MAC makeup.
Other familiar names that have stayed at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel include the likes of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. Many shows and movies have also been filmed here including Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Catch Me If You Can. I should also mention that modern celebrities still hang out here, so if you are looking to catch a glimpse of a current star, you might just get one here. Even without a celebrity sighting, this a great place to lounge. I have often sipped cocktails poolside at the Tropicana Bar, hung out in the lobby under the beautiful Spanish ceiling, and grabbed a decadent grilled cheese at their stylish burger joint called 25 Degrees. I recently grabbed drinks at the Public Kitchen & Bar. This is a cool space to try out vintage cocktails. The vibe was preppy L.A. mixed with some industry hobnobbing. By the way, there are no ugly bartenders here. Bonus. There is also a nightclub called Teddy’s, an intimate lounge called the Library Bar, a vintage-inspired gaming lounge called The Spare Room, and a wild variety show called Beacher’s Madhouse. I tried to get into The Spare Room a couple weekends ago and a model-esque door girl told me that it was “special parties only”. That silly velvet rope. Regardless, this 12-story hotel has plenty to offer and if you see nothing else on Hollywood Boulevard, this historic place is a must.
If that’s not enough to entice you, there is plenty of people-watching. Grab a coffee and watch the show unfold. Yes, there are thousands of tourists, which means that there are many performers waiting to dazzle them for a quick buck. Folks dressed as super heroes, current movie stars, and just plain odd characters will let you take a photo with them for a small fee. Speaking of odd, you can also visit the Hollywood Wax Museum, Madame Tussauds Hollywood as well as Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
So as you can see, there is plenty to do here. Some of it is silly, some of it is breathtaking, and all of it is filled with fantasy. For a day, you can be a part of the beautiful madness. Technically, you could walk the entire stretch of this famous street, not buy a thing (except for parking), and still see a great show. As the man says in Pretty Woman, “Welcome to Hollywood. What’s your dream?”
For more information on The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, check out their site at http://www.thompsonhotels.com/hotels/la/hollywood-roosevelt.