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Los Angeles Scenic Drives II

Part II-a: Hollywood at night

Exploring Hollywood & Sunset Strip after dark

No visit to Los Angeles is complete without experiencing the lights of Los Angeles and Hollywood at night.

On this Los Angeles scenic drive, you'll travel from the Hollywood Hills and Sunset Strip to the Pacific shoreline, and find out just how exciting this city can be.

During the first part of the evening, BidonTravel recommends that you explore

  • Sunset Strip—the fun center of Los Angeles,
  • Hollywood Boulevard,
  • Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex,
  • Kodak Theatre, the new home of the Academy Awards,
  • Melrose Avenue,
  • Hollywood Farmer's Market,
  • Canter's Deli (deli to the stars),
  • spectacular night views from Mulholland Drive in the Hollywood Hills,
  • a variety of fun clubs and dining choices, including the Improv and Comedy Store,
  • Tonight Show "Jaywalking" locations, and
  • much more!

Other sections include

Hotwire.com

Timing your Los Angeles scenic night drive

Hollywood Boulevard, Mulholland Drive, and Sunset Strip must be experienced after dark. You'll spend most time in these areas.

Depending on the time remaining, you can then select from additional stops in Beverly Hills, Century City, and Westwood Village. You may wish to complete this drive in more than one night.

Your evening ends by seeing the almost magical lights of the Pacific coastline from Santa Monica.

Because there's so much to see, you're urged to start this Los Angeles scenic drive before dark, especially during the summer.

The LA County Museum of Art, Canter's Deli, Farmers Market, Melrose Avenue, and the Grove mentioned below provide great places to hang out until the lights come on.

You need not do this entire drive in one day!

To avoid confusion, you're going north when you're headed toward the Hollywood Hills in the distance. This will keep you oriented until you pass Beverly Hills.

Beverly and La Cienega

Your Los Angeles at night tour starts at the corner of North La Cienega Boulevard and Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles.

For directions to this intersection, see Part II-c.

The Beverly Center mall—which attracts some of the wealthiest customers in California—occupies the southwest corner of this intersection.

The Cedars-Sinai Medical Center sits in back of that. Cedars-Sinai probably has more high-profile celebrity patients than any other hospital in the world.

Start out eastbound on Beverly Boulevard.

CBS Television City

When you reach Fairfax Avenue, CBS Television City pops up on your right. (Its lights are muted at night.) This is the west coast production facility of the CBS television network.

Among the many shows taped here is "The Price is Right." Interestingly, the Fox show "American Idol" also tapes here.

You may pick up free tickets for many shows at the ticket office (323 575-2458), which stays open until 5:00 p.m.

Just beyond Television City, turn right at The Grove Drive/Stanley Avenue.

The Grove

Although the Grove at Farmers Market doesn't show up well from the street, the entrance to its inexpensive parking does. You can walk from here to the adjacent farmers market.

The Grove provides one of the most ultra chic shopping experiences in California—it's no Rodeo Drive, but, nevertheless, you can really spend there.

Jay Leno sometimes tapes "Jaywalking" interviews at the Grove, which draws an fascinating mix of shoppers from the Hollywood Hills, Beverly Hills, and other affluent areas.

You may check your e-mail for free at the Apple Store across from the Pacific Theatres.

Turn right at Third Street.

Turn right at Fairfax Avenue.

Los Angeles aka Hollywood Farmers Market

You often spot celebrities at the Hollywood Farmers Market on your right. Gourmet chefs from all over Los Angeles congregate for high quality ingredients.

Also called the Los Angeles Farmers Market, this is the premier farmer's market in the western U.S. Packed earlier in the day, its snack bars stay open into the evening (closing earlier at 7 on Sundays).

Continue north on Fairfax, unless you want to detour to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

(An optional side trip)

King Tut left the building during 2005, but the Los Angeles County Museum of Art still provides one of the premier cultural experiences in the U.S., with free admission after 5:00 p.m.

Steve Martin has been a major donor, which may explain why he was allowed to film part of "L.A. Story" among the exhibits.

To reach the museum, instead of turning right off of Third Street as per above, turn left onto Fairfax.

Drive south on Fairfax.

Turn left onto Wilshire Boulevard.

Drive three blocks to 5905 Wilshire on your left.

Return the way you came, but continue north on Fairfax past Third Street.

Canter's Deli

As you drive north from the farmers market on Fairfax, you'll see Canter's Deli at 419 North Fairfax Avenue on your left. You can't miss its big sign.

Canter's provides a wonderful place to get away from the usual "Hi, my name is Kerry, and I will be your server tonight" California restaurant scene.

Here, you must understand, the serving staff is not happy to see you. No, indeed.

You are a nuisance that these ladies—whip-cracking dominants in some former lifetime—must endure to make a living, and their attitude toward you will no doubt show this.

On the other hand, this refreshing service concept packs in the customers and you'll love it.

In fairness, Cantor's Deli has become much more friendly over the years. This was evident when it hosted Comedy Central's "100 Best Standup Comedians" during 2004.

At Canter's, perhaps more than at any other inexpensive restaurant in Los Angeles, you may spot celebrities. Please try to maintain California cool and not bother them.

At least one celebrity, Nicholas Cage, met his wife, Patricia Arquette, while dining here.

As you enter Canter's and pass the takeout deli and bakery counters, ignore the main dining room on your right. It holds little interest. The soups, breakfast-type items, and delicious Kosher-style sandwiches served in the informal dining area straight ahead are what you want. Surprisingly, Canter's does not maintain a Kosher kitchen.

Nothing costs too much.

On your way out, be sure to stop at the takeout counters for some snacks.

Melrose Avenue

Continue up Fairfax a short distance to Melrose Avenue, a street of many unique small shops and restaurants and one imaginary apartment complex.

Some of these stores are unusual to say the least. Unfortunately, most close by evening.

Several blocks east of Fairfax, Jay Leno frequently tapes "Jaywalking" interviews near the Johnny Rockets coffee shop on Melrose in the early evening.

However, we're going to turn left—westbound—onto Melrose, and travel four blocks to Crescent Heights Boulevard.

Before turning right onto Crescent Heights, you'll notice the Improv sign a block or so ahead on Melrose (on the left).

This is the Hollywood Improv, one of the most famous comedy clubs in the U.S., at 8162 Melrose (323 651-2583).

Be sure to reserve on its website in advance, and don't be surprised if a famous celebrity or two not on the bill jumps up to take part. This is a tradition in Los Angeles, especially at The Improv and at the Comedy Store later on.

Turn right off Fairfax onto Crescent Heights Boulevard.

Drive past Santa Monica Boulevard.

As you near Sunset Boulevard, stay in the main northbound lanes.

Mulholland Drive

After passing Sunset, you'll quickly reach the western residential end of Hollywood Boulevard.

Continue traveling northbound.

Crescent Heights Boulevard changes its name to Laurel Canyon Boulevard.

Laurel Canyon takes you into a somewhat funky residential area of the Hollywood Hills. Many celebrities maintain homes in this area, including until his death Marlon Brando.

Continue on Laurel Canyon past a small commercial area.

Near the top of the hill, turn right on Mulholland Drive. Be careful, as this turn is easy to miss. If you start going too much downhill, you have missed the turn.

This area of Mulholland Drive—to the east and west of Laurel Canyon—attracts a young, hip celebrity crowd. In fact, most episodes of MTV's Cribs filmed in Los Angeles are taped near here.

These luminaries like the privacy and views, as well as the proximity to the recording studios in Hollywood and the film and television production centers in Burbank, Century City, Hollywood, and Universal City.

Ahead, Mulholland Drive begins to offer glimpses of the San Fernando Valley on your left. Soon, you have a spectacular view of Universal Studios directly below you on your left.

You'll also start getting glimpses of Hollywood and the Los Angeles basin on your right.

Because it's hard to enjoy the views if you remain in your car, pull off where other cars are parked, if you feel comfortable.

Beyond Outpost Drive, which goes right off Mulholland, you'll enter a section of Mulholland that does not have houses lining it. Unless someone has taken it, you should see a sign saying, "Scenic View 1/3 Mile.""

Just before Mulholland turns very sharply to the left, watch for this scenic pullout on your right. .

Pull off to your right at this parking area!

Enter but for your safety do not park here unless you feel comfortable. Do not park here if you will be the only car

From this viewpoint, you'll see Hollywood in the foreground below and the towers of downtown Los Angeles in the distance. Shaped like a stack of records, the headquarters of Capital Records (built in the 1950's before iPods) stands below you.

Ribbons of freeways spread out in all directions. Los Angeles is the most car-orientated large city in the world. The first major freeway intersection built in the U.S. sits just north of downtown Los Angeles, near Union Station.

Your view of continuous development to the south and east extends for over 70 miles, all connected by an extensive freeway system and a grossly underdeveloped rapid transportation system.

I hope that you do get to experience this place, the quintessential lovers' lane.

At the far end (eastern end) of the parking area, there are steps leading up to an even better viewpoint. At night, use these only if you can do so with other people.

William Mulholland

Named after the controversial—to put it mildly—engineer William Mulholland, this drive has been featured in many films, including David Lynch's highly acclaimed Mulholland Drive in 2001.

Unlike nearly any other city, Los Angeles had no significant geographical advantage that lead to its growth—other than the temperate climate found in much of California. It didn't even grow up around a Spanish mission or near a natural harbor like San Diego and San Francisco. It also lacked sufficient water.

Los Angeles expanded from a small village into one of the world's great cities because of people like William Mulholland, who brought water to Los Angeles from the Sierras, which fueled LA's remarkable growth.

Mulholland died in disgrace after one of his dams broke in Los Angeles killing some 500 people, but Mulholland Drive kept his name.

History buffs may enjoy Remi Nadeau's "City-makers" and "The Water Seekers." Remi Nadeau's more accessible "Los Angeles: From Mission to Modern City" also tells the fascinating history of Los Angeles. (In the interest of full disclosure, I am related to Remi Nadeau.)

Continue east on Mulholland Drive until you notice a bridge over the Hollywood Freeway (U.S. Highway 101) toward your right.

Instead of following Mulholland over the bridge, continue straight.

You are now on Woodrow Wilson Drive.

Go downhill on Woodrow Wilson until the first right.

Turn right.

Almost immediately, you come to a VERY DANGEROUS intersection.

Wait for the green light, before turning right onto Cahuenga Boulevard.

Then accelerate quickly to normal traffic speed.

Just north of here, at Campo de Cahuenga, across from the entrance to Universal Studios, Mexican General Andres Pico surrendered California to American Lt. Col. (later General) John C. Fremont in 1847.

Fremont, a controversial person who many historians believe was sent to California by the U.S. government to steal California from Mexico without cause, nevertheless allowed the Mexican forces to keep their land and weapons. Later, Pico became a State Assembly member, State Senator, and Brigadier General of the California State Militia.

Southbound Cahuenga Boulevard parallels the Hollywood Freeway.

Continue south.

Hollywood Bowl

Ahead lies the entrance for the Hollywood Bowl, a wonderful setting for symphonic concerts. Try to attend attend one of these in warmer weather.

Note that audiences at the Bowl tend to be somewhat noisy (read rude). Some in attendance have had a few too many libations from the picnic suppers they brought. Others are too used to rock concerts. Therefore, you may wish to favor more aggressive music, such as the "1812 Overture" typically played at a Fourth of July concert.

The Calendar section of the Los Angeles Sunday Times provides excellent Hollywood Bowl and other major entertainment news for the Los Angeles area.

As you continue along Cahuenga, stay toward the right.

The main lanes lead you onto Highland Avenue.

Drive south on Highland.

Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex

Hollywood Boulevard

Highland curves a bit to the west and and then you head south again.

The large Renaissance Hollywood Hotel pops up on your right.

You also may notice the sign for Johnny Grant Way.

At this point, turn right into the entrance to Hollywood & Highland parking, which is not expensive. Trying to find street parking is not recommended in this area.

The Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex calls itself "over the top" and you,ll have to agree.

You've much to experience here, including

  • The Babylon Court

    The spectacular outdoor Babylon Court, the central courtyard of Hollywood and Highland, was designed based on a set from the 1916 D. W. Griffith film, "Intolerance."

    Above the court, a huge arch perfectly frames the Hollywood sign.

    Around Babylon Court, you find a variety of clubs, restaurants, and upscale fast food places in all price ranges.

  • The Kodak Theatre

    Stand in front of the Kodak Theatre, and imagine Hollywood Boulevard closed to through traffic. More than 1,000 limousines are queued outside the entrance to the Kodak. It's Oscar night.

    In 2002, the new Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland became the permanent venue of the Academy Awards. It offers tours throughout the day. Check its website for current shows.

  • Mann's Chinese Theatre (originally Grauman's Chinese Theatre)

    Now part of the Hollywood & Highland complex, Mann's hosted the Academy Awards for decades. It also hosted the most prestigious film premiers, including Howard Hughes' "Hells Angels" in 1930.

    The Chinese Theatre remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in Los Angeles.

    In its foyer, celebrities have embossed various greetings on the concrete floor—including imprints of some very interesting body parts. There's no admission charge to the foyer area.

  • Hollywood Boulevard

    Directly in front of Hollywood & Highland, walk along Hollywood Boulevard.

    Embedded in the sidewalks—along both sides of the boulevard—are stars commemorating leaders of the entertainment industry. Many are already largely forgotten in this the most fickle of occupations.

    To the east, some buildings along Hollywood Boulevard look as if they belong on movie sets.

    This is another spot where the Tonight Show frequently does outdoor taping. Sometimes it sets up a microphone and camera on the sidewalk and lets the public show off its talent—or lack of it!

    Hollywood & Highland and its new "red line" metro stop have brought in many more visitors, which help make this area much safer. However, stay on Hollywood Boulevard and don't venture down side streets.

  • Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

    Just across and to the west of Hollywood & Highland, along Hollywood Boulevard, explore the lobby of the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where Marilyn Monroe once lived.

  • Renaissance Hollywood Hotel

    You might spot a few celebrities in the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel lobby and Twist restaurant, adjacent to the complex.

    This hotel hosts an "A-list" post-Academy party, and has a private tunnel directly to the Kodak Theatre. Now, that's a way to foil those irritating paparazzi!

Hollywood High School

When done at Hollywood & Highland, continue south on Highland Avenue.

On the right, moments after passing Hollywood Boulevard, you'll notice historic Hollywood High School, featured in many films.

This served as a virtual farm team for studios and television, with dozens of former students from Carol Burnett and Lana Turner to James Garner making the big time.

Immediately after passing Hollywood High—well, at least in your vehicle—turn right onto Sunset Boulevard, one of America's most interesting streets.

Sunset Strip

When you reach where Sunset begins to curve and ascend up to the Sunset Strip area, you'll notice huge billboards advertising various potential celebrities.

Because Sunset is the one of the main routes of record company executives between their offices in Hollywood and Burbank and their homes, agents use these billboards to promote new talent. The ostentatious billboards are meant more for the executives to see than for you.

The Strip is sacred ground.

On the right, you reach the Chateau Marmont hotel at 8221 Sunset. Comedian John Belushi died there.

Someone once said, "If you must get into trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont," and, oh, they do at this infamous but picturesque spot, which continues to be featured in film and televisions shows, such as the Entourage.

It's not alone. River Phoenix died in front of Johnny Depp's Viper Room rock & roll club at 8852 Sunset, an interesting hangout of local glitterati.

In a previous incarnation of 8852, mobster to the stars and so-called founder of modern Las Vegas Bugsy Siegel held court at this same address.

The Doors, as with so many other bands, got their first big break at a club along the Strip.

On weekend evenings, Sunset is jammed nearly to a standstill with traffic, but you may hardly care.

Every night, this is one big outdoor party. You may especially enjoy the diversity of the crowd and their often awesome vehicles.

Although the Strip provides predominantly "straight" venues, this section of Sunset Boulevard runs through the largely gay run city of West Hollywood. Gay entertainment and shopping center on Santa Monica Boulevard, several blocks to the south.

Some of the best clubs in L.A. continue to be on or near the Strip, which gained a freewheeling reputation over the years by not being part of the City of Los Angeles.

Outside of the jurisdiction of the more puritanical (in those days) L.A.P.D. police (who were less inclined to accept bribes), Strip club owners offered illegal gambling and other enticements.

Even today, the Strip retains a wild flavor.

As you approach the Comedy Store, note the infamous "Rock & Roll Hyatt" on the right.

This place is actually called the "Hyatt on Sunset", but those two-block long white limos parked in front tell you who stays there. Its rooftop pool—which overlooks Los Angeles—was featured in the movie "Spinal Tap".

The Hyatt and nearby The Standard Hollywood—the venue of two "Sex in the City" episodes set in Los Angeles—may be too lively for some guests, but many of the best hotels in Los Angeles are on quieter side streets in this area and in adjacent Beverly Hills.

If you can grab a Hotwire.com-type discount, these 4-star hotels are remarkably affordable, compared to high-quality hotels in eastern cities.

Comedy Store

The Comedy Store—at 8433 Sunset on the right—offers one of the premier comedy venues in the world. You have a choice of standup or group rooms.

A virtual "who's who" of comedy got their big breaks here.

And, they keep coming back. One night, I saw Robin Williams spontaneously rise out of the audience to join an improvisation group and convulse the room.

Continue westbound on Sunset.

The lights dim

The party seems over when the lights dim. You've left the Sunset Strip and have entered a quiet residential neighborhood of Beverly Hills.

You're still on Sunset Boulevard, but the fun has drained away.

Well, you don't have to put up with this!

Turn left onto any street, go around the block, and return to Sunset Boulevard.

You're heading back toward the Sunset Strip. You won't stay long because there's much more to see.

Go on to the next section of your scenic drive:

Part II-b: Beverly Hills (not the "no fun" part), Century City, Westwood Village, and Santa Monica

Have great time!

 

 

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