You won’t see anyone famous but you’ll see plenty of imposters. If you've never been, the freak show is worth experiencing at least once and maybe you'll go back home with a story to tell. I’d suggest making this a quick stop unless there’s something specific you want to do. During the day is much better than at night as there's better people watching and it's less sketchy.
Park at the Hollywood & Highland Shopping Center. If you plan to do a shopping trip in another part of town, you can skip the stores in this mall. Other than the Oakley store, there's really nothing to write home about. There’s much better shopping to be found elsewhere.
Stop at Starbucks to fuel up and get your parking validated. It's only $2 for 2 hours which is more than ample time to take in the sights and the smells. If you see a movie at Grauman's, they validate for 4 hours.
Also, the Hollywood and Highland Red Line stop drops you off right at ground zero which could be a good alternative to driving if you're staying close to the Metro.
Word of warning - a tour of star’s homes is more like a tour of star’s mailboxes and gated driveways. That being said a guided tour can be a good way to see the town with someone else doing the driving. My mom always goes on one when she’s visiting just for the people watching and being able to learn new obscure trivia from the guides.
Starline and TMZ are the most reputable. Starline even offers a hop on hop off service which could be a fun way to get around town without having to resort to riding the bus.
Grauman's Chinese Theatre - Check out the hand and footprints of all the legendary movie stars out front. Get your picture taken with a poorly dressed movie character or five. They can get aggressive on the tipping but you're not required to pay them. A buck or two per photo is perfectly acceptable. If you've got the time and a movie you want to see is playing in the Chinese, definitely go. It's a truly amazing theatre. Skip the multi-plex part though.
Madam Tussauds Wax Museum - The highest quality tourist trap attraction. Skip all the others.
Hollywood Walk of Fame - See some famous names immortalized on the sidewalk. How much of this you want to see is up to you. The stars go all the way past Vine and then along Vine down to Sunset Bvld. A little trivia- Muhammed Ali's is the only star not on the Walk of Fame. It's tucked away by the box office for the Chinese Theater because he didn't want people stepping all over him.
El Capitan - this classic theatre is owned by Disney. If you've got kids and you're not going to Disneyland this could be a manageable alternative as
Even T-Magic could throw a football off his back foot and hit a souvenir shop. If you need to bring something home with somebody's name on it
Sunset Blvd - (Far enough away that you'll want to drive if you parked at
Amoeba Records - If you're a serious music or movie collector, Amoeba is Memorial Stadium. It's too big of a place to go for a casual browse so only go if you're prepared to spend at least an hour looking around.
ArcLight Hollywood - Right next door to Amoeba and home to the iconic Cinerama Dome. While the Dome isn't as ornate as the Chinese, I'd give it the edge as the place to go if you wanted to experience seeing a movie in
Chain restaurants are all over the place in the
In N Out Burger - If you've never had one, you MUST go. There's no room for debate. The Hollywood location is barely a five minute walk from straight down from the Chinese Theatre. I like to get a Double Double Animal Style with Animal Fries and a Chocolate Shake. While the actual In N Out menu is ridiculously small, their secret menu is almost endless.
Umami Burger - (A block north of Amoeba Records) No offense to In N Out but Umami just might make the best burger you'll ever eat. The Manly Burger with a side of tempura onion rings are high on my list should I ever have to select a death row meal.
The Happy Ending – (Kitty corner from In N Out) This is the official
Hooters - (The one in
Fresh and Easy - (a block west of the Chinese Theater.) This odd little grocery store is basically the British version of Trader Joe's and specializes in meals ready to go (aka bachelor food). This is an under the radar spot if you want a quick good cheap lunch that won't clog your arteries.
Roscoe's Chicken N Waffles The
Yamishiro – Up in the hills, this sushi-centric restaurant has killer views at night. Worth it for that alone. The menu is solid all round. Moderate to spendy but not nearly as expensive as the view.
Palm’s Thai – Authentic Thai food featuring an Authentic Thai Elvis. Don’t be deterred by the fact that this restaurant is connected to a self-storage building. The food is great and the prices are very reasonable.
Hollywood Bowl - Amazing concert venue. BB King plays Wednesday (9/5) and The LA Philharmonic plays Thursday and Friday 9/6 and 9/7. A word of warning- getting to and finding parking for the Bowl can be more complex than Bill Callahan’s playbook.
Pantages Theatre - The Broadway production of The Book of Mormon opens September 5th. If you're so inclined this will likely be a tough ticket. The Frolic Room right next door is a wonderful dive bar.
The Theatre formerly known as The Kodak Theatre - Home of the Oscars and Cirque Du Soliel's IRIS show.
This is a hard part of town to suggest staying in unless partying like a rock star is at the top of your itinerary. The amount of congestion can really make coming and going a hassle.
The Roosevelt and The W would be your top party pads.
The Renaissance – basically connected to
The Hollywood Sign
The easiest and most accessible photo-op is in
The Batcave – Go on a moderately strenuous hike and pay your respects to Adam West and Burt Ward.
Thanks to the magic of traffic patterns
At 4,000 acres Griffith Park is the largest city park in the
Griffith Observatory - This landmark was renovated a few years ago. Amazing views of the city (on a clear day you can see all the way to
Greek Theatre – Outdoor concert venue nestled in the hillside underneath the Observatory. With a seating capacity of 5,800 it’s about half the size of the Hollywood Bowl. Crosby, Stills & Nash play Friday, September 7th.
Travel Town – Outdoor railroad museum. Large collection of trains spanning many eras with mini-train rides for the kids. Free admission.
The Autry Museum - In a simple nutshell the Autry is a museum dedicated to cowboys and Indians. If you’re an American history buff this can be a very fascinating. Closed Mondays.
The LA Zoo - Directly across the street from the Autry. It’s no Henry Doorley but it’s a fully capable zoo.
Horseback riding – Rent a horse and cruise the trails.
Hiking - Tons of trails to choose from. Keep an eye out for coyotes and rattlesnakes. Seriously.
Merry Go Round – A
Trails Cafe – Wonderful coffee shop/bakery at the base of the park. Fuel up on your way to or from the observatory.
The House of Pies - Family restaurant straight down the hill from the Observatory (approx half a mile south of the park). Just look for the giant House of Pies sign. Open early till very late this was my second home for 7 years when I lived a couple blocks away. The Banana Creme pie can't be beat.