Hollywood – the name alone will make you think of glamour and stars. However, when you go there you will quickly notice that Hollywood is actually not glamorous at all! Here is why I still think every film fan should visit at least once…
1. Enjoy the view at the Hollywood Sign
First erected in 1923 as an advertising sign for new housing developments, L.A.'s most famous landmark originally read "HOLLYWOODLAND". By today, it has become synonymous with America's film industry. For young people, I would recommend going there with a (free!) guided hiking tour by the hostel you're staying at (there are many along Hollywood Boulevard).
Be aware that it's called "hike" for a reason: The way to the top can be really steep and exhausting (especially on a hot day in the summer or autumn). So do take lots of water. Once you reach the top though, you'll be rewarded with splendid views of both the famous sign and the city (with Downtown's skyline at your feet).
2. Trace the stars on the Walk of Fame
The Hollywood strip with its countless stars on the ground is definitely worth a look. If you have the cash at hand (usually around 20 USD), you can also take a photo with your own name in one of the stars or even with celebrities (take your pick from Leonardo DiCaprio to Jennifer Lopez). Both effects are created by Photoshop manipulation, of course, but the results look pretty realistic and may serve as a good prank for friends and family or simply as a holiday souvenir.
If you're up for it, you could also jump on board of one of those "Film location" or "Homes of the stars" tours or in fact a "Hop-On / Hop-Off tour". I didn't do any of them due to lack of time (the Hop-On / Hop-Off bus would have taken ages in a city that vast and traffic-jamed as L.A.) and because these tours seemed a bit pricy to me. Instead, I would recommend to discover Universal Studios at your own pace.
3. Explore your favourite film locations at Universal Studios
Compared to the rest of the this vast city, Hollywood is actually one of the best places to get around by public transport. The movie and theme park combo Universal Studios, for example, is just a short Metro ride away: From the Hollywood / Highland station, which is right on the main strip, the Red Line will take you to Universal City / Studio City in no time.
For film fans, there is lots to see: My personal favourite was Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives. Unfortunately, you can only pass through there on a little train ride and you are not allowed to get off and walk around. But even the glimpse from the train is a really cool experience. Next to this is the house used for filming Hitchcock's Pyscho as well as a destroyed desaster field, which served, for example, as the backdrop of Wisteria Lane after the street was hit by a tornado.
Entrance prices may seem quite steep (between 75 and 95 USD for a one day admission adult ticket), but remember that you also get a lot of movie-themed roller coaster rides and shows with your ticket, so I think it's actually better to go here than on one of those bus tours. If you ask at your hostel / hotel or look online, you can often find special offers from about 89,95 USD which will include a second free visit, usually within 7 days.
4. Follow the Rich and Famous to leafy Beverly Hills
Unless there is a movie première or award show going on or a new star is introduced on the Walk of Fame, your chances of spotting a celebrity on Hollywood Boulevard are actually very slim. If you go to Beverly Hills and Bel Air, the likliness will significantly improve: This is where most stars actually live and where they go shopping. On a tour you will mostly see "gates" rather than "houses" because the stars obviously have really good security systems in place. Nevertheless, I still highly recommend taking a tour. The best are, again, the least expensive ones with a guide from your hostel.
Famous film locations here include the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel (9500 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills), where Julia Roberts gets a taste of the high life in Pretty Woman. Meanwhile, the location for the balcony scene between Julia Roberts and Richard Gere can be found much closer to your temporary home in Hollywood: This is the Las Palmas Hotel (1738 Las Palmas Avenue, Hollywood).
What are your favourite things to do in Hollywood? Let me know in the comments below!