Los Angeles is the kind of city that reinvents itself all the time. Part of that phenomenon is caused by how fast it grows. Los Angeles was a small city by east coast standards until the movie industry took off early in the 20th century, starting with silent movies, later expanding greatly with the rise of modern movies and television. The real driver of the city’s expansion was the rise of the interstate highway system in the 1950s and 60s. Los Angeles is now the biggest city in California, and the 2nd most populous city in the US.
The newer parts of the city have swamped the original footprint of L.A. That can fool newcomers into thinking that the entire city is only a few years old. That’s misleading. There are still lots of historic Hollywood landmarks in the city worth visiting.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part about visiting Hollywood landmarks when you’re in town is how familiar they are, even to travelers from foreign countries. If it’s in Los Angeles, and it’s more than a few years old, you’ve probably seen it in a movie or television episode at least once. Here’s a handy list of five old school Hollywood landmarks to visit to get a great dose of Hollywood history.
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
Los Angeles was built on the movie industry. It was once home to dozens of exotic, palatial movie houses. The rise of entertainment on the small screen has put a dent in movie theater attendance over the years. That forced the closure of many big movie houses in L. A.
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard is a notable exception. It has been going strong since it opened in 1927, and it’s still a great place to take in a movie. Even if you’re not in the mood for movie, a trip to Graumans to see the handprints and signatures of famous movie stars in the concrete sidewalk outside the theater is a real treat for movie buffs. The street scene on Hollywood Boulevard is great fun for people watching, too.
The Griffith Observatory is a fun Hollywood landmark to visit. The observatory is located high above the city, so it offers great views of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. Griffith Observatory is also a great place to start a hiking tour that wends along the hills to the top of Mount Hollywood. It’s fun to see the city framed from various angles by the iconic Hollywood sign.
Los Angeles isn’t a high rise city. There are a few skyscrapers downtown, but for the most part, it’s a one-story town. One of the more charming old Hollywood landmarks is the original Charlie Chaplin Studio on North LaBrea Avenue. It looks more like a Tudor-style apartment complex from the street, but it’s still a fully-functioning movie, TV, and recording studio.
The studio included a residence for Charlie Chaplin, and had a tennis court, pool, and horse stables. After Chaplin stopped making movies, the buildings and grounds passed through several hands, but it’s now home to Jim Henson productions. The studio has been designated as a Historic-Cultural Monument since 1969, so it’s still got its old school look. It can be hard to get a tour of the studio, but many events like Puppet Up! are held on the grounds that will get you inside for a look.
The Musso and Frank Grill
You’ll feel like a Hollywood bigwig when you slide into a cool, red, leatherette booth at the Musso and Frank Grill. It’s been a go-to restaurant for the industry’s movers and shakers since it opened in 1919. You can drop by most any time they’re open and see the celebrities and executives making deals over cocktails or meals. You’ll have to be starstruck without bothering anyone, however. The staff at Musso’s pride themselves on treating Hollywood stars and film and TV honchos with low-key respect, and won’t take kindly to you bothering their guests for selfies or autographs. Just soak in the atmosphere, and have on of their famous martinis.
Will Rogers State Park
Will Rogers isn’t the first name that comes to mind when you think of Hollywood legends, but back in the early 1930s he was the highest paid actor in Tinseltown. He used a lot of that money to buy a beautiful house and almost 200 acres of ranchland in Pacific Palisades. His house and a lot of the grounds are a state park now, and it’s fun to take a tour of his ranch style house and stables. The park features tours, hiking, horseback riding, a wonderful picnicking area, and even the occasional polo match.
The easiest way to see Hollywood landmarks is with a long term car rental from Value Rental Car. They offer free pickup and dropoff service from their locations in Inglewood near LAX, and on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. Call to find out more!
Photo courtesy of the The Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division