Hollywood is more than an intersection: An alternative guide to the world’s most famous city

When people ask me for advice for planning a trip to Los Angeles, I tell them to treat each neighborhood like it is deserving of its own day trip. Los Angeles neighborhoods are more than their tourist attractions. If you peel down another layer, you will find so many things to do hiding in plain sight. Case in point is the world’s most famous neighborhood, Hollywood. It is more than just the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard & Highland Avenue.

Hollywood is the most touristy and the most misunderstood place in Los Angeles. 

This neighborhood is not the “Hollywood” of the national news, gossip shows, and fashion magazines. It is not just the Walk of Fame, elephants on pedestals, and photos with characters. Hollywood, the location is actually pretty residential. It is filled with rows of historic apartment buildings and bungalows, movie history, and places. Here are my recommended places to visit after you hit those tourist traps for your Hollywood day trip.

 

Natural Hollywood

You might not automatically think of nature when you think of Los Angeles, but you should. You may be surprised by the fact that this city is a doorway to great hiking, whether it be a car trip away, like Ojai, or right in the heart of Hollywood. Yup, you read that correctly, Hollywood.

Lake Hollywood. Photo: Kristen Fung

Situated in the Hollywood Hills just off of one of the busiest highways in Los Angeles is Lake Hollywood. This lake was formed from the Mulholland Dam as a water reservoir for area residents. It was named in homage to William Mullholland, the man responsible for bringing water to Los Angeles. You may recognize the name Mullholland from the infamous Mulholland Drive that connects Hollywood to the San Fernando Valley or perhaps David Lynch’s movie by the same name. Without Mulholland, Los Angeles as we know it would not exist. 

Lake Hollywood behind the fence. Photo: Kristen Fung

Although Lake Hollywood is technically part of Griffith Park, it falls a bit closer to Hollywood than neighboring Los Feliz. The lake formed from this dam is a quiet oasis in the middle of one of the busiest neighborhoods in this city. The four-mile walking path winds its way through both shady trees and sun, and the area is home to birds and other creatures.  At the halfway point, you can walk over the dam that still has its 1920s details intact. Lake Hollywood offers one of the closest views of the famed Hollywood sign, without having to climb up Mount Lee. 

I recommend this as an alternative to or a respite post Walk of Fame.

 

Hollywood time travel

Now I invite you to walk directly behind the Hollywood & Highland Center to go back in time.

Perched high in the Hollywood Hills overlooking the hubbub of Hollywood and Highland sits Yamashiro, a place that seems like it belongs more in the Edo period of Japan than super touristy Hollywood. That is the magic of Hollywood. You only need ten minutes to walk to feudal Japan from the ancient Nile themed Egyptian Theater. 

 

Color postcard of the estate of brothers Charles and Adolph Bernheimer, located at 1999 N. Sycamore Avenue in Hollywood. Van Ornum Colorprint, Co., Los Angeles, 1914.

Yamashiro is the former home of two antique dealers who amassed a significant collection of Japanese antiques. The collection was curated to look like the inside of a palace, complete with gardens for quiet contemplation. No expense was spared on the details of home and grounds. Yamashiro has a curated collection designed to transport you to the past. 

Now a restaurant, you will need to make a reservation for dinner to get inside. You can roam the grounds outside of the house anytime. If you need a reason to go, check out the Thursday Hollywood Night Market. The views of the city at night are pretty spectacular. If you aren’t in the area, you can rent Memoirs of a Geisha or Kill Bill to see it on screen. 


Hollywood, Night Market

Speaking of the Hollywood Night market, another food culture phenomenon that is so hot right now in Los Angeles are night markets. These open-air events feature stands upon stands of food vendors competing for your dollar. These range from gourmet food vendors to local restaurants without permanent homes. Night markets are a fantastic option to please everyone in your group while still getting a great meal for yourself. There are options for everyone. In one place, you can satisfy your vegan friend, your picky friend who is looking for something familiar, your friend who wants to try all the things, and your friend who searches for Instagramable food fads. Night Markets are a great way to try everything Los Angeles has to offer all in one place. Don’t forget the shopping. This market has local crafters and makers as well.


Hollywood, Neighborhood supermarket

A lot of what you see in supermarkets across the country originally came from California. Because of this, there is so much access to fresh fruit and vegetables in Los Angeles. This is one of the major perks of being in this city. I grew up in a land that is frozen for most of the year. Since moving to L.A., I have tried many fruits and vegetables completely unknown to me. Like lychee, dragon fruit, bitter melon, romanesco, and figs in their non-Newton form. 

If you find yourself in this neighborhood on a Sunday, go to the Hollywood Farmers’ Market(HFM.) With a wide range of local farmers, crafters & makers, and food stands, there is a lot to sample and buy. I would also like to mention this market because of its great people watching. You can learn a lot about Los Angeles at the HFM in particular. Like the current fashion trends, what people are eating/juicing now, all while listening to people talk about the parts in television and films they are auditioning for. Its food court/truck area is pretty substantial if you are looking for a quick lunch option, or you can even learn how to cook your own lunch of the recently purchased produce with a cooking demo.

Title: Carrots and Radishes Photo by Wendy Wei from Pexels
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Hollywood Blvd is full of national chain restaurants, and you may feel like you want to stick with something familiar.  I think it would be a shame to travel all this way and eat at Hooters.  Other than grabbing a bite at the Hollywood Night Market and Farmer’s Market I recommend Hollywood’s oldest restaurant, Musso & Frank Grill. You will definitely recognize this place from a few movies, and they have a great dirty martini.


I hope that I was able to show you a different side to Hollywood. Instead of being a tourist trap, I hope you think of it being a doorway to nature, a place of history, and a great way to experience Los Angeles as a local.

- Kristen F. 

@thisuglybeautifulcity

Kristen is a midwesterner in L.A. She is the creator of the blog This Ugly Beautiful City, an itinerary focused travel blog that features travel tips and guides for anyone exploring Los Angeles from a local Angelino to a first time tourist who is passionate about food, art, and culture. Check out out her blog here: www.thisuglybeautifulcity.com 

3 comments

  • Wow! I simply cannot wait to follow your directives. Fascinating information from your friend where it is frozen for most of the year. -Brenda

    Brenda
  • This post just made me want travel!!! Loved it!

    Poli-Archivist
  • This post is so informative! Who would have guessed there is so much more to Hollywood? I look forward to someday exploring all of these wonders when we can travel again. Thanks!

    Nina

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