Whether you go for the glitz and glamour vibe of Hollywood, the laid-back beach scene, or the varied attractions of LA, a visit to this southern California destination is a good choice if you want a mix of everything. Instead of highlighting 5 things to do, we’ll highlight five ways to visit to get that perfect mix. First stop, a glamping accommodation at Thousand Trails Soledad Canyon, which is less than 60 miles from LA proper and full of beautiful views. Choose a glamping cabin or cottage at this great resort set in the high desert and get set for an LA Adventure, par excellence.
Hollywood: Highlights include the Hollywood Walk of Fame which encompasses 15 city blocks and displays over 2700 stars honoring some of the greatest of all time, including newcomers Michael B. Jordan and Courteney Cox. Start your self-guided walking tour at Grauman’s Chinese Theater and check out the celebrity handprints and footprints in front of the theater. The Hollywood Theater, located in the historic Max Factor Building has the most extensive collection of Hollywood memorabilia in the world! From costumes to cars to props and personal artifacts, it’s all here. For movie-themed fun, visit Universal Studios Hollywood and take a tour to get a glimpse of what it’s like behind the scenes. And, of course, the not-to-miss is the newly opened Academy Museum of Motion Pictures dedicated to the history, science, and cultural impact of the film industry.
LA Highlights: LA proper has a tremendous amount of offerings when it comes to attractions – from museums to the famed Griffith Observatory to the Angels Flight® Railway. Open seven days a week, the Original Farmers Market has been selling fresh produce since 1934 but that’s not all visitors can find here. There are all kinds of food offerings from baked goods to meat, seafood, and poultry. How about a walk on the prehistoric side? Visit the La Brea Tar Pits, a sticky, tarry urban paleontological site that has fossilized bones of Ice Age animals preserved in the tar as well as prehistoric plants. Right next door is the LA County Museum of Art, worth a visit even if you just stop by to see the outdoor public art installation, Urban Light. Want to ride a funicular? Check out the Angels Flight® Railway – a 118-year-old funicular, or cable railway, that treats passengers to a ride up, or down, one of the city’s steepest streets. For some of the best views of the city and the famed Hollywood sign, visit Griffith Park Observatory which has, in addition to the planetarium, daily shows and exhibits.
Beach Life: There are several “beach” towns to be found here which makes perfect sense since the Pacific Ocean is the backdrop to fun in the sun. Consider visiting as many as you can including Malibu, Venice, Santa Monica, and Laguna Beach; each offer their own vibe. From a Malibu perspective, there are several beaches to enjoy: Zuma Beach which is great for walking in the surf; North Beach at Leo Carrillo State Park is dog-friendly and if you walk the beach toward the park’s South Beach you can see some interesting caves and tide pools; for stargazing of the Hollywood kind and checking out the cool beach homes, visit either Broach Beach or Malibu Colony Beach; and for surfing or just watching the surfers, head to Malibu Surfrider Beach. Venice Beach has a boardwalk where artists sell their works as well as shops and eateries to enjoy while Santa Monica Beach has three miles of beach plus the iconic Santa Monica Pier with shops and restaurants, plus a Ferris wheel and roller coaster!
Outdoor Life: Thanks to the sunny California weather, there’s a lot of fun stuff to do outdoors. You can stand-up paddleboard with the sea lions at Marina Del Rey; bike along Venice Beach; hike with scenic views (consider the Charlie Turner Trail in Griffith Park or Runyon Canyon, which is popular with the stars who love to hike); enjoy a private boat tour or rent your own canoe or kayak for a leisurely water ride along the canals of Venice; or stroll through the many public gardens which include Descanso Gardens featuring more than 600 varieties of camelias or the Storrier Stearns Japanese Gardens which features a Japanese tea house set among the traditional Japanese gardens.
The Wild Side: Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the final resting place of stars from all ages, including Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone of The Ramones and Rudolph Valentino, America’s first movie heartthrob and mobster Bugsy Siegel. Guided tours are available for $25. Fans of storybook architecture will enjoy a ride past the Spadina House in Beverly Hills or the cluster of “Snow White Cottages” in Los Feliz to view these very unique homes. There’s also the giant Chicken Boy statue on Figueroa Street and the giant donut atop Randy’s Donuts in Inglewood for some great Instagram shots. For something different, take in one of the shows at The Bob Baker Marionette Theater, which is one of the longest running puppetry theaters in the U.S. All the marionettes are hand crafted and there are a variety of shows on the schedule.
We could easily say visit a different island every day and you’ll find five things to do in the Florida Keys. But if we’re being serious, The Florida Keys have a million different ways to spend any time in this tropical paradise. We’ve got the short list below:
Screen Connections: The island known as Key Largo has many connections to Hollywood. First off, it’s the name of the iconic Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall film as well as the setting for the film. It is also home to the African Queen, the steamboat featured in another Bogart film (you can guess the name) and is now a tourist attraction that runs dinner cruises. The island’s Caribbean Club bar was also featured in the film, Key Largo, and has the distinction of being the oldest bar in the Upper Keys. If the Fast and the Furious movie franchise is your favorite, then the Seven Mile Bridge should look familiar. Also, Bloodline (Netflix series) was filmed in and around The Keys, with plenty of filming done on Islamorada so a visit might turn up a few familiar sights. Check out these locations for a little brush with fame.
The Dry Tortugas: The name is derived from the Spanish word for “turtle” which is what Ponce De Leon found in plenty when he discovered the area in 1513, thus naming it Las Tortugas. However, because of something that wasn’t found in abundance originally – fresh water – the island’s name was changed to Dry Tortugas. Comprised of seven islands, the Dry Tortugas have a lot to offer visitors from history to wildlife to wonderful beaches. It is the only regular U.S. nesting site for the sooty tern – look for them on Bush Key from March through September. It is home to Fort Jefferson, one of the largest 19th century forts in the US, which visitors can tour, and it is home to five different types of turtles – you can glimpse them floating in the sea. Plus, it’s also a snorkeler’s paradise with large coral heads as the underwater show!
Theater of the Sea: Consider it the vaudeville of the seas – a place where you can enjoy variety and be in awe of the show unfolding before you. The Theater of the Sea, located on Islamorada, is a marine mammal park with lagoons hosting sea lions, turtles, stingrays, alligators, and sea birds. This is the place to swim with dolphins, sea lions and even sharks and get up close and personal with the turtles, alligators, and parrots. Looking for a unique souvenir from your visit? Consider having a dolphin create some art just for you – check out the Paint with the Dolphins package offered here. Your friends will be jealous!
Shipwreck Museum: What’s a group of islands in the sea without a nod to shipwrecks? Of course, the Keys has a shipwreck museum, and it can be found on Key West. The Key West Shipwreck Museum tells the history of 400 years of shipwrecks in the area, which on average, happened once a week! Through the use of actors, artifacts, and film, you can experience this interesting maritime heritage of the area.
Nurture Nature: There are all kinds of nature-type experiences you can enjoy when visiting the Keys, including the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key, the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary on Tavernier Key, and the Dolphin Research Center and the Turtle Hospital, both on Marathon Key. FYI, the Key Deer can only be found in the Lower Keys and Marathon’s Turtle Hospital has successfully treated and released over 1500 sea turtles since it was founded in 1986.
For the ultimate in Keys accommodations, consider booking a colorful cottage at Fiesta Key or a perfectly appointed tiny home at Sunshine Key. Either option is right on the water and feels like your own private slice of paradise. Both resorts are the perfect location for all things Keys as well as a great place to call “home” while you enjoy America’s answer to a tropical vacation.
Right on the heels of the holiday season comes Awards Season. This is the time of year, from roughly early January until mid-February, when the Hollywood stars shine their brightest doing the circuit of award shows to see who takes home the coveted statuette – from the Golden Globe to the SAG Actor to the big daddy of them all, the Oscar. Take a trip to LaLa Land and vacation Hollywood-style.
Go full-on tourist and hit the LA scene that highlights all things Hollywood.
Walk of Fame: Stroll on over to Hollywood Boulevard and check out the more than 2000 stars on the Walk of Fame. The dedications here include luminaries from television, radio, movies, live theater, and the music industry, To have a star here, the criterion includes “being famous for at least 5 years.” The first star dedicated belonged to actress Joanne Woodward and the most recent was to Snoop Dogg.
Graumann’s Chinese Theater: Opened in 1927 to debut the film King of Kings, Graumann’s Chinese Theater was so named because of the style of the architecture. For years it was the venue for the Academy Awards, and is noted because of the more than 200 handprints and footprints of the Hollywood hotshots that you can still step into in the forecourt of the theater. FYI, those prints include the hoofprint of Trigger, Roy Rogers’ faithful horse and the tire marks of Herbie the Love Bug.
Hollywood Sign: If you want a good view or a selfie backdrop of the Hollywood sign, take a trip to Griffith Park. There are trails that lead up to as close as you can legally get to the sign. The outdoor patio at the Griffith Observatory also provides an ideal spot to get a good shot of this landmark sign that was built in 1923. The letters stand 45 feet high and span 350 feet across the entire sign.
Go on location and visit iconic settings that have had their fair share of close-ups during some of most the popular movies and television shows.
The Last Book Store: Located at 453 S. Spring in Los Angeles, the bookstore itself is worth the visit as it houses plenty of books, including vintage volumes, at great prices. From a fan perspective, you will recognize the place from the 2014 movie, Gone Girl.
Cunningham House: While the Cunningham family of Happy Days fame resided in Milwaukee, the exterior shots of their happy home was actually those of a house located in LA. Cruise on over to 565 N. Cahuenga Boulevard in LA and you’ll be transported to happier days! Can you hear Fonzie’s bike coming to visit?
Leo Carrillo State Beach: Plenty of filming has gone on at this popular beach in Malibu. Walk the beach and imagine you see Danny and Sandy enjoying those summer nights or Keanu and Patrick Swayze catching a wave while filming Point Break. The iconic beach movies of the early 1960s were also filmed here including Gidget and Beach Blanket Bingo. Named for actor Leo G. Carrillo, best known for his television series, The Cisco Kid, the beach is located at 35000 W. Pacific Coast Highway, in Malibu.
Get up close and personal with the Academy Awards and the stars who shine.
The Annenberg Space for Photography has a current exhibit entitled “Vanity Fair: Hollywood Calling,” scheduled to run through July 26. The exhibit features more than 100 photographs of film and television industry stars over the last 40 years taken by famous photographers such as Annie Leibovitz and Herb Ritts. Visit annebergphotospace.org for hours and more details.
Coming soon! The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is definitely coming soon. The museum, which was slated to open in 2019, is expected to open this year on the site of the former May Co. department store, located at 6067 Wilshire Blvd. Film related objects, including Dorothy’s ruby slippers and the typewriter on which the screenwriter wrote Psycho, are slated to be on display here. Watch the website at academymuseum.org for updates on the opening date and details.
If you’re looking to add a bit more star power to your LA visit, try staying in a cabin, cottage, teepee, or covered wagon at Rancho Oso in Santa Barbara. Rancho Oso is a working ranch and also served as a retreat from Hollywood life for silent film stars, including the famed Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.