The sun was setting and illuminating the skyline of Los Angeles. It was the end of the day, and each skyscraper was radiant with colors of yellow and orange. It was a magical sight. My front seat passenger agreed on how beautiful it was and was hurriedly taking phone photos while we zipped through the frenetic traffic of Highway 101. In between obstacles of cars, buildings, signs, and power lines she tried to get a shot, but it was near impossible from our current vantage point and speed. Still, she managed to get something.
I have seen snowcapped mountains, sun splashed lakes, and colorful beach sunsets, all of which are beautiful in their own right. However, a conspicuous row of skyscrapers lit up from the sun with various colors, can be just as stunning in my opinion.
It was if the city was giving us a vibrant good-bye to the fun filled day that we just experienced in its neighboring city…Hollywood.
Hooray for Hollywood
I have been to Hollywood many times despite the fact that it is almost two hours from my house. Our guests didn’t want me to do much driving once we got there so, they booked a bus tour as well as entry to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.
It was decided what we would do for the day, the tour, the museum, Hollywood sign, movie star homes, the Chinese movie theater, and Rodeo Drive. All within miles of each other but at least 30 minutes apart, thanks to traffic and streetlights.
The Bus Tour
First up was the bus tour in a combined package, including the wax museum. The boarding area was just a block away and all of us headed straight up to the open-air top floor although, I bee-lined it for the shaded area.
Riding on top of the double decker is the place to be as it seems like you have a bird’s eye view of everything.
However, gone are the cheerful tour guides that used to stand atop the bus spouting out interesting facts and humorous antidotes via microphone. Today, you plug in a supplied set of earphones near your seat and a voiced-in person talks to you at the volume you select. Occasionally, the mysterious voice said something funny, but it didn’t have the same appeal as a live person.
Nonetheless, the facts that we heard for the almost two-hour trip were fascinating and informative.
Along the way, we saw the CBS building, Paramount Pictures Studios, the Capital Records building, The La Brea Tar Pits, the star packed Ivy Restaurant, LA Farmers Market, The Petersen Auto Museum, and, much, much, more. There are many stops where you can get off and investigate further, then hop back on at a later time.
Three Famous Streets
The bus tour took us through two of the most well-known streets in Hollywood but couldn’t go down Rodeo Drive because of weight limits imposed. So, we came back later to visit that infamous Boulevard.
Rodeo Drive is not long, and it only takes a few minutes to go from point A to point B. However, this two-mile-long street probably has more money in its stores than five malls combined.
This is where the super-rich come to spend. On a lucky day you may see stars or entertainers with multiple bags in their hands. Sitting proudly on the Blvd., the world-famous stores, jewelers, and designers all vie for the black cards and Benjamins of their wealthy customers. You’ll see names like, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Versace, Saint Laurent, Gucci, Tiffany, Cartier to name a few.
It is worth a few minutes of your day if you are in the city just to drive by. Now, as far as going into the stores, I can’t help you there as I have only gawked from the comfort of my car.
Do you remember this famous song ‘Celluloid Heroes’ from the Kinks? Its lyrics were as follows, “You can see all the stars as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard. Some that you recognize, some that you’ve hardly even heard of.”
It is so true; miles and miles of terrazzo and brass stars are set into the sidewalk with the names of movies stars, singers, musical groups, or even politicians. I must admit some of the names I did not recognize, as the song said. However, because of my age, I did know a lot of the old-time movie stars, directors, and such. Unlike the teenager in our group who kept saying, who? Who? Who? I felt like I was walking with a barn owl.
However, they have given stars to some of the more contemporary entertainers of today, probably to keep it interesting for the younger visitors.
I used to journey up to Hollywood just to cruise along Sunset Blvd. It has been featured in so many movies and videos. You blast music and drive along while enjoying the unique atmosphere of this iconic street.
First, Sunset is known for its giant billboards. The billboards are five times the size of anything you would see along a freeway, some are as tall as the building itself. Most of the oversized posters show upcoming new movies, TV shows, or music.
Along the route you will also see the historical Chateau Marmont , a hotel that has also been in dozens of films, and hosted many famous guests. Also, along the route is the Comedy Store, where legendary comedians have either performed or gotten their start. Other places to note are the Viper Room, once owned by Johnny Depp, and The Whisky a Go Go where the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Doors, and Kiss have performed.
For simple food, there is Mel’s drive -in, and where we ate, Carney’s. Carney’s is distinct as it is in an actual old Union Pacific locomotive. You can eat outside or in the dining car. My burger was excellent, and you can sit along Sunset watching the fancy cars drive by.
When we visited this area many years ago, we would try to see who was in the expensive cars. Most of the time, we just made up who we saw. This time it was Jerry Seinfeld in a beautiful black Audi, and Miley Cyrus in another expensive auto. We saw Meryl Streep ,Barbara Walters, and in a super luxurious car, Pierce Brosnan. Sadly, it wasn’t them, but the drivers held a close enough resemblance for us to pretend and make each other laugh.
Along Sunset Blvd., you will also see side streets that take you up into the hills to view the movie star homes. This wasn’t on our bus tour, but I did a side trip to show my guests this exclusive area. We drove by Beverly Hills and Bel Air, two of the most well-known areas. Most of the mansions are hidden behind gates, large trees, and shrubs, so, not much to see. However, if you look closely, you get glimpses of some of the massive estates. Also, you can see these mansions on hill tops overlooking the Los Angeles Valley and Pacific Ocean.
I knew the street where Barbara Streisand formerly lived so, on many occasions, I have taken my friends on that road. Now, I don’t remember the exact house on the block, so I always let my passengers know that this is the fifty-cent tour, if you want to know the exact location, take the forty-dollar bus tour.
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.
Back to the museum after getting off of the bus, we really did see Meryl Streep, well…in wax form that is.
When you go up the first set of stairs, you are greeted by one of the most favorite and loved actresses of all time, Betty White. You can stand right next to her statue, and I was surprised on how short she was. With all figures, everything is actual, height, feet size, hand size, etc. She looked so real; I was amazed.
As you proceed through the museum, you are greeted by stars, musicians, singers, etc. What really impressed me were two things, one, that you can get close and interact with the wax statues. In some cases, props are set up for you to use for photo opportunities. As an example, you can sit on the bench with Forrest Gump, put on gloves and box with Rocky, wear Hannibal Lectors straight jacket. Or, you can ride on a camel with Lawrence of Arabia, dance with J-Lo, look into the eyes of Angelina Jolie, or sit in a chair under the scary scissor hands of Johnny Depp. It wasn’t just looking at wax figures; it was interactive and fun to see.
The second thing that impressed me was that most of the statues looked so alive and exactly like the person. In a few cases, I feel they failed, but in most, it was if they were really there. On a few, I was waiting for them to talk to me and tell me that it is just a joke; we are actually standing in front of you. That is how lifelike they were. Their eyes were so perfect, and you can see veins on their arms and legs, no attention to detail was spared. It is very impressive and worth the price of admission in my opinion.
Grauman’s Chinese Theater
Just a few steps away from Madame Tussauds sat the TCL Chinese Theater, formerly Grauman’s. It will always be called that as I have visited it many times in my life.
Nonetheless, it is the place where entertainers are remembered by having their hands and feet imprinted in cement. Most of the prints were from people long ago, does John Wayne ring a bell? Once again, the youngster in our group was reciting her mantra, who? Who? Who? Luckily, a few newer cement blocks were up front such as the cast of ‘Twilight’. We had a bet on who had bigger feet, Team Jacob or Team Edward. I bet on Team Jacob and won with his size 11 shoe. Jacob is Taylor Lautner and Edward is Robert Pattinson.
It was still nice seeing these world-famous sights regardless of what age you are, but it helps to remember the likes of Tyrone Power, Rock Hudson, Lucille ball, etc.
As the day slowly turned to night, we had one more sight to see.
The Hollywood Sign
We put Griffith Park in the GPS and it took us to a street that was smack in the middle of a perfect view of the Hollywood Sign. This is one of the most famous icons in the world so you have to get a shot of it.
We wanted to go to the Griffith Observatory but GPS said thirty minutes and by this time we were too tired.
So ends our day in Hollywood. It was a fun filled day of sights and stars, well maybe not real stars. So, in ending, I have only one last thing remaining to say about this trip… *Hooray for Hollywood.
Photos and story by: Debbie Colwell
*Hooray for Hollywood is a song first featured in the 1937 Movie, Hollywood Hotel. It later became the staple soundtrack intro song of the Academy Awards.