Hooray For Hollywood!

There’s no doubt about it, a first-timer’s visit to the Los Angeles area must include the Hollywood experience. Start your adventure where Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street meet; the intersection was at one time the hub of activity for the movie business.

The cylindrical Capitol Records Tower (1750 Vine St.) is located at the crossroads that also serve as the center of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The sidewalk plaques honoring movie, radio, television and music stars line both sides of both streets and stretch in all four directions. Maps of the walk’s layout are available so you’ll have no trouble locating markers for Elvis, Marilyn Monroe or your favorite star.

Just north and east of Hollywood and Vine, on Beachwood Drive, is a good place to photograph the famous Hollywood sign; go ahead and get a snap from here as the sign itself is inaccessible. There are countless other places of interest along Hollywood Boulevard (and a block south on the parallel-running Sunset Boulevard), and the area takes on different personalities depending on whether it’s day or night.

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (6925 Hollywood Blvd.) and the Whisky A Go Go nightclub (8901 W. Sunset Blvd.) are just a couple of the attractions in the area. Put aside a few hours if you’d like to tour the massive backlot of nearby Paramount Studios (5555 Melrose Ave.). Call (323) 956-4848 in advance for tour times and prices.

Gorgeous Homes in Beverly Hills

The ritzy neighborhood of Beverly Hills is also nearby, and you can get there by heading west on Sunset from Hollywood. You’ll notice on the way that there are dozens of places offering “maps to the stars’ homes.” Buy one if you want, but don’t expect to be led up to George Clooney’s front door. Many of the biggest mansions are set way back off the road where you can barely see them, and all of these places are gated and protected by security.

You probably won’t see Brad Pitt retrieving his morning paper, but there are hundreds of gorgeous homes that you can marvel at from public streets. All the roads here loop around, and Beverly Hills covers a relatively small area, so just drive around and see what you can see and don’t worry about getting lost.

Beach Bound

A first visit to Los Angeles also calls for a stop at the beach. Here again you have endless choices and everyone you ask will have a favorite, but a must-see the first time around is Venice Beach.

The town of Venice has a reputation for being bohemian, and many of the shops and residences that are by the beach are arty and delightfully off-kilter. Along the boardwalk you’ll find plenty of beach bunnies and muscle men and pathways just for bicyclists and skaters.

But you’ll find a lot more too: Buskers, fortunetellers, jugglers and dancers are among the Venice Beach cast of characters as are folksy artists working in every imaginable medium. Of course, Venice Beach can have slow days depending on the weather, but a visit generally isn’t just a dip in the Pacific – it’s an event!

No trip to the Los Angeles area is complete until you’ve visited Disneyland (1313 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim), and all through 2009 Mickey Mouse is letting people in free on their birthday. Register for free admission in advance at disney.com and take proof of your birth date with you to the park.

For more information, visit discoverLosAngeles.com.