Los Angeles Overview
by Regina Hinrichs
Break out the sunglasses dah-ling, you’re going to Hollywood. Armed and ready with my clip-on shades, I knew I’d be discovered, but until then, I wanted to discover what makes this city so special.
We checked into the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel and set out to see the sights. No car needed since we were right around the corner from four major tinseltown attractions: the Walk of Fame, the Kodak Theater, the El Capitan Theater and Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
One thing you do in Hollywood is look down. You’re either reading the names on the stars in the sidewalks, or looking at the handprints embedded in cement at Grauman’s. This Hollywood institution is a lot of fun, especially if you’re an old movie buff like myself. It has quite a mix of celebrities. Fred Astaire’s prints are next to Ginger Rogers with Bruce Willis immortalized close by. I’ll bet you didn’t know this is the one spot where Donald outdid Mickey. Donald and his “voice” Clarence Nash have their prints here, but not the Mouse. I know, shocking considering the Duck would be doing AFLAC commercials if it wasn’t for Mickey, but I digress.
Grauman’s is also where you’ll find a booth for Starline Tours. We did take a tour, and sorry to say, I was not impressed. It was at night and billed as a “Haunted tour of Hollywood.” We thought that we had hired the car for the exclusive use of our group, but they crammed the six of us in the back with some weird seats that flipped up, and sat two strangers up front with the driver. The car was a “classic” which meant nothing worked including the windshield wipers when it started to drizzle. Our driver was very gracious and made frequent stops when we requested them, but the tour itself was disappointing. These tours aren’t cheap. If you do decide to take one, I’d recommend a daytime tour and taking one of the larger vehicles.
A new landmark is the Kodak Theater where the red carpet is rolled out each year for the Academy Awards. Larger than life is an understatement. The elephant icon/archway is five stories high. You can schedule a tour (note: these are suspended during the Awards) or attend a show during your visit. I’d like to imagine that I was sitting where Harrison Ford once sat, but most likely my seat was occupied by Steve Buscemi.
Right across the street is the El Capitan Theater. This beautiful venue from the 1920’s was restored by the Walt Disney Company and is now a National Historic Site. At any given time you might be able to see a first run Disney flick or a stage show. Next door to the El Capitan is the Disney Soda Fountain and Studio Store. A very cute spot to have a snack and get a Mickey souvenir. Have your camera ready as you enter since this is where the Disneyland 50th Anniversary Walk of Fame Star is located.
What I thought was the best feature is that Grauman’s and the Kodak Theater are all part of the Hollywood & Highland Center which is directly connected to the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel . I stepped out the door and there were the theaters and stores, lots of them, right there. The heck with being discovered, I’m going to use my Discover and buy a few things.
If you have the kids with you, you can Build-A-Bear, stock up on Hello Kitty at the Sanrio store and bring a smile to your teen at the Virgin Megastore. There are clothing stores, shoe shops, jewelry stores where you can get the appropriate bauble to flaunt, and then there’s my personal favorite, Sephora.
Are you getting hungry? I sure was, and the Hollywood & Highland Center is the ideal spot to be in. We had a quick lunch at Johnny Rockets. For dinner, some in our group dined at California Pizza Kitchen. I and my travel buddy craved sushi and had the freshest tuna ever at Koji’s Sushi and Shabu Shabu Restaurant. Loggia at the Highlands and Vent-A Brasserie are two restaurants owned and operated by legendary chef Wolfgang Puck. There are other dining venues from elegant to casual that will satisfy whatever it is you’re in the mood for.
Much as my party animal days are behind me, The Highlands nightclub is at this complex. The Mann Chinese 6 Theater is adjacent to Grauman’s and plays first run movies. For something different, there’s the Lucky Strike Lanes.
After enjoying Hollywood at our doorstep, it was time to venture out and see some of the other sites that LA is known for. Some hopped on the subway and went to Universal Studios. First, I was clueless that there was a subway system and second, who knew that there’d be such an easy alternative to driving? The first stop was Universal which has a shuttle running every 15 minutes to the entrance. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
There’s another popular theme park that you might want to visit. 6 Flags Magic Mountain is in LA. (You’ll want to check their calendar since they do cut back their hours when school is in session.) And please don’t tell anyone, but the Looney Tunes characters are here. Shh, don’t want the Mouse to know I mentioned Bugs.
I was with the group that went to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. Be sure you pronounce it Ro-DAY-oh, not Ro-DEE-oh. The latter identifies you as a tourist, same as wearing a Hawaiian shirt with plaid shorts.
Rodeo Drive is known for high end boutiques and shops frequented by the rich and famous. Prada, Gucci, Escada, Armani and a bunch of other stores ending in vowels, none of which I can afford, but fun to window shop if you’re a size two. If you left your lottery winnings at home, fear not, there are stores that you can venture into. There’s a parallel universe one block over on Beverly Drive where Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma, The Gap and Banana Republic are found.
After saying hello and having a picture taken with the Ambassador of Beverly Hills who greets visitors Tuesday thru Saturday at Two Rodeo, we took a quick peek at the luxurious Beverly Wilshire Hotel and headed to the Farmer’s Market.
I knew it was a mistake mentioning to my traveling companions that I last visited the Farmer’s Market 38 years ago. Let me settle this now, I didn’t arrive in a horse & buggy and my shopping list was not engraved in a stone tablet. Back then, I remember wonderful vegetable and fruit stands. While much of the same atmosphere has been preserved, the Farmer’s Market has expanded into a fantastic place to have lunch, buy great snacks and shop. I would kill to have a place like this back home.
Sadly, it was time to leave. I’m sure we only scratched the surface with our LA visit. There are the museums, clubs, sports venues, beach, zoos, golf, restaurants and shops that we never had a chance to experience. Until I’m ready for my next “close up” I’ll be content with the wonderful memories I have of this star studded city.