Hollywood Boulevard is a vibrant, revitalized area with much to see and do for kids of all ages. The whole family will enjoy taking mass transit on this adventure; it's much more fun to zoom through the underground tunnels or in the rotating pivot of a double-long express bus, instead of sitting in L.A. traffic. The Metro Subway stop at Hollywood and Highland makes it easy to get to this famous strip from the Amtrak Station or other points in Los Angeles. To ride Metrorail and/or the Express Bus to the Boulevard from any point in Los Angeles, use the trip planner at www.metro.net.
Walking the Walk of Fame
Of course, there's the renowned Hollywood Walk of Fame, culminating with the famous hand and foot (and hoof) prints in the sidewalk at Mann's Chinese Theatre. More than just a step back into Hollywood history, the theatre is also ground zero for street performances and fabulous movie watching. In front of Mann's, your family can get in the picture with costumed look-alikes of Spiderman, Charlie Chaplin and Star Wars characters, C3PO, Chewbacca and Yoda.
Across the boulevard you can't miss the Disney Store and the plush, lavish El Capitan Theatre. Seeing the world premiere of the current Disney offering in this painstakingly restored movie palace is like time traveling back to the 30's; an organ player and live performance usually precede the film, which is played on a huge screen with a state of the art sound system. The latest info on this incredible movie-going experience can be found at disney.go.com/disneypictures/el_capitan.
Living Large At the Hollywood & Highland Center
Next to the Metro station you'll find world-class shopping, fun and a great view of the Hollywood sign, all in a movie-set style, open-air environment that evokes Hollywood excitement. From Louis Vuitton to the Gap, there's something for everyone at the Highland Center. Tour the new Kodak theatre, site of the Academy Awards. Relax at the Spa Luce, while the rest of the family is knocking down the pins at upscale bowling alley/lounge, Lucky Strike Bowl, a truly unique L.A. experience.
All members of the family will enjoy cooking their own food in a shabu shabu hot pot at Koji's Sushi & Shabu Shabu Restaurant. For the newbie, Koji's servers guide you through this fun and healthy experience. For a listing of all the shops and restaurants, check out www.hollywoodandhighland.com
A Different Kind of Hollywood Magic
At 7000 Franklin Avenue, just west of Highland and North of Hollywood Blvd. is a very special private club, the Magic Castle. Home to some of the greatest magicians and magic shows in the world, it is also the site of uniquely entertaining Saturday and Sunday brunches, the only events at the castle where under 21's are allowed, and an unforgettable family experience. Since it's a private club, you'll have to contact one of the magicians to get invited. Visit www.magiccastle.com to start the pursuit.
Strolling Historic Farmers Market And Upscale Shopping At The Grove
Since 1934, the landmark Farmers Market has been one of the best sites for L.A. people watching. Over 100 shops, restaurants and grocers line the aisles of this old style open-air market. You'll find an incredible selection of international cuisine: American, Chinese, French, Mexican, Japanese, Italian, Swedish and Mediterranean, to name a few; you'll even find delicacies from New Orleans and Singapore! From Mardi Gras to the summer concert series, there are plenty of family-friendly events at the market. For more info, go to www.farmersmarketla.com.
In stark contrast, upscale L.A.-style shopping and dining can be experienced right next door to the market. A 12-screen movie theatre and an award-winning concierge service are coupled with a beautiful outdoor environment at The Grove. For a complete directory, go to www.thegrovela.com.
Punky Pedestrians at Melrose
It's a funky, quirky, uniquely L.A. experience, discovering the New Wave stores and eateries on Melrose Avenue. Hip and trendy and sometimes garish, Melrose Avenue is the place to see the PIB's, (people in black), the Punks and the Pierced, but there are also some fabulous and famous L.A. restaurants, renowned Comedy Improv at The Groundlings (many Saturday Night Live cast members go their start here) and great shops featuring vintage clothing and nostalgia objects. From 50's memorabilia to Punk clothing, there's something for all ages to gape at on Melrose.
A Uniquely Western Sunset Ride
The Old West is alive and well at Sunset Ranch where you can take a one or two hour horseback ride through the Hollywood Hills. Their famous Dinner Ride is one of Hollywood's best-kept secrets and includes a trip past the Hollywood sign through massive Griffith Park and dinner at Viva Fresh Mexican Restaurant before the starlit ride back to the ranch.
I hope you enjoy these suggestions for Hollywood adventure on your next trip to Los Angeles. There's plenty I haven't mentioned, including a trip to the Fairfax District and famous Canter's Deli, the late spring start of the Hollywood Bowl's Summer Concert Series, a trip to the San Fernando Valley's No Ho Arts District and Universal Studios Theme Park, which is easily reachable by taking the subway to the Universal City station.
Warren Keating is an artist living in Los Angeles. Currently represented by galleries in downtown L.A. and in Encino, California, his work can also be viewed and purchased at KeatingArt.com. For more information, go to WarrenKeating.com.