Are you thinking about a Hollywood trip?
My family loves movies, and most of us appreciate a good Netflix binge too. We decided to build a Hollywood trip around a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood in Southern California, and it was so much fun!
You aren't likely to spot any celebrities, and honestly, Hollywood is more gritty than glamorous in places. However, there is still something special to visiting this entertainment hot-spot, especially if you're a fan.
Hollywood history can be found on every corner, mingled with famous landmarks and countless billboards for new blockbusters and hot TV shows. Hollywood is still a vibrant capital of the entertainment industry and a fun family destination. This is a better trip for families with older kids, but families with all ages can find fun things to do in Hollywood.
Here are my must-see Hollywood destinations for families. Most are located fairly near each other – up to 6 on the same block – and several cost little or nothing.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood was the cornerstone of our Hollywood vacation. It's the original Universal theme park, built on the real Universal Studios lot. The hour-long studio tour is still one of its best attractions. We are Harry Potter fans, so we loved visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as well as all the other movie-themed rides and shows.
Click the button to read all my tips for visiting Universal Studios Hollywood.
Warner Bros Studio Tour
I highly recommend the Warner Bros Studios Tour for families who love movies and television. We saw sets from some of our favorite shows, plus props and experiences from the Harry Potter and Batman movies.
Your guide can customize the tour to point out sets from your favorite shows, if they are open that day. Kids must be at least 8 years old to take this tour. My teen enjoyed it more than my 10-year-old, so this tour is best for families with older kids.
Click the button to read all my tips for taking a Warner Bros Studio Tour.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is located on Hollywood Boulevard, stretching both directions from Hollywood and Highland on both sides of the street. New stars are added regularly. Check the schedule on the official site to improve your chance of seeing a Hollywood celebrity in person.
My kids enjoyed spotting stars they recognized along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but they were not so impressed by Hollywood Boulevard. Star-studded events still happen here, but the street feels a little seedy – much like the Las Vegas Strip or Times Square. http://www.walkoffame.com/
The TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman's) is where you'll find the hand and foot prints of celebrities dating back to the 1920's. It's right off the Hollywood Walk of Fame, next to the Dolby Theatre.
It costs nothing to wander among the famous prints and get photo ops of yourself standing in a favorite celebrity's shoes. Arrive early in the day to avoid crowds. The Chinese Theater is still a regular movie theater and you can see a movie here. Tours are also available. http://www.tclchinesetheatres.com/
The Academy Awards and other big Hollywood events are held at the Dolby Theatre each year. The Dolby Theatre frequently hosts guided tours and ticketed events for the public, but we have so far been satisfied with just seeing the outside – which is squeezed between the Chinese Theater and the Highland and Hollywood shopping center.
You won't usually see celebrities on Hollywood Boulevard, but you never know! On our last trip, a red carpet was set up outside the Dolby Theatre for Diane Keaton's AFI Life Achievement Award. My husband waited at the velvet rope for three hours chatting up star-spotting regulars while the kids and I hung out at our hotel pool a block away. Just before the event began, he saw A-List celebrities walk the red carpet, and shook Ms. Keaton's hand. http://dolbytheatre.com/
El Capitan Theatre
This historic theatre is owned by Disney, and it's a fun place to see new movies and Disney classics. You'll generally get pre-show entertainment, and perhaps other special perks. El Capitan is located at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland, on the Walk of Fame across from the Chinese and Dolby theatres.
We saw a 75th Anniversary presentation of Bambi. Before the show, a Disney animator spoke briefly about some of the artistry that makes this film special. Buy tickets online in advance. Stop at the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain next door for a sweet treat before or after the movie. https://elcapitantheatre.com/
Who else loved the movie La La Land? It's hardly the first big movie to film at Griffith Observatory, but it was new during our trip and that pushed this destination to the top of our list. Griffith Observatory is an actual observatory with telescopes and lots of educational exhibits you can visit in the day or evening. Even better, there is no admission fee.
Parking at Griffith Observatory is limited. We parked down hill at the famous Greek Theater for free, then took the public bus to Griffith Observatory. It cost us 50 cents per person each way. You'll need cash, in exact change. Check the Visit tab on Griffith Observatory's official site for more good tips. http://www.griffithobservatory.org
It's not a trip to Hollywood unless you see the sign! Fortunately, it's big and built on a mountain, so it's not hard to spot. On a hazy day, it might be difficult to get a good photo, though.
Views and photo ops are particularly good from Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood and Highland Center, next to the Dolby Theatre. You can't drive or hike right to the sign itself. https://hollywoodsign.org/
See a taping
Seeing a taping of a show in Hollywood is on our wish list, but it hasn't happened yet for a couple of reasons. First, the shows have age requirements, and few welcome kids. Second, tickets for tapings are free and they are snatched up early by a lucky few. If seeing a live taping is on your bucket list, consider planning your trip around the dates you get tickets rather than trying to get tickets to fit your dates.
Check age requirements if you're hoping to take older kids or teens. Jimmy Kimmel Live! tapes at El Capitan, but the minimum age is 18. Other shows, like those on the Disney Channel, admit kids as young as 10. Some shows, like America's Funniest Home Videos, have a dress code.
Here are websites that can help you get tickets to a taping of your favorite talk show, game show or sitcom.
- Audiences Unlimited – http://www.tvtickets.com/
- On Camera Audiences – http://on-camera-audiences.com/
- Website for your favorite show
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