If you only have a day in the Los Angeles/Hollywood area and you aren’t really interested in spending it in an Amusement Park, you really should take the one-day Sunset Blvd. self-tour. This covers some of the most famous places in Southern California through Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and down to the Ocean. It will give you a sampling of places you really must go back to later.
The Sunset Strip is the 1.5 mile stretch of Sunset Boulevard that passes through the city of West Hollywood, California, United States. It extends from West Hollywood’s eastern border with the city of Los Angeles (Hollywood) at Crescent Heights Boulevard to its western border with Beverly Hills at Sierra Drive. The Sunset Strip is known for its boutiques, restaurants, rock clubs, and nightclubs, as well as its array of huge, colorful billboards.
Start your day at Sunset and the 101 Freeway. Get off at Sunset and go west. Your first stop should be the Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery (commonly called “Hollywood Forever”). Take Sunset to Gower (to your right you will see where the old CBS Studio’s used to be). So many of the old radio shows were filmed or done live here. It is commonly called Gower Gulch. Turn left.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
You will find the cemetery on the corner of Santa Monica and Gower. Check out the gravesites. Stars buried here include Rudolph Valentino, Don Adams, Peter Lorre, Jayne Mansfield, Tyrone Power, and Douglas Fairbanks just to name a few. It is worth the stop. Located next to Paramount Studios it is the resting place of many movie stars, celebrities, and notable names.
Next head back to Sunset Blvd., turn left, and drive to the Cinerama Dome. It opened in 1963 and became the 8th wonder of the Hollywood world with its curved screen. Audiences screamed with fear and delight and talked about the effects for days. “How the West Was Won” helped make this place famous with the effect of the action coming right into your lap. They occasionally offer free tours. Call ahead to find out.
Once back in your car continue heading west, turn right on Highland, and left on Hollywood Blvd. Grauman’s Chinese Theatre will be in sight. You will only need half an hour here. Watch the street actors do their thing, take a photo with whoever is Batman or Super Man that day, or maybe a Marilyn Monroe look-alike. They work basically for tips. Of course, you must check out the stars’ footprints in cement and see if your feet match John Wayne’s. Don’t forget to find your favorite actor’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as well.
You can have a snack anywhere here but we urge you to wait until the next stop for lunch. West Hollywood! Turn left on La Brea and down to Sunset Blvd., where you will turn right. Within moments you are in the Mecca of West Hollywood.
Santa Monica Blvd
As you drive along you will be mesmerized by the great number of outdoor restaurants and the view from the Strip. It is one of the most enjoyable places to hang out and certainly grab lunch anywhere in the greater Los Angeles area. You can also make a left turn to Santa Monica Blvd., (often called Little Santa Monica) and find more great places.
There are high-end eateries such as Lucques, Nobu, Madeo, Amarone Kitchen, and Wine and Il Sole to name just a few. You can also have less expensive fare with great food and wonderful atmosphere at Carney’s, Barney’s Beanery, Gordon Ramsey, Carlito’s Gardel and Ago. Moons Of Tunis is wonderful for both Moroccan food and sit on the floor comfort while a belly dancer twists and turns.
We suggest having lunch in WeHo and relax. Visit Book Soup, an eclectic book store with many author signings and lots of autographed books. Across the street is where the infamous Tower Records used to be. The building remains but its changed hands often. It was THE place to buy your tunes in the 1960s and ’70s. The old Playboy Club building still stands and check out the hill which is Doheny Drive made famous by the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean.
If you really want to go back in time you can find the spot where Dino’s (owned by Dean Martin) once stood. It sat at 8532 Sunset with a neon sign picturing Dean’s face. Frank Sinatra frequented here during the Rat Pack’s heyday. The facade was where “77 Sunset Strip” starring Efram Zimbalist Jr., Roger Smith, and where Edd “Kookie” Byrnes once parked cars for his Private Eye bosses. The 1958 TV series featured any number of guest stars over time including Mary Tyler Moore, Dawn Wells, and even Adam West.
Places you will want to come back to are even more famous. The Roxy, House of Blues, The Viper, and of course the Whiskey. Lots of entertainment and counter culture history along these streets. The likes of Jim Morrison and the Doors and Jimi Hendrix were all here at one point and their memory lives on in an upscale new environment.
When it is time to leave WeHo behind get back on Sunset and head west. Beverly Hills is your next stop where you will check out Rodeo Drive, The Beverly Hills Hotel, and the Polo Lounge.
Make your next stop Westwood and if you have time drive through UCLA. The green and lush campus featuring Pauley Pavilion will bring back memories to any college basketball fan. The stadium Coach John Wooden built.
Pacific Coast Highway
Head west again through Brentwood, the Palisades, and on through the canyons as you smell the ocean air coming your way. Sunset will dead-end at Pacific Coast Highway and if your day is nearly complete with the only dinner on the menu; we suggest drive straight across the road and into Gladstone’s parking lot. Have dinner indoors or outdoors at one of the more famous eateries in the area. Or if you prefer to drive the coast to Dukes or one of the other fine places in the Malibu/Santa Monica region. Hit the midway on Santa Monica pier, ride the famous Merry Go Round and maybe finish your night with a snack or a drink at the local watering holes.
Hollywood in a day never sounded so good. Next time check out the Hollywood Sign too. It’s just east of your starting point today.