Los Angeles Stories and Tips

Rodeo Drive, Sunset Strip & Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hollywood Walk of Fame  Photo, Los Angeles, California

Rodeo Drive
The shopping mecca of the world (or at least it’s what the locals like to think), this street is no longer for just shopping; it is now a bona fide tourist attraction. It’s only three blocks long, on the western side of the city, beginning at Wilshire Boulevard and running north to Santa Monica Boulevard. It’s here where the rich and famous shop and the rest of us wish we could. It’s pronounced ro-day-o. Rodeo Drive is home to the most expensive store in the world, Bijan (420 Rodeo Drive), which sells men’s clothing, and sales are done by appointment only. You will find Dior, Gucci, Lauren, Armani, Channel, Cartier, and Tiffany, among others. I think it’s fair to say that extravagantly priced items are easily found here. Trees line the streets, which were recently redone in the fall and winter of 2003. The streets themselves are otherwise understated, and if you didn’t know any better, they could be found just about anywhere—that is, until you see the names on top of the shops.

At the south end of Rodeo is Via Rodeo, which is a small cobblestone area filled with restaurants, flowers, fountains, and small shops with a very European feel. It’s almost like an upscale Universal City Walk filled with two- and three-story buildings and quite a few of the higher-end shops like Tiffany’s. This is the newest addition to Rodeo in 75 years, and the street itself is fake—meaning there are no cars on it, ever. Built at a cost of over 200 million, this area was seen in Pretty Woman and Hollywood Homicide. It’s sort of a cross between a movie set and a piazza in Rome. The actual store that Julia Roberts (in Pretty Woman) was asked to leave is a clothing store called Boulmiche and is located at 9501 Santa Monica Boulevard.

Every Father’s Day, Rodeo Drive is closed off for a vintage car show called "Concourse on Rodeo". Entrance is free, and there are, on average, 75 classic cars to see. Some cars are entered by celebrities (like Jay Leno), and there is live music as well. Christmas time is also another nice time of year to visit, especially at night. Many of the stores go above and beyond and spare no expensive to decorate their windows, and all the trees are covered in white lights.

In general, there is some street parking, but it’s limited and usually taken early in the day. Your best bet is to use the 2-hour free valet service under the Two Rodeo Center (Via Rodeo) or the pay-by-the-hour municipal lots, which are sporadic. For food outside of Via Rodeo, walk over to Canon or Rexford Street, where there is an assortment of options both in cuisine and price. At the corner of Rodeo and Wilshire is the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel (another setting in the movie Pretty Woman).

Note: Many stores are closed on Sunday. Overall, it’s a nice way to spend an hour or two just to see what it’s about and say you’ve been. If you miss it altogether, I would say you haven’t missed much other than upscale window-shopping.

Recommended.

Sunset Strip
Lined with bars, restaurants, and lots of traffic lights, this street isn’t what you’d expect. I mean there aren’t any red carpets filled with celebrities every day, and there aren’t huge clubs with lines down the block like Studio 54. There’s no glamour at all; in fact, parts of the "strip" are actually quite seedy. In reality, the street is called Sunset Boulevard, but the mile-and-a-half stretch between Crescent Heights Boulevard and Doheny Drive is referred to as the Sunset Strip at night. Most of the action begins later in the evening; I would say 10pm and later. The infamous Viper Room, owned by Johnny Depp, is located on the strip; it’s the last place where River Phoenix was seen alive before ODing. For the most part, the strip is filled with neon signs, young people cruising in their cars, bars, and clubs. It’s interesting to take the drive if you have some extra time, but you wouldn’t be missing much if you skipped it altogether. It’s a great place for young people, crowds, singles, etc.

Somewhat recommended.

Hollywood Walk of Fame
Although you won’t find any real celebs hanging out here, if you look down, you’ll see stars honoring them for blocks on end. These renowned sidewalk "stars" salute the celebrities who made Hollywood great, and they include actors, singers, directors, and the like. Right below the name of each celebrity is a small, round emblem which illustrates the celebrity's category, with one of five symbols: a motion picture camera (for movie stars and directors), a television set (for those in the television industry), a phonograph record (for singers, songwriters, and recording artists), a radio microphone, and the twin theatrical masks of comedy and tragedy (for live stage performers). The Walk of Fame is located on Hollywood Boulevard from Gower Street to La Brea Avenue and on Vine Street from Yucca Street to Sunset Boulevard. The first star, placed on February 9, 1960, was for Joanne Woodward, and now, over 2,000 stars later, it’s an hour well spent.

Along the "walk" is Graumen’s Chinese Theater, the most famous movie theatre in the world. The theater has been opened since 1927 and has been the site for many movie premieres since then. Built by Sid Grauman, putting the stars' footprints in wet cement was his idea. Due to the lack of room and the level of exclusivity the owners wanted to maintain, only a select few have been invited to join the elite society known as the Forecourt to the Stars. The theatre was renamed "Mann's Chinese Theatre" after it was purchased by Ted Mann in 1973. It’s a very large red Chinese building with a huge dragon lying across the front, two stone lion-dogs guarding the main entrance, and the silhouettes of tiny dragons on the sides of the theatre's ornate copper roof. The Grauman’s Chinese Theatre was declared a historic-cultural landmark in 1968, and there has always been a restoration program in progress to maintain the theatre's beauty. Tons of visitors come to put their hands and feet in the cement-celebrity imprints. There are also all kinds of local "talent" outside just waiting for a photo opp (for anyone interested in tipping them, that is). Despite popular belief that the theater is just for show, it does show newly released movies, so if you have an afternoon free, go there and see a movie.

Recommended.

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