10 Unexpected Experiences in Los Angeles
Photos by Just Chasing Rabbits
We have learned so much about traveling since our first trip together as a married couple way back in 2004 (Would you believe we've been together for 15 years this year? Time really flies!).
We've learned to look for sights and experiences that are different, unique, and will make great memories. We love places and adventures that tell a story or make us feel like we've participated in something special.
We've been to California together three times, with each visit being more interesting than the last. Here, we wanted to share some of our most memorable experiences, ones that aren't not so well-known, and even a ceremony that we've yet to attend!
READ MORE: A Classic Downtown Los Angeles Itinerary
If you've visited Los Angeles before, you might have missed some of these gems, so be sure to add them to your next LA itinerary!
1. Hike to the Hollywood Sign.
It's on everyone's list to take a photo of the famous Hollywood Sign that looks out over the city.
These iconic letters are a landmark that is known worldwide, but you probably didn't know that you can hike up those Hollywood hills and get pretty close to the sign.
You can't get close enough to touch it, but you can get close enough to see just how big those letters really are. Plus, the view from the sign is amazing!
2. Visit the historic Max Factor building, where Marilyn Monroe became a blonde and Lucille Ball became a redhead.
While Norma Jean was just fine without any changes, Hollywood turned her into the iconic Marilyn Monroe, in part, by dying her hair blonde. This happened in the "Blonde Room" of the historic Max Factor building in Hollywood.
Over in the room for redheads, Lucille Ball got her signature hair color from the building's owner, makeup and artist, Max Factor. Can you imagine Lucy with any other hair color?
At Max Factor, all of Hollywood's leading ladies (and gentlemen) had their hair and makeup done. With rooms dedicated to each hair color and the latest in makeup developments by master makeup artist Max Factor himself, this was the salon to the stars.
Now, you can visit the building to see the elegant makeup rooms (with plenty Marilyn and Lucy memorabilia, of course!), decorated in colors to complement the customer's hair color, but also see over ten thousand pieces of Hollywood memorabilia. If you'd like to visit, check out the website for The Hollywood Museum.
3. See a movie inside the historic Chinese Theater.
Okay, so you should never assume things, but we assumed that the Chinese Theater was either empty or reserved for private events.
I mean, when I envisioned the famous theater, I pictured people gathered outside around the prints and signatures. Pretty sure the only people I had ever seen enter were characters in period movies, walking the red carpet for movie premiers.
However, the Chinese Theater IS an actual theater, and the inside is amazingly gorgeous.
We were in California while “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” was being shown in that beautiful auditorium. It was definitely the most memorable movie of my life. Of course, the movie was great in itself, but the surroundings were jaw dropping, and the fans were very enthusiastic throughout.
If you do see a movie there, arrive early to get your fill of the ornate walls and ceiling!
4. Visit Kermit the Frog, who is dressed as Charlie Chaplin.
I am a huge fan of all things Jim Henson. I grew up with “The Muppets” and “Sesame Street.” When Syfy premiered “Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge,” I was a devoted viewer.
When I realized that the “Creature Shop Challenge” was shot near Hollywood Boulevard, I knew I had to go see the front gates and the statue of Kermit the Frog on our next trip to Los Angeles.
And, that's just what we did. Keep in mind that we had visited this area multiple times before and had no idea that there was a Jim Henson Studios lot just steps away from where we were sightseeing.
From Hollywood Boulevard, we walked down La Brea where we could see the entrance gates and the frog himself, a statue of Kermit the Frog dressed as Charlie Chaplin.
It was when we got up close that we read a plaque with the history of the lot. The studio was formerly Charlie Chaplin Studios, so Kermit's attire is purposeful in honor of this Hollywood legend. Underneath Kermit, you can take a photo with a standee of Mr. Chaplin coming out of the front door, and be sure to see his signature in the cement!
If you have watched “Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge,” you will recognize the area as where the losing contestants walk out of the studio and down the street. But, as a Jim Henson/Muppets fan, the Jim Henson Company Lot should be on your list just to visit a bit of Henson history!
5. Venture to the BACK of Kat Von D's tattoo shop to see a stunning mural.
After visiting with Kermit, turn around and visit the home of famous tattoo artist, Kat Von D. Her tattoo shop, High Voltage Tattoo, and its artists are known from the reality show, “LA Ink.”
When we stopped by, it was early on a Sunday, and the shop wasn't open yet, but I thought I remembered seeing that there was some cool art on the back of the building.
We walked around and were pleasantly surprised to see a phenomenal mural of the faces of High Voltage Tattoo, including Kat Von D herself. Of course, if you do walk around behind the building, be respectful and definitely don't be a creep.
If you're a fan of the show or Kat Von D, of course this place will be in your plans. After all, it's walking distance from Hollywood Boulevard. Be sure to go in a grab a souvenir T-shirt (or even a tattoo if possible!).
6. Attend a star ceremony on the Walk of Fame.
Unfortunately, we've never been able to experience a ceremony on the Walk of Fame. I feel like checking this off a bucket list is much like trying to see a rocket launch; Timing would have to be lucky OR you'd have to be willing to plan a vacation around a ceremony and hope all goes as planned.
Be sure to visit the official Walk of Fame website for updated information on upcoming ceremonies to see if one coincides with your visit to the area.
7. Visit deceased Hollywood legends at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Why on earth would you want to visit a cemetery in Hollywood? Well, to visit some of your favorite stars that have passed away, of course!
Hollywood Forever is a beautiful, serene cemetery with the famous Hollywood Sign watching over it in the distance. Located beside Paramount Studios, beneath palm trees, it is such a fitting place for Hollywood legends to be laid to rest.
8. Explore the abandoned LA Zoo, home of empty cages, creepy graffiti, and picnic tables.
When LA got a new zoo, the animals from the previous location were moved to their new homes, but the old cages and enclosures were left behind.
The area is located in Griffith Park, and has been made into a unique picnic area. How would you like to have your lunch inside a former bear exhibit?
As with anything abandoned, the zoo does have a slightly creepy feel, and vandals have left their marks in spray paint. There are also stories of the park being haunted, so this might be a great spot to see a ghost!
Whether you like creepy or just unusual, the zoo is definitely something to see. It's even educational, showing the evolution of animal enclosures in zoos.
9. Create your own candy bar inside Sweet! Hollywood candy store's Chocolate Lab.
Have you ever wanted to make your own candy bar? Well, at Sweet!, you can!
We were very impressed with this massive candy store. The variety of candies is awesome, the staff was very friendly to us, and each room is cleverly themed and decorated.
Our favorite room was the Chocolate Lab (perfect name, right?!) where we designed our perfect candy bar and watched it come to life before our eyes.
10. Tour the Dolby Theatre (formerly Kodak Theatre), the home of the Academy Awards.
On one of our first trips out to Los Angeles, we toured what was then known as the Kodak Theatre. It has since changed names to the Dolby Theatre, but most people simply know it as the home of the Academy Awards or American Idol.
Cameras were not allowed on our tour, but getting the chance to stand on that stage and look out at the seats was an incredible feeling. Just to know how many legends have stood there, accepting awards, and looking out at other talented faces. Amazing!
For more information on booking your own tour of the theatre, check out the official Dolby Theatre website.
Have you visited Los Angeles? Have you done any of these things? Are there other unexpected or unusual sights/experiences that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
This story originally appeared on the Just Chasing Rabbits blog.
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