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Great L.A. Walks: Part I, Los Angeles Icons
© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.
You definitely need a car to visit the far-flung destinations that comprise the Los Angeles area. But once you get there, the region’s many communities offers opportunities to ditch the wheels. You can actually walk in L.A. and see things up close that just whiz by from your driver’s seat. Here are three iconic examples.
You do not visit L.A.’s most famous beach to play on the sand or frolic among the waves. You go to gawk at the idiosyncratic characters who inhabit the concrete boardwalk. So come on a sunny weekend or holiday when more people crowd Venice Beach. You need to arrive before 10 AM or you won’t find any parking on the streets or in the pay lots. Start at Ocean Front Walk and 19th Street to see the hunks working out at Muscle Beach’s famous open-air gym. Continue northwest on the walk to encounter grandma’s in bikinis, roller-skating guitarists, teenaged dance crews and fortune tellers.
If the crowd becomes too much, you can always duck into one of the many cafes and stores that front the walk. Or you might get lucky and view an open house for one of the million-dollar homes overlooking the beach. If you continue northwest for about 2.5 miles, you’ll eventually reach the Santa Monica Pier with its 1916 carousel, aquarium and fun fair.
Depending on who you listen to, Griffith Park is the largest municipal park with urban wilderness in the U.S. It sprawls over 4,210 acres at elevations of 384 to 1,625 square feet and boasts the Griffith Observatory, the L.A. Zoo, Travel Town railroad museum, the Greek Theatre and the Autry National Center with its Museum of the American West. But if you want solitude, you can eschew these delights in favor of a hike on a 53-mile network of trails. You’ll encounter scrub and woodlands as well as deer, coyotes, wild quail and rattlesnake. Come during weekdays when it’s least crowded.
Call the Ranger Station at (323) 913-4688 for information on maps and closures. All trails close at dusk. One of the most popular starts at Ferndell in the western canyon of the park and continues for about a mile to Griffith Observatory, which opened in 1935 and houses a science museum. You can also continue a mile-and-a-half up Mt. Hollywood, which does not contain the Hollywood sign. The sign is on Mt. Lee. Dan’s Hiking Pages describes the hike in detail.
While you won’t find any movie studios or celebrities on this iconic walk, you’ll encounter enough wannabees and entertainment attractions to keep you amused for half-a-day. Be warned that parking is impossible during weekends and holidays, so arrive before 10 AM or visit during the weekdays. Start at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, which features the footprint and handprints of the stars embedded in its open courtyard. You’ll also be seeing the first of many Elvis impersonators, faux superheroes and celebrity look-alikes vying for tips.
Check out the brass and terrazzo stars embedded at your feet on the Walk of Fame. About 2,400 line the 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street. Though the honors mostly name real celebrities, you’ll also run into fictional characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie-the-Pooh and the Simpsons. East of Graumann’s lies Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. But the more interesting walk is toward the west, where you’ll run into the following:
- Hollywood and Highland Center, which has the Kodak Theatre, home of the Academy Awards, and the new Cirque du Soleil spectacular, Iris.
- Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, site of the first Academy Awards. Feel free to enter and visit their collection of Hollywood memorabilia and the rooftop pool.
- El Capitan Theatre, Disney’s restored 1926 flagship theatre.
- Egyptian Theatre, the first movie theatre in Hollywood.