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Los Angeles: Visiting the Quintessential Home of Hollywood

From eating to sleeping, from watching to dreaming, truly experience the movie industry with this Hollywood inspired itinerary of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Hollywood sign 

Are you a Hollywood buff? Do you know which Star Wars characters appear in Indiana Jones? Do you know which town does Elsa from Frozen live in? Do you know what karaoke song does Cameron Diaz’s character sings in My Best Friend’s Wedding? Do you know if Mickey Mouse has four or five fingers? Do you eat, sleep, drink Hollywood?
If you do, then Los Angeles is your temple. Because nowhere else in the world can you get that slice of Hollywood. So grab a cuppa coffee and learn how to do LA the Hollywood way. 

Stay fabulous 

Thompson Hotel Los Angeles

Having portraits of legendary movie stars in your room is passe. You need a place where you’ll feel like a modern movie star yourself. Thompson Hollywood is one of those hotels. This Hyatt hotel has a cocooned entrance, a minimalist lobby, but absolutely chic rooms! They cleverly combine modern technology with vintage touches to transport you to a unique world of your own. Feel like Taylor Swift as you play tunes on their retro radio, have a shower, wrap yourself in the plush bathrobe, pull a dress out from the all-glass wardrobe and refresh it with the steamer. Flip through the coffee table books, lounge on the leather-upholstered bed, admire the cool retro-chic floor lamps – which turn on with a touch – all the while sipping on a rich Nespresso coffee. Though small, the rooms are furbished in a modern Hollywood style with little touches here and there that will make you feel like Audrey Hepburn. 

Thompson Hotel Los Angeles Bar Lis
The rooftop pool at this hotel gives sweeping views of the surrounding city, while the rooftop restaurant – Terrace – gives an awe-inspiring view of the Hollywood sign. The other side of the rooftop is host to Bar Lis – a vibrant bar that lights up at night with its various events. I was fortunate enough to witness their Jazz night on a Tuesday, and what a full room it was! The entrance to the rooftop area is, actually, clad in portraits and images of southern California glamour.

Thompson Hotel Los Angeles Terrace

Terrace is all sunshiny as it serves fresh early breakfast and hearty lunches. As a French style fountain greets you, wood, gold, velvet and stripes combine to give Bar Lis a uniquely comforting touch. It can’t get more Hollywood than this.

Pay your respects

Hollywood Sign Los Angeles

Make sure you fill your stomach well, because what comes next will need some strength. So gorge on some delish breakfast at Thompson’s Terrace. I tried the Chia Pudding – made with coconut crème, orange blossom honey, blueberries and granola – and it was refreshing, easy and creamily textured. Their Breakfast Sandwich comes in the form of a heavenly, buttery croissant, coupled with crispy potatoes. It is filling and extremely satisfying if you are suffering from jet lag. You are sorted for a good while with this one. 
You can’t start a Hollywood adventure without first bowing down in front of the Hollywood sign. This sign – which is celebrating its 100 years in 2023 – has seen it all under its gaze. Imagine all the changes, developments and moves this sign has witnessed over a century! The Hollywood Sign itself has undergone revamps, all the while retaining its original look – a simple, white sign that beckons glamour. 

Hollywood Sign LA
So tighten your sneaker laces, and wind up the Hollywood Hill as you come close to the sign. You can choose easy tours or tougher, longer hikes. Bikes & Hikes is a recommended tour agency to go through. Most tours will lead you to a viewing platform which is the nearest you can get to the sign. Don’t forget to make Instagram-worthy boomerangs there. On the way, marvel at the ‘Gloriette-R1’ installation by fun-inspired artist Andrew Kovacs. The vibrant green house was recently unveiled to celebrate 100 years of the Hollywood sign, and to also signify this last plot that is available to purchase and build a house in. It provides the closest view of the sign from a residential house. Imagine, living under the aegis of the Hollywood Sign – as true of a loyalty you can prove to this industry!

Where the T-Rex ran

Warner Bro’s Studio is, literally, the home of some of the most illustrious movies and television series ever made. From the iconic Casablanca to Jurassic Park to Dunkirk, all have been executed here. And guess what, Warner Bro’s Studio is also celebrating its 100 years in 2023! 

Warner Bros Studio
Driving towards this 110 acre property, you won’t be able to miss the iconic water tank with the ‘WB’ logo. This season, it has been painted pink in honor of the company’s highest grossing movie ever – Barbie. Get ready to bathe in more pink as you enter the premises of the Studio. A Barbie exhibition, installed right at the entrance, showcases some of the most important props and apparel that were used in the movie. Yes, the actual props! Including the pink Chevrolet!
Move forward and visit the museum area which gives more information on the Studio’s origins, its history, and Phoebe’s actual, wonderful, adorable, lovable guitar from Friends!
Beyond that is where the magic lies. Visit the backlots where Jeff Goldblum was chased by a T-Rex in Jurassic Park and where bamboo was grown (even though LA weather doesn’t support the plant) for a kung-fu movie. See houses with just the façade and nothing beyond; doors with no knobs, and some houses with painted windows and doors that look real under the camera! “Everything is available for a shoot within these 110 acres, even our office buildings where the staff sits!” mentioned our tour guide. 

Warner Bros Studio Harry Potter experience

The guest cart then moves to the ‘stages’. These big chunks of buildings – looking like massive warehouses – are actually where all the hard work goes. Lined up neatly in rows, just the way they show in the last climax scenes of the 2008 animated movie Bolt, each stage is a world of its own. And Stage 16 is the godfather. It was raised 35 feet more to support the grand ensembles of the musical Cain & Mabel – starring Marion Davies and Clark Gable. And since then, it has seen some iconic scenes being played under its curved roof – including the Jurassic Park scene where the dinosaur eats the goat. And believe it or not, there’s a 2,000,000 gallon water tank underneath it as well.
There is much to see at the Warner Bros Studio, including the original fountain where the Friends characters dance in the opening introduction. Fancy a drink? Just head to the iconic Central Perk Café at the Studio! Want to know which house would Hogwart’s Sorting Hat put you in? Then enter the Harry Potter world. Want to hold Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth, there is a DC Universe too! Phew!

The Oscar goes to…

Academy Museum Los Angeles

An indelible part of the Hollywood industry are the awards. And the highest of the honors are the Oscars – or the formally known – the Academy Awards. While the Academy Awards have been in existence for a long time, the Academy Museum has recently opened in Los Angeles. In fact, in 2019. 
If the Warner Bros. Studios give you a glimpse into how they go muddy and dirty for the movies, the Academy Museum showcases the trials and tribulations of moviemaking. Its challenges and achievements. Even its discriminations and low points. The exhibits make you think, analyse and understand how movies shaped our past and how they are informing our future. 

Academy Museum Los Angeles
The Academy Museum touches upon the old Hollywood Studio System. It slowly slides in the differences in moviemaking during this old system and how situation changed after its collapse in 1960s. For example, casting rules changed a lot. It took a shift from being appearance-based to performance-based. 
Technology has made rampant advances in the moviemaking industry too. From Avatar to Terminator, there is an exhibit that talks about how Neytiri’s expressions were captured or how T-1000 morphs from human to metal. You can see the costumes of the lovable R2D2 and 3-CPO right next to Okoye’s (from Black Panther) startling red and gold bodyguard costume. 

Academy Museum Los Angeles
An entire exhibit on The Godfather gives much detail into the making of this iconic film series. A gallery features an immersive, multi-media installation by the prolific Spanish filmmaker – Pedro Almodovar – who has introduced leading actors, such as Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz, to the silver screen. Big screens run thought-provoking quotations like “The future of cinema is black, female, and queer,” said by director Kimberly Peirce. 
The Academy Museum lifts you up with its Oscar experience – where you actually receive the award and hold an Oscar (you have to return the trophy sadly). It humbles you too as you see the countless contributions of people – who just roll up fast in the credits – who truly make the movies, and the industry, complete. The recent writer’s strike in Los Angeles is quite a reminder of that. 

Academy Museum Los Angeles Fanny's
While the exhibitions will keep changing, the learning will surely continue. And if you are exhausted, or simply overwhelmed, head to Fanny’s to gather your inspiration and ideas. Located inside the Academy Museum, this beautiful, beige and velvety red restaurant, offers delicious food that will fuel you for the next part of your journey. 
The Good, the Burrata and the Ugly effortlessly combined colorful beets with extremely soft burrata and crunchy hazelnuts for a fresh start to my meal. The Avocado Tartine was the best I have ever had – with its oozingly buttery toast and generously seasoned avocado. The Wizard of Nicoise was a beautifully orchestrated plate of all things healthy: ahi tuna, capers, cherry tomato, anchovy, olives, soft eggs, red wine vinaigrette, potatoes, green beans. The Mushroom Wellington comes hot, crispy and juicy. Save space for the desserts because they are truly worth it. And yes, there are black and white portraits of stars here, but the caricatures and scene sketches will truly intrigue and give you another look into how movies are composed.

The role of music, and food

Grandmaster Recorders

Music is inextricably linked to entertainment. It is a large part of celebrity glamour, if not Hollywood. And Grandmaster Recorders has seen the doyens of the music industry on its threshold. From David Bowie to Kanye West, popular artists have recorded iconic albums within its walls. In operation from 1971 to 2000s, the recording studio was eventually bought over by David Combes and Grant Smillie, and converted into as happening a restaurant as its history. 
Entering the restaurant, nostalgia will hit you as you look at not just old records from its illustrious clientele, but also cassettes, stereo systems, old recording equipment, mics and coffee table books – all preserved as a testament to Grandmaster Recorders influential role in the music industry. 

Grandmaster Recorders
The revamped premises have it all. An expansive restaurant is decked in bright red – as an ode to its historical relationship with the vibrant rock and roll scene – with tall green planters adding an intimate feeling. The 71 Studio bar which is created right next to a dancing space with a giant disco ball. So groove all you want. And then there is the Rooftop, which has a bar of its own, and ample seating space, that looks out to the Hollywood sign, and the Church of Scientology beckoning with its bright yellow signage. Of course, all discussions on Scientology lead to Tom Cruise. 
Head Chef Blake Shailes is Australian with a lot of career experience in Asia. Consequently, many of the dishes in the restaurant are Italian-Australian, with slight Asian touches. As we sat on the rooftop, enjoying the breezy, evening LA weather, we indulged in some light bites. The Green Garbanzo dip, served with radishes and grissini (tall breadsticks) was light and refreshing. Mushroom Arancini was crunchy and addictive. The Margherita pizza – served sophisticatedly in a vintage silver tray style plate – was thin crust, cooked well, and saucy with cherry tomatoes on top. Lip smacking good! The Midnight Vulture cocktail was the kicker with its smokey, hot, tangy flavor. If you are in the mood for something fancier, go for the Petrossian caviar. 

Grandmaster Recorders
In short, Grandmaster Recorders is not just notable for its food, but for the way it has kept, and honored, its roots. In fact, you might just bump into a celebrity or two here. So make sure to add this one to your Hollywood itinerary.

That’s not all!

There are the usual suspects of course. Visit The Walt Disney Studio – which is also celebrating its 100 years in 2023. And then, how can you not get down and kiss the star of your favorite star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame? From Dwayne Johnson to Marilyn Monroe to Godzilla, they all have a star on Hollywood Boulevard. If that’s not enough, walk around the TCL Chinese Theatre, and you can see the hand and footprints of iconic stars embedded into the cement of its courtyard. TCL Chinese Theatre, along with being one of the oldest theatres in Hollywood, has also been the site of many movie premiers and three Academy Award ceremonies. 

TCL Chinese Theatre
Hollywood Boulevard transforms into a vibrant place at night, with many ‘characters’ standing on the pavement, waiting to click a photo with you! From Chewbacca to Mickey Mouse – they are all there. Of course, money has to exchange the hand for a snapshot. 

And since you are in the area, wind your way to the Sunset Boulevard. It glows at night with brightly lit movie billboards and glitzy nightlife. It’s a great way to just wind down and soak in the city before you hit the bed at the Thompson Hotel – dreaming dreams of being a star…