Even the coolest adolescents may find themselves swooning in the presence of their favorite performer, and Hollywood is the place to find them. Take your teenage grandchildren to Tinseltown for a close-up look at the everyday magic of the entertainment business.
Do the “tourist” thing
[photo chinesetheater max-width=150 align=right]Start at the Hollywood Entertainment District, where the Hollywood & Highland Center’s Kodak theatre played host to the the 80th Academy Awards show on February 24, 2008. Don’t miss Grauman's Chinese Theatre where the prints of celebs in the cement are out front. Stand in the footsteps of the movie giants, but be prepared to get quizzical looks from your teens. When I stood in Rock Hudson’s footprints, my teen queried, “Rock who?”
Here you’ll also find the Walk of Fame. The public is welcome to attend ceremonies awarding the sidewalk stars.
Yes, this whole area is a tourist trap, but you really can’t say you’ve been to Hollywood unless you’ve visited it. Skip the tours of the stars homes by bus; teens will be rolling their eyes in no time.
Spot the stars
[photo patricks max-width=150 align=left] If you are keen on spotting a celebrity, lunch at The Ivy’s outdoor courtyard or dinner at Spago (though pricey) will unearth “beautiful people” brokering deals. The stars also frequent Patrick’s Roadhouse in Santa Monica and Nate’n Al’s Deli in Beverly Hills because they like the fare.
[photo bhh max-width=150 align=right] You might also pop by the Beverly Hills Hotel to spot famous folks at the legendary Polo Lounge or the soda fountain at the Fountain Coffee Room. Another well-known celebrity favorite is Hotel Bel-Air's Terrace, worth a visit for the regal swans.
If your teens are sports buffs, a Lakers’ game at the Staples Center is sure to have famous fans on the sidelines rooting for the home team.
Shop with the stars
It costs nothing to window shop on Rodeo Drive, where Tiffany’s, Prada, and Chanel duke it out for the big bucks. Be sure to check out the Boulmiche Boutique on the corner of Rodeo and Santa Monica Boulevard, where Julia Roberts was famously snubbed and got her revenge in Pretty Woman. Then go shopping for real on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. It’s closed to traffic and has great bargains, street performers, and a big Apple Computer store where teens can try out all the latest technology and email home for free.
Go behind the scenes
[photo universal max-width=150 align=right] A visit to Universal Studios is a must. You’ll find wild, movie-themed rides (prepare to get wet!) and real movie sets on the studio tour.
Universal’s CityWalk is open to the public. Go at night to drink in the electric atmosphere of live outdoor shows, arcades, and cool attractions like indoor skydiving. This neon stretch of unique souvenir shops, cinemas and restaurants includes the Hard Rock Cafe with its giant guitar — a fabulous photo op. Shrimp-lovers of all ages will appreciate a meal at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., inspired by the 1994 Oscar winner, “Forrest Gump.”
Warner Brother’s VIP studio tour in Burbank is much tamer. An electric cart takes groups of 12 through the working back lot, sound stages, sets and craft shops. The 2-hour 15-minute VIP tour costs $45. Or you could pop for the $150 deluxe tour — five hours in the studio talking to craftspeople and lunching in the commissary where you might spot your favorite performer.
Get in the act!
If you have a whole day to spare, plan ahead to be extras in a movie crowd scene. It‘s free to sign up, but you must commit to the hours. Visit Be in a Movie! to receive e-mail alerts to crowd calls.
Most TV shows require audience members be a minimum age of 18 to attend. You can get free tickets to TV tapings at HollywoodTickets.com, which occasionally features kid-friendly tapings for Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, and Nickelodeon shows. Another source of free TV show tickets in the Los Angeles area is TVTickets.com.
Be advised that a ticket doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll get a seat. For the best chance of getting in, allow plenty of time for traffic, arrive a half-hour early, and dress nicely.
Hit the beach
If the call of the crashing waves doesn’t have your teens running toward Pacific Park on Santa Monica pier, the carnival rides and circus atmosphere will. It’s like a mini country fair over the ocean.
[photo venice max-width=150 align=right]Venice Beach is most famous for its “Muscle Beach,” but the entire area is a people-watching paradise. The boardwalk offers a non-stop circus of free entertainment.
A drive down the coast to Malibu Beach where the mega-stars live is worth it just for the spectacular scenery. Though most of Malibu is private beachfront, Paradise Pier is open to the public.
Discover Sunset Strip
The most famous stretch of Sunset Boulevard is between Crescent Heights Boulevard and Doheny Drive. More commonly known as “The Strip,” this area hosts famous bars and nightclubs like the Roxy, Key Club, Whiskey a Go Go, and Sky Bar, to name a few. Though your teens may hound you to go there, they won’t be allowed to set foot inside any of these spots until they’re 21.
But they still might want to join the ever-present paparazzi trying to get a glimpse of some clubbing celebs. The party really starts after 10 p.m., and even later on weekends. If you’d rather not lurk around there after dark, take your teenage grandchildren to the new daytime hotspot called the Sunset Plaza, between Alta Loma Road and Horn Avenue. The European style cafes and trendy shops draw the jet set in droves.
Your grandchildren might be surprised to discover that Los Angeles is nothing like the movies. It can be a sprawling, smoggy, grey, gritty and even dangerous (especially at night) cultural melting pot, so stress safety. And though there ARE pockets of glamour and glitz, you’re bound to see as many homeless street dwellers as blond, bikini-clad babes on the beach.
But Tinseltown is indeed where movie magic originates and there’s nowhere on earth like it. My teen companion was so blown away by the beaches and the celebrity vibe, that she exclaimed, "Wow! Why would you want to live anywhere else?"
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