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Seeing Stars in Los Angeles


The La Brea Tar Pits Museum houses a massive array of animal bones that have been found in the bubbling crude.
The La Brea Tar Pits Museum houses a massive array of animal bones that have been found in the bubbling crude.

Patrick Stewart. Ryan Gosling. Chris Hemsworth and the whole Avengers crew. Bette Davis. Humphrey Bogart. Roy Rogers and his horse, Trigger. Standing in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, it’s surprising to see just how many celebrities (and their various body parts), have been immortalized in the cement outside.


And while many people make the trek to Los Angeles to celebrate and remember these and many other icons of stage and screen, it turns out that these are not the only types of stars worth seeing when visiting the City of Angels.


Celebrating Celebs


Opened in 1927, Grauman’s (which has since been renamed TCL Chinese Theatre) is a sight in itself; the Exotic Revival-style building resembles a giant Chinese pagoda showcasing huge orange pillars, a 30-foot high dragon carved in stone, and an entrance guarded by giant Ming Dynasty Heaven Dogs imported from China.


But the real attraction of this Los Angeles Historic-Cultural monument are the nearly 200 celebrity handprints and autographs that adorn the Forecourt of the Stars and attract more than 10 million tourists a year. While walking Hollywood Boulevard to the theater, you’ll know when you’re getting close when you look down and start to see even more stars’ names on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At last count, 2,772 celebrities have been immortalized with glittery terrazzo and brass stars there (Mark Ruffalo just got a star on February 8), and even Godzilla has made the grade—though Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson’s stars tend to get the most attention.




You can also pay your respects at the iconic Hollywood Forever Cemetery, built in 1899, where a number of celebrities have been laid to rest including Judy Garland, Rudoph Valentino, Estelle Getty, Tyrone Power and Valerie Harper. It’s fascinating to be able to wander through this 50-acre sanctuary smack in the middle of a bustling city, right beside the Paramount Studios lot, to not only remember these icons but to see such a storied history of LA’s past.


Above It All


The Griffith Observatory provides visitors with a chance to learn about planets, stars and even the interior of a living cell.
The Griffith Observatory provides visitors with a chance to learn about planets, stars and even the interior of a living cell.

However, these are not the only stars that you can see in La La Land. Griffith Observatory, situated within Griffith Park, the largest urban-wilderness municipal park in the U.S., is an awe-inspiring place to visit, not only for the views it provides of the sky above, but also the striking vista of LA below. You can even see the Hollywood sign from there—but catch a photo of it during the day because while many people believe that it’s lit up at night, that’s a common misconception.



The Griffith Observatory provides amazing views of the night sky as well as the city of Los Angeles.
The Griffith Observatory provides amazing views of the night sky as well as the city of Los Angeles.

A huge attraction for both tourists and locals alike, traffic climbing up to the observatory can be crazy, so make sure you leave yourself enough time to do a full tour of this incredible space. Exiting our Uber, we thought that there was some kind of major event going on, but it turns out that people just like to look at all kinds of stars in LA—even the non-celebrity ones.

Outside, high-end telescopes are set up so that the public can get a better view of the night sky—we got to check out Saturn when we visited. Inside, you can venture through space and time in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, or travel from the depths of the deepest seas to the interior of a living cell in educational, visually stunning shows and exhibits.


Quirky and Cool


If you want to learn more about historic LA—and I mean like ‘beginning-of-time’ stuff—check out the La Brea Tar Pits, just off Wilshire Blvd. Surprisingly, this attraction of bubbling methane is right in the center of the city, which makes a cool juxtaposition when looking at 50,000 years of evolution surrounded by modern, colorful buildings.




This Museum of Ooey-Gooey, as the La Brea Tar Pits Museum is also known, provides a fascinating look at the area and explains how crude oil, rising up to the surface for thousands of years, created asphalt seeps that trapped thousands of animals including Columbian mammoths, saber-toothed tigers and dire wolves. Hancock Park surrounds the tar pits, and you can walk along trails that take you by a number of smaller pit areas, including areas of ongoing excavation with explanations of what you’re seeing. The park itself was once a family ranch and oil drilling property before the Hancock family turned the 23 acres over to the city in order to preserve La Brea’s history.



The Original Pantry Café is an LA institution; you have to wait in line to get in, but it’s well worth it.
The Original Pantry Café is an LA institution; you have to wait in line to get in, but it’s well worth it.

To fuel this journey, I recommend a morning stop at The Original Pantry Café, LA’s 24 Hour Icon, which, as you can tell by the name, is a legendary landmark all on its own. While you’ll probably have to wait in the ever-growing outside line before getting a table, it’s well worth the time spent; not only do you get to meet other lovely, patient people, but the huge portions, reasonable prices, and delicious food are quite the payoff. It’s also cool to watch the waiters work with complete efficiency; I don’t know how many steps they get in, but they worked off as least as many calories as our table put in.


And if you build up a thirst while seeing all the sights, stop at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s, a throwback 1970s bar that makes kitsch look cool. You enter through a refrigerator door—seriously—which leads into a stone-walled lounge area replete with plush, brown, retro-style furniture, groovy hanging lamps and vintage album covers. Make sure to check out the Farrah Fawcett ad in the bathroom! An outdoor patio—with a throwback trailer—also offers a chance to enjoy the California sunshine while enjoying a drink.


While I only spent two days in LA, there was a lot to see, and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. I give it five stars (celebrity and otherwise) as a vacation destination.

To learn more, visit www.discoverlosangeles.com.

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