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12 Hours in Hollywood and Downtown Los Angeles

When you are on a 12-hour layover in Los Angeles, there is no time to visit all of LA’s big ones. No La La Land, no Disney World, and no Six Flags Mountains. I arrived at Los Angeles Airport (LAX) from Mexico and had a 12-hour window to take a quick spin around town. I travelled to Hollywood and Downtown Los Angeles by metro and visited some of the most iconic landmarks. My first stop: Hollywood.

What is so special about Hollywood?

Hollywood is a huge neighbourhood in Los Angeles, California. The most robust and bustle area is the Sunset and Hollywood Boulevard between the subway stations “Hollywood/Highland” and “Hollywood/Vine.”

Being the world’s capital of movies and entertainment, the word “Hollywood” represents glamour and sparkle. I always imagined Hollywood as a luxurious dreamland where movie actors and tv personalities hang out, live and wave hello at each other.

In reality, when you walk around Hollywood you would probably not run into any Hollywood A-listers like Tom Brady or Jennifer Lawrence who just happen to be picking bananas at the grocery store or sipping a double espresso at a roadside café. All the creativity happens mainly in the studios and does not occur precisely on Hollywood Boulevard.

Hollywood Boulevard. Photo by Benoit Debaix.

The streets are a huge tourist attraction, and a shopping district that had (in my taste) became too commercial and “forced”. The neighbourhood attracts millions of visitors each year, and I was one of them.

Yet, I could still wander my way down the sunny and wide Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard just like an average person and enjoy a few of the famous attractions that the area had in store.

The Three Things to See in Hollywood

Dolby Theatre

Dolby Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. Photo by Eric Ji.

The theatre (formerly called the Kodak Theatre) is right outside the Hollywood/Highland subway station. The tourist office is also located here. I reckon it is a good starting point to explore the Hollywood area.

The Dolby Theatre has been THE venue for the Oscar Academy Award ceremony since 2002. Inside the theatre, the names of the best movies are listed on every pillar of the structure. There are a bunch of movies that I don’t agree with, but in the end, it’s only the “best” movie and not the nominees that get a spot in the hall of fame.

At the crossroad next to the theatre, there is a timestamp on the ground saying, “This is where it all began”, marking the location of the first eight stars of the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1958.

Walk of Fame

Hollywood Walk of Fame Star of Winnie the Pooh. Photo by KNYCX Journeying.

Technically the Walk of Fame is a line of five-pointed terrazzo on the pavement of the boulevard. It represents a tremendous honour for artists to be listed here as a recognition for their achievements in the entertainment industry. The entire Walk of Fame has over 2500 stars, so it could be challenging to locate your star!

A visit to The Walk of Fame is much more exciting and meaningful if you do some research beforehand. Or even better, join one of the excellent local tours that guide visitors through the road, telling you all about the history of this area. The street has tons of stories, fun facts and trivia to offer, like, “who is the only artist on earth to receive a star on the Walk of Fame within all FIVE categories?” or “Which family has the biggest collection of stars?”.

Weirdly, there are a bunch of fictional characters on the road too!

Hollywood Sign

Hollywood Sign From the City. Photo by Jake Blucker.

You can see the Hollywood sign from almost anywhere in the city. It is located at the peak of the 500-meter high Hollywood Hills (in Santa Monica), and each character is 14 meters tall. It is a landmark recognized worldwide, and I think it is as iconic as the Eiffel Tower, Tower Bridge, or Statue of Liberty. As much of a landmark it is, it does not welcome large groups of visitors to come close to keep the area quiet for its residents and safe for traffic.

Driving and Hiking to the sign is possible. But the best view of the sign is always from afar. Photo by Izayah Ramos.

Downtown Los Angeles!

Before heading back to LAX airport, I have a quick stop in Downtown Los Angeles. The city hall is in view once you step out of Civic Centre/Grand Park metro station. It is one of the finest examples of American city architecture.

Not far from the station on Grand Avenue, you find the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a modern architectural wonder next to Downtown’s skyscrapers. It’s a famous concert hall made with stainless steel and is home to the Los Angeles harmonica orchestra.

Walt Disney Concert Hall. Photo by KNYCX Journeying.

On my way to Union Station, I pass through the neighbourhood of Little Tokyo. Buddhist temples, Asian restaurants, galleries, and museums, take turns in “J-town” (Little Tokyo). There are some great Japanese comic and animation stores, and I heard that the California roll was invented right here in Little Tokyo!

I finally arrive at Union Station, which will take me back to the airport. The station has a retro interior and has been featured in more than 30 big-budget movies like Pearl Harbor. I’m quite sure that you too would love to explore Downtown more, but don’t forget that you have a plane to catch. Until next time LA!

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Hey! I am Kenny. Since I was a kid, I was bitten by a travel bug quite seriously that I would choose a globe and atlas book for Christmas over video games. Now, traveling internationally both for work and leisure, the Knycx Journeying website was launched as a platform with an aim to share my passion - covering anything that interest me from history, culture, humanity, architecture, art, food, music to outdoor adventure. Well, I made it my mission to inspire you with my travel guides, adventures, resources, tips and more – for you to plan your trips and experience what this amazing world has to offer.

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