By Denise Ortuno Neil

For most of us, driving to Los Angeles is a dismal thought, and certainly not on the top of the list when it comes to a relaxing get-a-way. But beyond the grueling traffic and layer of smog sits a treasure of California history. It is the glamourous entertainment capital of the world…Hollywood. There are many sightseeing benefits that the Southern California destination has to offer, and coupled with the fact that it is also significantly cooler than the Coachella Valley at this time of year, makes it a great desert summer heat escape.

It’s a place that is easily overlooked by S.C. residents. We hear about Hollywood so much in entertainment buzz, that we forget that it is very accessible, just a couple of hours away and a fantastic little jaunt with great old school sights and scenes to explore. Ever since its inception, Hollywood has been a place for people with dreams of movie stardom to come and try their luck in the entertainment business. The tales of success and tragedy run thick through the city, and make up the past and present of this infamous place.

Tourists find the lure of Hollywood irresistible, making it a huge Southern California attraction. High on the list of Hollywood musts are the glamorous over the top theatres such as the Egyptian or El Capitan, but grandest of them all is the stand out landmark, the TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s). The theatre opened back in 1927, and is as impressive now as I’m sure it was back then…maybe even more so, as its grandiose style towers above the modern day movie house. The theatre is also home to their famous Forecourt where you can peruse through the 200 celebrity prints including greats like John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe, no doubt sinking your feet into your favorite celebrities’ footprint (www.tclchinesetheatres.com).

On the long stretch of Hollywood Boulevard as well as Vine Street, you will find another of the cities highlights….the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The famous attraction was launched in the late 1950’s. There are over 2,500 stars on the walk, and counting. It’s an entertaining stroll through the heart of the city; just make sure to look up once in a while (www.walkoffame.com).

For those into the other worldly, check Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The cemetery is the lasting home to many of Hollywood’s elite, such as Cecil B. DeMille, Rudolph Valentino and Jayne Mansfield just to scratch the headstone. The cemetery hosts different events which include showing classic films on the grounds. For a different and perhaps ghostly film viewing experience bring your blankets and munchies and catch Mommy Dearest on Friday August 29th or A Clockwork Orange on Saturday, August 30th. Both films will be shown on The Fairbanks Lawn. The cemetery provides a special place to pay homage to some of Hollywood’s greatest, with the added attraction of unconventional entertainment (www.hollywoodforever.com).

Another of the cities favored haunts to relish old Hollywood is the stunning Chateau Marmont. The French inspired castle, built in 1929, was once an apartment building for the well to do. It was turned into the glorious hotel it is today in the 1970’s. The hotel only has 63 rooms, most of which are fully equipped to accommodate long time guests. The hotel is a hot spot for celebrities, and offers upscale dining and a very popular bar…who knows who you might see (www.chateaumarmont.com).

If going sightseeing on your own seems like too much hop scotching, there are many tour companies that are more than willing to help guide you to the best of Hollywood. Try Los Angeles City Hoppers (www.hollywoodsightseeingtours.net) or Star Line Tours (www.starlinetours.com) just to name a few.

There are many more wonderfully intriguing places to visit in Hollywood to get the flavor of its past and present. Whether you go it alone or through a tour group, it is worth the slightly daunting drive…and it will provide you with glimpse into Hollywood glamour, and with cooler weather, a glitzy desert summer heat escape.

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