Is that who I think it is? In California, the answer is probably yes. Here, stars and celebrities live, work, and play. Look around on a sunny SoCal beach and you might see Matthew McConaughey bodysurfing the waves. Or Reese Witherspoon shopping for fresh produce at a star-magnet grocery store. In La Jolla, A-list stars often perform at The Comedy Store and spend their days and nights in Pacific Beach; after-hours, you might catch them having a late-night breakfast at Denny’s on Garnet Avenue. It really does happen here.
Stargazing takes on a different meaning in Tinseltown. While there’s no guarantee you’ll see a familiar face when you’re here, there are some locations where you can up the odds—particularly at hotels. Start at Hollywood’s luxurious, castle-like Chateau Marmont. Always a celebrity magnet, this elegant hotel is a revolving door for the hippest celebs. Check the palm-tree ringed patio during lunch hours for A-listers like Scarlett Johansson and Robert Pattinson. Teddy’s, the unmarked celebrity haunt at Hotel Roosevelt on Hollywood Boulevard, is a favourite for the VIP set, and while you probably can’t get through the door, you can hang out in the lavish lobby to see who comes and goes. The basement-level recording studio at the Sunset Marquis draws mega-watt musicians including Madonna and Elton John. Local sightseeing companies like Starline Tours also tempt visitors with tales of major star-sightings. Your trip may yield nothing more than Sandra Bullock’s gated driveway, but, well, it’s a very nice driveway.
TCL Chinese Theatre
Since 1927, this ornate Asian-themed movie house has been hosting films, and it’s still a top place for premieres in Hollywood, with arc lights and paparazzi and the hubbub that goes with the movies. But it’s the courtyard out front of the TCL Chinese Theatre that gets even more attention, where more than 200 famous celebrities have left their hand- and footprints in cement then signed them personally—sometimes with a flourish. Marilyn Monroe made prints with her signature high-heel pumps; John Wayne stepped into wet cement with his cowboy boots on; Star Wars’ R2D2 left wheel prints. Take a VIP guided tour to peek behind the theatre’s impressive golden doors, and learn more about master showman Sid Grauman, the theatre’s original owner. Or, catch a movie—the Chinese Theatre still functions as a regular movie theater for first-run films.
Hollywood Walk Of Fame
The world’s most famous sidewalk boasts 2,500 stars and counting. Since 1927, this ornate Asian-themed movie house has been hosting films, and it’s still a top place for premieres in Hollywood, with arc lights and paparazzi and the hubbub that goes with the movies. But it’s the courtyard out front of the TCL Chinese Theatre that gets even more attention, where more than 200 famous celebrities have left their hand- and footprints in cement then signed them personally—sometimes with a flourish. Marilyn Monroe made prints with her signature high-heel pumps; John Wayne stepped into wet cement with his cowboy boots on; Star Wars’ R2D2 left wheel prints.
Take a VIP guided tour to peek behind the theatre’s impressive golden doors, and learn more about master showman Sid Grauman, the theatre’s original owner. Or, catch a movie—the Chinese Theatre still functions as a regular movie theatre for first-run films. And don’t think this is about honouring has-beens or where-are-they-nows: Getting a star is still considered an honour, with an impressive roster of recent honorees (Javier Bardem, Viola Davis, James Franco, Kevin Spacey, to name a few). Want to find a star? Use the Walk of Fame’s online Star Search tool to send you to the location for your dream photo op.
Madame Tussauds Hollywood
Wax gets real at this celebrity-filled interactive museum. No velvet ropes or barriers here—at this interactive wax museum in Hollywood, getting close to some of the most recognizable people in the world isn’t seen as a violation; in fact, it’s encouraged. More than 125 lifelike figures from the worlds of film, TV, music, sports, and even superheroes are on display at Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood, and the likenesses can be downright eerie. You might have to pinch Anne Hathaway to make sure she’s not real—credit that to the meticulous work of the museum’s highly trained sculptors, who have collectively created wax figures of real people for more than 200 years. Don’t leave until you’ve had the chance to shoot hoops with Kobe Bryant, sidle up to Johnny Depp, and perform onstage with Rihanna.
With a behind-the-scenes look at movie-making magic, plus blockbuster-themed detours along the way, the world-famous Studio Tour that snakes you through the back lots at Universal Studios Hollywood ranks as a must-do ride in California. Sure, it’s primarily a theme park ride, so you’re probably not going to see Brad Pitt strolling by, but you really do get to see the sets and learn about classics ranging from Frankenstein to Jaws. Then slip on 3D glasses as you drive into wraparound action, especially the technologically advanced Fast & Furious—Supercharged thrill ride —where make-believe becomes reality as you’re placed into the action during a high-octane scene.
The groundbreaking attraction, presented as the grand finale to the Studio Tour, catapults you into the high-stakes underground world of street racing at perceived speeds of more than 120 miles per hour/193 kilometers per hour.
Another detour takes you into a 360-degree, 3D jungle that feels startlingly real, especially when King Kong emerges to battle dinosaurs—with your tram rocking and rolling in the middle of the brawl. Mellower sections of the tram tour wind through real sets of make-believe towns, cities, and suburban neighbourhoods used in hundreds of films and TV shows, as well as original sets from major films like Psycho, Jaws, and War of the Worlds. Live guides and onboard videos featuring late-night TV host Jimmy Fallon add entertaining insights along the way.
Explore a fabled beachfront town with real star power, Stretching for more than 30 miles along the Pacific and Highway One, Malibu has achieved almost mythological status among California beach towns. Hollywood stars and top athletes live in oceanfront homes here, under an elegant veil of privacy on long strands of the beach and enjoy front-row seats for surfing and unforgettable sunsets. Tough as it is to drag yourself away from the ocean, head inland a short distance and you can also hike through hills and canyons, filled with spring wildflowers and even waterfalls, on trails in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
For a cool guided experience, take one of the two-hour Malibu Wine Hikes on the rolling terrain of Saddlerock Ranch vineyard; walks include stops to see Chumash cave drawings, a meet-and-greet with a movie-star giraffe (he was in Hangover 3) and, of course, a wine tasting.