Welcome to “Real Itineraries.” In this series, I’ll break down trips I’ve been on, share what I did in real time with honesty and give tips for how you can travel with even better results.
In March I spent just shy of 24 hours in the Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles. It was not enough time for LA, but plenty of time for all the things to do Hollywood.
I arrived late, around 11 pm, and went straight to my hotel to crash. I stayed at the Magic Castle Hotel. The room was basic, but comfortable. I chose it for the location (just blocks from Hollywood Boulevard), the potential opportunity for a late check-out, and the pool with poolside popsicle delivery. Unfortunately, the pool was closed during my whole stay, but other than that I liked the hotel! The magic theme was really fun and the owner clearly has a passion for magic tricks. I enjoyed sitting outside on the patio watching him entertain some kids who had just checked in.
Despite arriving late the night before, I was up at the crack of dawn the following morning (oh hey, jet lag!) so I got right up to enjoy the day. After breakfast at the Magic Castle Hotel (a muffin, coffee, and juice), I set out on foot to explore Hollywood.
Hollywood Boulevard & Tiago Coffee
At 8 am, Hollywood Boulevard was nearly empty. I was able to stroll and actually read the names on the stars. It was quiet and cool. If you want the place, all to yourself: go first thing in the morning. You’ll see one or two other tourists and the locals who work in the area.
I made my first coffee stop of the day at Tiago, on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea. The cappuccino was good and it was the hipster hangout in the area. It was the only busy place I saw on Hollywood Boulevard so early in the morning.
Runyon Canyon Park
Just a short walk from Hollywood Boulevard, there’s a huge park called Runyon Canyon. In retrospect, I should have headed here first because it is gorgeous.
Honestly, Runyon Canyon was my favorite place in LA. It was so calming to walk here. I could have stayed all day if I’d worn sunscreen or gone earlier in the morning. But the 45 minutes I did spend here were wonderful.
By the time I left Runyon Canyon it was definitely time for lunch. But it was still a long walk to Pink’s, so I made a pit stop on Hollywood Boulevard. I couldn’t help it…when I see gelato that I can rely on and it’s hot out, I’m going to eat it.
After about a 40 minute walk (you could easily take an Uber, but I like to walk), I reached Pink’s. This hot dog stand has been serving up meals since 1939 when Paul and Betty Pink opened a hot dog cart. 77 years later, it’s an internationally famous landmark.
Hundreds of celebrities have visited over the years and many of their photos line the walls. Several celebrities have hot dogs named for them as well, like the Emeril Lagasse Bam Dog covered in mustard, onions, cheese, jalapenos, bacon, and coleslaw.
I went for a classic: the chili dog with cheese and a pink lemonade. You can’t go wrong with a classic.
Even though it was ridiculously hot out, I decided to make the walk back toward the Magic Castle so that I could explore before picking up my bags and heading to dinner and the train station.
As luck would have it, just as I was sweating and regretting my decision, I reached Otus, a Thai kitchen and coffee bar. It was delightfully air-conditioned so I spent half an hour there enjoying a Vietnamese coffee.
Hollywood Boulevard – One More Time
After coffee, I took one more walk along Hollywood Boulevard to watch the crowds and the street performers. Tip: there’s no way to blend in here so just put your “fight face” on and don’t talk to anyone. If someone wants to talk to you, they probably want to sell you something.
I found a few more fun stars and then I was ready to be done with Hollywood. I could have taken one of those star tours, but I honestly didn’t just want to spend the money. You’d have plenty of time to do it on your one day in Hollywood if that’s your thing though.
After enjoying the patio at the Magic Castle Hotel awhile longer (the owner kindly let me chill out and drink their cucumber water even though I’d already checked out), it was time to head over towards Union Station to catch my train out of town. But not before dinner.
This is the home of the French Dip sandwich. The story goes that the first French Dipped Sandwich was made by accident when a policeman took a sandwich that had accidentally been dropped in a pan of hot liquid from roasting the meat. He came back the next day and asked for another.
I can honestly say that this was one of the best French Dip sandwiches I’ve ever had. I love a good French Dip and will order one anytime I see it on the menu (which is less and less often). My Mom makes an awesome French Dip with leftover roast.
Philippe’s is the real deal. The meat is roasted on site and the broth each slice of bread is dipped in is homemade too. You can get beef, pork, lamb, turkey, or ham. I paired mine with a whole dill pickle and a beer.
Essential Information And Links
Places To Stay
Magic Castle Hotel, 7025 Franklin Avenue
Places To Eat
Grom Gelateria, 6801 Hollywood Boulevard
Philippe The Original, 1001 N Alameda Street
Pink’s Hot Dogs, 709 N La Brea Avenue
OTUS Thai Kitchen & Coffee, 1253 N La Brea Avenue
Tiago Coffee Bar + Kitchen, 7080 Hollywood Boulevard
Things To Do
Stars Tours & Hollywood Tours – There are many. Search and book in advance or take advantage of one of the many options offered on Hollywood Boulevard.