Envision a classic Hollywood scene and it’s almost certain that sunshine and cruising along in a convertible are involved. And there’s no spot more legendary to cruise than Sunset Boulevard.
The 22-mile-long road stretches from glittery Hollywood to beachy Malibu, connecting two of the highlights of Los Angeles while winding past Beverly Hills, Bel Air, UCLA and Brentwood. It’s the perfect travel snapshot of Southern California life.
The road itself has changed since 1877, when real estate owner Horace H. Wilcox subdivided his 20+ acres of land along the old cattle trail route known as Sunset Boulevard. It grew bigger and got smaller as developers and property owners sold and purchased plots, and the most recent change came in 1994 when the eastern end of the street near Union Station was renamed Cesar Chavez Avenue.
And while the whole span is a local highlight, certain sections have cemented themselves a bit more in Hollywood history. The portion between Havenhurst Drive and Doheny Drive known as Sunset Strip is where protests took place in the 1960s and rock stars got in trouble in the ’70s and ’80s.
One of the famous hotels perched along the prominent pavement, Chateau Marmont, is where John Belushi spend his final night, James Dean jumped through a window, and where stars such as Scarlett Johansson are still known to grab a drink.
Here are the best things to do along Sunset Boulevard:
Planning your visit
There’s no time restriction on when you can explore the famous road, but like everyone else in L.A., you’ll want to get a car. There are certainly portions of the boulevard you can walk, but if you intend to do the entire stretch or want to bounce from Hollywood to Malibu, a vehicle will definitely be needed (if you really want to forgo the car, the city’s No. 2/302 bus travels along much of the thoroughfare).
Once you have a car, you’ll want to find the Boulevard, right? To find it using a GPS, enter 8200 W. Sunset Boulevard to start from the Sunset Strip. The 1.7-mile stretch between North Crescent Heights Boulevard and Doheny Drive could easily take up an afternoon or evening with a visit to the shops at Sunset Plaza, a drink at Skybar and checking out famous haunts like The Viper Room and The Comedy Store.
There are also plenty of hotels on the Strip like Andaz West Hollywood, Sunset Tower Hotel or The Standard Hollywood, so you could make this bustling area your home base to explore.
From there, you can go a couple of miles east and make a burger stop at In-N-Out and pass by Hollywood High School which Cher and Sarah Jessica Parker both attended. Or, you can head west towards the stunning California coastline.
While you can certainly pop into stores and the casual bistros during normal business hours, a number of the attractions along the Boulevard require reservations or tickets. You can catch a concert at spots like The Whisky A Go Go, but will likely need to buy tickets ahead of time. The same is true at any of the notorious comedy clubs such as The Laugh Factory. And if you want a dinner at a hot spot like BOA Steakhouse, definitely book a table in advance.
It’s important to note that while driving along the boulevard at sunset is what Hollywood films are made of, the road can get very congested once rush hour hits, so plan accordingly.
Skybar, 8440 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069, +1 323 848 6025
BOA Steakhouse, 9200 Sunset Blvd #650, West Hollywood, CA 90069, +1 310 271 6000
In-N-Out Burger, 7009 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028, +1 800 786 1000
Andaz West Hollywood, 8401 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069, +1 323 656 1234
Sunset Tower Hotel, 8358 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069, +1 323 654 7100
The Standard Hollywood, 8300 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069, +1 323 650 9090
Whisky A Go Go, 8901 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069, +1 310 652 4202
The Laugh Factory, 8001 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046, +1 323 656 1336
Did you know?
Before it became a hot spot for swanky hotels and juice bars, Sunset Boulevard was the epicenter for all things music. While advertisements for clothing technology companies dominate the billboards, they used to have musicians like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Bruce Springsteen plastered on them.
This, of course, often led to a rowdy crowd, but because Sunset Strip in particular fell outside of LAPD’s jurisdiction, there was a lack of law enforcement making the area a hot spot for debauchery. It’s since been cleaned up, but aspiring musicians and entertainers still come here for a chance at their big break.
On the other end of the spectrum, many people don’t know about the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine hidden off the Boulevard. It’s used as a temple, shrine and meditation garden for people to relax and reflect. Elvis Presley reportedly loved to walk around here and George Harrison’s funeral was held at the Lake Shrine.
Oh, and if you’re looking for the address “77 Sunset Strip,” from the ’60s TV show with the same title, it doesn’t exist. It was actually filmed in front of Dino’s Lodge, located at 8524 Sunset Boulevard. There was once a plaque on the sidewalk to mark it.
Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine, 17190 Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272, +1 310 454 4114
Where to stop along the way
If you want to increase your chances of seeing a celebrity, head to where they’ve been coming for years: Chateau Marmont. The castle-like hotel is one of the most infamous in Los Angeles, with everyone from Howard Hughes and F. Scott Fitzgerald to Johnny Depp and Lindsay Lohan staying there. Even if you don’t spend the night, you can still have lunch or dinner at the on-site restaurant that oozes old Hollywood glamour.
In the mood for some music? The Roxy Theater is the place to go for some instrumental delight. Legendary musicians like Frank Zappa and Bob Marley have recorded live albums here and it was the spot where “Rocky Horror Picture Show” first premiered in 1974.
Today, you can still catch performances by some of the top indie rock bands and feel close to the action due to its small size.
You could swap a concert for comedy by getting tickets for a show at The Comedy Store. Jerry Seinfeld, Rodney Dangerfield and more have all performed here and the venue still draws some of the biggest names in comedy today. It’s often used as a spot for comedians to test out new material, so you could be the decision maker if a joke makes it or not.
And let’s not forget about the coastal end of Sunset Boulevard. As you’re driving to the beach, make a stop at the UCLA campus Westwood, where there’s a make-your-own ice cream sandwich shop called Diddy Riese, take a tour of Will Rogers’ famous ranch house in Will Rogers State Historic Park, or check out the surf at Sunset Beach.
Chateau Marmont, 8221 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90046, +1 323 656 1010
The Viper Room, 8852 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069, +1 310 358 1881
The Comedy Store, 8433 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069, +1 877 4FLY TIX
The Roxy Theater, 9009 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069, +1 310 278-9457
Diddy Riese, 926 Broxton Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024, +1 310 208 0448
Will Rogers State Historic Park, 1501 Will Rogers State Park Rd, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272, +1 310 454 8212
Where (else) to eat
In the heart of the Sunset Strip, there are enough restaurants to feed you for months. But, with only a few days to explore, you’d do well to check out Pearl’s Rooftop, where you’ll find a menu filled with creative cocktails and tasty dishes like truffle mushroom flatbread and fried chicken, all with a bird’s eye view of L.A.
Just a couple of minutes away are casual spots Sushi Park — a hidden Japanese restaurant on the second floor of strip that specializes in omakase — and Mel’s Drive-In — a 1950s diner that’s open 24 hours.
For a more upscale option, you can reserve a table at the art-deco inspired Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel where a possible celebrity sighting comes with your steak tartare and McCarthy Salad.
Pearl’s Rooftop, 8909 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069, +1 310 360 6800
Sushi Park, 8539 Sunset Blvd., #20, West Hollywood, +1 310 652-0523
Mel’s Drive-In, 8585 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069, +1 310 854 7201
The Polo Lounge, 9641 Sunset Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, +1 310 887-2777