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Trip Tips: And the winner is... Hollywood, home of the Oscars

A women walks with her belongings under the Hollywood sign and across Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California February 22, 2012. REUTER
A women walks with her belongings under the Hollywood sign and across Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California February 22, 2012. REUTER

By Piya Sinha-Roy

HOLLYWOOD (Reuters) - When Hollywood was its own little town at the start of the 20th century, it banned movie theatres and liquor, except for medicinal purposes (wink, wink). That ended quickly when movie studios arrived and a louche Los Angeles annexed the upstart.

Today, Hollywood is at the crossroads of creativity and business, generating $35 billion a year at the global film box office and drawing 40 million tourists annually. (Map: http://goo.gl/maps/D3tN3)

At this time each year, the film community congregates for Hollywood's biggest night, the Oscars. This year's star-studded awards take place at the Dolby Theatre on March 2.

It's not all debauchery and late-night clubbing in Hollywood, although there is a lot of that. This neighborhood in the heart of Los Angeles also boasts healthy alternatives, from the latest offbeat workouts to wheatgrass shots.

Whether you are hip and gorgeous or trying to get there, an aspiring actor or couch-bound film critic, here are tips to experience Hollywood from Reuters, whose 2,600 journalists around the world offer visitors the best local insights.

DISCOVERING OLD HOLLYWOOD

The Walk of Fame is Hollywood's stamp of achievement, honoring stars from film, music, television and radio along Hollywood Boulevard. But if you don't want to wear out your heels or mix with the hoards, the best place to embrace the stars is the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Located opposite the famed TLC Chinese Theaters, formerly Grauman's Chinese Theaters, the Roosevelt at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard is steeped in Tinseltown history. (www.thompsonhotels.com/hotels/la/hollywood-roosevelt)

From the grand entrance and ballroom that hosted the inaugural Academy Awards in 1929 to the Marilyn Monroe suite, it offers glimpses of the stars that have walked through. The penthouse, named after screen legends Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, is where the couple used to sneak to after premieres at Grauman's.

If soaking up sunshine is your goal, the Roosevelt cabanas and pool featuring David Hockney's mural of painted geometric curves - the setting for Monroe's first paid photoshoot - is a perfect spot.

If walls could talk, the gothic-style Chateau Marmont hotel at 8221 Sunset Boulevard would have the most enticing stories. It is still one of the top destinations for stars to escape the cameras and find privacy in many of the dark nooks. (www.chateaumarmont.com/)

From James Dean jumping through a window to read lines for "Rebel Without a Cause" to Led Zeppelin riding motorcycles through the hallways and John Belushi's untimely death from a drug overdose in Bungalow 3, the Chateau has often been the locale of Hollywood's dark, rambunctious and seductive side.

These days, the hotel draws the likes of Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lady Gaga, Kevin Spacey and Lana Del Rey.

The bar offers elaborate concoctions such as The Aviation, a pre-prohibition gin, lemon and cherry liqueur cocktail, while the intimate patio is the setting for high-powered Hollywood deal-making.

In the heart of Hollywood lies one of the town's oldest establishments, The Musso & Frank Grill at 6667 Hollywood Boulevard. (http://mussoandfrank.com/)

Founded in 1919, the restaurant boasts a roster of famous patrons. F. Scott Fitzgerald proofread his novels here, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio snuggled in the booths and Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall flanked the bar. More recently, George Clooney and Brad Pitt used the venue to discuss their covert Las Vegas heist plans in 2001's "Ocean's Eleven".

Diets are cast aside without caution when it comes to the rich menu, from the restaurant's trademark chicken pot pie to a porterhouse steak and a welsh rarebit.

JUICE, CLEANSE AND HIKE

Tinseltown has become synonymous with the pursuit of physical perfection and fitness fads start with the A-list.

Kick off your day the Hollywood way with a raw juice from LifeFood Organics at 1507 North Cahuenga Boulevard, which blends kale-based beverages or your choice of greens. Or go one step further with a juice cleanse program, which promises to energize and aid weight loss. (www.lifefoodorganic.com/)

If going to the gym isn't your cup of tea, then try a class at FitArts at 7561 Sunset Boulevard, where exercise is a fusion of boxing, Capoeira and weights. There's even a private aerial workout class. (http://fit-arts.squarespace.com/)

Hollywood is all about making connections and where better than on a scenic power walk through Lake Hollywood Park, off the Hollywood Freeway. (www.laparks.org/dos/parks/facility/lakehollywoodpk.htm)

With more greenery than the city's other high-powered hiking spot, Runyon Canyon, Lake Hollywood Park has stunning views of the Hollywood sign and ocean-view trails. Nearby residents include actor Jeff Daniels and singer Moby.

Highlights of hiking around the park include:

- The Reservoir: Formed by the Mulholland Dam, the man-made Lake Hollywood offers a scenic hike and unobstructed views of the blue water from the dam.

- The Batcave: A man-made tunnel carved into the wall of a quarry became the location of Batman's hideout in the 1960s television series starring Adam West. The trail to the cave is at the top of Bronson Canyon Park, off Canyon Drive.

- The Hollywood Sign: You can work up a sweat climbing to the summit of Mount Lee, which will take you behind the letters of the Hollywood sign. For a less strenuous excursion, the Hollyridge Trail from the top of Beachwood Drive offers clear views of the landmark.

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN

For the classic celebrity experience, the Katsuya sushi restaurant at 6300 Hollywood Boulevard mixes gourmet food with sleek, modern interiors.

Favorites include the halibut usuzukuri and the corn crunch roll, washed down with a refreshing watermelon cucumber mojito or a selection of medium and rich sakes and fruity shochus. (http://katsuyarestaurant.com/hollywood/)

For those who want to put on their dancing shoes, The Sayers Club at 1645 Wilcox Avenue is an intimate, low-lit venue with DJs spinning R&B and hip-hop tunes. (http://sayersclub.com/)

For non-dancers, a quick walk down Wilcox Avenue will lead to Warwick at 6507 Sunset Boulevard. This upscale bar has a cozy living-room atmosphere with plush leather couches to sink into and high ceilings with chandeliers that evoke a British country manor. (www.warwickla.com/)

If the glitz and glamour become overwhelming, you can always escape to Sassafras at 1233 Vine Street for a taste of southern culture with Creole tacos, shrimp and grits and jambalaya.

Settle in for the evening as a live organ band serenades you back to the 1930s. The bar's barrel-aged cocktails include the bourbon-based Seelbach and Corpse Reviver #2, a jolting mix of gin and absinthe. (www.sassafrassaloon.com/)

(Additional reporting by Lisa Richwine, Mary Milliken and Eric Kelsey; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

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