The famed Hollywood Sign, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, is not only the remains of a past development project, but is now a symbol of Los Angeles that has reached iconic status. People from all over the globe envision the 45-foot-tall, 350-foot-long sign when they think of the city. The Hollywood Sign Trust, a non-profit organization, is dedicated to the preservation of the sign, and in celebration of its recent anniversary, has restored the sign to immaculate condition.
The beloved landmark's fate has often been in question due to vandalism and neglect. Originally read as "HOLLYWOODLAND," it was supposed to be taken down once all surrounding property (now known as Beachwood Canyon) had been sold, but a caretaker was enlisted to maintain the sign. Evolving into "HOLLYWOOD" in 1949 to represent the city instead of the development project, the sign became so dilapidated it actually lost portions of letters. A renewed reverence saw prominent Angelenos such as Alice Cooper, Hugh Hefner, Gene Autry, Andy Williams and Warner Bros. Records donate whole letters to create a more permanent structure.
Of course, none of this would be relevant if it weren't the object of so many visitors' and residents' affection - with the mystery of seeing the sign up close remaining just that - a mystery. Fortunately, we've compiled a list of ways to see it up close and from afar, as well as from different angles. Today, viewers from all over can see the sign as it stands in its best condition ever, thanks to the recent repainting project in December of 2012.
The easiest way to catch a photo opportunity is from the famed Hollywood & Highland Center. With a design inspired by the D.W. Griffith film, Intolerance, the shopping and entertainment complex also houses the Dolby Theatre and the TCL Chinese Theatre. There are multiple areas throughout the structure that are actually dedicated to visible views of the famed sign. While you're there, you can also browse major retail stores and dine at one of the many restaurants in the center.
In 2010, thanks to a $900,000 donation by Hugh Hefner, a $12.5 million fundraising goal was met and the area around the Hollywood Sign was saved from developers. The 138-acre parcel became a part of Griffith Park, preventing any construction that would affect the world famous view. So it's only fitting that from here, you can view the sign a short distance from the parking lot of the historic Griffith Observatory. Just walk along the railing on the right side of the lot for a great view. And if you're looking to make the most of your trip, take advantage of the free admission to the Observatory, which re-opened in 2006 after an extensive, 4-year renovation.
There are multiple hiking trails on Mt. Hollywood leading from the back corner of the Observatory parking lot, the main trail of which leads to an advantageous spot that allows you to view the sign in comfort. Another popular hike is a 3-mile loop that's accessed from Vermont Canyon Road, north of the historic Greek Theatre.
If you are up for a little hike, you'll be rewarded with probably the closest view of the sign - from behind it. Hike along Mulholland Highway and follow it up the hill to Mt. Lee Drive, which continues up, around and eventually behind the sign.
Some of the best front views of the sign can be achieved by taking Mulholland Highway (not to be mistaken for Mulholland Drive) all the way to the north and you are golden for an up-close-and-center gaze of the sign.
For a true "only-in-LA" view of the Hollywood Sign, it's hard to beat the one on horseback during a guided trail ride from Sunset Ranch Hollywood, the only horse ranch in greater Los Angeles. Centrally located in the beautiful Hollywood Hills, with the sign above and Griffith Park nearby, Sunset Ranch offers a variety of services and activities, from guided trail rides, boarding, and lessons to its famous Sunset Dinner Rides. In the 1920′s, the film industry came to Los Angeles to take advantage of the sunny weather and scenic locations, especially for Westerns. Like the Hollywood Sign itself, a piece of that Hollywood history is still standing and can be found at Sunset Ranch.
While the hiking route will be the most physically rewarding way to view the sign, an air tour will undoubtedly prove to be the most extravagant - not to mention the most stylish. Take the Celebrity Helicopter tour, which will include a complete survey of Hollywood, or Star Helicopters, which will allow you to view the sign in both its complete "Star VIP" tour or the shortened "Hollywood and More" tour for those who don't want to commit to the entire city. And for those who want to celebrate a special occasion while getting up close, Orbic Air has you covered, with specially themed packages for upcoming holidays.
It is hard to imagine Los Angeles without the Hollywood Sign. Now you have all the tools you need to see this piece of history from multiple vantage points - including from above. Whether you're in the mood for a hike and an up-close view, or a unique view from the saddle, the way you see this world famous, historic landmark is completely up to you.