Hidden Gems of Hollywood

Explore Tinseltown like a local

Hollywood Museum | Photo: Yuri Hasegawa
Hollywood Museum | Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

There’s never any shortage of things to see and do in Hollywood. But keep an eye out for
local gems that can get lost amidst the neighborhood’s many high-profile attractions. If you get swept up in the crowds on the main drags, you might miss the Egyptian Theatre
or the Hollywood Museum. And while the neighborhood's mega dance clubs are certainly spectacular, don't overlook more intimate spaces on Cahuenga Boulevard. Take some time to wander Melrose Avenue, veer west to La Brea, or head east on Santa Monica Boulevard for a show on Theatre Row or an outdoor movie at Hollywood Forever.
Read on for hidden sides of Hollywood that you won't want to miss.

Bar Lis at Thompson Hollywood
Bar Lis at Thompson Hollywood | Photo: Michael Mundy

Bar Lis - Thompson Hollywood

The chic rooftop lounge of the Thompson Hollywood hotel, Bar Lis transports guests to the French Riviera with its retractable roof, water fountain, and plush banquettes. Sip the spirit of the Cote D'Azur with a glass of chilled champagne or imaginative signature cocktails like the French Riviera and La Vie en Rose. Linger over snacks and small plates including Blistered Shishitos, Croquettes, Smoked Salmon Dip, and the popular Bar Lis Burger. Save room for coupe glacées like Piña Colada or Espresso Martin on Tuesdays, Bar Lis hosts live music at Jazz Eclectic LA, hosted by Gilles Amsallem, starting at 8pm.

Catalina Jazz Club | Photo: Catalina Jazz Club, Facebook
Catalina Jazz Club | Photo: Catalina Jazz Club, Facebook

Catalina Jazz Club

For more than 30 years, Catalina Jazz Club has been a low-key hub for jazz fans.
Incongruously lurking beneath a nondescript office building, Catalina Popescu's defiantly vibey and acoustically excellent supper club has hosted an array of music legends including Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Corea, and Max Roach. Also popular for its inviting Old World charm (Popescu hails from Romania), Catalina’s calendar is heavily booked, with multiple performances per week and sometimes even two top tier shows in one night.Before making your reservation note that, in addition to a cover charge, you'll have to either order dinner or two drinks.

Egyptian Theatre | Photo: Salina Canizales
Egyptian Theatre | Photo: Salina Canizales

Egyptian Theatre

The landmark Egyptian Theatre is far from hidden. In fact, looking like something from the age of the pharaohs teleported to the heart of Hollywood Boulevard, it’s downright hard to miss. Still, this famed movie theater’s Walk of Fame location and attention-grabbing facade might suggest a tourist trap, which is far from the truth. With programming by American Cinematheque, the Egyptian is known to movie fans for an eclectic calendar that includes advance screenings, film festivals, retrospectives, and related Q&As. Currently undergoing a renovation and retrofit by Netflix, which acquired the facility in 2020, the Egyptian is scheduled to reopen in 2023, with American Cinematheque programming Friday-Sunday.

Primary image for Ford Theatres

The Ford

Folded into the lower reaches of the Hollywood Hills, The Ford is a 1,200-seat outdoor venue that can actually be hard to find, situated north of the bright lights of touristy Hollywood in the Cahuenga Pass (opposite the Hollywood Bowl across U.S. 101). This surprisingly intimate and earthy venue, where no seat is more than 96 feet from the stage, began life in 1931 as home to a single event, The Pilgrimage Play, which ran seasonally for decades. Today, The Ford’s summer season is packed with an eclectic calendar that ranges from world-class musical acts like Rodrigo y Gabriela to showcases for up-and-coming local artists.

Cinespia at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Cinespia at Hollywood Forever Cemetery | Photo: Cinespia, Facebook

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Hollywood Forever is famed as the final resting place of generations of celebrities. The list of stars buried here is long (and searchable, if you check the cemetery's website), but there are plenty of non-famous folks interred here, too. Perhaps it's the celebrity connection, though, that makes Hollywood Forever a popular gathering spot in Los Angeles. During the warmer months, the Cinespia outdoor film series draws large crowds to the Fairbanks Lawn. (Yes, both Douglas Sr. and Jr. are at rest here). A few, very select outdoor concerts are held at the cemetery each year, and musicians perform at the on-site Masonic Lodge year-round. Hollywood Forever also hosts the largest Dia de los Muertos celebration outside of Mexico.

Hollywood Museum | Photo: Yuri Hasegawa
Hollywood Museum | Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Hollywood Museum

What was once the headquarters for famed makeup artist Max Factor is now a lovingly restored Art Deco landmark and home to the Hollywood Museum. Here, you'll find a treasure trove of artifacts from the films and TV shows that have captured the imaginations of millions for generations. At the time of writing, exhibits include Smokey and the Bandit, celebrating the 45th anniversary of the classic road action comedy movie, and The Ghostbusters Hollywood Museum Exhibit, featuring original screen-matched artifacts and iconic costumes, plus screen-accurate replicas including an Ecto-1 “Ectomobile.” Horror fanatics should head down to the basement for Hollywood frights galore.

The Hotel Cafe | Photo: The Hotel Cafe, Facebook
The Hotel Cafe | Photo: The Hotel Cafe, Facebook

The Hotel Cafe

If you enjoy intimate music venues, The Hotel Cafe is your spot. This Cahuenga
Boulevard haunt packs its calendar with a mix of up-and-comers and established artists with an emphasis on singer-songwriters. The main room is certainly cozy, but the second stage literally feels like you're watching friends play in their living room. They keep that volume here around the sweet spot where it’s quiet enough to get to know a date, but loud enough to fill any awkward pauses in conversation. The Hotel Cafe often hosts multiple shows in one night, so check their ticket guidelines beforehand.

Pro tip: If you want to scout a table, arrive early.

Picture of Ivar Avenue Park

Ivar Avenue Park

Franklin Avenue forms a border between bustling tourist Hollywood and hilly residential neighborhoods above. The steps north of Franklin on Ivar Avenue are one of the most photographed, and allegedly haunted, local spots. Before the 101 Freeway existed, this white-tiled gateway to Hollywood Dell was the site of screenwriter Preston Sturges’ grand abode. Today, its shiny walls and exaggerated sense of perspective provide a popular photo/video location for models, actors, and musicians. The immaculate Franklin-Ivar Park nearby is the perfect spot to for a picnic or to review those selfies you took in the tunnel.

Photo courtesy of Station1640
Photo courtesy of Station1640


Located in the heart of the ever-developing Cahuenga Corridor, Station1640 is a cultural nightclub and Hollywood staple. Formerly known as Couture, the 7,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor Station1640 has emerged from a complete overhaul inspired by the gritty yet colorful aesthetic of New York City’s subways with an all-encompassing artistic takeover by some of L.A.'s most notable graffiti artists, who created murals throughout the venue.

"Salvage" at The Hudson Theatres in Hollywood
"Salvage" at The Hudson Theatres | Photo: Ed Krieger

Theatre Row Hollywood

Hollywood may be better known for movies than for theatre, but the neighborhood proudly boasts its own thriving Theatre Row, where you'll find venues like The Hudson Theatres, The Complex Theatres and Studios, and Sacred Fools Theater Company. Comprising more than 20 stages located on and around Santa Monica Boulevard between North McCadden Place and El Centro Avenue, this neighborhood-within-a-neighborhood received its official city designation as a “Live Theatre District” in 2015 but has been home to small theatres and up-and-coming talent for decades. During the summer, Theatre Row and other Hollywood venues collectively host the annual Hollywood Fringe Festival.