The Hollywood Bowl: The Story of an L.A. Icon

Discover the history of the world-famous venue

Hollywood Bowl fireworks
Photo: Hollywood Bowl

There are few experiences more quintessentially Los Angeles than spending a summer evening under the stars while catching a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. The amphitheater is one of the most famous venues in the world, with a stage that has hosted everyone from Bob Dylan and Barbra Streisand to Prince and Lady Gaga. Scenic backdrop? Check. A certain indefinable magic? Check. In fact, we'll go so far as to say that until you've see a show here, you haven't really experienced Los Angeles.

 Two women perform on a barn door placed approximately where the bandshell was built, in the first known music event at the Hollywood Bowl, ca.1920. | Photo: Wikipedia
Two women perform on a barn door placed approximately where the bandshell was built, in the first known music event at the Hollywood Bowl, ca.1920. | Photo: Wikipedia

The Summer of '22

After playing home to concerts, theatrical productions and an Easter Sunrise service, the Hollywood Bowl kicked off its first official season on July 11, 1922. It was a barebones experience for spectators, who sat on temporary wooden benches to watch Alfred Hertz conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The scenery and the sounds, however, were hard to beat. Located in a bowl-shaped area of the Hollywood Hills that was once called Daisy Dell, the spot where the venue now stands was chosen, in part, for its natural acoustics. Those are amplified by electronics as well as the bandshell with its distinctive white arches. It's actually the Hollywood Bowl's fourth bandshell - the first two were designed by Lloyd Wright, son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Legendary Concerts

Over the years, the Hollywood Bowl has been the setting for all manner of moments - sweet, stunning and strange. In 1923, to celebrate the final payment on the Bowl's debt, the mortgage to the venue was burned on stage. Three years later, composer Percy Grainger and Swedish poet Ella Viola Strom were married on stage in front of 22,000 people.

On July 5, 1968, the Doors recorded what many fans consider to be one of the band's best concerts. Elektra released a shortened 22-minute version in May 1987 - the full 71-minute concert was released as Live at the Bowl '68 in October 2012.

The Beatles, Monty Python, Van Morrison, Morrissey and Ben Harper have also released concerts at the Bowl.

Step into Casa Madrigal and experience Encanto at the Hollywood Bowl, a spectacular concert special featuring the original voice cast of the Oscar-winning Encanto, along with special guests like Carlos Vives, who closes out the show with the vibrant "Colombia, Mi Encanto." The 45-minute film debuted on Disney+ in December 2022 and captures two Encanto concerts that took place at the Bowl on November 11-12.

Café Tacvba at the Hollywood Bowl
Café Tacvba | Photo: Hollywood Bowl

2023 Season Highlights

Janet Jackson kicks off the 2023 season with Ludacris on June 10. Get your tickets early for perennial favorites like the July 4th Fireworks Spectacular with The Beach Boys (July 2-4), John Williams: Maestro of the Movies (July 7-9), and the Sound of Music Sing-A-Long (Sept. 16).

Highlights include: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard (June 21), Jill Scott (June 22), Louis Tomlinson (June 30), Charlie Wilson + En Vogue (July 12), Kool & The Gang + Village People (July 14-15), Sparks + They Might Be Giants (July 16), Diana Krall (July 19), Café Tacvba (July 21-22), Reggae Night XXI (July 23), Portugal. The Man + Chicano Batman (Aug. 6), Rubén Blades (Aug. 11), Carla Morrison (Aug. 12), Maggie Rogers (Aug. 13), Gladys Knight (Aug. 16), My Morning Jacket + Fleet Foxes (Aug. 20), Herbie Hancock Celebrates Wayne Shorter (Aug. 23), Boy George & Culture Club (Aug. 25-26), Air Supply + Michael Bolton (Sept. 3), Buddy Guy (Sept. 6), Fireworks Finale with Maxwell (Sept. 8-10), Pixies + Modest Mouse (Sept. 17) and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs (Sept. 24).


Mariachi USA at the Hollywood Bowl
Mariachi USA at the Hollywood Bowl | Photo: @MARIACHIUSA, Twitter

Throughout the year, the Hollywood Bowl hosts fantastic "Lease Events" (non-LA Phil-produced events): Shania Twain (May 28), Mariachi USA (June 3), Tears for Fears + Cold War Kids (Aug. 2), The Lumineers (Sept. 15), Incubus (Oct. 6), Sting (Oct. 7), The Postal Service + Death Cab for Cutie (Oct. 13, 15, 17), KISS (Nov. 3) and Hozier (Nov. 4).

Gustavo Dudamel conducts the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl
Gustavo Dudamel conducts the LA Phil | Photo: Hollywood Bowl, Facebook

The Hollywood Bowl is the summer home of the LA Phil, with several performances conducted by Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, including A Midsummer Night's Dream (July 6), Maestro of the Movies (July 7-9), Verdi's Requiem (July 11), An Ellington Celebration (July 13), Estancia (July 18), Prokofiev & Tchaikovsky (July 20) and Café Tacvba (July 21-22).

In addition to Café Tacvba, the LA Phil and other orchestras will perform with stars like Snoop Dogg (June 27-28), Quincy Jones 90th Birthday Celebration (July 28-29), Joe Bonamassa (Aug. 9), Chris Thile (Aug. 22), Jacob Collier (Sept. 13), Promises (Sept. 20) and John Legend (Sept. 23). The tradition dates to 1943, when the orchestra backed Frank Sinatra, the first time a pop singer appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

"2001: A Space Odyssey"
"2001: A Space Odyssey" | Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Bowl's popular movie screenings feature live accompaniment by the LA Phil or Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (June 24), 2001: A Space Odyssey (Aug. 3), Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Concert (Aug. 4-5), Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (Sept. 1-2) and the aforementioned Sound of Music Sing-Along on September 16.

Kamasi Washington performs "BECOMING" at the Hollywood Bowl
Kamasi Washington performs "BECOMING" at the Hollywood Bowl | Photo: YouTube

A beloved annual tradition, the Hollywood Bowl Jazz Festival is taking place on Saturday, June 17 and Sunday, June 18. Curated by Kamasi Washington and Herbie Hancock, the stacked lineup includes: Bell Biv DeVoe, Leon Bridges, West Coast Get Down, Raphael Saadiq, Ledisi, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Digable Planets, Samara Joy, The Soul Rebels, Big Freedia, Aziza, Boukman Eksperyans, Poncho Sanchez, Butcher Brown, Lionel Loueke & Gretchen Parlato, Andrew Gouché & Prayze Connection, Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance Ensemble at UCLA and The Cardinal Divas of SC.

Cheers in a Box Seat at the Hollywood Bowl
Cheers to another great season at the Hollywood Bowl | Photo: Hollywood Bowl

Buying Tickets

The Hollywood Bowl season runs from June through September and tickets go on sale in early May - unless you're a subscriber. The perks of membership mean you can buy tickets before the general public. The question of where to find the best seats in the venue is hotly debated. For the four-person boxes near the front of the stage, be prepared to spend more than $100 per person. If you're looking for value, you can score $1 tickets at the top of the Bowl on select Classical and Jazz nights. When a show is sold out, arrive at the box office on the day-of and you may be able to snag spare tickets.

Hollywood Bowl Shuttle Bus
Hollywood Bowl Shuttle Bus | Photo: Hollywood Bowl

Getting There

The most difficult part of attending an event at the Hollywood Bowl is getting in and out. Parking is limited, stacked and expensive; and after the concert be prepared for a lengthy wait before you pull out into traffic. Rideshare services are an option, or you can stash your car at one of the Bowl’s Park & Ride lots located throughout the city. (It costs $7 for a round-trip if you reserve at least 48 hours in advance; $12 for walk-ups.) You can also park in a Bowl Shuttle lot and ride the bus to the venue ($6 round-trip, no reservations). If you have the pedal power you can bike to the Bowl, or Go Metro and take the B Line (Red) to the Hollywood / Highland Station under Ovation Hollywood and walk up the hill.

Mendocino Farms Social Catering Picnic
Photo: Mendocino Farms


At least half the fun of any show at the Hollywood Bowl is picnicking. The Bowl offers Picnic Boxes from Chef Suzanne Goin (see below). Pre-order by 6pm the day before the concert, and your selection will be waiting for you at the Plaza Marketplace. Each box serves one, with choices like The Maple Drive (wagyu steak), The Burton Way (herb-crusted salmon), The All-American (fried chicken tenders) and The Hollywood Vegan with roasted broccolini and a mezze trio.

Unless it's a Lease Event, you're welcome to bring your own food and drink, including alcohol. For an upscale picnic, pick up to-go boxes and baskets packed with salads, sandwiches, sushi, and even caviar at Joan's on Third, Mendocino Farms, Milkfarm, Petrossian, Sugarfish, and the veg-friendly Vromage, among numerous options.

Once you get to the Bowl, you'll find 14 official picnic areas with tables and benches. Areas 6 and 7 are the most coveted because they're closest to the stage. Arrive at least an hour (maybe two) before showtime if you hope to claim one. You can also bring your comestibles to your seat. Pour a glass of rosé, break out the snacks and make friends with people sitting nearby.

Supper In Your Box Seats at the Hollywood Bowl
Supper In Your Box Seats | Photo: Hollywood Bowl, Facebook

Food + Wine

In August 2015, the LA Phil announced a ten-year culinary partnership with The Lucques Group, helmed by the James Beard Award-winning duo, Chef Suzanne Goin and Restaurateur/Wine Director Caroline Styne. The Lucques Group provides exclusive food and wine services throughout the Bowl, from the wine bar and onsite restaurants to the marketplace and concessions. Concertgoers can expect the high-end seasonal menus and exceptional wine pairings that gourmands enjoy at the duo's a.o.c. wine bars and their restaurants at the Downtown LA Proper Hotel, Cara Cara and Caldo Verde.

"The Muse of Music, Dance, Drama" at the Hollywood Bowl
"The Muse of Music, Dance, Drama" | Photo: Hollywood Bowl

Did You Know?

Built in 1940, the Muse of Music, Dance, Drama welcomes concertgoers at the Bowl's Highland Avenue entrance. The 200-foot long, 22-foot high Art Deco monument was designed by George Stanley, who also designed the Oscar statuette and sculpted the Sir Isaac Newton statue at the Griffith Observatory. The tiered fountain features the kneeling Muse of Music playing a lyre; the Muse of Dance in mid-movement; and the Muse of Drama holding the theater masks of comedy and tragedy.

During the season, morning rehearsals for classical concerts on Tuesdays and Thursdays are occasionally open to the public. Contact Audience Services at 323.850.2000 for upcoming rehearsals.

Have a moment to spare? Before reaching the main gate, take a slight detour and pop into the Hollywood Bowl Museum to hear recordings of shows that have been performed at the amphitheater, including clips from Miles Davis and Pink Floyd.