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 served as 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. In 1968, The Doors recorded what many fans consider to be one of the band's best concerts. The Beatles, Monty Python, Van Morrison, Morrissey, Ben Harper, and the Dave Matthews Band have also recorded shows at the Bowl.

John Williams and the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl
John Williams and the LA Phil | Photo: Hollywood Bowl, Facebook

2020 Season Highlights

Following the annual Playboy Jazz Festival (June 6-7), the 2020 season officially kicks off on June 13 with Brandi Carlile. Get your tickets early for perennial favorites like the the July 4th Fireworks Spectacular with The Beach Boys (July 2-4), John Williams: Maestro of the Movies (Sept. 4-6), and The Sound of Music Sing-A-Long (Sept. 26).

Highlights of the 2020 season include: Jill Scott (June 21), Andrew Bird with Calexico and Iron & Wine (June 28), Flying Lotus & Kamasi Washington (July 5), Fantasia (July 10), Janelle Monae (July 17-18), Maxwell (July 19), "School of Rock" (July 24-26), "Bugs Bunny at the Symphony" 80th Birthday Celebration (July 31-Aug. 1), Reggae Night XIX (Aug. 2), Polo & Pan (Aug. 9), Charlie Wilson (Aug. 12), Little Big Town (Aug. 15), Brittany Howard (Aug. 16), John Fogerty (Aug. 19), Cynthia Erivo (Aug. 21), Not Our First Goat Rodeo: Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Stuart Duncan, Chris Thile (Aug. 23), Hiatus Kaiyote (Sept. 9), Diana Ross (Sept. 11-12), and Sheryl Crow (Sept. 16).

Alanis Morissette 2020 World Tour at the Hollywood Bowl
Photo: Alanis Morissette, Facebook

Throughout the year, the Hollywood Bowl hosts fantastic "Lease Events" (non-LA Phil-produced events). Upcoming Lease Events include Russ (May 8), Hall & Oates (May 29), Lady Antebellum (May 30), Alice Cooper (May 31), Steely Dan (June 8), Alanis Morissette with Garbage & Liz Phair (June 9), Halsey (June 10), Andrea Bocelli (June 16-17), Mariachi USA (June 20), Matchbox Twenty (Sept. 28), New Order & Pet Shop Boys (Oct. 2), and Backstreet Boys (Oct. 9).

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, which performs on Classical Tuesdays & Thursdays during the season. Several performances will be conducted by Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, including "Carmina Burana" (July 7), Arturo Márquez World Premiere (July 9), Dudamel & Bolle (Aug. 11), and Leonard Bernstein's "Wonderful Town" (Aug. 13).

The Bowl's popular movie screenings feature live accompaniment by the LA Phil or Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, including "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (June 27), "Amadeus" (Aug. 20), and "The Princess Bride" (Sept. 13).

The LA Phil also collaborates with modern musicians, such as Pentatonix (July 11-12), James Blake (Aug. 22) and The B-52s (Aug. 28-29). The tradition dates to 1943, when the orchestra backed Frank Sinatra, the first time a pop singer appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Herbie Hancock at the Hollywood Bowl
Herbie Hancock | Photo: Hollywood Bowl, Facebook

Curated by the LA Phil's Creative Chair for Jazz, Herbie Hancock, this year's Wednesday night jazz concerts include Chick Corea & The Spanish Heart Band feat. Ruben Blades (July 29); Miss Peggy Lee at 100 feat. Debbie Harry & The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra; Dave Brubeck & Charlie Parker Centennial Celebrations (Aug. 26); and Herbie Hancock & Jamie Cullum (Sept. 23).

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 still score $1 tickets in the Bowl's nosebleed section on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. 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 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 Red Line to the Hollywood & Highland Station 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. Unless it's a Lease Event, you're welcome to bring your own food and drink, including alcohol. If you want a pre-made, upscale picnic you can pick up to-go boxes and baskets packed with salads, sammies, sushi, and even caviar at Joan's on Third, The Larder at Tavern, Mendocino Farms, Petrossian, and Sugarfish, among other eateries.

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, bust 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 acclaimed LA restaurants: a.o.c., Lucques, and Tavern.

The Muse of Music at the Hollywood Bowl
The Muse of Music at the Hollywood Bowl | Photo: Karol Franks, Flickr

Did You Know?

Morning rehearsals at the Bowl are occasionally open to the public. If you have the time, call 323.850.2000 and find out when.

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.

Built in 1940, the Art Deco monument Muse of Music, Dance, Drama at the entrance of the Hollywood Bowl features a fountain and a 15-foot granite statue of the Muse of Music. The monument was designed by George Stanley, who also designed the Oscar statuette and sculpted the Sir Isaac Newton statue at the Griffith Observatory.

Feel like splurging? For a minimum donation of $2,000 per season, enjoy non-stacked valet parking and enter through the Bowl's VIP West Gate, where you're likely to spot celebs heading to their box seats.