Palm trees, endless summers, and forever beach days aside, many people flock to Los Angeles with the hope of spotting someone famous. While Hollywood Boulevard is flooded with tourists on any given day, you’re more likely to spot your favorite celebrity’s name on a star on the Walk of Fame than in person, unless, of course, you happen to be in town during a Hollywood movie premiere.
It may surprise you to learn that your chances of spotting a celebrity are greater if you do things that normal people do in the city in which they live – grab dinner, shop for groceries, chill on the beach, or grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks. It’s true, you’re more likely to spot a celeb at Starbucks than you are in the heart of Hollywood.
If you want to increase your chances of a celebrity sighting while visiting LA, put on your paparazzi hat because we’ve got your guide to the best places to spot a celebrity in the City of Angels.
Contrary to popular belief, LA’s stars aren’t always hanging out at old school celebrity hangouts like The Polo Lounge and The Ivy. If you want to catch a star in public, hiking Runyon Canyon (92000 N. Fuller Ave., Los Angeles 90046) is one of the best places in town for encountering the rich and famous. Celebrities that have been spotted hiking the trails include Channing Tatum, Justin Bieber, Amanda Seyfried, Natalie Portman, and Kathy Griffin. If you want to spot a celebrity while also getting some exercise, lace up and head out to Runyon Canyon.
Musso & Frank Grill
One of the most legendary dining spots in Los Angeles is Hollywood’s oldest restaurant, Musso & Frank Grill (6667 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood 90028) which is celebrating its centennial this year. Sit in one of the restaurant’s large red booths and order a Martini and steak while you wait on your favorite celeb to walk through the doors. Famous diners include Sean Connery, Keith Richards, Johnny Depp and Quentin Tarantino, who featured Musso's prominently in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles 90028) is not only one of LA’s most famous hotels, but it's been a favorite hangout for generations of celebrities, having hosted its share of famous guests in its Spanish Colonial Revival rooms. You might see a star at the Lobby Bar, relaxing at the Tropicana Pool & Cafe, or partying at The Spare Room. You might catch one of your favorite celebrities enjoying a meal at The Barish, located on the first floor.
Beauty & Essex
One of Hollywood’s newest and trendiest spots, Beauty & Essex – the West Coast iteration of the famous NYC spot – is located inside the Dream Hotel in Hollywood (6417 Selma Ave, Hollywood 90028). The restaurant, bar, and lounge have been frequented by A-listers like Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Selena Gomez, The Weeknd, and Paris Hilton.
TCL Chinese Theatres
Not every paparazzo earns a paycheck with the kind of candid shots that wind up in gossipy tabloids. Many make a living along the sidelines of red carpets that are set up at restaurant openings, fundraisers and film premieres. When stars have a new movie to promote, they’re happy to pose on the red carpet at their premieres. TCL Chinese Theatres (6925 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood 90028) remains one of the most popular locations in Los Angeles for premieres, and one of the best spots where the public and the paparazzi can catch a glimpse of film stars arriving at a glamorous event. Even when a Hollywood movie premiere isn’t underway, a visit to the TCL Chinese Theatre is worth it to see the handprints and signatures of such celebrities as Marilyn Monroe, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Burt Reynolds, Denzel Washington, Johnny Depp, Samuel L. Jackson, Hugh Jackman, Keanu Reeves, Britney Spears, and many more.
Los Angeles has no shortage of great neighborhood restaurants, and Little Dom’s (2128 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles 90027) in Los Feliz is one of them. This retro Italian restaurant arguably has the best rice balls in town, and their Monday Supper deal (a three-course meal for just $18) is not to be missed. But aside from great food, cocktails, and wine, a number of celebrities have been known to frequent the restaurant, including Heather Graham, Jon Hamm, Michelle Branch, Charlize Theron, Ryan Gosling, Conan O’Brien, and Patrick Carney from The Black Keys.
The quaint neighborhood of Franklin Village features a small strip of must-visit spots, including the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, Birds, and the French bistro La Poubelle, which is often swarming with celebrities. Celebs who have been spotted along the Franklin Village strip include Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Amanda Seyfried, Robert Pattinson, Joshua Jackson, and Diane Kruger.
Rainbow Bar & Grill
One of the most famous spots on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood is the legendary Rainbow Bar & Grill. Since 1972, the Rainbow has been a popular hangout for rock stars from the '70s and '80s, and practically served as the second home to the late Lemmy Kilmister of heavy metal group Motörhead, who could be seen sitting at the bar on any given day drinking his favorite Jack & Coke. Other celebrities who have been spotted at the Rainbow include Bill Maher, Ron Jeremy, and members of Cypress Hill and KISS.
Located just two doors down from the famed Troubadour music venue, WeHo staple Dan Tana’s (9071 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood 90069) has been serving up delicious Italian fare to the rich and famous for more than 55 years. Celebrities who have frequented this legendary establishment include George Clooney, who has thrown private post-Oscar parties over the years; Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton; Drew Barrymore, who first visited the restaurant as a baby; Clint Eastwood, Daryl Hall and John Oates; Steve Martin, Leonardo DiCaprio, and more.
Head east along the Sunset Strip and you’ll happen upon the famous Chateau Marmont (8221 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles 90046) – a popular business meeting place for industry hotshots by day, and a celebrity hangout by night. You can spot celebrities, many of whom choose to stay in the glamorous suites and bungalows when they’re in town, dining in the intimate restaurant or having a drink at the elegant cocktail bar. Even if you aren’t looking to run into someone famous, it’s practically unavoidable at the Chateau Marmont. It’s also an ideal place to visit for a quintessential LA brunch or Hollywood-inspired cocktail. Celebrities who have been spotted here include Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, Dakota Johnson, Kit Harington, and more.
Do you want to see where the stars eat? Then a trip to LA is not complete until you’ve visited Catch LA (8715 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood 90069) – the West Coast version of nightlife entrepreneurs Mark Birnbaum and Eugene Remm’s original Catch restaurant in NYC. Diners enjoy an al fresco setting, vegan and gluten-free options, and locally grown ingredients. Celebrities who have been seen dining at Catch LA include Cindy Crawford, Larry David, Sylvester Stallone, Quincy Jones, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, David Beckham, Millie Bobby Brown, and more.
While there are numerous restaurants you can pop into at any given moment to spot a celebrity in LA, Craig’s (8826 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood 90069) has been a popular haunt for the rich and famous since it opened in 2011. It’s not unusual to happen upon the paparazzi when walking into Craig’s, which serves up good ol' American comfort food and vegan specialties. Regulars include Kim Kardashian and George Clooney. Other celebrities who have been spotted at the WeHo hotspot include Joe Jonas, Caitlyn Jenner, Kate Upton, Iggy Azalea, and even Judge Judy.
For more than 40 years, the ivy-covered building at the corner of Melrose Avenue and Crescent Heights Boulevard has been destination shopping for trendsetters. Like a deconstructed department store, the cluster of individual boutiques inside Fred Segal (8100 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles 90046) is one-stop star shopping. Up your chances of spotting a celebrity and spend some more time at Fred Segal by dining at Mauro’s Cafe, serving up delicious Italian fare with a side of celebrity sightings. Celebrities who have been spotted at Fred Segal include Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, and even members of the Beatles at one point in time.
Beverly Hills Hotel
If you aren’t on a tight budget during your visit to LA the Beverly Hills Hotel (9641 Sunset Blvd, Beverly Hills 90210) is worth a stay. Nearly every celebrity you could possibly dream up has stayed within the walls of the famous pink stucco façade or shared a drink or two at the Polo Lounge. Liz Taylor reportedly spent six of her honeymoons in the hotel's bungalows. Celebrities who have been spotted at the Beverly Hills Hotel include Kim Kardashian, Michael Douglas, Nicole Kidman, Warren Beatty, and many more. If you can’t afford a stay or lunch at the Polo Lounge, a quick walk around the grounds or break in the lobby will do.
Chris McMillan Salon
There’s a reason Chris McMillan is called a “celebrity hairstylist.” Not only is he responsible for Jennifer Aniston’s famed “Rachel” haircut that inspired a legion of followers, but he is also a celeb himself, appearing on reality shows like Extreme Makeover and serving as a columnist for Allure Magazine. The stars keep coming to his airy Beverly Hills salon (8944 Burton Way, Beverly Hills 90211) and the paparazzi keep on following them.
With a dancing fountain, vintage trolley car and dozens of stores, restaurants and movie screens, The Grove is the perfect place to visit for great shopping, delicious food, and entertainment. Adjacent to The Grove is The Original Farmers Market, a funky warren of open-air vendors and food stalls offering a variety of dining and shopping options, including candy, popcorn, and fresh produce.
Studio City Farmers Market
Located on Ventura Place between Laurel Canyon and Radford Avenue, the Studio City Farmers Market is another popular hangout for celebrities. You’ll find stars who live and work near the area’s film studios strolling through the Sunday morning gathering spot. Those with families can often be seen taking their children to the market’s petting zoo or pony rides. If you’re in the Valley on a Sunday morning, it’s worth making a trip to the farmers market because you never know who you’ll run into.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Not all celebrities have a private jet plane in which to travel, so if you’re arriving to or leaving from LAX, there’s a chance you may see someone famous. While most popular celebrities have private airline clubs in which to hide pre-flight, they must mingle with the public post-flight at baggage claim.
Located up the coast off Pacific Coast Highway, Japanese-Peruvian restaurant Nobu Malibu (22706 CA-1, Malibu 90265) is a popular dining spot for the rich and famous. Pick up any celebrity magazine and you’re likely to see photos of celebrities stepping out of this Malibu restaurant. If you’re planning a visit to Nobu, it’s worth it for the delicious selection of sushi and sashimi creations, but it can set you back a pretty penny. Among the celebrities who have dined at Nobu include Drake, Natalie Portman, Eva Longoria, Justin Bieber, Mary J. Blige, Megan Fox, and Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi fame, among others.
Malibu Country Mart
When celebs want to shop somewhere relaxed and casual, they head to the Malibu Country Mart (3835 Cross Creek Rd, Malibu 90265) an outdoor shopping center with 65 boutiques, galleries and restaurants. While celebrities pick up toys, designer jeans and jewelry, locals buy their coffee, cosmetics and everyday (but pricey) clothes. Located near Pepperdine University, the Malibu Pier and the mega-mansions of the fabulously rich, the Malibu Country Mart is Malibu’s de facto downtown, which make it a great place for star sightings.
The stretch of Malibu beach that runs from Carbon Canyon Road to the Malibu Pier is known by locals as Billionaire's Beach. The richest of the rich, including music mogul David Geffen, Oracle’s Larry Ellison and media proprietor Haim Saban own mansions that sit on the sand. These Malibu celebrity homes are some of the priciest on the Pacific. The public - and professional photographers - can access the beach via walkways at 22132 and 22664 Pacific Coast Highway.
Situated just one block from PCH and next to the ocean, the family-owned Italian restaurant Giorgio Baldi (114 W Channel Rd, Santa Monica 90402) is well-known as a hotspot for celebrity sightings. Though it’s been open since 1979, it’s still off-the-radar for many, which has made it an inviting dining spot for Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and Victoria and David Beckham.
Brentwood Country Mart
Westside locals love visiting the Brentwood Country Mart (225 26th St, Santa Monica 90402) which offers top-of-the-line boutiques for shopping and great food and restaurants, including homemade ice cream at Sweet Rose Creamery. Celebrities who have been known to frequent the old-fashioned country mart include Reese Witherspoon, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, and Alessandra Ambrosio.
Head into nearly any Starbucks in LA and you’re likely to see a celebrity, especially in areas including West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Malibu, and Studio City. Dave Grohl and Tom Everett Scott have both been spotted getting their Starbucks fix in the Valley.
Shopping at Ralphs, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s & More
Celebrities have to shop for groceries, too, and with many of the rich and famous choosing to settle down over the hill in The Valley, it wouldn’t be unusual to spot a famous person loading up on produce at Ralphs. From Encino to Sherman Oaks, celebrities who have been spotted pushing around a shopping cart like "normal" people include Duff McKagan from Guns N’ Roses, KISS’ Paul Stanley, Matt LeBlanc (aka Joey Tribbiani), Tom Everett Scott, and many more. Celebrities have also been spotted shopping at grocery stores across the city including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Bristol Farms, and Gelson’s.