L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: The Hollywood Bowl

Click to embiginate and see the Hollywood sign in the distance.

The Hollywood Bowl is certainly one of L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks. Opened on July 11, 1922, for the past 88 years the Hollywood Bowl has been the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as hosting countless music festivals, concerts, and cultural events.

Just a few blocks north of a more recent L.A. landmark, Hollywood & Highland, the Hollywood Bowl is built on the hillside of Bolton Canyon in one of the world’s largest natural amphitheaters. Just a few blocks from the heart of Hollywood, yet when you enter the Bowl it’s like leaving that other world behind. The noise of the nearby 101 freeway fades as you sit outdoors in the waning light of a warm summer evening. Sitting in one of the Bowl’s nearly 18,000 seats, you face the majestic white band shell, and beyond that the gentle rolling Hollywood hills with the Hollywood sign on the far ridge. Regardless of the evening’s scheduled performance, there is a certain serenity in that setting.

Satellite photo of Hollywood Bowl courtesy of USGS.

There is something for everyone at the Hollywood Bowl. While it is the summer home of the L.A. Phil and Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, it’s not all classical. Wednesday nights during the summer typically feature jazz, Sundays are often world music, and that’s just the beginning. There are latin music festivals, showtune sing-alongs, movie music nights, and rock concerts. Next weekend John Williams will be conducting the L.A. Phil in highlights from the Golden Age of Hollywood, plus music he composed for films such as Star Wars, Jaws and Indiana Jones.

The list of legendary performances at the Hollywood Bowl is incredible. The Beatles played there on their first ever American tour in 1964. The Doors recorded a live album there in 1968. Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald performed on the Hollywood Bowl stage, as well as Billie Holiday, Al Jolson and Judy Garland. Mikhail Baryshnikov and Fred Astaire both danced there, and Abbot & Costello and Monty Python have performed comedy. The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, Elton John, Run DMC, Pink Floyd, Simon & Garfunkle, The Grateful Dead, Coldplay, Luciano Pavarotti, Depeche Mode, Cher…the list goes on and on. And on.

Click to make larger and more spectacular.

The Hollywood Bowl has also been featured in many films, including A Star Is Born (1937,) Anchors Aweigh (1945,) Xanadu (1980,) Some Kind Of Wonderful (1987,) and Escape From L.A. (1996.) There is even a parody of the Bowl seen in the Simpsons called “The Springfield Bowl.”

I’ve been a regular at the Hollywood Bowl every summer for more than 20 years. Nothing beats sitting out under the stars with a picnic and a bottle of wine and a great performance unfolding on the stage in front of you.

I’ve got more favorite shows and tips than will fit here, but for starters, one of my favorite shows (among many favorites) must be my very first concert there. Elton John, in 1982. I also saw Miles Davis‘ last show ever (he passed away a month later) in 1991. One of many pro tips? Park down the hill at Hollywood & Highland and walk up. It’s a short hike, but it’s not stack parked and with a HiHo validation it’s only $2 for the first four hours (as opposed to $16 in Bowl parking lots.)

Anyone who has been to the Bowl more than once or twice has a favorite feature or a tip to improve the experience. What are yours? Leave a note in the comments section below with your favorite thing about the Bowl, best show you’ve seen there, or your best Hollywood Bowl tip.

This post is part of the L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks series on blogging.la. You can find all of the posts in the series here.

8 thoughts on “L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: The Hollywood Bowl”

  1. It’s hard to say what my favorite thing about one of my very favorite places in L.A. is. So many great shows over the years…so many more to come this season alone. One of my annual favorites is Tchaikovsky night with fireworks and the USC Marching Band playing during the 1812 Overture. I have some good tips, but don’t want to give them away in a public forum. If anyone ever goes to a show with me, they learn.

  2. I haven’t been there yet, but it’s on my list, and now it’s bumped up to the top, thanks.

  3. @Matt: Never? How long have you lived here? It’s time.

    @snacktime: My tip used to be the shuttle from the zoo. With all the construction at the zoo, they discontinued that shuttle stop this season. I’m lazy, too, and would much prefer to park & ride.

  4. Love the Bowl. If it was possible, The Bowl would be my summer home. Favorite tip: for any LA Phil event, bring your own food & alcoholic beverages. Second favorite tip: if you need to travel South of the Bowl after your concert, use the stacked parking on the Bowl side. Third favorite tip: if you’re there early enough, get cushions for the seats. Fourth favorite tip: Section E is cheaper than Super Seating, is in the Box section and offers a near straight-on view of the stage as long as you sit closer to the aisles.

    I’m OK with the stacked parking. It’s part of the Bowl experience. However, I recommend the Church lot @ Franklin/Highland to friends.

  5. Love the Bowl! Great post. Most of the tips are the same already highlighted – take one of the shuttles, buy a cushion pays for itself (sports authority sells them), buy tixs at the box office to avoid service charges, & group discounts are awesome

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