Top 10 Places to Take Pictures in Los Angeles

moi Backpacking all around the world  for one year at 50 years old, this is possible. This blog (in french) is all about tips, anecdotes and memories from my 2009 RTW trip and from following trips. This post is the most viewed in the french section of the blog and I wanted to share it with you in english too. Excuse then my not-so-perfect english translation and enjoy, hoping it will be helpful!

 

 

This is your first trip to Los Angeles? You have limited time and do not really know where to go to take the best pictures, the ones that will impress your friends at home?

 

I've been there many times and I had the opportunity to drive all around the place making discoveries. Here is my list of the places to go to take the best pictures around LA and the links to easily find the exact locations for taking these best shots.

 

1. The Hollywood Sign

 

A must. The famous and worldwide renowned HOLLYWOOD sign. Being located on top of a mountain surrounding LA, you can not miss it as it is visible from everywhere in town.

 

By the way, did you know that the original panel had nothing to do with the film industry but was rather the work of a real estate developer in the early 20th century? The original panel said HOLLYWOODLAND, the name of the new district to be developed on the mountain side. It has long since lost its LAND and became the icon celebrating the seventh art that we know today.

 

But where exactly to go to take "the" picture of this panel? You have lot of choices to do it.

If you are in a hurry or do not have a GPS at hand (or an extraordinary sense of direction), the easiest way is to shoot it from afar. I recommend the balcony located inside the Hollywood & Highland shopping center, just next to the Kodak Theather where the Oscars ceremony is held. You will easyly see the famous sign directly from the heart of the most famous street in Hollywood, Hollywood Boulevard (see below). Californie 0039
If you want to see it from really close, arm yourself with a good GPS and drive to here. You can not get closer by car and have to walk a few minutes to really be at the bottom of the panel. You will not see any indication on the way getting there. You will pass through winding streets mountainside where famous people lived and tourists are not always welcomed. Californie 5895

Just ahead of the previous point, right here, there is a small park where you can take the perfect picture of yourself with the sign in the background. Madonna lived next to this park at one time. Note that you will also need the GPS to get out of there and come back into town.


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Always in the same sector, but easier to access, climb North Beachwood Drive straight from Franklin Avenue, just north of Hollywood Boulevard. You can see the panel all along the road and tourist buses stop halfway. I suggest you continue driving until you reach the end of the street, right here, for a closer view. Go down straight the same street to return back, and no need for a GPS. Californie 0106
Another acceptable compromise, which combines other beautiful shots opportunities, is to shoot it from the Griffith Park Observatory (see next point). As a bonus, you'll find a bust of James Dean because this is where were shot several scenes of "Rebel Without a Cause", the film that made him famous shortly before he died in a car crash. Californie 6199

 

 

2. Panoramic view of Los Angeles

 

To see all of LA and its surroundings at a glance, just climb in the mountains around. Except for one annoying little detail : this city is regularly shrouded in smog, therefore it is difficult to make beautiful clear pictures. So choose your day before climbing or go early in the morning.

 

There are still many possibilities there to do this.

Firstly, for the best view of the city center, with a bonus rear view of the Dodgers' baseball stadium, you must go here at Elysian Park. Along the way you will pass by the Los Angeles Police Academy and you'll maybe hear bursts of gunfire when cops are in training. The use of a good GPS will be very useful to go there and to come back. Californie 6059
A very crowded but interesting place offering a magnificent view of the whole LA area is the Griffith Park Observatory, located here. You should go just before sunset to see the sun disappearing into the sea behind the hills near Malibu. You must also see the sun illuminating perfectly the city center with an orange glow at sunset. If you wait a little longer, you'll have a view of the whole city at night. Unfortunately, you won't be the only one to have this fantastic idea and finding a place to park can be difficult. As a bonus mentionned above, you will have a nice view of the HOLLYWOOD sign. Californie 6192
Another place a little less crowded and with a beautiful panoramic view is driving on Mulholland Drive. You have a nice top view all along this road but it is really here where you will make the best photos. You will also see the famous Hollywood Bowl outdoor stage where the greatest bands in the world gave concerts. Californie 5931
If you drive a little further west on Mulholland Drive to this point, you can shoot from afar the Universal Studios and the Warner Brothers Studios, both located in Burbank down the San Fernando Valley, on the opposite side of the mountains. Californie 5938
My favorite: LA seen from the Getty Center. Here again, you'll kill two birds with one stone: The most beautiful museum of LA and the nicest view. Funny coincidence: while watching The Green Lantern movie on the plane bringing me back to Montreal, I noticed a scene shot exactly from the same balcony where I took this photo. The only difference is that there was a superhero in green tights and a huge diabolical creature above the city ready to destroy it.  09102011014

 

 

3. Hollywood Boulevard

You can not go to LA without going for a ride to Hollywood, this is well known. The heart of Hollywood is Hollywood Boulevard. You know, the famous street where there are star stars on the sidewalk.

 

This is the same street where starlets parade once a year for the Oscars. This ceremony takes place at the Kodak Theater and recently, it's in this theater that the Cirque du Soleil performed its show Iris.

 

As said earlier, you can even see the HOLLYWOOD sign from afar at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. This is the place to go for the best pictures.

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4. Downtown Los Angeles

 

Surprisingly for a huge city of 15 million inhabitants, the downtown Los Angeles with its skyscrapers is rather limited. In fact, it is not bigger than the Montreal city center which is 5 times least populated than LA. The rest of the region is a huge suburb with cottages and highways 6 or 8 lanes wide.

 

Visiting the city center is still a must and there are at least two good pictures to shoot there.

First of all, allow an hour or two to visit the magnificent Walt Disney Concert Hall. This stainless steel futuristic theater was created by Frank Gehry, the same architect who is responsible for the extraordinary Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum in Spain. Californie 6070
The real science fiction fans will absolutely want to photograph the interior of the Bradbury Building, because this is where many scenes of the Blade Runner movie were shot in the 80's. It is mostly a unique architecture that is worth seeing. Just opposite, there is the Grand Central Market and the Million Dollar Theater that deserve a look too. Californie 6069

 

 

5. The Getty Museum

 

J. Paul Getty is known to have made his fortune in the oil industry to the point of being in his days the richest man in the world. He was also a great collector of art and his collection is at the origin of The Getty art museum. It definitely worths a visit while in Los Angeles.

 

To be more precise, we should say The Getty "museums" because it is spread over two sites.

Firstly, you must see the Getty Villa where are displayed the collections of ancient Greek, Etruscan and Roman arts. To achieve this, he built, near his Malibu mansion, an exact replica of a Roman villa destroyed by Vesuvius in Pompeii 2000 years ago (more details in this post). You will not have often the opportunity to photograph something so unique. Californie 5996
The rest of his art collection, from the Middle Ages to nowadays, is exposed at the Getty Center. Open for less than 15 years, this huge location on the mountainside offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the greater Los Angeles as seen above. It is also an opportunity to photograph some famous paintings that you have never seen in the largest European museums. 09102011027

 

 

6. The beaches

The Los Angeles area is located along the Pacific Ocean coast where you have a very wide choice of beaches. Between Malibu Beach and Long Beach, you can opt for Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Marina del Rey, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach.

 

Each beach is attracting its own fauna but the most fun to visit is definitely Venice Beach where all the "weirdos" and "old hippies" of LA gather together. Not to mention its famous section "Muscle Beach" where you can admire all sizes biceps workout.

 

Finally, who say west coast necessarily also say sunset in the sea. Whatever beach you choose, do not forget to capture the moment. You can even enjoy fun rides in the Santa Monica Pier at night if you feel for it.

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7. Beverly Hills

Los Angeles, it's also Beverly Hills where live many of the worldwide known celebrities. These stars and starlets of Hollywood have, of course, a lot of money to spend and Rodeo Drive is definitely one of their favorite shopping outlet. The most expensive shops in the world are aligned over only three blocks and it is not uncommon to see drivers waiting patiently for their masters aboard luxurious Rolls Royce. In a nearby park, there is this very popular landmark for tourists who want to have their picture taken. 09102011038

 

 

8. LAX Airport

It may not be the most beautiful airport in the world, but at its very center sits a "retro-futuristic" restaurant which well worth a photo or two, especially at night. The food is not that good but the decor brings us straight into an episode of the Jetsons, a cartoon from my childhood who promised us flying cars, moving walkways and domestic robots for the year 2000. Head here for the photo. Californie 5891

 

 

9. Long Beach

The southern suburbs of Los Angeles deserves a visit too, especially for those who want to visit Disneyland, the original one located in Anaheim, California. But as I did not visit it, I have no pictures to show you (the only Disneyland I saw in my life was Disneyland Paris). Sports enthusiasts also know that Anaheim is the home of the California Angels (baseball) and the Mighty Ducks (ice hockey). Personally, I actually visited Long Beach a little further west to see, among others, the famous ocean liner Queen Mary. It is now permanently moored there and converted into a luxury floating hotel. Californie 6123

 

 

10. Pasadena

Another very wealthy suburbs of Los Angeles that is worth seeing is Pasadena, eastern of LA city center at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains.

 

Pasadena is known for its stadium, the Rose Bowl, where takes place an annual football game very popular in the USA. Equally popular is the famous Rose Parade held in the streets of Pasadena in early January before that match.

 

Pasadena is the home of many luxury houses and you can find an impressive number of museums there. One of them you should absolutely visit is the Huntington Library. Not only for the museum itself but especially for its gardens. A must to see and to photograph.

 

Finally, there is the Pasadena City Hall which also worth a photo.

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Well, that's it for now! Bon voyage and bring lots of nice pictures too. 

 

 

 

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