When I say Hollywood, what do you think of? Movie Stars? Glitz and glam? Red carpet premiers? I did too-until I visited.
Hollywood is a a neighborhood in Los Angeles, California. We were near L.A. and I decided I wanted to see the iconic Hollywood sign. So, we braved the freeway traffic to check it out.
On the way into the city, I started to get cold feet. I’m a country mouse in the city. I’m not used to tent cities, graffiti, and pollution. I started to worry if my kids, especially my daughter were going somewhere safe. My husband grew up in Detroit. He hates cities but is more accustomed to them than I am. When, he saw my wide-eyed nervous expression, he squeezed my hand and smirked. “You OK?”
I was completely out of my element here. As I’ve mentioned before, I feel at home in the woods. I would feel one hundred times safer camping in the wilderness among wild animals than I would spending a night on the streets. I grew up in the Appalachian mountains hunting and fishing with my dad. I can identify animal tracks and tell you which plants you can eat and which will hurt you. But, my skill set doesn’t transfer. As far as street smarts- I got nothing. The extent of my skills is: to pay attention to my surroundings and hang on to my purse.
I chose the Hollywood sign because I read that you can see it from a park. I also saw a TV show once where girls hiked to it. Now- parks and hiking? Yes, that seemed doable.
The drive there was brutal. I think it may have been five or six lanes. Honking, people cutting each other off- stressful! When we left the freeway, it was narrow streets and lots of turns. We first tried to park and take a bus to Griffith Park. I had read that the park was notorious for limited parking. I found a bus stop but there was no public parking anywhere near it. We eventually gave up on taking the bus and decided to try our luck at finding a parking spot at Griffith Park.
When we actually made it to the park, the traffic was literally bumper to bumper for miles. There were no parking spots and the crowds were insane. Throngs of people were walking up the hill to the Griffith Observatory. I don’t know if there was a special event going on or if it’s like this all the time. There were staff directing traffic and big electronic signs telling drivers which lane to merge into. We had already driven two hours to get here and now there was nowhere to park. I didn’t know what to do.
Luckily, my husband had a plan. “You need to get to the top of that hill right? This is what we’re going to do. When we get close, you hop out and walk to where ever you need to be to see the sign. I’ll keep driving to wherever this road takes me. I’ll loop back around when you are done and pick you up.”
“But, don’t you want to see it?”
“Hell, no. I wanna get out of here.”
As is usually the case, Charlotte decided to tag along with me and Jackson opted to stay with his dad. When it was our turn at the intersection, Jason paused and Charlotte and I hopped out and ran to the sidewalk. We joined a long line of people trudging up the steep hill. Some were stopping to take selfies, blocking the people on the sidewalk, and stopping the foot traffic. I had tunnel vision. I was on a mission-get to the top, find the sign and snap a picture, then find the boys. I couldn’t understand why people wanted a picture on the sidewalk. Why not wait until you are on top of the hill and have a view?
Nevertheless, we pushed on. We were out of breath and our calves burned. But, we made it to the top. Step one complete, I looked ahead. There were signs to the left for the hiking trails. The Observatory was straight ahead. But, where was the Hollywood sign? I walked over to the trail sign and noted the trail lengths. Were we going to need to walk further? Women shuffled past me in heels and short skirts. Seriously? Only in LA do women wear platforms and mini skirts to enjoy nature. I was feeling frazzled and frustrated. I was talking to myself and googling when Charlotte got my attention.
“Mom, MOM! Look!”
She was pointing. “What?”
“It’s RIGHT THERE!”
Apparently, we were so fixated on getting up the hill that we hadn’t even noticed…if we would have just stopped and turned around, we would have realized the sign was just over our right shoulders. That’s why people were taking selfies on the sidewalk! The sign had been behind us the whole way up the hill.
“For crying out loud! Ok, let me take your picture.”
Charlotte smiled for the picture and later posted it to her Instagram with the caption, “We drove two hours and walked up a giant hill to see this stupid sign.”
We eventually reunited with the boys and decided to see some other attractions while we were in town.
We headed to Hollywood Boulevard to see the Walk of Fame. Turns out, parking is pretty easy to come by here in this touristy area. We pulled into a lot, paid the attendant, and hopped out of the car. And guess what we saw? The Hollywood sign!
Hollywood Boulevard is…interesting. You can see the Walk of Fame and TCL Chinese Theater. The Chinese Theater has hosted Academy awards and movie premiers like Star Wars. There are also little souvenir shops where you can pick up a t-shirt, shot glass, or your very own plastic academy award. But, there’s a lot more you probably don’t want to see. Homelessness in this area is rampant. There are so many homeless people on the streets here, Jason nearly stepped on a man sleeping on the sidewalk. There are “adult” stores with eh…colorful displays in the front windows. There’s no shortage of places to purchase glass pipes and bongs and other marijuana paraphernalia. We also saw at least one prostitute, it was the middle of the day.
My kids were getting quite an education. So, we opted to do the only family-friendly options on the street- The Hollywood Wax Museum and Ripley’s Believe It or Not. These attractions are silly and fun for kids.
Ripley’s has a lot of interactive exhibits. Jackson and Charlotte had a good time here. The Hollywood Wax Museum houses wax sculptures of celebrities that are available to pose with for pictures. If you enjoy selfies-this is your spot.
Hollywood was not what we expected. But, I’m glad we went. It’s always good to experience new things and see how life works in places different than your own little world. If I ever go back to LA, I think I’ll skip West Hollywood and see something different. But, we made memories and that’s always a good thing.