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I Lived in Hollywood for 8 Years—Here’s What Everyone Gets Wrong About It

Updated: Apr. 04, 2023

Think you know all about Hollywood from the movies? Not so fast. These are Tinseltown’s biggest secrets and surprises, according to a local.

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hollywood sign

The city of dreams

Everybody dreams of strolling down the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California, and lots of those people hope they’ll be “discovered” while doing so. After all, nearly every movie we see paints the city as an entertainment beacon and the place to visit. Well, I lived and worked in the area for eight years, and I can confidently say that the movies have gotten it wrong. As it turns out, Hollywood is a place locals try to stay away from. And although it does have some redeeming qualities and certainly some must-see spots, you have to do Hollywood right to get the most out of it. Here’s what you need to know before visiting.

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 1, 2016: Traffic and pedestrians on Hollywood Boulevard at dusk. The theater district is famous tourist attraction.
Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Locals know Hollywood is only for newbies

Every good Angeleno knows that Hollywood proper is the place where newbies move to. It’s typical for you to meet an aspiring actor or actress who just moved to the city and picked Hollywood as their neighborhood. Seasoned locals roll their eyes when hearing about this neighborhood choice because we recognize that it’s a rookie mistake. Almost everyone in L.A. is a transplant, but we live and learn…and move to better neighborhoods. After a year or two, people who moved to Hollywood when they first got there change their neighborhood—stat. Here are the 15 most expensive cities to live in the United States.

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Way to success on the red carpet (Barrier rope)
Elena Larina/Shutterstock

It’s a celebrity ghost town

Given all the fanfare Hollywood receives, you would expect that the place is crawling with celebrities. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Aside from (the few and far between) premieres at the Chinese Theatre or the Oscars, which of course only happen once a year at the Dolby Theatre, you’ll be hard-pressed to find celebrities in Hollywood proper. Although the word Hollywood is synonymous with entertainment, it doesn’t mean celebs hang out on Hollywood Boulevard. They know it’s packed with tourists who would be clamoring for autographs, and they prefer neighborhoods like Malibu and Beverly Hills that have more local activity.

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hollywood tour bus
Kilmer Media/Shutterstock

It’s actually a great place to book tours

Although you may be tempted to book a tour through your hotel or travel agent, you’ll probably get a better deal when you’re out and about. Hollywood has various kiosks and street teams that compete with one another and can provide better pricing. Every time I stepped out for my daily Starbucks run, I would get offered multiple tours in the span of a few blocks. Take advantage of the competition, and don’t be afraid to bargain.

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Traffic jam in Los Angeles

The parking is truly terrible

You’ve probably heard that driving is bad in the area, but parking may actually be worse. Don’t expect to drive into Tinseltown for a day trip without paying the big bucks. When I lived and worked in Hollywood, monthly parking clocked in at more than $200 per car. Although there are plenty of lots and garages, most have deceiving signs. So if you see a big sign that says “$5 parking,” it may indeed be $5…but just for 15 minutes! That will add up quickly, of course. The details are included in the fine print, but you’ll have a hard time reading that when you’re driving. Expect to pay $20 to $30 for a few hours on a good day. Moral of the story: If it seems too good to be true, it is. That said, Hollywood isn’t the only place with this dubious distinction. Check out the airport with the most expensive parking in the world.

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hollywood bowl

Hollywood is home to one of the most magical outdoor venues

If you haven’t listened to a band or musician at the Hollywood Bowl, you haven’t lived. The venue provides one of the most amazing experiences in the city. You’re allowed to pack a picnic and bring your favorite food items to enjoy during the performance. And let’s not forget about the most important part—the show offerings. They range from traditional headliners to heritage bands and sing-alongs. If you’re visiting the Los Angeles area, scope out the Hollywood Bowl’s calendar ahead of time and try to catch a show. You won’t regret it. If you want to explore other famous landmarks in California and elsewhere, this list of U.S. hotels where your favorite movies and TV shows were filmed will wow you.

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walk of fame

The Walk of Fame is better at night

Locals generally stay away from the Walk of Fame, but if we do have to visit that area, we try to do it at nighttime when the crowds dissipate. The daytime brings street performers, loads of tourists, and, subsequently, pickpockets. It’s not uncommon for tourists to crowd around a performer one second and become victims the next. If you do choose to visit the Walk of Fame, make sure to protect your belongings and know these 18 things pickpockets don’t want you to know.

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hotel roosevelt
Robert Mullan/Shutterstock

Go elsewhere for a great meal

Los Angeles has a thriving culinary culture. From delicious mom-and-pop taco stands to award-winning restaurants, the city is full of dining options. Unfortunately, Hollywood isn’t home to many of those options. Why? Because restaurant owners know they are catering to a large number of tourists. Tourists don’t come back to establishments often, so there’s no real incentive to please them to keep their business. There are a handful of exceptions, but restaurants right on Hollywood Boulevard generally aren’t stellar (and that’s putting it nicely). The Roosevelt Hotel, however, was always a safe bet when I was in that part of town, and it continues to offer solid food and drinks. If you’re a foodie, you might want to plan a trip around these 10 best restaurants in the United States, according to customers.

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chinese theater
Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Most attractions are tourist traps

I would walk outside my door and be bombarded with pamphlets for new “attractions” on the daily—everything from wax museums to exhibitions on oddities. Unfortunately, most of the attractions are tourist traps and fake museums. They charge a high entry fee and don’t offer much in terms of education or entertainment value. If your trip to Los Angeles is short, don’t budget too much time in Hollywood. And when visiting the area, stick to free sights like the Chinese Theatre and finding your favorite star on the Walk of Fame. Check out these 15 less crowded alternatives to the most popular tourist attractions, including a much better way to see the Hollywood sign.

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Bart Sherkow/Shutterstock

You can score free tapings to shows

One cool thing about living in Hollywood is that you are aware of what shows tape in the area. When I was a Hollywood local, I made friends with the staff on various shows and scored free tapings often. If you don’t have inside connections, don’t worry. The advent of the Internet has made it much easier to find free show information, and producers are always looking for a live audience. If you score a ticket to a show like Jimmy Kimmel Live, you’ll get a true Hollywood experience—and likely one with an awesome musical performance. If game shows are more your thing, here’s how to get on Wheel of Fortune, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and more.

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Philip Lange/Shutterstock

There’s a lot of crime

Beneath its shiny surface, Hollywood is kind of a mess. When I lived and worked in Hollywood, I got a shocking number of landlord emails telling me not to leave the building because there was an active shooter in the area or a bomb threat. (No joke!) Believe it or not, these types of warnings were a familiar occurrence. I was often late to appointments because streets were blocked by police barricades. According to Areavibes.com, the overall crime rate in Hollywood is a whopping 99 percent higher than the national average. The statistics are staggering: If you’re in Hollywood, you have a 1 in 19 chance of becoming a victim of any crime. Make sure you know how to stay safe with these secrets straight from a mugger’s mouth.

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Walter Cicchetti/Shutterstock

Hollywood has surprisingly great subway access

The metro is a godsend, and it saves not only money but also precious time. You can zip in and out of the area without having to fear Los Angeles’ infamous traffic, even during rush hour. Take advantage of this on your next trip. I have family in San Diego and driving down on a Friday after work would make a two-hour trip stretch out to four or more hours in my car. But if I instead left work and walked to the Hollywood and Highland station and then jumped on a train at Union Station (about a 20-minute ride), I’d be on my way to San Diego in no time.

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Priscila Martinez hollywood
Courtesy Priscila Martinez

It’s the place to party

While the restaurants aren’t great here, nobody does nightlife quite like Hollywood. It’s common for new bars and clubs to open up regularly, attracting all the cool kids from other neighborhoods. If you’re looking for a night on the town, have your hotel concierge arrange your outing or call ahead. Unless you were put on a list beforehand, it may be hard to get in. I had some of my best times at Hollywood venues, and I often wish I could relive those nights out! Now, brush up on your Hollywood knowledge and learn these movie trivia facts you never knew.