No state can hold a candle to California in terms of sheer star power. It’s a place where celebrities have lived, worked, and played since the golden age of cinema. Los Angeles has all the glitz, glam, and red carpets expected of the moviemaking capital of the world, while the laid-back luxury of beach towns like Montecito, Malibu, and Newport Beach offer their own allure with secluded shores and swanky boutiques.
Here’s a guide for starstruck fans hoping to see some of the biggest names in Hollywood, from Oscar-winning actors and music moguls to athletes and multi-hyphenate entertainers.
1. Be part of a live studio audience
From The Late Late Show with James Corden to American Idol to The Voice, some of TV’s most popular shows tape live on sound stages across Los Angeles County. Whether you want to laugh out loud to mean tweets on Jimmy Kimmel Live! or cheer for a costumed competitor on The Masked Singer, opportunities abound to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your favorite talk-show hosts, game-show presenters, and sitcom stars. Most tapings are free to attend, but it’s best to begin looking for tickets a few months in advance. Pro tip: Plan to spend several hours at the studio.
2. Dine at their favorite restaurants
Tinseltown’s elite have an affinity for stylish restaurants. Cecconi's West Hollywood is a popular Hollywood hotspot, welcoming music icons such as Madonna, The Weeknd, and Britney Spears onto its airy patio. Also on Melrose Avenue, Catch LA's seafood-focused menu is a favorite of Justin Bieber and wife Hailey. In nearby Hollywood, the Chris Santos–owned Beauty & Essex is a favorite for celeb soirees. Actor America Ferrera and rap powerhouse Cardi B are among the restaurant's high-profile revelers. Other restaurants frequented by the stars include The Ivy and Sugarfish in Beverly Hills; Nobu Malibu; Craig’s on Melrose; and Giorgio Baldi in Santa Monica.
3. Hang out at a hotel bar
These three iconic L.A.-area hotels are steeped in history, making them a favorite among visiting celebs seeking a Golden State getaway. Opened in 1912, The Beverly Hills Hotel has hosted famous guests from Howard Hughes to John Lennon. Today, perch at The Polo Lounge bar to be the first to know about power lunches like the one between SNL media mogul Lorne Michaels and Kim Kardashian. At The Hollywood Roosevelt, birthplace of the Academy Awards and home to Marilyn Monroe for two years, grab a day pass to the Tropicana Pool to stargaze at visiting celebs like Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus. The legendary Chateau Marmont now limits overnight stays to members only, but if you can get a table at the ultra-exclusive restaurant you might catch a glimpse of celebs such as Beyonce and Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Keanu Reeves.
4. Score a seat at an awards show
Fans are the big winners at shows like the iHeart Radio Music Awards and American Music Awards, which both take place in Los Angeles. Free pit tickets, general admission, and seat-filler spots are typically available in advance of the show through online ticketing sites like 1iota, SeatFillersAndMore.com, or directly through the venue. Prestigious industry events such as the Academy Awards, Grammys, Emmys, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild Awards are invite-only, but often have a number of red-carpet bleacher seats available for the general public. These once-in-a-lifetime spots are typically part of ticket giveaways through association partners, so check online in the months leading up to the show.
5. Attend a film festival
Under-the-radar festivals in SoCal offer easy access to star-studded parties, premieres, and screenings. In coastal Orange County, the Newport Beach Film Festival has become a notable stop during awards season, offering opportunities to rub elbows with celebs at the glittering waterfront celebration or as they take a seat next to you in a darkened theater. “From Will Ferrell, Rita Moreno, and Aaron Sorkin to Henry Golding, Saniyya Sidney, and Calvin Harrison, Jr., the Newport Beach Film Festival creates an environment where the audience can engage with both legendary talent as well as rising stars,” says festival CEO and co-founder Gregg Schwenk. Also check out the Palm Springs International Film Festival and Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which have welcomed Academy Award–nominated actors such as Benedict Cumberbatch and Kristen Stewart.
6. Take a neighborhood stroll
To see stars in their natural element, step away from the hustle and bustle of L.A. and head to the water. The seaside retreat of Malibu, with its mountain views and 16 miles of shoreline, is a who’s who of the entertainment industry. You might run across Lady Gaga en route to Vintage Grocers or Caitlyn Jenner while sipping coffee at Trancas Country Market. Up the coast, Montecito is a tony beach town in Santa Barbara County that’s home to the rich, famous, and royal. Oprah, Ariana Grande, and Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are all neighbors here, enjoying a quiet life at laid-back spots like Lucky’s Steakhouse and the high-end market and boutique Pierre LaFrond & Co.
7. Embark on a studio tour
Do more than just see the stars—learn about the rich history of and get an up-close look at working studios and soundstages. While there’s no guarantee that you’ll spot your favorite A-lister, keep your eyes peeled for a rare sighting. At Universal Studios Hollywood, the 60-minute studio tour takes visitors past iconic sets like the Bates Motel and mansion from Psycho and the Boeing 747 from War of the Worlds. The VIP experience also allows guests to disembark from the tram and explore the backlot’s outdoor sets on foot. In Culver City, the Sony Pictures Studio Tours takes visitors backstage where production crews are setting up for game shows including Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, and costumed extras for various sitcoms may be wandering around. Other working backlot tours include the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Burbank and Paramount Pictures Studio Tour in L.A., where Dr. Phil and NCIS: Los Angeles currently film.
8. See “celebrities” at Madame Tussauds
Don’t leave the stargazing up to chance. A family-friendly way to ensure you see all your favorites is a trip to Madame Tussauds Hollywood, where you can pose alongside wax figures ranging from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to pop icons like Taylor Swift. “It’s the only wax museum that works directly with A-list celebrities to create incredibly detailed and lifelike figures,” says spokesperson Brittany Williams. “Always on top of the latest pop-culture trends, the attraction offers an interactive experience beyond TV, film, and phone screens.”
9. Attend a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star ceremony
The Hollywood Walk of Fame stretches 15 blocks on Hollywood Boulevard, honoring more than 2,700 legends—everyone from Henry Winkler to Wink Martindale. Several times a year, new stars are inducted at ceremonies that draw huge crowds of fans and fellow celebs. Ceremonies are free to attend and no tickets are required; check the Hollywood Walk of Fame website for the latest announcements on new honorees.
10. Hit the Sunset Strip on a TMZ Celebrity Tour
Who better to take you on a tour of Tinseltown than some of L.A.'s best star seekers? The TMZ Celebrity Tour cruises through the streets of Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills during a two-hour sightseeing trip that hits up landmarks like the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Rodeo Drive, and the Viper Room. TMZ's newsroom staff are the eyes and ears of Hollywood, guiding their drivers with up-to-date information so they can pull up next to stars like Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck when they’re waiting at a stoplight. To get more insight about this tour, listen to the “California’s Movie Magic” episode of the California Now Podcast.
For even more celebrity sightings, check out Discover L.A.’s “Where to Spot a Celebrity in Los Angeles.”