Do you believe in magic? You will if you spend an evening at Hollywood’s Academy of Magical Arts, and its clubhouse, the Magic Castle. As its website says, “A miracle here, a miracle there, and pretty soon it starts to add up.”
The 1908 mansi, a "what's that up there?" eyecatcher when viewed from downtown Hollywood, houses a warren of rooms where magician members perform their craft in such spaces as The Parlour of Prestidigitation and the Palace of Mystery. See if you can spot the magician’s sleight of hand from just a few feet away in the tiny 22 seat Close-Up Gallery. There are bars and a Victorian-style restaurant, all worthy of a classy night out (jackets and ties required for the men, and dresses or skirts for the ladies). To add an air of exclusivity and mystery, entrance is only allowed to members (various options are detailed on the club’s website). You can also visit if invited by a current member.
Ivy Brown, an art director and designer who lives in downtown Los Angeles, has been to the Magic Castle several times with her fiancé. “There is an air of mystery, and it was all a little bit secretive. It feels like you’ve gone back to a different time,” says Brown, adding that during one visit, “One gentleman performed a sleight of hand with different size marbles that had me completely fooled. I was just blown away!”
Tinseltown, where starlets are discovered on every street corner (or at least we like to think they are), and the tinted windows of that stretch limo might be hiding a Cruise, Hanks or Anniston. And in the hills, a big sign stretches across with letters as big as your dreams—Hollywood. Visit iconic sites filled with celebrity footprints or wax likenesses—maybe even catch a real one in the flesh at a film premiere or awards show. Anything is possible in Hollywood.
When it comes to icons, this towering sign stands tall—literally. Originally erected in 1923 to promote a housing development called Hollywoodland, the enormous sign—which lost its last four letters in 1949 and got a massive makeover in 1978 (spearheaded by Hugh Hefner of Playboy fame)—now acts like a towering beacon for anyone who dreams of being in the movies.
Get good views of the sign along Mulholland Highway as it snakes through the Hollywood Hills, as well as from the Griffith Observatory and Lake Hollywood Park. From town, look up at the sign from the Hollywood and Highland Center. Or, for a more novel way to see the sign, hike the West Trail in Griffith Park or join a guided trail ride from Sunset Ranch, at the end of Beachwood Drive.
Stretching from the bustle of Downtown to glamorous Malibu, Sunset Boulevard stands out as the ultimate road to fame or fortune. Or at least that’s the dream. From scruffy clubs and neon to historic film studios and beaches, this iconic street captures the very essence of L.A.—a clash of extremes all spread out beneath the California sun.
From the oldest part of Los Angeles near Olvera Street, the broad boulevard starts its path to the sea. Sunset Strip, the section between Havenhurst Drive and Doheny Drive, has a chequered history—it was the setting for counterculture protests in the 1960s, rock and roll decadence in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and has more recently undergone a chic renaissance, with luxury hotel towers and fine restaurants hidden behind ivy-covered walls. The boulevard then winds past the mansions of Beverly Hills and Bel Air, then heads west toward some of SoCal’s most famous beaches. Must-see stops along the way include the Guitar Center’s Hollywood RockWalk (a rock-star twist on the better-known Hollywood Walk of Fame) and the legendary Chateau Marmont, a castle-like luxury hotel that has housed its share of Hollywood indiscretions. Slip into the bar to have a drink, and see which celebrities might be hiding in dark corners.
Since 1927, this ornate Asian-themed cinema has been hosting films, and it’s still a top place for premières in Hollywood, with arc lights, paparazzi and the hubbub that goes with the film business. But it’s the courtyard out front that gets even more attention: it’s where more than 200 famous celebrities have left their hand- and footprints in cement, then signed them personally—sometimes with a flourish. Marilyn made prints with her signature high-heels; John Wayne stepped into wet cement with his cowboy boots on; Star Wars’ R2D2 left wheel prints.
Take a 20-minute guided walking tour to peek behind the theatre’s impressive golden doors and learn more about master showman Sid Grauman, the theatre’s original owner. Or, catch a film—the Chinese Theatre still functions as a regular cinema for first-run films.
When you’re in Tinseltown, posing with a sidewalk star along theHollywood Walk of Fame is practically a rite of passage—and it’s also oneof the city’s most beloved free attractions.
Honouring luminaries in motion pictures, television, radio, live theatre and recording since 1960, the famous sidewalk includes both sides of Hollywood Boulevard from Gower to La Brea, plus both sides of Vine Street from Yucca to Sunset. The handsome terrazzo-and-brass stars (each costs about $30,000 to install and maintain) are unveiled at free public ceremonies, which are often attended by honourees and their celebrity entourages—a great way to see stars if that’s one of your Hollywood goals (and isn’t it everyone’s?).
And don’t think this is about honouring has-beens or where-are-they-nows: getting a star is still considered an honour, with an impressive roster of recent honorees (Javier Bardem, Viola Davis, James Franco, Kevin Spacey, to name a few). Want to find a particular star? Use the Walk of Fame’s online Star Search tool to send you to the location for your dream photo opp. While you’re there, you’re a short walk from such big HollywoodBoulevard attractions as TCL Chinese Theatre, El Capitan Theatre, and MadameTussauds Hollywood
No velvet ropes or barriers here—at this interactive wax museum, getting close to some of the most recognisable people in the world is not seen as a violation; in fact it’s encouraged. More than 125 life-like figures from the worlds of film, TV, music, sports, and even super heroes are on display, and the likenesses can be downright eerie. You might have to pinch Anne Hathaway to make sure she’s not real—credit that to the meticulous work of the museum’s highly trained sculptors, who have collectively created wax figures of real people for more than 200 years. Don’t leave until you’ve had the chance to shoot hoops with Kobe Bryant, sidle up to Johnny Depp and perform onstage with Rihanna.
Stargazing takes on a different meaning in Tinseltown. While there’s no guarantee you’ll spy a familiar face when you’re here, there are some locations where you can up the odds—particularly at hotels. Start at Hollywood’s luxurious, castle-like Chateau Marmont. Always a celebrity magnet, this elegant hotel is a revolving door for the hippest celebs. Check the palm-tree ringed patio during lunchtime for A-listers like Scarlett Johansson and Robert Pattinson. Teddy’s, the unmarked celebrity haunt at the Hollywood Roosevelt on Hollywood Boulevard, is a favourite for the VIP set, and while you probably can’t get through the door, you can hang out in the lavish lobby to see who comes and goes. The basement-level recording studio at the Sunset Marquis draws mega-watt musicians including Madonna and Elton John.
Local sightseeing companies like Starline Tours also tempt visitors with tales of major star-sightings. Your trip may yield nothing more than Sandra Bullock’s gated driveway, but, well, it’s a very nice driveway.
Margaret Cho has been doing stand-up since high school, and her ability to make audiences LOL has afforded her opportunities in all genres—from her own sitcom on ABC, to roles in blockbuster films like Face/Off, to her Emmy-winning turn as Kim Jong-Il on 30 Rock, to musical collaborations on her two Grammy-nominated albums. Cho’s 2017 comedy tour, Fresh Off The Bloat, will bring her back to theatres across America before she returns to work on her new TNT series, Highland. She will also appear alongside Will Smith in Bright, Netflix’s police thriller. Although Cho is at home on the stage, she’s in love with her home in Los Angeles, and the diverse, artistic community she’s built for herself. She shares her favourite parts of California below.
Where do you live? Hollywood
Why there? I have always wanted to live in Hollywood—it's been a dream since I was a kid! I loved the movie Valley Girl. It seemed like the perfect place and it is!
Who or what is your greatest California love? Where I live now, how my life is, my house, my people—it’s the best!
What is the biggest misperception about Californians? I think that people think we are shallow, or that L.A. has no culture. But it's incredibly rich in diversity, art, class, community.
What is the stereotype that most holds true? That we are self-involved. This is incredibly true.
What is your favourite Golden State splurge? I love taking [U.S. Highway] 101 instead of [Interstate] 5. That is the ultimate indulgence—splurging on taking my time. I just love to be spontaneous and take in different places [on] each trip.
Time for a road trip. Where are you going? To San Francisco from Los Angeles. It's my ancestral home; the ultimate journey. I love Haight Street. Just walking down the street is fun for me. Also, I love eating at random places along the streets—I'm very adventurous with my appetite.
If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? I love a Hollywood classic like Musso & Frank Grill. I used to go in the ’90s with Quentin Tarantino, and it's just as glamorous now as it was in the ’50s!
Best California song? “Shores of California” by The Dresden Dolls.
How would your California dream day unfold? Late-morning wake-up to do yoga or go to the Rose Bowl for a power walk, then eat a leisurely meal in Chinatown, and see a great late night show with Jon Brion at Largo—the perfect day!
How do you define California style?
California style is casual but elegant. It’s all about sunshine, linen, dark denim, and light wood. That Summer of Love vibe.
Award-winning chef Curtis Stone was born in Melbourne, established his culinary chops in London, and rose to fame on TV, appearing on multiple cooking shows as well as The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and NBC’s Today. He now expresses his lifelong passion for food at two highly regarded Los Angeles County restaurants.
Maude, a tasting menu-driven spot located in Beverly Hills, is named after Curtis’ paternal grandmother and pays homage to his first culinary mentor. Gwen Butcher Shop & Restaurant, in Hollywood, is also a family affair: Curtis opened this meat-centric fine dining establishment with his brother Luke and it is named after their maternal grandmother.
We asked this affable Aussie to take the California Questionnaire and he happily obliged.
Where do you live? Los Angeles.
Why there? Well, it wasn’t some grand plan, but I fell in love and married Lindsay and this is where we are raising our sons. I just lucked out that L.A. also has a vibrant food scene and it’s finally getting its day in the sun and recognition on a global level.
Who or what is your greatest California love? California’s ingredients. The state has so much to offer agriculturally. For a chef there is no greater reward than the incredible vegetables, fruit, nuts, wine, and livestock that can be found here. Often chefs see ingredients for the first time as they’re delivered at the backdoor of the restaurant, but you truly are able to cook effortlessly in California because there is continually a bounty of the season at the [various] farmers markets each week.
What is the biggest misperception about Californians? Probably that they’re all vapid and don’t take much seriously.
What is the stereotype that most holds true? There is an ease about Californians, everything from a hippie-ness to a surfy vibe, and that confidence and comfort often gets misconstrued.
What is your favourite Golden State splurge? Uni and wine.
Time for a road trip—where are you going? From Los Angeles north to Mammoth, where the family likes to trek during the holidays to get in some skiing; south to Baja where I can surf and crack open a beer; east to Joshua Tree and Palm Springs where the desert reminds me of Central Australia; and west to the Pacific where I can put my feet in the sand and relax. We’ve got it all.
If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? Can I say “tacos”? They are my guiltiest of pleasures. I didn’t have solid Mexican food until I was well into my twenties, and up and down the state, a good taco can always be found—even breakfast tacos.
How do you define California style? Sophisticated comfort.
Best California song? Man, there are so many, but I’ll go with “California Dreamin’” by The Mamas & The Papas. It’s an oldie but a goodie. As a boy growing up in Melbourne I had big dreams, which took me to Europe and eventually London, a city I adore but which can be quite dreary at times. So much of that song embodies the aspirations people carry with them in their lives. And the line, “I’d be safe and warm, if I was in LA” rings truer for me than it ever has, on multiple levels.
How would your California dream day unfold? Let’s assume I get time away from the restaurants where I feel so at home. I would keep it really simple: Coffee and brekkie with Linds and the boys, perhaps a dip in the pool or a swim in the ocean, bike rides, an easy hike, time in the vegetable garden to prepare dinner, and having the rest of the family over for a feast. That would be my perfect day.
Curtis Stone and his brother Luke both began their culinary careers in an Australian butcher shop, so it makes sense that their joint venture, Gwen, is a meat-focused entity. Named after their maternal grandmother who lived on a farm near Melbourne, Gwen features a full-service butcher shop alongside a fine-dining restaurant that offers Wagyu beef, Kurobuta pork, and other carnivores’ delights.
“The glassed-in counter could double as a museum of steaks,” wrote Jonathan Gold, the late, lamented Los Angeles Times food critic who gave Gwen a rave review. “Well-marbled tomahawks from Creekstone Farms in Kansas, pastured slabs of impossible-to-find rib-eye cap from Napa's renowned Five Dot Ranch and, most significantly, the spectacular, breathtakingly expensive Wagyu from Australia's Blackmore Farms, which the Stone brothers like so much that they set up an import company just so they could get the steaks in Los Angeles.”
A massive, magnificent fire pit is the focal point of the room and serves as the undeniable hub of culinary activity. But Curtis, a veteran of Top Chef Masters, Take Home Chef, and many other cooking shows, is hardly a one-trick pony. He trained in London with Michelin-star chef Marco Pierre White and knows his way around every corner of the kitchen.
His team dishes out seasonal sides that range from creamed leeks to roasted carrots to inventive plates inspired by the nearby Hollywood Farmers’ Market. Reservations are strongly encouraged but walk-ins are welcome too—you may even land a coveted spot at the chef’s counter where you can watch the culinary crew cook for you all night.