The Hollywood Bowl is the largest natural amphitheater in the United States. The bowl’s current dome structure was put in place in 2004, but the concert venue has been in existence since the early 1920’s. The “bowl” in the name refers to the sloped terrain on which the stadium sits, not the bowl-like appearance of the dome that encapsulates the performance area, which is regularly frequented by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Pollstar has listed the Hollywood Bowl as the Best Major Outdoor Venue seven years running. This fact is proudly displayed on the Hollywood Bowl website.
One requirement of major historic concert venues is that they have a museum of some sort. For example, the Fillmore in San Fransisco displays an impressive wall of hippie-psychadelic concert posters of years past, and Red Rocks Amphitheater (located west of Denver) has a free(!) museum. The Hollywood Bowl has a free(!) museum too.
The Bowl is owned by Los Angeles County. Consequently, the doors are open to the public during daylight hours, which provides visitors with a free view of the venue and the opportunity to race up and down the stairs. In the summer you can apparently catch free rehearsals on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon.
The Hollywood Bowl has been featured in a number of old movies that I don’t recognize. The Bowl was recently featured in an episode of the Bachelor. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that my wife is the one who watches the show. I only watch it out of the corner of one eye.)
I visited the Hollywood Bowl for a second time on September 16th 2011 to catch the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Paris Combo, the Moulin Rouge dancers, and fireworks. There are a few important things that you need to know before you head to the show. First, many people complain that the bench seats are uncomfortable. Plan on bringing a blanket or a cushion to sit on (or prepare to rent a cushion for a $1). Second, it is okay (in fact, it is downright mandatory) to bring a picnic and adult beverages into the venue. (Note that the policy on food and drink differs for some leased events. Check the website for the rules on your specific event. Also, be sure to drink responsibly etc. etc.). We packed a cooler with a bottle of Charles Shaw’s finest and top notch picnic foods like smoked salmon, cheese, salami, pita bread and hummus. We take picnics very seriously in our household.
One last important note: Traffic is packed around the Hollywood Bowl and it takes a long time to exit the venue. Plan on parking somewhere else and taking a bus to the venue. We decided to park at the parking structure on Hollywood and Highland ($10) and walking the .9 miles to the venue. This gave us an opportunity to catch a quick glimpse of the “walk of fame” the Kodak Theatre, Gruman’s Chinese Theatre, and to experience the general Hollywood crazyness.
Address: 2301 N Highland Ave, Hollywood, CA 90068