Since moving out here to Los Angeles, nothing says summer to me like a night out at the Hollywood Bowl. The sound of violins singing through a cool, starry night, picnicking with a view of the Hollywood hills, sipping chilled rose from a plastic cup…Nothing better than that. Still, over the years I have learned some very helpful tips to make the most of any Hollywood Bowl visit. Read on for my secrets from a local that have made me love the Hollywood Bowl.
A Few Quick Tips for Bringing Kids to the Hollywood Bowl
There is no minimum age requirement for the Hollywood Bowl, though kids over 2 must have a ticket. I will say that generally kids need to be able to sit quietly through the concert (you would be surprised how quiet the audience is while the LA Philharmonic plays), so most people seem to leave their younger kids at home. Besides, most shows don’t begin until after most toddlers’ bedtime. My niece started going when she was about 5 or 6.
That being said, you can certainly bring your younger kids to the Hollywood Bowl. One of tbest-keptept secrets (probably not as well kept any more) is that you can actually bring your young kids to a FREE daytime rehearsal at the Hollywood Bowl. They can listen to the music, or run around in one of the picnic areas. You can bring food with you, and since it’s during the day, parking is substantially easier than attending a nighttime show. Check out more details about it in this article from Red Tricycle. Besides, if the summer heat starts getting to you and your kids, you can cool off in the air-conditioned Hollywood Bowl Museum.
Now, if you are looking for tips on enjoying a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, read on…
Do: Bring Your Own Food (and Wine, of course)
With 14 picnic areas to choose from, make the most of your visit and bring a picnic basket. Anything goes. Homemade, In n Out Burger, take out from a fancy restaurant…whatever you like. Some people go all out with napkins, flowers, etc. Some people prefer eating in their seats or just bringing something to drink instead. The sky’s the limit.
My mother-in-law has been coming to the Hollywood Bowl every year for decades. She has her Hollywood Bowl visit planned to a T. She arrives exactly 2 hours ahead of time, bolts up the three escalators to the top picnic areas, and immediately claims a table upon which she spreads a tablecloth and homemade goodies. As her friends and family arrive, each grabs a plate or adds a dish (or bottle of wine) to the potluck, so it’s a festive fun event.
But Make Sure You Check the Website
If you are seeing a third party event (i.e. not hosted by the LA Philharmonic), they do not allow outside food or beverages. It’s easy to figure this out, just check the Hollywood Bowl website or your ticket.
Don’t: Freak Out if You Leave Your Picnic Basket at Home
They sell plenty of food, beer and wine at the venue itself. You can even pre-purchase meals online for pick up throughout the venue, or make a reservation at Lucques or the Tavern. These options can be quite pricey, though. I noticed that the box dinners they have on option run between $30-40. Still, James Beard award-winning Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne designed the culinary program. It’s hard to argue with good food.
About the Restaurants There
Do: Arrive Early
It’s a busy area of town. The Bowl opens 2 hours before the start of the concert, and it’s good to get there early, simply because of traffic. Besides, if you arrive early, you get your choice of picnic spots, which is especially important if you have a large group (picnic areas can fill up quickly, especially the shady spots).
Don’t: Drive to the Hollywood Bowl
I know, everyone drives in LA. You must think, parking can’t really be THAT bad. Well, I will say that the first two times I went to the Bowl, we drove and parked. I almost never went again. Here’s why:
- Most of the parking is stacked. That means you are in a giant field of cars, ech parked bumper-to-bumper, and in order to leave you need approximately 15 cars surrounding your vehicle in all directions to leave first. People get a little cranky.
- In order to reach the parking lots after the concert, you need to pass through what I have affectionately called “The Walking Dead Tunnel.” It’s a tunnel underneath the roads. All I can say is that at night, it’s very dark, very crowded, and very creepy. I am not super claustrophobic, but I seriously almost never returned to the Bowl after passing through that tunnel.
- It’s expensive, $20-$30. And on the day of the concert, it is cash only.
Instead of driving, consider one of the other options
Personally, I am a big fan of the Bowl shuttle service. Parking is widely available, it’s cheaper, and you don’t have to deal with the Walking Dead Tunnel or driving around the Bowl itself. Check out the options for your concert here on the Hollywood Bowl website.
A quick note about ride shares (like Uber or Lyft). Getting a ride share to the concert is usually fine, but plan on a potentially long wait once the concert is over. Your ride may have trouble finding the venue or even getting into the line in order to pick you up. Angelenos love using their ride share options, but that means it may take you a while to get home.
Do: Bring a Sweater (or Blanket)
“Hot town, summer in the city” definitely applies to Los Angeles during the summer days. Despite that, up in the hills at the Bowl, the air is often 10-15 degrees cooler and there can be a breeze after the sun sets. If you don’t want to shell out for hot chocolate or shiver uncontrollably for the last half of your concert, bring a sweater or blanket.
Other Uses for your Blanket
The seats at the Bowl are not the most comfortable. Most are bench or cement block seats, and 2 hours can cause some serious booty discomfort. You can rent a seat cushion from the venue itself (very inexpensive) or fold up your blanket and sit on that.
Don’t: Plan on Leaving the Concert too Early
With limited parking options and a lot of people using shuttle services, it won’t be too easy to get your car out early and the shuttles don’t really leave until they are full at the end of the evening. That being said, there is a noise ordinance in the area of Los Angeles around the Bowl, which stipulates that all concerts must end by 10.
Do: Review the Website Ahead of Time
First of all, if you want to know what’s playing at the Hollywood Bowl, there is no better website than the official Hollywood Bowl site. You can buy tickets, find out the shuttle options for your concert, pre-order food.
Check the Accessibility Options
There is a section of the website on accessibility services. It may be set up on a steep hill, but they go out of their way to ensure everyone can enjoy the concert.
Do: Wear Comfortable Shoes
The first time I visited the Hollywood Bowl, I wore a cute sundress and heeled espadrilles. Big mistake. The Hollywood Bowl is set into the side of the Hollywood hills. These are not mole hills, FYI. It’s a steep climb up or down from entrance to your seats. And after a glass (*ahem* or bottle) of wine, you may feel you are losing your footing en route to the bathroom…not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything…
Don’t: Worry about Sitting Way Up Front
The seats near the front of the venue usually offer table service before the concert, but they have a price tag to match. The acoustics at the Hollywood Bowl are incredible–you can hear everything no matter where you sit. If you worry about seeing what’s going on, there are 2 giant screens on both sides of the stage so you won’t miss anything. So save some money and sit further back.
Do: Stop to Appreciate the View
One of the best things about climbing all those stairs and hills is the view. Ignore the marine later, and just enjoy a beautiful SoCal sunset before the concert begins. Sometimes when you’re stuck in Los Angeles traffic or looking out over the sun-baked landscape, it can be easy to forget why people moved out here in the first place. The great views from the top of the Hollywood Bowl can renew your faith.
Do: Watch Mozart in the Jungle before your concert
Just kidding. Still, some speculate that the LA Phil’s great conductor Gustavo Dudamel may have in part inspired Gael Garcia Bernal’s character of Rodrigo. Either way, the music really is fantastic. Even if you are not a fan of classical music, the Hollywood Bowl offers lots of other entertainment. They have musicals, provide the music for iconic movies, host sing-a-longs, and everything else. I’ve seen Mamma Mia, Imagine Dragons, Yo Yo Ma, and Neil Diamond, not to mention others. Whatever concert you choose, I think you’ll love it.
Don’t: Skip Visiting the Hollywood Bowl
Whether you’re visiting Los Angeles with your kids, your family, or taking a trip with a large group of people, visiting the Hollywood Bowl is an iconic experience that is completely worth the time and money. Whatever you choose to attend, I think you’ll love it.
Have you visited the Hollywood Bowl before? Do you have questions about it? Leave me a comment below!
Looking for other great sites to see in Los Angeles?
For a family-friendly trip, check out Top 5 Reasons to Visit Los Angeles with Toddlers or enjoy a date night at Terranea, a beautiful resort along the coast. Let me know if you have any questions or recommendations.