If you don’t know the difference between Hollywood and Los Angeles, you’re not alone. If you don’t know LA has a subway system, don’t feel bad. If you don’t understand why the interstates here referred to by strange names, or why locals rarely go to Disneyland, or why there are two NBA basketball teams in town but no NFL football teams, or other curiosities, read on. These facts about LA and Hollywood will turn you into an instant expert on Tinseltown and the City of Angels:
So which one is which?
One is inside the other: The city of Los Angeles is massive, taking up the bulk of Los Angeles county. Hollywood is a mere several blocks, just a district within Los Angeles.
Further north than you think: Although LA is just two hours from the Mexican border, it’s not as far south as most east coasters tend to believe. In fact, Los Angles is about parallel with Charleston, South Carolina.
But nowhere near San Francisco: The city by the bay is a good four hundred miles to the north.
You can walk here: Hollywood itself is entirely walkable. In fact many restaurants on the densely packed Hollywood Boulevard don’t offer parking, under the assumption that local residents are going to walk there. Hence if you live in another part of LA, driving into Hollywood can be a challenge due to the lack of parking.
Interstates aren’t called interstates: There’s no such thing as I-5 or I-10. Instead the interstates are called “the 5″ and “the 10.” Best anyone can tell, the naming convention is due to the fact that U.S. Highway 101 was the first major highway through the area, and because of its rather long official name, it became known simply as “the 101.” When the interstates arrived later, they took on the same local naming convention.
So what’s a freeway, anyway?
There are no toll roads: Even though roads like the 101 and the 5 are often referred to freeways, that’s in reference to the free right of passage without traffic lights, not in contrast to toll roads. There aren’t any of those, although a limited pilot program charging extra for use of the inside lane on one freeway is currently being tested.
Mountains everywhere: Hollywood Boulevard runs along the base of a mountain range. Once you go north of it, you’re immediately going uphill. After all, the “Hollywood Hills” are in the mountains.
Most movies aren’t made in Hollywood: Most of the movie studios have moved to the valley, where it’s cheaper to operate. Today, Hollywood is primarily a tourism district, not a movie district.
About the valley…: Venture to the north side of the mountains, on the other side of the Hollywood sign, and you’ll find the San Fernando Valley – named as such because it’s surrounded by mountains on four sides. The valley serves essentially as the suburbs of Hollywood.
Hidden canyons: While most people traversing the mountains will take the 101, the more scenic routes can be found on narrower canyon roads like Laurel Canyon and Coldwater Canyon. The hairpin turns of the latter make for some fun – or slightly scary – driving.
Wait a minute. LA has a subway?
There is a subway system, sort of: Those subway entrances on Hollywood Boulevard aren’t part of a movie set – they’re real. The red line runs from downtown LA up to Hollywood, along the boulevard for a few miles, and then up to North Hollywood. The blue line runs from LA down to Long Beach. The yellow line runs out to Pasadena. The green line runs (more or less) to the airport. But the subway system is far from comprehensive. And calling it a subway is iffy, because the red line and its minor offshoot the purple line are the only ones which run underground. The blue line runs down the middle of a highway and stops for traffic lights. The rest are elevated trains over the median strips of freeways.
There are three Hollywoods: Hollywood itself is just a district of the city of Los Angeles, but the larger area immediately to left of it known as West Hollywood is an incorporated city of its own. Another incorporated city called North Hollywood is in the valley and doesn’t even come close to bordering the real Hollywood.
The uglier the building, the better the music: The legendary Roxy, which hosts some of the best rock concerts in town, is just an old building painted black. The dive bar next door is the legendary Rainbow. The best acoustic music venue in town, which draws nationally famous musicians into a club which barely holds a hundred people, is called Hotel Cafe because it’s on the first floor of a run down weekly-rate hotel. It’s a few hundred feet from Hollywood Boulevard, hidden in plain sight, but most tourists never find it. In general, the snazzier looking a music venue is in this town, the worse the music.
What are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?
The The Angels Angels: the only baseball team in Los Angeles, the Dodgers, plays ball within the city limits. An entire county to the south, the team once known as the California Angels and then as the Anaheim Angels got the idea to try to associate itself with Los Angeles by renaming itself the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Translated from Spanish, “The Los Angeles Angels” comes out to “The The Angels Angels.” No one in LA gives a damn about the Angels; the naming trickery is aimed at national television audiences so they’ll think they’re watching an LA baseball team.
Why do the Clippers exist?: Until two or three years ago when they finally started to get good, no one in LA knew the answer to that question either. The perennial doormat Clippers moved to LA from San Diego in the eighties, and before that they played in Buffalo, New York. Currently the Lakers and Clippers play in the same arena, the Staples Center, on alternating nights. The few times a year they play against each other, it’s a “home” game for one team or the other for the purpose of deciding which team’s season ticket holders get to attend.
There’s no NFL team: …and no one here really cares. Most people in LA moved here from somewhere else, and most keep their allegiance to their original hometown football teams. NFL football is popular in LA, as the crowded sports bars on Sundays attest. It’s just that no one misses the fact that there hasn’t been a football team in LA since 1995.
Disneyland is not here
I’m going to… Orange County? When athletes in TV ads declare that they’re going to Disneyland, that doesn’t mean they’re headed to Los Angeles. Instead, Disneyland is down south in Orange County, next to the Angels baseball stadium. Depending on traffic, getting from LA to Disneyland can take two hours or more in each direction – making a full day at the park impractical for LA residents unless they spend the night down there.
About Orange County: Hollywood and Los Angeles are in Los Angeles County, not in the OC. In fact, no one called Orange County “the OC” until the television show by that name came to prominence. Los Angeles leans decidedly liberal and democrat. Orange County leans conservative and republican, so much so that some in Los Angeles like to joke that those in the OC live behind the “Orange Curtain.”
The Hollywood sign: It’s on private property, and isn’t officially maintained by anyone. It’s not lit up at night, which comes as a surprise to many tourists. When it periodically falls into disrepair, various famous actors chip in to pay for the upkeep. Try as you might, there’s no way to drive or walk to the sign itself as it’s fenced off.
Try as they might: That doesn’t stop tourists from driving up roads like Gower Street to get the best straight-on views of the Hollywood sign possible. Along that road is a hundred year old monastery barracks which has since been converted into apartments. But a group of nuns still lives on the street, and sells freshly baked pumpkin bread to the tourists who wander up the street to look at the sign.
Church Hollywood is full of christian churches of various mainstream denominations. But while many in Hollywood attend church, that doesn’t mean they subscribe to the christian church’s political stances. In fact many christian churches have signs out front making clear that they support gay marriage under the law.
Pizza: if New York is known for its amazing pizza, Los Angeles may have the worst pizza of any U.S. city. Various pizza parlors in Hollywood advertise themselves as serving “New York pizza” but they’re not fooling anyone.
Grauman’s and Mann’s Chinese: The fancy historic movie theatre known as Grauman’s Chinese was later changed to Mann’s Chinese when it was acquired by the Mann movie theatre chain. After it changed hands again, its name reverted back to the original Grauman’s name. It only hosts one movie at a time, on a giant screen in what looks and feels like a live-action theatre house. Another six smaller and more conventional movie screens have been added in the adjacent building, and those six are now called Mann’s Chinese. Just to confuse people, apparently.