The Hollywood Bowl is an awesome and unique Southern California institution. There’s nothing like listening to music in the hills beneath the stars. I’ve done it many many times. Here are some tips to make your time there perfect.
Which Seats to Get
When I look for tickets to a show at the Bowl, I like to get seats that are at the edge of a section, near an aisle. Unless you’re in one of the expensive sections, the seating is super cramped and it’s a real pain to get in an out of your seats without causing a ruckus if you’re in the middle of a row.
Of course, if you can afford great seats, then go for it, but I think a good compromise between price and quality is in sections N and M, sort of in the middle of the Bowl. Given the choice, I tend to pick seats to the left when you’re facing the stage, because I like to exit that way (it’s less crowded).
What to Bring
Preparation is very important when going to the Hollywood Bowl.
1. Food and Drinks
Usually, people bring a light dinner or snack, like cheese, crackers, and fruit, along with some wine (yes, alcohol is allowed) and dessert. Gourmet sandwiches work well if you want a full meal. You can buy everything there if you want, but there is some charm in doing it yourself, or even better, preparing it together with your date!
If you’re going to a classical (i.e., non rock) concert, try to avoid “noisy” food packaging. In the quiet parts of a concert the sound of a rustling potato chip bag can be embarrassing to you and annoying to others. The Hollywood Bowl is usually not a super loud venue when they are playing symphonic music.
2. Warm Clothing!
One of the biggest mistakes at the Bowl is forgetting that it can actually get chilly in L.A. at night, even if was in the 80’s during the day. Remember to bring a light jacket or sweater. This is really important! Or even better, if you want to really snuggle, bring a blanket. 🙂
3. Seat Cushions
If you’re in any of the bench seats (i.e., the vast majority of the seats at the bowl), seat cushions are almost a “must”. You’ll thank me about two hours into the show.
4. Good Walking Shoes
Wear comfortable walking shoes, because there will be a lot of uphill walking involved. I suggest avoiding sandals. Why? People above you can easily kick over a glass bottle, sending shards of glass around your feet (this happened to us last time!!)
5. Field Glasses or Binoculars (optional)
If you have any, bring some field glasses (binoculars) so you can take turns seeing the performers up close.
6. Picnic Towel or Blanket (If You Plan to Picnic)
7. Your Tickets
Finally, don’t forget to bring your tickets! I suggest getting the Ticketmaster app on your phone as a backup to your printed tickets. One time I forgot my tickets and had to drive all the way home – it sucked!!
What Not to Bring
The Hollywood Bowl security will search your bags at the entrance.
1. Do Not Bring Big Cameras
Last time I went, I had my DSLR camera with me, and they told me that no cameras with detachable lenses were allowed. Policies may differ depending on who is playing, but if you want to avoid the risk of having to walk back to your car (or worse, go home), leave your big camera at home.
2. Do Not Bring Illegal Substances
Since they might search bags, leave any illegal substances at home! Alcohol is okay.
Where to Park
If you decide to drive, I suggest getting there about two hours early to avoid complete gridlock on Highland Avenue.
My other piece of advice is: do not park in the main Hollywood Bowl parking lot! It’s stacked parking, meaning they just cram cars in as tightly as possible and you’re trapped until all of the cars around you leave, which could take forever. Waiting for cars to leave after the concert can ruin an otherwise perfect date experience!!! Plus, it can be as expensive as $50/car!
1. Nearby Lots
Instead, I park several blocks south in a lot on the southeast corner of Highland and Franklin. This is my favorite option. It’s slightly cheaper than on-site parking, and you can just drive away at the end. Sure, you have to walk a few blocks. But, I’ll take that any day over waiting for an unknown period of time for someone beside you to leave in the on-site stacked parking!!
2. Hollywood and Vine Structure
I’ve also parked at the Hollywood and Vine parking structure. That works too, but in general I hate parking structures (especially on a date), so I avoid that if I can. From there, you can take a shuttle for $6 to the Bowl, or just walk, which I have done before.
Alternatives to Driving
If you are turned off by the prospect of having to drive and park to the Bowl during rush hour, here are some alternatives.
1. Uber or Lyft
Uber and Lyft are good alternatives to driving.
When leaving, you might want to walk to a nearby hotel instead of trying to find your ride in a sea of people.
2. The Park ‘n Ride Bus
The Park ‘n Ride Bus departs from various locations in the L.A. area. I’ve done it before and it does cut down on the stress of driving in rush-hour traffic and parking. But, riding a bus might not be your idea of a romantic date. You’ll have to make the call. Going to the Bowl by bus is perfectly fine and dandy in my opinion, but leaving involves standing in a crowded line and can be somewhat of a downer when you just want to get out of there ASAP. On the other hand, the buses do start leaving very quickly after the show, so you won’t be waiting long.
Cost for round-trip transportation is $7 in advance or $12 at the lot, so but in advance and save!
3. The Bowl Shuttle
TheBowl Shuttle makes pickups at the Ventura Annex lot near Universal City, the LA Zoo lot, and Hollywood and Highland. Round-trip cost is $6.
Note, if you want to be able to leave at any moment (in case that the concert sucks, for example), don’t do the buses, because they only depart at the end of the show.
4. Metro Rail
There’s a Red Line Metro rail stop at Hollywood and Highland. From there, you can use your Tap card to get a free ride on the shuttle to the Bowl, or just walk.
Where to Picnic
Another reason to arrive early is so that you can find a picnic spot. This is key because the Hollywood Bowl seats (actually benches) are super-crammed. Once people arrive, it can be difficult to eat at your seats. Eating outside the seating area is a much better experience, if you have time!
1. On the Hollywood Bowl Grounds
I’ve seen people bring some amazing contraptions like a picnic table that folds into the size of a suitcase. Bring a towel or blanket because you might be have to dine on the grass though.
The on-site picnic areas fill up super fast, so if you see a spot, just grab it; don’t “look for something better”. For concert that starts at 7PM, you’ll need to get there at 5. By 5:30 or so, all of the picnic areas will be full.
2. Highland Camrose Park
If you are running late, but still want a picnic experience, all is not lost. I would recommend the Highland Camrose Park at 2101 North Highland, just south of the Bowl. It’s basically on the way to the Bowl, if you walk up from my recommended parking area, on the left side of Highland right before the Bowl.
It’s a nice park with lots of picnic tables, designed for people who are going to the Bowl. I walked by at 6PM for a 7PM concert, and there were still picnic tables available. I would also recommend this park if you have a very large party.
If You Have Time, Check Out the Museum
If you have some time to kill before the show starts, visit the Hollywood Bowl museum. You’ll get to see the history of the bowl and hear performances from every decade that it was open, including performances by the Beatles. It’s kinda neat and worth stopping by. It’s never crowded and not well known, so keep it our secret! It’s on the left side of the walkway as you head up to the entrance.
Enjoying the Show
If you took all of my advice, you won’t need to mess around with food too much because you picnic’d beforehand. Later, when it gets dark, you should be nice and warm because you brought your jackets and a blanket. Towards the end of the show, your butt won’t be sore after sitting on the hard bench because you brought seat cushions. Oh, and if you need to use the restroom, it should be easy to get out of your row because you chose seats near the aisles!
How to Get Out Quickly
When the concert is over, I like to exit to the left of the stage (aka “stage right” from the performer’s point of view). Fewer people go that way, and I believe it moves faster. This is why I like to get seats closer to stage right.
As an added bonus, as you’re walking out, you go past the back of the stage, which is sometimes open, giving you a really cool view of the Bowl that usually only performers get to see.
Any Other Ideas?
I hope these tips help you have a wonderful date at the Hollywood Bowl! Please leave your comments and tips, and tell us about your experience there! – Brian