Hollywood Bowl concerts are one of Southern California's iconic events, and one of the most pleasant ways to spend a summer evening. The ambiance is laid-back and sophisticated, more like the Los Angeles Philharmonic (who perform here in summer) than a rock concert.
Concert-goers start to arrive as soon as the grounds open, and regular attendees take their picnics to elevated levels, with gourmet meals on tables on the grounds or along the sidewalks on the way in. Others settle into their seats, sharing food and drinks as they wait for the show to begin.
A long, outdoor moving sidewalk carries the crowds past ivy-covered slopes to the Hollywood Bowl seating area. Concerts begin near sunset, with the LA Philharmonic performing the classics, the resident Hollywood Bowl Orchestra playing lighter selections. Popular musicians from Frank Sinatra to the Beatles have also performed at the Hollywood Bowl over the years. Some concerts feature fireworks shows. Some summer concerts at the Hollywood Bowl are leased events, run by organizations other than the LA Philharmonic.
Likes and Dislikes
We rate the Hollywood Bowl 5 stars out of 5 for ambiance and location. It's one of our favorite summer activities.
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The Venue and Crowd Factor
Since 1922, Angelenos have been enjoying summer concerts in the Hollywood Bowl, the United States' largest natural outdoor amphitheater. It's a beautiful setting, and even though it's in the middle of a busy city, you'll barely know it.
With a seating capacity of just under 18,000, the Hollywood Bowl is not an intimate concert venue, but it seldom feels overcrowded, either. Just be sure to arrive early enough to have time to make your way to your seats. However, if you arrive just in time for the concert, you'll miss half the fun. See the information about picnics below.
Special Events at the Hollywood Bowl
Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl: The Philharmonic's Jazz at the Bowl Series includes blues, big bands, Latin jazz and other styles. The two-day Playboy Jazz Festival and Smooth Summer Jazz (formerly JVC Jazz) also bring jazz greats and exciting newcomers to the Hollywood Bowl's summer lineup.
Fourth of July at the Hollywood Bowl: With audience members wearing red-white-and-blue-themed duds, an Armed Forces Salute and a rousing rendition of patriotic music no matter who the headline performer is, it might all seem a bit corny if it weren't so heartfelt. And did we say fireworks?
Picnicking at the Hollywood Bowl
A pre-concert picnic is a long-standing Hollywood Bowl tradition, one of the most enjoyable parts of the experience. If you bring a picnic, your food containers must be less than 15" wide, 15" high and 20" long. Picnic areas open about 4 hours before each concert. You can also picnic at your seat, which affords great people-watching. Wine is allowed.
Los Angeles restaurant company Patina Group sells ready-made picnic items at the Markets near each entrance, or you can order a meal delivered if you're sitting in a box.
Food and drink policies may vary for concerts presented by other organizations.
Hollywood Bowl Tips
- As viewed from the stage, the seats on the right side are the first to get afternoon shade.
- Bring binoculars if you want a really close look, but even with them, there are plenty of big video screens
- No matter how hot the day was, it's likely to cool down as the sun sets - bring more layers more than you think you'll need.
- Pay attention when you get off the bus so you know how to get back.
- Keep bottles under control. Every concert, a wine bottle clatters down a dozen rows during the quietest part of the concert.
- Children of all ages are allowed, but kids could get bored.
Hollywood Bowl Seating
- Box Seats: Canvas-covered collapsible chairs in groups of 4 or 6 surrounded by wooden partitions. If you can afford it, especially if your trip may be a one-time only experience, the elevated ambiance is worth the extra cost.
- SuperSeats: Stadium-style plastic seats with built-in cup holders, in the center of the audience
- Bench Seats: Located next to the Terrace boxes and all the way to the back of the theater
- Bench seats on the sides in sections D and E are are as close to the stage as the Terrace Boxes.
Have a seating chart with you so you know where you'll be sitting.
Hollywood Bowl Tickets and Reservations
Upper level seats start at less that $15 for some concerts. Buy early online or at the box office (2301 North Highland).
If tickets are sold out, try Craigslist or call the box office frequently, asking for released house seats.
Senior citizens can get same-day discounts some weekdays with photo ID, and some morning rehearsals are open to the public for frree. Call 323-850-2000 for info.
You may also be able to get discounted tickets for some performances through Goldstar.
Hollywood Bowl Basics
- The Hollywood Bowl summer concert season runs from late June through mid September, but other events such as the Playboy Jazz Festival may occur earlier or later.
- Hollywood Bowl website
- Admission is charged and reservations are highly recommended.
How to Get to the Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl is located on Highland Ave. near US 101 in Hollywood.
A limited amount of paid parking is available on site, but it's expensive and traffic snarls will slow your trip. To make matters even worse, it can take hours to get out of the lots after a show ends. It's better to take advantage of the Hollywood Bowl Park and Ride service which runs to many area locations, or park in one of the area lots served by the Bowlbus.
Depending on where you're staying, you may be able to take the Metro Red Line to the Hollywood and Highland stop. Show your Metro ticket and you can ride the Bowlbus for free.