The Hollywood Bowl is one of the most iconic amphitheaters in Los Angeles. While the bandshell structure that covers the stage can resemble a bowl, the name actually refers to the shape of the concave hillside that the amphitheater is carved into. There are some Angelenos who don’t visit the bowl because they don’t want to deal with the traffic and parking. My hope is that through this blog post and accompanying podcast episode, you will be inspired to make the Hollywood Bowl part of your summer traditions.
This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click on a link and buy something, I will earn a small commission from the advertiser at no additional cost to you.
I discussed the Hollywood Bowl for an episode of the LA Dreaming Podcast. My guest was my Mom, Bonnie Mink, with whom I have enjoyed a few different events at the bowl. We share experiences and tips to help get you the most out of your visit.
The Hollywood Bowl
There are so many things that make the Hollywood Bowl a special venue. Not only has it been named one of the top ten live music venues in the country, but it is also a public park. On select days you can actually visit the bowl during the day and listen to the LA Philharmonic rehearsals. If you would like to call to see if they are opening up any rehearsals to the public you can use 323 850 2000. It is also a popular workout location. Especially on Saturday mornings when groups of people come to run the stairs. If you want to join for a Saturday morning workout you can connect with Saturday Stairs on Instagram here.
I love that from this venue you can see the Hollywood sign depending on where you are sitting/standing. If you have time before your visit it can be fun to drive to the Hollywood Bowl overlook on Mulholland Drive. If you are coming for a bowl be sure to grab photos of the sign at the bottom of the hill before you enter the venue, after the show, it will be too crowded for a photo.
One of the best-hidden gems here is the Hollywood Bowl Museum which is free to visit. Inside the museum, you can see vintage photos, sound equipment, memorabilia, artifacts about the history of the bowl, and the performances that took place there. The museum also includes the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame which includes honorees like Frank Sinatra, George Harrison, Stevie Wonder & Brian Wilson. I am hoping that the museum will open up for the 2022 season. When the museum is closed visitors can walk through “the bowl walk” which features historical photos of the bowl.
I love the variety of events that take place here. In addition to being the summer home for the LA Philharmonic, you can see great artists in concert, watch movies while the orchestra plays along, and attend a Sound of Music sing-along as well as other special events. Before you purchase tickets to events it is good to know what type of seat is the best choice for you. You can choose between the pool circle, box seats, super seats, and bench seats. If you are attending an event with fireworks you might not want to be in a box as you’ll need to move further back to get a better view of the display. Of course, you can always get a box and move back if you need to for fireworks.
For the fourth, I went to a firework show which included music from the LA Philharmonic as well as a concert with The Beach Boys, What a great way to spend the fourth. Other annual events that are incredible to experience are Maestro of the Movies with John Williams and Walt Disney Animation Studios The Concert.
Pool Circle Seats
These seats are named the pool circle seats due to the fact that until 1972 there was a pool in that area. For some events folding chairs are brought to this area, for others they are turned into boxes.
Garden Boxes & Terrace Boxes
Each box has four to six collapsible chairs. Please note that unless you have a large enough group you will be sharing a box with strangers. Every box will get a table to enjoy a picnic on before the event. During the show, the table will be removed so that the chairs can be rearranged so everyone gets a good view.
Recently, we finally sat in box seats at the Hollywood Bowl. We really enjoyed our experience but feel like in the future we would like to have the box with other people we know. When the tables are set up the box is extremely cozy so it’s just more fun with people you know. Our box mates didn’t show up until 10 minutes before show time so the tables had been removed. We loved arriving early to enjoy a picnic at our seats.
If you order super at your seats ahead of time a table with a tablecloth will be set up before you arrive. We brought our own food so we when got to our box we were asked if we would like to have the table set up. I brought our own tablecloth to make it a nice experience. It is extremely cramped once the table is set up so think twice about how much you bring with you as space is very limited. Our only issue with the box was dealing with yellow jackets the entire time we were eating.
View this post on Instagram
Onsite dining options for box seat guests: You can order supper in your seats and also have picnic meals delivered to your table. Orders have to be placed before 6 p.m. the day before the show. Guests can pre-order a three-course meal or also order items ala carte.
These seats are individual stadium-style seats with a cup holder. The super seats are what many would argue to be the most comfortable seats at the bowl though I was pretty cozy in the mesh chair in the box.
I have only sat in the bench seats so far as the boxes and super seats sell out very quickly. While the bench seating isn’t the best, the prices cannot be beaten. Considering how great the events at this venue are, the prices are fairly reasonable (before all the Ticketmaster fees). If you want to make the bench seats better you can bring your own cushions or rent them on-site for $1. Pro-tip, Get a cushion for your bottom and your back.
Hollywood Bowl Parking
Parking at the Hollywood Bowl is a mistake that you won’t make more than once, but I want to encourage you to never do it, to begin with. It is stacked parking which means that unless you’re first in the row you have to wait for all the cars ahead of you to leave. This can lead to a long and unpleasant wait. Even the parking lots across the street are jam-packed and don’t make for a pleasant experience. Luckily, you do have a lot of options.
You can take the metro to Hollywood & Highland and then pay a few dollars to ride a shuttle from the mall to the bowl. You can park at H&H and walk to the bowl, or take the shuttle as well. I’ve even gotten free street parking by Hollywood High School and walked from there but it is a long walk.
My favorite way to get to & from the bowl is the park and ride and Hollywood Bowl shuttles. The shuttles have a variety of pick-up spots all over town and for $7 roundtrip will take you from a designated parking lot directly to the entrance. If you want a picture by the Hollywood Bowl sign you might have to backtrack down the hill depending on where your shuttle drops you off at. Be sure to pay attention to the number of your shuttle so you don’t miss it after the show. You can also use a rideshare service but the park and ride cost cannot be beaten.
There are 4 Bowl Shuttle locations + 15 Park & Ride locations. I have taken a park and ride from Puente Hills. More recently I have taken the Hollywood Bowl shuttles from Burbank and from the LA Zoo. For the Hollywood Bowl shuttles they start taking guests to the bowl about 2.5 hours before showtime. Our Bowl shuttle from Burbank left a little early which really made a difference for us getting into the Bowl before the crowds arrived. The shuttles typically leave every 15-20 minutes.
Please note that while everyone should be able to get a seat on a shuttle going to the bowl, at the end of the night they cram the buses full of people. If you cannot stand ask before boarding the bus if it is standing room only. On our most recent trip, they gave us a small ticket when we boarded the shuttle that we had to have in order to get back at the end of the night. This is the first time they have done that and it caused some issues for guests that lost theirs. So if they give you a small ticket for the shuttle be very careful not to lose it.
If you take advantage of the Hollywood Bowl Park & Ride or Shuttle Bus, your ticket will get you 20% off purchases at the Hollywood Bowl Plaza Marketplace, including wine.
Dining at the Hollywood Bowl
For LA Philharmonic events you can not only bring your own food, but you can bring drinks with you as well. A lot of people love getting to bring their own wine. For other events please be sure to check the website for an updated list of what will be allowed as certain food & drinks are not allowed at the non-philharmonic events.
There are size restrictions for coolers & picnic baskets. Normally, it has to be 15×15 or smaller, I have one with wheels that I got on Amazon that I loved. It didn’t fit under the bench seats as easily as I hoped but we made it work. I love my picnic cooler that I’m pictured with which you can find here on Amazon.
While bringing your own food to the bowl is great, it isn’t always easy to do. If you want or need to get food at the Bowl you do have a lot of options to choose from. They do offer mobile ordering for street food options. You can text “HBFW” to 474747 or scan a QR code. Mobile ordering is available for food from Kitchen 22 where they have items like burgers, fried chicken, and sandwiches. You can get tacos from Street Tacos. You can get pizza and food from Suzzane’s Fried Chicken which can come with cornbread, coleslaw, and sauces.
I recently had a grilled cheese and fries from Kitchen 22. The grilled cheese could have been shared as it was so big. It was $14 for just the grilled cheese, if you want fries it is an additional fee.
You can pre-order picnic boxes from the Hollywood Bowl. If you want a picnic that can give you tickets to another show at the bowl you can also check out picnic packages from Gelon’s grocery store. They have a Hollywood Bowl picnic package that can give you tickets for select shows. You can see more details here.
You can get items like popcorn and soft-serve ice cream among other snacks. My Dad really enjoyed the soft-serve ice cream.
South LA Cafe
This is the place to go for coffee at the bowl. Not only are they open for performances but you can visit the coffee shop from 7 am to 3 pm daily.
You can get sandwiches, cheese, drinks and desserts.
Buzz McCoy’s Marketplace (West)
Like the other market place you can find desserts, drinks, and sandwiches but they also have sushi.
There are three restaurants to choose from: The Backyard, Ann’s Wine Bar, and Lucques at the Circle. Reservations are encouraged.
Dine outdoors at the bowl at this sit-down restaurant that features items like ribeyes and salads.
Ann’s Wine Bar
At the wine bar, you’ll find a menu that has been curated by Caroline Styne. Wine can be paired with bites from A.O.C. restaurant.
Lucques at the Circle
Dining at Lucques is a fine dining option exclusive to Pool Circle ticket holders.
Wine tastings are offered for select shows. When I went for the 4th of July show they were offering tastings to the left of the security entrance by the Marketplace.
Hollywood Bowl Tips
Join CODA – This is a free program that can offer you discounts at both the Hollywood Bowl and the LA Philharmonic shows at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. CODA members can get 20% off select concerts. CODA Plus includes a pre-concert even with appetizers and drinks that are included with a CODA Plus ticket.
Arrive as early as possible. It can take a very, very long time to get into this venue if you don’t arrive early. I’ve also been guilty of arriving early but wanting to take photos or go to the museum and then have a long line to join when I’m done. So if possible arrive as early as you can so that you can enjoy everything you want to enjoy but also hopefully get through the line as soon as possible.
Also, if you want to have a picnic but don’t want to eat at your seats the picnic tables go fast. Be sure to have a plan about arriving early and going straight for the picnic areas.
Bring jackets & blankets as it gets cold once the sun goes down.
Keep an eye out for ways to win tickets through local radio stations like 104.3 myfm, Kost 103.5, and KIIS 102.7.