10 of the best tips for going to the Hollywood Bowl

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Anyone who has spent at least one summer in southern California knows that the historic Hollywood Bowl is, by far, the most popular concert venue in and around Los Angeles.

Whether hosting jazz greats, pop artists, Broadway stars or the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the glamorous 17,500-seat venue is jam-packed with music lovers all summer long. In fact, it’s estimated that over a million people attend Bowl events in any given season.

With masses of people and cars descending on this already-congested section of Hollywood, it helps to have a few tips stashed in your back pocket to navigate the chaos and take advantage of all that this beloved cultural landmark has to offer.

The $1 steal

You could have this view for just $1 if you’re lucky! — Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Philharmonic

The Hollywood Bowl’s calendar of events offers a wide spectrum of music genres and featured artists, many costing you dearly regardless of your seat location. However, for a mere dollar, you can purchase tickets in the upper-most sections for most Tuesday (classical), Wednesday (jazz) and Thursday (classical) performances.

These tickets go fast, so act quickly when ticket sales open at the beginning of each season. This is, without a doubt, the best deal music lovers will find anywhere.

Waiting is overrated

Unbeknownst to many, the entrance near the plaza and box office is not the only entry point to the Bowl. Avoid the overwhelming crowd at the first security line and head a bit up the hill to one of the much less-crowded entrances: the expanded mid-gate or the west gate, even further up. Think of the extra glass of wine you can drink having burned off those extra calories.

Posh picnics

The Maple Drive picnic box — Photo courtesy of Rob Stark

Don’t expect to dine on hot dogs and sandwiches if you choose to preorder a picnic box at the Bowl. Curated by two of the best chefs in the country, James Beard award-winners Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne, there are five themed boxes from which to choose (including a vegan option).

Each box includes an appetizer, main course, side dish and dessert. The “Maple Drive” includes slow-roasted beef tenderloin, tomato salad with red onion and basil pesto, fingerling potatoes, triple cream cheese with figs and walnuts, as well as a caramel chocolate brownie.

If that’s too much, you can also purchase grab ‘n’ go items from Sodexo (the official catering company) at the Marketplace or skip the line at one of the counter service spots by placing a mobile order in advance. Bon appetit!

Philharmonic freebies

The beloved Los Angeles Philharmonic is celebrating its 100th anniversary during the 2018/2019 season and has planned a slew of activities, including a free concert on September 30 featuring treasured conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

The concert will be the culmination of the Celebrate LA! event that involves closing streets that link the eight-mile route between the Philharmonic’s winter and summer homes – the Walt Disney Concert Hall (downtown) and the Hollywood Bowl – to allow cyclists to travel through the city. There will be performance stages, food and activities available along the route.

Another inside tip: you can often attend Philharmonic morning rehearsals at the Bowl for no charge. To find out when these are taking place, call (323) 850-2000. You’ll even get to park up close and personal without paying – a rare treat in this city. 

Foodie fun

Chef Suzanne Goin at the backyard at The Hollywood Bowl — Photo courtesy of Dylan + Jeni

For years, music lovers have slogged uphill laden with baskets, bags and bottles (yes, you can bring in your own wine for non-lease events) to dine pre-show. However, renovations and upgrades in recent years have brought full-service dining to the Bowl. And we’re talkin’ about the good stuff here.

Again, acclaimed chefs Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne of The Lucques Group, have created the menus for The Wine Bar by a.o.c, serving signature small plates, and the backyard, a farmers’ market-driven, al fresco spot adjacent to the Bowl’s iconic shell.

If you have box seats, you can also order Supper in Your Seat, selecting from prix fixe meals (wine too) or a la carte. Waiters will set up a table and serve you in your box, with coffee and dessert during intermission, if you so choose. 

Support youth music education

Many people don’t know that the LA Phil and its partners not only provide training, but also instruments and academic support to talented, low-income youth from underserved LA neighborhoods. You can support their efforts in youth education by attending one of the performances of The Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA), led by Gustavo Dudamel, either at the Hollywood Bowl or the Walt Disney Concert Hall. 

Parking pandemonium

Every year it seems the official parking at the Bowl gets more expensive. Stacked parking now goes for $28 per car for some events and even at that price, you have no way to get out until those around have you left. While the shuttle buses from various locations around the city remain popular, they don’t give you the flexibility to come and go when you please.

2018’s answer: the Bowl’s five-year partnership with Lyft. “Lyft ambassadors” assist concert goers at designated drop-off and pick-up locations to help connect them with their drivers. When observing the new process in June, it appeared to be moving smoothly and efficiently.

Location, location, location

The Camrose picnic area outside The Hollywood Bowl — Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Philharmonic

Although tailgating is a no-no (how déclassé!), there are 14 different picnic areas in and around the Bowl where groups of all sizes can convene for a pre-show feast. You can reserve some areas in advance if you buy multiple tickets through group sales.

If not, the old adage “early bird gets the worm” definitely applies as the tables fill up quickly. Picnic areas outside the venue generally open four hours before showtime while those inside are available when the main gates open. Bringing in your own food and wine? Take a rolling cooler for the uphill climb. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Fitness fanatics

Given that the Bowl and its grounds are a county park, it’s also open to the public during non-show hours. A great spot for a quiet or romantic lunch, it’s popular among athletes (or wannabe athletes) who hit the approximately 170 stairs for a full-body workout. Bring sunglasses and a sweat rag.

History has its eyes on the Hollywood Bowl

The Bowl’s famous semi-circular band shell — Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Philharmonic

Few people know about the fascinating history of the Bowl beyond the music. Did you know that the venue was used as a staging location for the National Guard during the 1992 L.A. Riots? That’s just one interesting tidbit you may learn on a visit to the Hollywood Bowl Museum.

Located midway up the hill toward the box office, the museum features exhibits, vintage photographs, concert programs over the decades, audio clips and much more. And did I mention that it’s free? It’s free!



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