Hollywood Forever is the cemetery to the stars, serving as the final act for some of Hollywood’s once-brightest stars (too much with the morbid puns?), as well as others behind the scenes in the film and television industries. In this post, we’ll review this cemetery as a tourist spot, share some photos of the what you can expect here, and also tips for making the most of your experience at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Located on Sunset Boulevard directly behind the Paramount Pictures Studio, Hollywood Forever is a large cemetery that is actually in the heart of Hollywood.
I’ll be honest with you: I avoided Hollywood Forever Cemetery for the longest time, assuming it was just another “ugh” spot in Hollywood–something that perhaps maybe had allure at some point in time, but had been co-opted by tourists and profiteers. Even when we finally did plan to visit, I only did it for the sake of being able to write about it. After about 10 minutes of wandering Hollywood Forever, my mind was changed…
Unlike so much of what can be found on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, Hollywood Forever is not cheesy, run-down, or aimed at duping tourists. It’s a sprawling space that is incredibly well-maintained, is not over-crowded, and feels quite inviting. Above all else, it’s real.
Hollywood–both the place and the industry–has a way of presenting a false facade and elevating celebrity. Even though Hollywood Boulevard does an atrocious job of maintaining this illusion, that’s still the intent.
Hollywood Forever strikes a very different note, features both everyday people and stars side-by-side, presenting celebrities at their most human. I know that’s an odd thing to write about a cemetery, but the place is oddly humanizing and without pretense. There is still a sense of reverence as people are paying their respects to fallen idols, but the vibe is different.
It’s difficult to put into words why Hollywood Forever Cemetery is different. I suppose it’s partly the change of pace. In the heart of Hollywood Boulevard, it’s a sea of people, half of whom are fawning over shapes on pavement, the other half of whom are trying to hawk photos with fake versions of celebrities or merchandise offering tribute to stars. It’s crowded, hot, and generally unpleasant.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery is just a few block away, but a world apart. It is quiet, uncrowded, and generally serene. While there’s a gift shop at the front of the cemetery, it’s operated by genuinely helpful and friendly staff, not street vendors hawking crap. The cemetery is meticulously maintained, with manicured landscape, lovely gardens, and even a central lake.
Even the headstones and other monuments, as elaborate as they can be, come across as respectful, rather than indulgent.
Perhaps I’m too hard on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (I know plenty of people love it), but Hollywood Forever Cemetery strikes me as a more earnest tribute to icons of the film industry. Everything about it is a more pleasant and enjoyable experience.
As for tips, there are a few things to know about Hollywood Forever Cemetery. First, if you’re driving, ample on-site parking is available and is free.
If you’re visiting Hollywood, the cemetery is also easily accessible by foot, particularly if you’re doing the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It’ll take around 15 minutes to walk here from the Hollywood Palladium or Pacific Cinerema Dome, both of which you’ll want to see on any walking tour, anyway.
There are a couple of ways to approach Hollywood Forever Cemetery. One option, which is what we did, is to treat it as a large park, and just wander, seeing whomever you see. We saw the headstones of numerous celebrities this way, and it was fascinating to see regular citizens of Hollywood this way, too.
Another option is to Google a particular name, find out where that person is located, and go from there. You can also find maps of the cemetery via Google, if you want something more comprehensive.
The final option, and perhaps the best one, is to stop at the gift shop when you arrive to purchase a map or guidebook, both of which list the locations of the most notable celebrities. There are a couple of different options in this regard, and they also can serve as a nice souvenir of the experience.
If you go the wandering route, you’re likely to see people congregated in areas that are particularly celebrity-dense, so you can pretty much “follow the crowd.”
All told, I’d recommend at least 30 minutes for exploring Hollywood Forever. You could easily spend over an hour here, though, particularly if you’re fascinated by old Hollywood, or simply want a reprieve from the non-stop sensory assault of Hollywood’s main attractions. (I think around an hour is about the perfect amount of time.)
If you’re only interested in a quick visit, head to the back left area of Hollywood Forever, just behind the lake. This is where you’ll find the Gardens of Legends, which contains some of the most recognizable names, including Mickey Rooney, Toto, Cecil B. DeMille, and more. Across from that is Chris Cornell and the tribute to Johnny Ramone.
While the Hollywood Forever Cemetery doubles as a lovely park with tall palms, a nice lake, beautiful flowers, and more, it should be noted that there are large, unshaded expanses. If you’re visiting in the summer or on a sunny day (so, everyday), wearing a hat and sunscreen, as well as carrying a bottle of water, is advised.
If you want a totally different experience, consider attending a summer Cinespia film screening at Hollywood Forever. (Yes, really.) This is a really cool experience, but the parking situation presents a considerable challenge. In addition to on-site (paid) parking, there is also off-site (also paid) parking.
On-site parking tends to sell out, and looks like a pain, anyway. We’d recommend parking farther away and walking, which also makes leaving at the end of the night simpler. Also, locals will line up to enter hours in advance (the photo below has the queue in the background) for the best spots on the lawn. While this is not a strict necessity, if you show up last minute, you’ll be at the back of the house. Ultimately, a cool experience for locals, but probably too much of a hassle for casual tourists.
Overall, I highly recommend visiting Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which is not something I expected to write before visiting. I’m glad I didn’t stick with my preconceived notion that this place would be just another tacky and superficial adulation of all things celebrity. Although there are certainly some elements of typical Hollywood showmanship (Cecil B. DeMille shines, even in death), it is more respectful and honorary in tone than anything else I’ve encountered in Hollywood. Think of Hollywood Forever as a lovely public park in the heart of Hollywood that also features sincere and humbling tributes stars alongside ordinary people, and you have Hollywood Forever in a nutshell.
If you’re planning a California vacation, check out my California category of posts for other things to do. For Los Angeles-centric trips, we’ve found the most useful guidebook to be The Best Things to Do in Los Angeles: 1001 Ideas, which is written by locals (and we use it even as locals!). If you enjoyed this post, help spread the word by sharing it via social media. Thanks for reading!
Have you been to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery? Would you recommend this cemetery to someone visiting Los Angeles? Have you done one of the Cinespia movie screenings here? Any additional thoughts or tips to add? Does visiting Hollywood Forever sound appealing to you, or is it not your scene? Hearing from readers is both helpful and interesting, so if you have perspective from your own experiences, or questions, please share in the comments below!