My wife and I went to the Hollywood Bowl last week, thanks to Viking Cruises, the official cruise line of the Hollywood Bowl. This is the second year in a row they invited us. We went last year and I have to say, a lot has changed in a year … and for the better!

First of all, the big change is that the pandemic has really turned a corner. It’s not over but it has definitely gotten better … or at least it seems to have in the minds of most of the attendees. Last year when we went, it was a welcome distraction since my dad was in a Connecticut hospital with the virus and couldn’t have any visitors. So were tens of thousands more. Fortunately, hospitalizations have dropped significantly which is why there’s no longer a mask requirement to attend any of the concerts. They still do have signs where they strongly recommend masks but they’re not required.

Another big difference was that last year when we went, we saw Dudamel lead Elgar and Grieg. I’m not really into classical music but my wife is and I really wanted her to experience the Hollywood Bowl as it’s one of the best concert venues in the world. She absolutely loved it. This time around, we went to see ABBA the concert, which is a cover billed as the greatest ABBA tribute band on Earth. They were straight from Sweden and they sold the place out.

The first time we went to the Hollywood Bowl, I couldn’t find any solid, easy-to-read information about going there so I did some research to answer my own questions. Without any further ado, here are 15 things to know before going to The Hollywood Bowl.

1. Stacked parking
All of the parking lots are stacked, which means you can’t leave early if you want to. All drivers must pull their car in close to the next since space is very limited. When we went on our first attempt last year, we ended up not going in because we didn’t want to be blocked in. I even spoke to the supervisor and asked if we could pay more for a spot that we could exit early from. No dice.

Why did we want the freedom to leave early? It was our first real date night in over a year and a half but with two little ones at home, we wanted to be able to leave just in case of an emergency. This year, we parked in Lot B and it took almost an hour to get out of the lot once the concert ended. But it was a really relaxed atmosphere as concert goers were in no hurry to leave and some were still partying in or beside their cars, ABBA music blasting and in the end, it was a pretty fun hour.

2. Drop-offs and pick-ups
The next time we went, we ordered a car service. I’m a Blacklane ambassador so I used one of my monthly credits. For all limos and ride shares, drop-offs and pick-ups are at Lot B, which is just a short walk from the Hollywood Bowl entrance.

3. Take the shuttle
If you don’t want to stack park or spend the money on a car service, then I highly recommend taking the shuttle. My friends all say it’s the way to go and it will save you time and aggravation.

4. Security
If you’re attending a popular concert, you’ll want to get there early since the security lines move slowly. Employees check everyone’s bag and all guests must empty their pockets into little bowls, just like at the airport, before going through metal detectors. A friend later tipped me off that there’s another security checkpoint to the far right so if there’s a long line, ask one of the security guards where it is. It could save you 20 minutes or more.

5. Not many people are wearing masks
Last year almost everyone wore a mask. This year, it was the complete opposite. Only a very few people, as in, less than 1%, were wearing masks, including the staff.

6. Bring a picnic
One of the very cool things about the Hollywood Bowl is that you can bring food and drink in for certain concerts. I saw tons of people carrying picnic baskets and can totally understand why. It’s such a beautiful venue and the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic.

We’re definitely packing a picnic next time; there are 14 areas around the Bowl where you can sit and eat. Some places are open four hours before the show. More information here. Note: Not all concerts allow picnics — usually the major acts don’t so find out before going.

7. Buying food
As you might expect, buying food at The Hollywood Bowl isn’t cheap but they sure do make it easy and even better, it’s quick. While in the security line, I spotted the first QR code to scan (just use your phone’s camera app; a notification at the top of your phone will display and when you tap it, all the food options will display). There are a few different options from BBQ to pizza and street tacos. We chose the latter. Three tacos cost $16, which isn’t too bad but they get you on other things like $6 for soda/water and $5.50 for a small box of M&Ms. The best part about it is that they’re quick. It took just a few minutes from ordering to actually getting our food. Good to Know: The food kiosks are cashless.

8. Seating
You can see the seating charts online and there are different choices, from the front section of seats with tables and box seats to stadium seating. The Bowl holds 17,500 people. Last year when we went, we were seated in section F1, Row 1, Seat 1 so there was no one in front of us and in fact, no one behind us. This time we were in K1, Row 6, Seat 12 and had people all around us.

9. Rent a cushion
The bench seats are hard but you can rent a seat cushion for $1 or bring your own like a lot of people. I saw many people renting two cushions, one to sit on and one for their back. But as my wife said, depending on the concert, you won’t be sitting down much anyway. Everyone was standing and dancing for most of the ABBA concert but of course, not so much for Dudamel.

10. Bathrooms
Even with a sold-out concert the bathrooms were not crowded at all. They’re huge, clean and there must be plenty of them.

11. Returning to seats
Last year, on one of my many trips to the loo, I was told by an usher that I wouldn’t be able to return to my seat until there was a break in the music or until intermission, like most theatre events, so plan your bathroom break wisely.

However, that was not the case this year as the aisles and stairs were constantly packed with people dancing and other attendees coming and going.

12. Walk to the top
Last year, I walked around the property to explore and found it extremely peaceful and beautiful, especially when there are no crowds. If you’ve never been to the Hollywood Bowl, then walk up to the top to see what an incredible place it really is and that there’s really not a bad seat in the house.

13. People of all ages
The most surprising part of our visit this time around was how many little kids I saw. I’m talking kids that were just learning to walk. It was surprising because I didn’t think ABBA wasn’t really the concert for little kids as there were tons of people smoking weed. The family sitting next to me brought two kids, probably 9 and 12, and they were so bored they played video games the entire time. Actually, the parents were on their phones through the entire concert too, which was even more bizarre, but that’s L.A. for you.

14. Leaving is a madhouse
Now I know why it takes so long for concert goers to get to their cars. The place was an absolute zoo and quite frankly a safety hazard because if there was a mad rush, people would get trampled. There’s nowhere to go. My advice is to sit in your seats and wait for 20-30 minutes until the crowds die down, otherwise you’re going to be in a slow-moving sea of people.

15. Free rehearsals
According to the Los Angeles Times, “The Hollywood Bowl typically opens rehearsals on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Parking and admission are free. The practice sessions run roughly from 9:30 a.m. to noon, though hours vary. Be sure to call to confirm the time and that they are taking place that day. Other artists open rehearsals only occasionally. The weekly schedule is released on Mondays. Parking is through the main gate, or in nearby Lot B when that fills.” According to the LA Phil’s website: “Some morning rehearsals at the Hollywood Bowl are open to the public. Be sure to email Audience Services at [email protected] or call 323 850 2000 for more information.

The Hollywood Bowl is no doubt an amazing place to see a concert. Next time I go, I’m bringing a picnic (if the concert allows) and a sweater since it got a little chilly once the sun went down.

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17 Comments On "15 Things to Know Before Going to The Hollywood Bowl"
  1. Larry Fitzgerald|

    We had the same parking concerns as you when my wife and I had date nights at The Bowl when our kids (triplets) were very young. There’s no-stack Bowl parking at the VFW Hall on Highland. Get there early because the lot is small. There’s also a beautiful little park on Highland between the VFW and The Bowl that’s wonderful for a picnic. I think the church parking lot on the corner of Franklin & Highland is also no-stack. In a pinch, there’s Hollywood & Highland, but it’s about a 20 minute walk.

  2. TINA R. JACKSON|

    It’s best to park at the Mall down the hill where the Kodak theater is. Go up to theatre level to the back side past the the Kodak and that the shuttle for $6.00!! No worries about that parking near the bowl# which is horrible!-

  3. Steve|

    We have been going to the Bowl for decades. It is always a treat! We are so lucky to have this venue in our city.

    We drive our car to the North Holly Redline Station (Lankershim & Chandler). We then pay $1.75 each to take the Red Line 2 stops to Hollywood & Highland. As mentioned above, the walk up to the bowl is about 20 minutes.

    However, what we do is find dinner at Hollywood/Highland (mall with at least 20 restaurants). After dinner we head up to the Bowl. Saves you from paying the ridiculous parking fees, and you can leave early if you need to.

  4. Marcia S.|

    I wonder at all if the author visited the Bowl’s website, which has all the information in this article, and is very forthcoming about the stacked parking. Any good traveler is a prepared traveler, and here’s a tip…check out the venue’s website before going. More concerning is the fact that the author claims to be well traveled but was surprised that tardy audience members are held back from being seated during the performance? Any stage play, the opera, the ballet, and classical music venue ALL have the same policy in every big city. It is for the consideration of the other attendees that have paid good money for their tickets to enjoy the performance, that they do not allow people to come and go at their whim and disrupt the viewing enjoyment of everyone else in the audience. I get that you do not like classical music, but have you never attended any other type of cultural event? FYI: The tip above about the shuttle from Hollywood & Highland “mall” is erroneous in that none of the shuttles leave until the performance is over…so, like stacked parking, you cannot leave early unless you take an Uber back to your car. Tip: Security would be aided by attendees separating their belongings into separate carry bags. Jackets can be carried through the metal detector as long as they are the only thing in a bag, or hand carried. Picnic baskets and bags with picnic accoutrements need to be open and security needs to see to the bottom of the bag. Same goes with bags with cushions and blankets…security will need you to take them out so they can see to the bottom of the carry bag. Purses need to be open and all the zippers unzipped. Complaining to the poor folks working security does not help…just be transparent and prepared for inspection. Tip: The $1 cushions are great to sit on, but too thick to be used as a back cushion, leaving you even less space if seated on the bench seats. The cushions they sell in the HB store are thinner and can be used for the back cushion. Tip: You can bring picnics to ALL Bowl shows. You can bring booze too, except to shows classified as “Leased Events” which you can look up on their website. No booze to leased events, or glass of any kind. Doing a minimal amount of research online at the Bowl website beforehand and a quick stop at the grocery store might have saved the author $10 in bottled water and elevated their Bowl experience by bringing a bottle of wine instead…even if they didn’t bring their own picnic and relied on fast food offerings on site. Johnny Jet, Viking Cruises, and the Hollywood Bowl can contact me if they would like a more accurate article written. I promise to do better research, be a better concert goer, and not focus so much on the bathroom situation. I am available for other venue reviews as well.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Wow! You’re good. Thanks for destroying me in one comment.

  5. John Thomas|

    First of all to Marcia S.; you are obnoxious. You are shortsighted and totally missing the inherent charm of Johnny’s storytelling style. Yes storytelling not reporting. Johnny’s personal accounts of his travels and adventures continually endear him to his countless fans. What’s his secret? A few things—he’s sincere, he’s curious and he’s nice. So Marcia, after reading your tedious and long-winded comments (‘criticism’ is more accurate) it’s obvious to me that your particular style of ‘travel’ writing is best suited for DMV driving safety pamphlets or perhaps those laminated safety cards found in seat-back pockets on airplanes.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Thanks for the kind words!

  6. Maria|

    Been attending various concerts at the Hollywood Bowl for decades. I no longer live in L.A., but when I go to HB , I park at the Union train station and take the redline. We stop at Porto’s for a to go lunch. But not sure if things have changed in the $5.00 train station parking lot.
    Thanks Johnny !

  7. Daniel|

    Thanks for the write up. Sounds great!

    I’m just visiting Los Angeles as a solo traveller and thinking to attend here. Little bit of a scaredy cat turning up alone rather than if I was with my friends it’d be fine. Was there many solo people? Do you get put in groups in certain sections or would I have a whole section to myself haha?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      It depends on the concert. You can see the seat map so buy your ticket last minute. You can probably even get a deep discount if you go through a third party like Stub Hub

  8. Celia Gonzales|

    Please update your review if you’ve been back to the Bowl since your original review was posted. It’s charming to read about experiences there through other people’s fresh eyes. That gal who left a heavy-handed retort could’ve offered the same thoughts with a much lighter touch. As it is, I feel that I’m not the only reader who’d appreciate seeing your updated post-covid thoughts about visiting the H’wood Bowl. Thank you for this article!

  9. Cynthia|

    Great tips!
    I’m going tonight with my daughter (Backstreet Boys) and just wanted some clarification.
    BTW I love the dress your wife is wearing!! So cute!!

  10. Deborah|

    Thank you so much for such a interesting & fun article! I’m so sorry that someone took such pains to rip you to shreds. So uncalled for. Please keep writing. : )

  11. WTL Campos|

    I love your article… I do have one question, though. I’m hoping that you, and/or anyone reading this, may be able to provide me with an answer to the following:
    Do they play any type of music videos on a large screen prior to a concert performance? I’m just wanting to know if there is that type of visual entertainment up on stage prior to a show.
    Thank you!

  12. John Hater|

    @John Thomas – your be a bhiiiiitch. Go feuk yourself.

  13. ATL JJ Fan|

    Marcia, yes, but can you successfully negotiate a guest segment on The Tech Guy? That takes skill.

  14. Tracy|

    Thanks for this post! I haven’t been to the Hollywood Bowl since 2016 or 2017 and we have tickets for next weekend so this was a nice “post-Covid” refresher.

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