Last night, my wife and I went to the Hollywood Bowl thanks to Viking Cruises, the official cruise line of the Hollywood Bowl. We went to see Dudamel lead Elgar and Grieg. I’m not really into classical music but my wife is and I really wanted her to see the Hollywood Bowl; it’s one of the best concert venues in the world. Besides, it was a welcome distraction since my dad is in a Connecticut hospital with COVID and he can’t have any visitors.
Last night was actually our second attempt going because last week, we only made it as far as the parking lot, which I will explain below. What happened last week is also the reason I’m writing this post. I was looking for some good information about going to The Hollywood Bowl during COVID-19 and couldn’t find anything that answered all of my questions. So here are 12 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 last week, 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. Also, we didn’t know what the seating would be like and if we were going to be really packed in with other people, so we wanted the flexibility to leave early if we didn’t feel safe.
2. Drop-offs and Pick-ups
When we went last night, 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.
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.
4. Wear a Mask
Although the L.A. mask mandate for large outdoor events isn’t going into effect until tomorrow (August 19, 2021), we still wore masks since we’re obviously worried about COVID. I was happy to see that the majority of guests were wearing them as well, and all the staff were masked up, too.
5. Bring a picnic
I remembered from the last time I was at The Hollywood Bowl years ago, that you can bring food and drink in for certain concerts and I saw tons of people carrying picnic baskets this time. We’re definitely packing one 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.
6. 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 $5 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. Also good to know, the food kiosks are cashless.
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 and we were seated in section F1. We scored Row 1, Seat 1 so there was no one in front of us and no one behind us. The concert wasn’t very crowded so they either didn’t sell those seats are the guests were no-shows.
8. 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.
Because there were probably only 5,000 people at last night’s concert, the bathrooms were not full. I went into three different ones and there wasn’t anyone in them except once.
10. Returning to Seats
On one of my 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, which wasn’t going to be for another 25 minutes. I respected that but I’m not sure how much they enforce this because I saw others coming and going.
11. Walk to the top
To beat the crowd to the bathroom, I got up a few minutes before intermission and walked around the property to explore. It’s extremely peaceful and beautiful, especially when there are no crowds. I walked to the top twice, once alone and once with my wife and some friends we connected with at the show. The very back row is still a great place to sit, so there’s really no bad seat in the house.
12. 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.”
UPDATE: I heard from one of my Twitter followers, Jeff Palkevich, that “The rehearsals are currently closed to the public due to covid. The Bowl used to be open daily from 8am – sunset, if you wanted to go in and walk around or run the stairs (like the @SaturdayStairs crew do) but they currently don’t have enough security working for that.”
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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