San Fernando Valley

San Fernando Valley

The Valley is a sprawling collection of bedroom communities whose population approaches 2 million. Immortalized in movies as diverse as Chinatown and Valley Girl, the area derives its name from Mission San Fernando Rey de España, the historic landmark on the Valley’s northernmost edge. Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal CityWalk hug a hillside above the Hollywood Freeway, marking the southeastern gateway to the Valley.

Universal City

Just a couple of Metro stops north of the heart of Hollywood is Universal City, a major entertainment industry outpost. Universal Studios Hollywood offers a behind-the-scenes peek into moviemaking and high-tech action rides such as the new Transformers Ride and King Kong 360 3-D, created by film director Peter Jackson. Guests who splurge for Universal’s VIP Experience are pampered like stars and can cut to the front of the line for every ride.

Among the wide-ranging attractions next door at pedestrian-only Universal CityWalk are sky-diving simulations at iFLY Hollywood, an exhilarating wind tunnel, mechanical bull riding at Saddle Ranch Chop House, stand-up performances at Jon Lovitz Comedy Club and rock-and-roll bowling at Jillian’s Hi Life Lanes. Boutiques such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Guess Accessories will loosen your wallet before you take in such diverse acts as Ke$ha and Judas Priest at the neighboring Gibson Amphitheatre.


The “beautiful downtown Burbank” that Johnny Carson used to poke fun at has grown up into a cosmopolitan hub with 80 restaurants, 200 shops and 30 movie screens.

Burbank Town Center (201 E. Magnolia Blvd.) offers a major mall shopping experience, but surrounding streets, such as historic San Fernando Boulevard, have a more homegrown feel with hip shops and trendy bistros such as Granville Café. Magnolia Park, a quaint commercial district centered at Magnolia Boulevard and Hollywood Way, offers cafes, antique shops and boutiques including Encore Nouveau and Swift. Porto’s Bakery is renowned for its Cuban confections and sandwiches, and the iconic Bob’s Big Boy hosts a classic car show every Friday. DeBell Golf Club is open to the public and offers a challenging 18-hole course and a par-three course.

If you’re jetting into or out of L.A., you can escape the hassles of LAX by opting for convenient, uncongested Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. It offers nonstop flights to many cities across the country and reduces stress, especially for visitors to the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena or San Gabriel Valley

Burbank’s Studios

While the Valley may be dismissed by Westside hipsters, there’s as much Hollywood going on here as in Hollywood itself, thanks to the presence of several studios in Burbank. Warner Bros. Studios and NBC Studios offer back-lot tours similar to those at Universal, and all of the studios recruit audience members for tapings of sitcoms and talk shows. Audiences Unlimited is among the ticketing agencies offering the best opportunities to score free tickets to tapings. For The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, contact NBC directly.

North Hollywood

North Hollywood wasn’t much of a tourist destination until the community transformed its commercial core into the NoHo Arts District, now filled with nearly two dozen professional theaters, including the landmark El Portal Theatre. These venues present some of the most innovative stage performances in L.A., as neighboring dance studios and art galleries contribute to the scene. With the addition of new restaurants like the Federal Bar, a lively gastropub with a full calendar of music and comedy, the momentum continues for this transit-linked urban village.

From NoHo’s Metro station, you can access central Hollywood and downtown via the Red Line subway, or board the Orange Line, a surprisingly sleek express bus that traverses the entire San Fernando Valley.

Ventura Boulevard

This iconic, palm-lined boulevard stretches 20 miles from one end of the San Fernando Valley to the other. Immortalized in music by the Everly Brothers, Frank Zappa and Tom Petty, the boulevard is an integral part of L.A. culture. As it stretches through Studio City, it’s lined with an eclectic mix of eateries, from entertainment-industry-favored Art’s Deli to elegant Bistro Garden, not to mention a greater concentration of acclaimed sushi bars (Katsu-ya, Asanebo) than Little Tokyo. For shopping, there are hip boutiques including Dari and stylish retreats such as ROB|B by OPI Salon and Belle Visage Day Spa, owned by Kirsten Dunst’s mother. Hip bars and supper clubs including Firefly have helped to launch a nightlife scene. You’ll see plenty of famous faces in the Valley, where celebrities treasure its more family-oriented lifestyle.

Farther west, as the boulevard winds its way through Sherman Oaks, you’ll encounter laid-back trattorias and bistros as well as shops such as Abundance, a boutique showcasing plus-size designer fashions. Sherman Oaks is also home to Westfield Fashion Square, anchored by Bloomingdale’s and featuring Betsey Johnson, BCBG Max Azria and Lucky Brand boutiques in a particularly pleasant, upscale environment. Sherman Oaks Galleria is near the junction of the 405 and 101 freeways; draws include ArcLight Cinemas.

Deep In The Valley

Warner Center is a high-rise mixed-use development in Woodland Hills with restaurants such as Roy’s. Neighboring Westfield Topanga shopping center is loaded with exclusive designer boutiques, including Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Cartier and Hugo Boss, plus anchoring department stores Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Macy’s.

Farther westbound on the Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101) is Calabasas, where celebrities move for clean air and elbow room. Upscale shopping and casual eateries live at the Commons at Calabasas (4799
Commons Way).

A few exits beyond that is Westlake Village, where locals hit the spa or do lunch at the Four Seasons.

Air Force One is permanently grounded at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in neighboring Simi Valley. North on the Golden State Freeway (I-5) in Valencia, coaster enthusiasts gather at Six Flags Magic Mountain for rides too wild for

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