August 17, 2015

Photo Essay: A Trolley Tour of Beverly Hills

I have lived in Beverly Hills for nearly five years, and I still don't know that much about it.

To get to know it a bit better, I decided to be a tourist in my own town and catch the trolley... the crossroads of Beverly Hills tourism, Rodeo Drive.

For only $5 (cash only), you get to ride around in an air conditioned vintage-inspired, trolley-style bus...

...which fills up quickly, and goes clang clang clang as it tours through the architectural, historical, and cultural sites in the 90210.

The trolley tour I took was narrated by a badass docent in sunglasses who kept me captivated and giggling the whole time with her amazing elocution. (She says she also teaches public speaking classes.)

I don't care much for the fancy shopping in Beverly Hills...

...but the buildings and landscaping are undeniably beautiful... is the public art that's scattered throughout the city.

You can understand why some of these locations have become popular for a photo opp.

And gazing at them from the trolley gives a whole new meaning to "window shopping."

Architecture buffs will recognize Frank Lloyd Wright's last Los Angeles building, the Anderton Court Shops. This secular building with a steeple was completed in 1952 and reflected the Googie architecture at the time, with a bit of a science fiction flair.

Yes, you'll be surrounded by Cartier, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Harry Winston in the "Golden Triangle" commercial district...

...but if you head north across Santa Monica Boulevard (where the actual trolley used to run), past the gargantuan Moreton Bay fig tree that Beverly Hills was literally built around... hit gorgeously manicured residential streets, with a dizzying array of ornamental trees, lined by houses that have graced the silver screen in such films as Down and Out in Beverly Hills and Beverly Hills Cop.

The tour guides won't tell you which celebrities live in there now, but they will point out houses once occupied by Mel Blanc, Charlie Chaplin, and William Randolph Hearst's mistress, Marion Davies...

...and the bungalows where all the movie stars stayed...

...when visiting the Beverly Hills Hotel—our fine city's first historical landmark.

And a trip through Beverly Hills would not be complete without swinging past its most famous house, the fanciful "Witch's House." Originally built as a set piece for such movies as Hansel and Gretel, and later used as a studio office, it was never meant to be lived in—but after it was moved to Beverly Hills and renovated to make it livable, it became a must-visit destination for trick-or-treating on Halloween.

The tour takes about 45 minutes, and although you stay on the trolley for the entire ride, the driver does pause long enough to snap some good photos before you're on your way again.

The trolley schedule varies depending on the season (weekends only in winter, spring, and fall), so it's best to check first to make sure it's running. But seriously, in Beverly Hills, you cannot beat the price, and you get two hours free parking in one of the city's municipal parking structures—which means you can spring for a Sprinkles cupcake or lunch at Mickey Fine.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Inside Greystone Mansion
Photo Essay: Hiking Through a Dream Home in the Hills

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