Think of the Metro Red Line subway as a Hollywood tour in three acts:
The Hollywood and Highland area is like a film classic restored, with landmark movie palaces like Grauman's Chinese Theatre and a new generation of clubs and restaurants.
Universal City's famous studio tour and its built-from-scratch CityWalk streetscape deliver a special effects-laden blockbuster.
And the North Hollywood Arts District is like an indie movie: authentic, uncompromising, and built on creativity.
The 16-stop Metro Red Line subway (from $1.25 one-way, day pass $5; 800/266-6883) connects to other transit lines at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and runs as far north as North Hollywood. Red Line trains generally run 10 to 12 minutes apart, with shorter or longer intervals in peak and off-hours, respectively. At Universal City, you can hop on a free shuttle (every 15 minutes during park hours) to main attractions.
STOP 1: HOLLYWOOD AND HIGHLAND
American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre Break the big-movie habit and come to this nonprofit theater for its innovative films. Monthly tours are offered of the restored 1922 Egyptian revival-style theater. INFO: Tours $5, movie tickets from $10; 6712 Hollywood Blvd.; 323/466-3456.
25 Degrees Upscale burgers and decor by restaurant-design king Dodd Mitchell reflect the revival of Hollywood Boulevard. INFO: $$; in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd.; 323/785-7244.STOP 2: UNIVERSAL CITY
Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience While certainly pricey, the all-day experience gives insider looks at studio spaces that regular tours miss and grants priority access on rides and attractions. INFO: $199, reservations required; 818/622-5120.
Chocolaté Loco A celebration of chocolate's Mexican origins, it's the place to go if you love hot chocolate or your chocolate hot: chocolate-dipped jalapeños and habaneros, anyone? INFO: On Universal CityWalk, Ste. 147; 818/761-7213.
STOP 3: NORTH HOLLYWOOD ARTS DISTRICT
Lankershim Arts Center Located in a 1939 art deco utilities building, it's home to the Road Theatre Company, an art gallery, and a performance space. INFO: Closed Mon-Wed; theater tickets from $12; 5108 Lankershim Blvd.; 818/752-7568.
WHILE YOU'RE THERE
Take a docent-led art tour of Metro stations (free; 800/266-6883). The two-hour tours are offered monthly on the first Saturday (10 a.m. at Hollywood/Highland Station's street-level entrance) and first Sunday (10 a.m. at the Union Station information booth).