If you haven’t experienced the Hollywood Bowl yet, now is the time to go

The Hollywood Bowl, constructed 95 years ago, hosts a fireworks display the nights of July 2-4.
The Hollywood Bowl, constructed 95 years ago, hosts a fireworks display the nights of July 2-4. Los Angeles Philharmonic Association

When I grew up in Southern California, the summer didn’t really get started until backyard barbecues fired up, the night sky turned pink from the lingering smog and the Hollywood Bowl’s Fourth of July fireworks went off.

During the day we hiked up to the swimming holes of the San Gabriel Mountains or rode our bikes down Rosemead to Long Beach. On the coolest nights, we headed into Hollywood and breathed in the Bowl’s mix of twilight and chaparral, with Prince or the Los Angeles Philharmonic or Ella Fitzgerald playing far down below.

This iconic venue nestled in the Hollywood Hills is more than just a 17,500-seat outdoor amphitheater. Catching a concert at the 95-year-old Bowl is a a way of life for Southern Californians, with people packing in their own food and drink to catch some of the world’s top acts play beneath the venue’s white rainbow shell.

A new generation of summer lovers can feel that unique spell this year with the Bowl’s season ready to kick off. All that music, accompanied by Trader Joe’s wine and the burrito or two, officially gets started on Saturday, June 10, with the Playboy Jazz Festival. Jazz legends such as Marcus Miller and Arturo Sandoval will be playing the festival this year as well as newer stars such as Corinne Bailey Rae and Jacob Collier.

After its opening weekend, the season stretches through September with French rockers Phoenix, punk veterans Blondie, Gustavo Dudamel’s L.A. Phil, Diana Krall, Fleet Foxes and others. Don’t forget the July 2-4 fireworks. Ticket prices vary depending on the event, but some cheap seats can be bought for as little as $14. Some events sell out quickly.

As most Bowlgoers know, the best way to get there isn’t by car, given the venue’s cramped parking lots. Instead, you can take shuttles from several nearby parking lots or try the park-and-ride system from spots all around Southern California.

One big reason why Angelenos love the Bowl is the relaxed food and drink policy. Watching the nightly feast unfold all over the venue, and taking part in it yourself, are part of the charm, whether it’s watermelon cubes in Tupperware bowls or cocktails prepared on the fly or whole four-course meals brought inside a picnic basket. Bowlgoers clearly love their wine, salad and fruit.

Finally, when you’re full of food and drink, you just lean back under the twinkling night sky with the Hollywood Hills chirping all around you and the Electric Light Orchestra bathed in laser light onstage and with your beer bottle in hand, drink a toast to the magic of L.A. in summer.