News flash: Burbank isn’t all theme parks and back lots. In fact, there are plenty of activities in this northwestern part of Los Angeles for discerning travelers and hip locals, including a hike leading up to the best tree-with-a-view and a magical pony ride in sprawling Griffith Park. Or why not turn back the clock with a Rat Pack–reminiscent steak and martini or a clothes shop where vintage threads are reimagined? Here are 16 fun things to do in Burbank.
16 Fun Things to Do in Burbank
1. Shop Retro-But-Fresh Fashion
Sure, vintage clothes are sustainable and way cuter than lots of new designs, but searching through endless racks of wrong sizes and enduring that musty old clothes odor is...ewww. But novel clothes brand Unique Vintage has figured out a clever workaround: Creator Katie Echeverry finds great clothes from past decades and remakes them to fit today’s woman in laundry-friendly fabrics. Shop the ’20s through the ’70s in this 4,600-square-foot shop that carries everything from figure-flattering swing dresses to T-strap heels that are actually walkable.
2013 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; 818-848-1540 or unique-vintage.com
2. Pick Up Baked Goods for the Family
Rosa Porto emigrated with her family from Cuba with just the clothes on her back...as well as a way with flour and sugar. The matriarch turned her baking skills into a mini empire of bakeries that has become the go-to cake source for any party where you want guests to fawn over fluffy cake and sweet icing. Still family run, Porto’s Bakery has savory items too (we highly recommend the potato ball). There’s also an eat-in café featuring a mouthwatering menu that includes coquettes, meat pies and anything else that can be enjoyed in a flaky crust.
3614 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; 818-846-9100 or portosbakery.com
3. Enter the Art Deco-style City Hall
Step into a noir film set with a trip to the Burbank City Hall, where architecture and art combine to create a uniquely retro and sophisticated backdrop for the business of city government. The main lobby has a 77-foot ceiling as well as the city seal and bas-relief figures using 20 different kinds of marble. Two famous murals by Hugo Ballin (whose work can also be seen in the Griffith Park Observatory) depict teeming figures that are as tall as the height of the wall.
275 E. Olive Ave., Burbank; burbankca.gov
4. See All the Pretty Ponies
A sprawling 75 acres in Griffith Park, the Los Angeles Equestrian Center has everything horsey you could want to experience. From riding lessons for all ages to weekend polo matches, there’s always something going on at this fun-filled locale. More than 50 horse shows happen here annually, ranging from Western saddle seat to European dressage. There’s also a private pastoral space for parties, fundraisers and weddings, so if you want to feel a million miles away from big city traffic, you’ve found your spot.
480 W. Riverside Dr., Burbank; 818-840-9063 or thelaec.com
5. Play Darts in a Dive Bar
Turquoise banquettes and an all-cash register set the tone at this low-key neighborhood joint with $4 beers and a great jukebox. While neighborhood bars can often be cliquish, this one has friendly bartenders and a multigenerational clientele, giving us serious Cheers vibes (but, you know, on the West Coast).
916 S. San Fernando Blvd., Burbank; 323-849-2779 or Facebook/The Blue Room
6. Hike to the Wisdom Tree
A three-mile hike that will take you two hours up steep rugged trails, this journey into the newest part of Griffith Park pays off not only for the glutes workout but for the destination—a lone hilltop tree that’s been nicknamed “the wisdom tree.” On clear days, you can see not only most of the park but also downtown Los Angeles and the Griffith Park Observatory from the summit. Just wear sunblock and bring water; this hike is almost entirely without shade until you reach that one tree at the top. Enter from the Aileen Getty Ridge Trail.
7. People-Watch at a Giant Vintage Show
Want to get inspired by people wearing the coolest outfits in town? Skip Rodeo Drive and head to the Pickwick Vintage Fair, held a few times a year at the Pickwick Recreation Center. You’ll be rubbing elbows with Hollywood costumers and stylists as you visit more than 65 clothing and jewelry vendors from across California, perusing everything from red-carpet-worthy Madame Gres couture to a Dior saddlebag. Unlike flea markets, this is all top-quality merch and it’s held in climate-controlled rooms (phew). Buy tickets to the next show, held on May 31, in advance or at the door.
921 Riverside Dr., Burbank; pickwickvintage.com
8. Visit the Theme Parks or Take a Studio Tour
Take your screen addiction (or that of someone you love) to the next level with an IRL tour of Universal or Warner Brothers Studios. Our top pick at Universal is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where you can hang in Dumbledore’s office and visit the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom before enjoying a magical meal washed down with butterbeer. Meanwhile, at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour you can check out working back lots and sound stages, including The Big Bang Theory sets and Central Perk from Friends.
Universal Studios, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, universalstudioshollywoo
9. Staycation at the Hotel Amarano
Looking to get away? Check out this luxe hideout on the other side of the hill. Nestled among kitschy motels that date to the ’50s, this modern boutique hotel fresh from a jazzy renovation is the ideal place to be pampered. It boasts 132 rooms and suites and 24-hour room service, as well as poolside dining cabanas in case you want to lounge in the water all day (and night). Just around the corner from Warner Bros., the hotel is the place to meet industry players for a power breakfast or business cocktails at FYC (as in "For Your Consideration," get it, aspiring nominees?) the new restaurant and patio bar. Pure bliss.
322 N. Pass Ave., Burbank; 818-842-8887 or hotelamarano.com
10. Eat NewFangled Deli Food
At Hank’s, the Toluca Lake restaurant dubbed “a deli of sorts,” the owners turn out cheffy iterations of classic delicatessen food, such as a mushroom and roasted garlic bialy and a bacon and Calabrian chili bialy. Even the bagels get in on the elevated artisanal action with a dusting of tasty rosemary sea salt.
4315 W. Riverside Dr., Burbank; hanksbagels.com
11. Browse Antique Treasures
Burbank is chock-full of fancy homes, which makes estate sales on weekend mornings the ideal place to nab a deal. There are also multiple antiques shops along Magnolia, including our favorite, Scavenger’s Paradise, where oil paintings and architectural elements share space with sterling silver tableware and unique furniture. Need a 1940s ebonized tea cart or some vintage Christian Dior fine china? It’s all here.
3425 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; 818-843-5257 or scavengersparadise.com
12. Enjoy an Old-School Soft-Serve Cone
Fosters Freeze is often called California’s first fast-food restaurant and dates back to 1946 when a guy named Foster started selling soft-serve cones in Inglewood. Today, the retro ice cream–and–burger franchises are sprinkled across the state, none more charming than this little window-service depot with the requisite handful of umbrella tables out front. It’s a great pit stop when you are taking a walk through Burbank.
201 S. Glenoaks Blvd., Burbank; 818-846-5906 or fostersfreeze.com
13. Eat a Movie-Star Steak
Just down the street from Warner Bros. Studios, and in business since the ’40s, this spot is your throwback “Have I got a steak for you, Dad” spot. Cary Grant! James Dean! George Clooney! They all ate at Smoke House. And romantic trivia junkies, listen up: This is the location where Ryan Gosling wooed Emma Stone in La La Land. But here’s the reality: There’s a live show on offer from Thursday to Saturday, and there’s a Champagne brunch on Sundays. But whatever time you go, order the cheesy garlic bread, a fan favorite that will make you long for the days before our lactose- and gluten-intolerant times.
4420 Lakeside Dr., Burbank; 818-845-3731 or smokehouse1946.com
14. Get Lost in IKEA
Maybe, like acclaimed interior designer Tom Scheerer, you consider a trip to IKEA one of the sacraments. Maybe you just need a new lamp. Both sorts of shoppers will find themselves satisfied at this 456,000-square-foot warehouse of home stuff that includes 50 inspirational room settings and a 600-seat restaurant where you can enjoy Swedish meatballs. Shop the new line of houseplant pots, stands and accessories, as well as an impressive collection of houseplants to put in them. And let your inner bargain hunter revel in the ground-floor sale room of damaged items where you can get that china hutch for next to nothing.
600 IKEA Way, Burbank; 888-888-4532 or ikea.com
15. Gain Some Golfing Mojo
The L.A. area is full of private clubs, but where to work on your swing if you don’t want the time and money commitment of a membership? The DeBell Golf Club has LPGA-certified instructors who promise to teach you how to golf in five lessons, from learning the basics to sizing up each hole for play. And all this can be enjoyed in a fun and noncompetitive atmosphere.
1500 E. Walnut Ave., Burbank; 818-845-0022 or debellgolf.com
16. KARAOKE ’TIL YOU DROP
It’s everything you want in a karaoke bar and none of the other stuff. In other words, it’s small (the better to warble so everyone can hear you) and drinks are reasonably priced. There’s also a special drag queen karaoke experience on Tuesday evenings, although everyone is welcome to sing as long as they hit the two-drink minimum. It’s a great place to take over for a party, and it has a friendly, no-big-whoop vibe. One thing to keep in mind? There are no private karaoke rooms, so start working on your rendition of “I Love Rock N’ Roll” now.
10721 Burbank Blvd., Burbank; 818-505-3887 or thegoodnite.com