The stretch of shops and boutiques on Rodeo Drive is only three blocks long. It begins at Wilshire Boulevard on the south, and runs north to Santa Monica Boulevard, where the commercial section of the street gives way to an affluent residential neighborhood. But those three short blocks constitute the most famous shopping district in America, and probably the most expensive three blocks of shops in the world.
The most celebrated clothing designers in the world have boutiques here: Armani, Gucci, Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Valentino... The jewelry stores boast names like Cartier and Tiffany. Other nearby stores include I. Magnin, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Yves Saint Laurent, & Pierre Deux.
In fact, Rodeo Drive is home to the single most expensive store in the world: Bijan (at 420 Rodeo Drive). You must make an appointment in advance just to shop at Bijan (which was named after its Iranian owner). On a typical visit, Bijan's average customer spends in the neighborhood of $100,000 on men's fashions, which range from a $50 pair of socks to $15,000 suits.
The most handsome - and ostentatious - part of Rodeo Drive (and the portion that most resembles what tourists expect to find here) is actually the newest addition to the famed boulevard. If you listen closely to a scene in the movie "Pretty Woman," you will hear a line that says: "Via Rodeo is the first new street built in Beverly Hills in 75 years."
Located at the northeast corner of Wilshire & Rodeo, the "Two Rodeo" center creates the illusion of two small, parallel streets, cleverly designed so that they both appear to be at ground level. Built at a cost of over $200 million, Two Rodeo attempts to re-create a romantic version of an old European avenue. In practice, though, this gleaming new addition most resembles a movie set, or perhaps a Disneyland pastiche such as New Orleans Square.
But it's still a winner in its own right. The short, curving street is paved with Old World cobblestones, and features two & three story facades, with a unique blend of classic architectural styles. There are romantic archways, bubbling fountains, an Italianate piazza, and charming balconies. The faux street is lined with black, wrought-iron street lamps and polished brass fixtures; ornate planters are filled with colorful flowers & trees.
Essentially a small outdoor mall, "Two Rodeo" manages to create the illusion of freestanding storefronts, variously faced with brick, stone and marble. There is a sidewalk café, two pricey restaurants, and tenants such as Tiffany, Cartier, Charles Jourdan, Valentino, Christian Dior, and Jose Eber. The center even offers free, two-hour valet parking in its posh underground garage. And it is here now, next to the Spanish steps and sparkling fountains of "Two Rodeo," that most tourists pose for the pictures of Rodeo Drive that they will take home to show their friends.
But it's not just tourists. Hollywood.com reports spotting a happy Leonardo DiCaprio shopping there at Christmas time, wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses, goatee, longer hair and carrying a large Tiffany & Co. shopping bag. Other stars they spotted in the same season included Britney Spears, Calista Flockhart, Warren Beatty, Val Kilmer, Danny DeVito, Don Johnson, Rod Stewart and Gregory Peck.
Yet beyond "Two Rodeo," most of fabled Rodeo Drive is surprisingly humble in appearance. Trees line both sides of the avenue, as well as the center divider (which is always planted with colorful flowers, rotated to match the current season). Most of the small shops do not appear extraordinary - at least not from the outside; inside, though, many of the shops are opulent.
The street looks better at night than during the day. This is especially true at Christmas time, when the Yuletide displays in the shop windows take on a particularly lovely glow in the evenings, and twinkle-lights adorn the many trees. During the holiday season, the street's center divider is planted with banks of bright red poinsettia flowers, and the trees all along Rodeo are tied with matching red ribbons. Some of the stores, such as Louis Vuitton, really outdo themselves with delightful Christmas decor. Even the huge Beverly Wilshire Hotel is enveloped in sparkling lights, like some jewel- encrusted bookend at the Drive's southern boundary.
So, if you are planning a visit to Rodeo Drive, I would suggest that you make it an evening trip, preferably in December. If you prefer the daytime, come on a weekday; do not come on a Sunday. Most of the shops on Rodeo Drive close on Sunday, and the usual crowd of sophisticated shoppers is replaced by hordes of tourists gawking in the windows of the shuttered stores.
Each Fathers Day (the third Sunday in June), there is "Concours on Rodeo," a vintage car show held on Rodeo Drive, which is free to the public. The famous street is closed to traffic and is carpeted for the event, which features 75 dazzling classic and vintage automobiles. There is live musical entertainment;even a few celebrities drop by. And as you might expect, Rodeo Drive is a very nice setting for a car show. Car enthusiasts Jay Leno and Tim Allen often enter a car in the show, as do other celebs.
Here are a few of the notable stores to be found on Rodeo Drive, and their street numbers (in parenthesis), beginning at the south end of the street and working northward.
The even-numbered addresses
are found on the east side of the Rodeo Drive, the odd-numbered
addresses are on the west side of the street:
Tiffany (210), Cartier
(220 and 370), Pierre Deux (222), Jose Eber (224), Christian
Dior (230), Valentino (240),Van Cleef & Arpels (300),
Louis Vuitton (307), Hammacher Schlemmer (309), David
Orgell (320), Georgio (327), Dolce & Gabbana (342, 346)
Ferragamo (357), Cafe Rodeo (360), Harry
Winston (371), Chanel (400), Fred (401), Vidal
Sassoon (405), Bijan (420 & 431), Hermes (434), Armani
(436), Gianni Versace (437), Gucci (443), Polo/Ralph Lauren
(444) and The Tommy Hilfiger Store (468).
An outdoor center, its walkways and pillars are made of gleaming white marble, its brick walls are draped in ivy, and its polished brass railings overlook a sunken atrium courtyard topped by two glass pyramid skylights. There are five terraced levels of shops here: three below street-level and two above.
The 30+ tenants of The Rodeo Collection include interior design stores, jewelry shops, a pottery shop, and assorted boutiques such as Nina Ricci, Gianni Versace, and Gucci. A glass elevator descends into the open courtyard, where diners sit on a sunny brick patio, surrounded by white latticework, trees, flowers, and a small waterfall. On the ground floor is the new restaurant De Mori, an upscale, Italian restauran serving lunch & dinner. The center was featured extensively in the 1984 Brian De Palma thriller, "Body Double." (Don't bother to visit on a Sunday; you'll find most of the center closed and deserted - except for Reata.)
Speaking of film locations, did you ever wonder what store Julia Roberts was snubbed in, in "Pretty Woman"? Well, it was a woman's clothing store named Boulmiche, located just a few steps west of Rodeo, at 9501 Santa Monica Blvd.
And speaking of snubs, a 2000 report by E!Onlne was that actress Jennifer Love Hewitt was almost shown the door at Valentino (due to her casual dress that day), before they realized who they were dealing with.
And, of course, the hotel she & Richard Gere stayed at in that movie was the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, at the south end of Rodeo.
There are surprisingly few restaurants on Rodeo Drive (outside of those at the "Two Rodeo" center). The most conspicuous restaurant, Cafe Rodeo (at 360 Rodeo), offers a nice patio area in the back, as well as sidewalk dining out front, an ideal spot from which to watch the passing parade at lunch time. (After shopping, people-watching is the main sport on Rodeo Drive.) But be warned: the food at Cafe Rodeo is neither inexpensive nor particularly tasty.
Upstairs at "Two Rodeo" is The Fish House, McCormick & Schmick's new seafood restaurant, which features a great selection of seafood, along with the polished-wood ambiance of a gentleman's club.
As you might well expect, the most expensive restaurant in Southern California was located on Rodeo Drive. Ginza Sushi-Ko was located on the top floor of the Two Rodeo complex, right above McCormick & Schmick's. But when Ginza moved to NYC, it was replaced by Urasawa restaurant, a Michelin two-star restaurant offering such unique items as shabu-shabu prepared with foie gras & scallop.
Just off Rodeo, on the surrounding streets of the "Golden Triangle," are a number of other notable restaurants.
To the east is Canon Drive, where you'll find the legendary Spago Beverly Hills, Mastro's Steakhouse (where Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes dropped $10,000 for for a private dinner prior to their marriage), as well as Mulberry Street Pizza.
On Beverly Drive, you'll find Nate & Al's (a small, informal deli where Doris Day was a regular at breakfast), Il Fornaio (a popular Italian trattoria), plus the Museum of Television & Radio (now known as the Paley Center for Media).
While you're visiting, you might want to ride the Beverly Hills Trolley. Operated by the city of Beverly Hills, this charming little tram offers a 30-minute tour of Beverly Hills, complete with professional tour guides who show visitors the city's posh downtown area and luxury neighborhoods. There is a $2.00 service charge per person (kids under 12 are free). Tours start at the corner of Rodeo Drive and Payton Way, and run once per hour, beginning at 10:30 AM. The last tour is at 5:30 PM (4:30 PM in winter). But bear in mind that the trolley only runs during "tourist season." It operates Tuesday through Saturday during the summer (July 1 through Labor Day) and during the winter holidays (after Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve). For more information, phone (800) 345-2210.
(Oh yes... by now it should go without saying that Rodeo Drive is pronounced "Ro-day-o," not "Ro-dee-o.")
One final note: after your visit, be sure to drive north up Rodeo Drive, to its residential section, between Santa Monica Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. Here, on this lovely, tree-shaded lane, you'll find the longtime home of movie star Gene Kelly (where he died in 1996) at 725 Rodeo Drive.
Other celebs who lived on north Rodeo include Jackie Cooper (804), Carl Reiner (714), George Murphy (807) and Gene Hersholt (602). (And you'll find a rather eccentric bit of modern residential architecture at 507 Rodeo.)
At the far north end of Rodeo Drive, you'll find yourself at Sunset Blvd., and the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Parking: Some street parking is available, but Rodeo Drive is always crowded and most days parking spaces are hard to come by. There is a major municipal parking garage just off Rodeo Drive itself (west of the street), on Brighton Way. This Brighton underground garage offers two hours of free parking. There are two other (free) city parking structures at the corner of Rodeo Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard. There are also outdoor parking lots located on the streets around Rodeo; most charge a fee, some are free on Sunday.
Perhaps your best bet is the free valet parking available beneath the new Two Rodeo center. Not many people know about this posh underground garage, which is open to the public, and which offers two hours of free parking in the glitziest new section of Rodeo Drive. Heading north up Rodeo, just make a right (east) turn on Dayton Way, then turn right again into the driveway leading down to the underground parking garage beneath Two Rodeo. A valet will park your car for you. (Be sure to hang onto the parking stub he gives you.) Then just ride the polished brass elevator up to street level. If you stay for two hours or less, the parking is free. After two hours, it costs $4 and up. Paid valet parking is also available at the Rodeo Collection, Cafe Rodeo, and other locales along Rodeo Drive.
Getting there: The famed Rodeo Drive shopping district lies to the north of Wilshire Boulevard, and to the south of Santa Monica Boulevard, in the heart of Beverly Hills. / Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to the Wilshire Boulevard exit. Go east on Wilshire (about three miles) to Beverly Hills, turn left (north) at Rodeo Drive (just a few streets past Santa Monica Boulevard). / Alternatively, from Hollywood & Vine: go south two blocks on Vine Street to Sunset Boulevard. Turn right (west) on Sunset. Follow Sunset Boulevard (west) about five and a half miles, into Beverly Hills. Turn left (south) onto Rodeo Drive (just after you pass the Beverly Hills Hotel), and drive through the beautiful residential section of Rodeo Drive, until you come to the shopping district.
[You can find the official Rodeo Drive website at: http://www.rodeodrive.com.]
[To see a map of Beverly Hills go here..]
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