Snuggling itself into the southeast end of the San Fernando valley, and twelve miles north of downtown Los Angeles, Burbank, is not a neighborhood of L.A. It is its own separate, incorporated city. And though it’s a small fraction of the size of the city of L.A. (100,000 residents vs. 4,000,000), Burbank is nearly a complete microcosm of its bigger brother. The diversity of the city includes: a hillside community with breathtaking views; a vibrant downtown core and adjacent industrial parks, which straddle the 5 freeway; a world-class collection of studios, from the very large to the small independent variety; neighborhoods in the flats of the valley filled with homes that, in large part, retain their original small-town charm and are marked by an assortment of hipster commercial strips; a significant rancho equestrian area; and finally, an airport that I prefer over LAX any time that I’m able. The only thing it doesn’t have is a beach. If it did, you’d have to add a million dollars to the price of every home. .
Burbank was named after Dr. David Burbank, a New Hampshire-born dentist who purchased the land in present-day Burbank as a sheep ranch in 1867. A shrewd businessman foreseeing the value of the railroad industry, Burbank sold Southern Pacific Railroad a right-of-way through his property for $1. The first train passed through Burbank on April 5, 1874, creating a boom and people began streaming into Southern California. In 1886 a group of speculators bought much of Burbank's land holdings for $250,000 and subsequently formed the Providencia Land, Water, and Development Company and began developing the land, calling the new town Burbank, and began selling farm lots on May 1, 1887. The city of Burbank was eventually incorporated in 1911. By the 1920’s, the film industry gravitated towards Burbank and in 1928 First National Pictures was taken over by four brothers with the last name of Warner. The rest, as they say, is history.
Billing itself as “the media capital of the world”, the title is well deserved. Burbank itself became a household name in the 1960s, when Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show” let its viewers know they were broadcasting from “beautiful downtown Burbank.” That introduction became a popular catchphrase, cementing Burbank as a show business epicenter in the minds people all across the country. Here is a sampling of the studios based in Burbank, which employ tens of thousands of people.
Warner Brothers Entertainment – 4000 Warner Blvd
One of the “Big Six” American film studios, Warner Bros. has operations in film, television, and video games. Founded in 1923, it is one of the "Big Six" major American film studios, and employs approximately 8000 people. And its popular studio tour is one of the best in the greater LA area.
Warner Brothers Records - 3300 Warner Blvd
Founded in 1958, Warner Bros Records is one of the ‘Big Three’ international music conglomerates. Notable artists signed to the label have included, Prince, Cher, Michael Buble,Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls, Sheryl Crow, Ciara, Gorillaz, Green Day, Adam Lambert, Bette Midler, Muse, Duran Duran, Fleetwood Mac, Fleet Foxes, Lily Allen, Linkin Park, Nile Rodgers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Black Keys, My Chemical Romance, Van Halen and Kylie Minogue.
Walt Disney Studios - 500 South Buena Vista St
As one might expect, the Disney studios comprise a vast complex of buildings, many of which are whimsical in their design. These include the Team Disney building, a Parthenon like structure which features 20-foot dwarves supporting the roof’s pediment, and the Animation Building whose entrance features a gigantic cone resembling the cap Mickey Mouse wears as the Sorcerer’s apprentice in Fantasia.
The Burbank Studios – 3000 W. Alameda Ave
Owned by NBC Universal, this 35 acre production facility is home to Days of Our Lives, iHeartRadio and Blizzard eSports.
ABC Studios – 2300 Riverside Dr.
Founded in 1985, this is the television production unit of ABC Entertainment Group, which is part of the Disney-ABC Television Group.
Nickelodeon Animation Studios - 231 W Olive Ave
Founded in 1998, this animation studio produces many hit shows including SpongeBob SquarePants, The Adventurs of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Rugrats, and Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Cartoon Network Studios – 300 N. 3rd St
Founded in 1994, this studio originated as a division of the famed Hannah-Barbera cartoons company, and has produced original programming that includes The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Labaratory, Johnny Bravo, and What a Cartoon!
Dine, Hang Out, Shop & Stuff
In a city that’s over 17 square miles in area, this is a only a small sampling of all the place to go and things to do in Burbank. But they’re among my favorites.
Garry Marshall Theater - 4252 W. Riverside Dr.
This critically acclaimed and Ovation award-winning 130-seat performing arts space sits at the western edge of Burbank, adjacent to Toluca Lake and was built by director/writer/producer Garry Marshall and his daughter Kathleen Marshall LaGambina in 1997. Originally named the Falcon Theater, it was reestablished in 2017 after Garry’s passing.
Tallyrand - 1700 W Olive Ave
This family owned restaurant has been a beloved destination of comfort food since1959. If there is a list of favorite comfort foods somewhere out there, I’m sure that turkey ranks somewhere near the top. And at Tallyrand, they cook 200 pounds of turkey every day.
Tony’s Dart’s Away - 1710 W Magnolia Blvd
On the surface, Tony’s has the appearance of any corner tavern in America – long bar, dimly lit, pool table, dart boards. But look a little closer and you’ll discover why this is such a popular place. It starts with the beer (it is a bar, after all), which includes a fantastic artisanal selection to choose from. But the food is where the real surprise enters. Their selection of mouth-watering sausage sandwiches, including a vegan selection, are as gourmet as you’ll ever find in a bar. Add in some fries tossed in a maple-chipotle glaze to your order, and I guarantee you’ll be back.
Bob’s Big Boy – 4211 W. Riverside Dr.
Declared a historic landmark in 1993, this is the oldest remaining Bob’s Big Boy. Ever wonder where the double-decker burger got its start. You guessed it – BBB. And even if you are not a huge fan of burger joints and diners, it’s impossible to come to this particular restaurant and not enjoy yourself thanks to its storied history and incontrovertibly cool design.
Warner Bros Studio Tour – 3400 Warner Blvd
A public attraction situated inside the Warner Bros. Studios, the tour offers visitors a chance to get a 2-3 hour glimpse behind the scenes of one the oldest and most popular film studios in the world. The studio tour has been open for several decades in one form or another, and is one of the most popular studio tours in the greater L.A. area. And it’s not just for tourists. Locals love it too!
Burbank Historical Society Museum Complex – 114 N. Lomita St
Dive into the city’s heritage and history at the Gordon R. Howard Museum Complex. The museum’s entrance is the Mentzer House, a charming Victorian home built in 1887, which also happens to be the year Burbank was founded. After passing through the house into the small museum, you’ll discover Disney memorabilia, vintage automobiles, an old Bob’s Big Boy statue and much more.
DeBell Golf - 1500 E. Walnut Ave.
Playing golf on courses in the mountains is terrific because of the topography they lend to a course, and also because they typically offer fantastic views. Both of these things hold true at DeBell, which is tucked away in the foothills of the Verdugo mountains. It features an 18 hole regulation course, a 9 hole Par-3 course, and a 9 hole disc golf course. After playing a round, enjoy a lunch in the club’s Hilltop Restaurant and Bar. Or if it’s twilight, head a just a little further up the hill to….
Castaway Restaurant – 1250 E. Harvard Rd.
Perched on the top of a hill in the Verdugo mountains overlooking Burbank and the San Fernando Valley beyond, Castaway is the definitive place to go for dinner when the occasion deserves to be marked by breathtaking views. And thanks to a recent $10M renovation, the place is stunning inside and out.
Porto’s Bakery – 3614 W Magnolia Blvd
This beloved Cuban food destination, which was founded by three siblings, will almost certainly have a line when you go. And there’s a good reason for it. Whether you’re in the mood for something sweet, like meringue-frosted Cuban cake or guava and cheese pies, or something savory, like empanadas or meat pies, the food here is delicious. It’s as simple as that.
Commissary Bakery + Cafe– 3121 W. Olive Ave
This small chain (6 locations) offers just what I like in a café: good coffee and good food in a setting that is cool, but not pretentious.
DeBell Golf – 1500 E. Walnut Ave.
Playing golf in the mountains is terrific because of the topography it lends to a course, and also because they typically offer fantastic views. Both of these hold true for DeBell, which is tucked away in the foothills of the Verdugo mountains. It features an 18 hole regulation course, a 9 hole Par-3 course, and a 9 hole disc golf course.
Moore’s Deli – 271 E. Orange Grove Ave
Every great city needs at least one really good neighborhood Deli. In Burbank, Moore’s Deli is the place to go. And although it opened shop in 2010, it feels like the kind of place that’s been around a lot longer.
Burbank Village District
Originally created as The Golden Mall by Simon Eisner and Lyle Stewart in 1967, this textbook example of pedestrian-friendly city planning features a tree-lined corridor of shops that runs along San Fernando Road from Angeleno Avenue to Magnolia Boulevard, where it terminates at the Burbank Town center.
Starlight Bowl – 1249 Lockhead View Dr.
Though not as historic, the valley’s answer to the Hollywood Bowl is the Starlight Bowl, an outdoor amphitheater carved into a hillside of the Verdugo mountains. Originally built in 1950, today’s version seats 3,000 people in chairback seats, and accommodates another 2,000 on the lawn.
Olive & Thyme - 3821 Riverside Dr
Offering a menu with something for everyone, they are known for serving up innovative dishes with plenty of locally sourced, seasonal selections.
Verdigo Boulders Climbing Gym - 266 E. Magnolia Blvd
A brand new climbing gym has arrived right in downtown Burbank. More specifically, it’s a bouldering gym, intended for climbing without ropes. The gym includes 7,000 square feet of climbing terrain, with 15 foot high walls and over 160 bouldering problems.
Vintage Shopping in Magnolia Park
In recent years, Burbank has been protecting its existing, small-town feel while unveiling bold new retail developments. Magnolia Park, in the center of the flats, represents the former. This tree-lined neighborhood of Eisenhower-era storefronts and houses dating back to the 1940s is home to antique shops, thrift stores, and special-interest stores.
Ikea - 600 S. Ikea Way
You’re probably thinking: “Ikea? Really?” Well this isn’t just another Ikea. With 456,000 square feet of shopping and 1700 parking spaces, this happens to be the largest Ikea in the country. It’s still a bit of madness, sure. But it’s a fun madness. Go have some Swedish meatballs, already.
Rancho Equestrian Area
Indeed, this part of the country is a great big freeway. But before that, there was a vast network of streetcars. And before that, there were horses. And for many, horses will always have a place in their lives. And for those folks, there is the Rancho. Located just off the 134 freeway, the Rancho Equestrian District of Burbank and Glendale is a small community where the sound of hooves clapping on earth still reigns.
Bob’s Big Boy - 4211 W. Riverside Dr. Wayne McAllister 1949
Designated a California Point of Historical Interest in 1993, this Bob’s Big Boy is the oldest in the country. And it is a beautiful building. With a curved window façade and cantilevered roof overhangs, it is a clear precursor to the freeform 1950s coffee shop design that’s come to be known as Googie architecture, which also began in Southern California. Integral to the design is the towering sign at the entrance.
Warner Bros Records Building - 3300 Warner Dr. 1975 A. Quincy Jones
This low, horizontal building features an exterior clad in slanted redwood and is beautifully integrated into a garden landscape, including its interior volumes where offices open to spaces of water and greenery.
Warner Brothers Office Building - 3903 Olive Ave Luckman Partnership Architects – 1981
Here is a six-story building that practically disappears before your eyes. And that was intentional. The entire curving glass exterior features panes that are glued into place, eliminating the need for any mullions or framing. Because of this, as it seamlessly reflects they sky and towering pine trees that surround it making the building itself barely noticeable.
Disney Studio - 500 S. Buena Vista St - Michael Graves - 1992
This is a Post-Modern interpretation of the Parthenon, featuring dwarfs, nearly 20 feet tall, holding up the pediment and facing a pedestrian plaza and reflecting pool.
Burbank Water and Power - 164 W. Magnolia Blvd Daniel A. Elliott 1949
Constructed in 1949 to help Burbank keep up with the postwar population explosion, the building is a two-story volume of horizontal lines featuring bands of windows, and an entrance that is decidedly vertical in orientation.
The Mentzer House - 1015 West Olive Ave 1887
Built 24 years prior to the official incorporation of the City, this house was among seven Queen Anne style homes built by the Providencia Land and Water Development Company (PLWC) who had purchased large areas of land in the area, constructed much of the initial public infrastructure, and then subdivided the land to accommodate a commercial and residential boom. These seven houses, known today as the “boom houses,” were the only homes constructed by the PLWC, which were sold immediately after construction. Only two others still stand, and this one was moved to its current site in 1977 and was restored to its original condition by the Burbank Historical Society.
The Rock House - 902 E. Olive 1921
A unique Craftsman-style home, the Rock House is so-named due to an exterior that is entirely constructed indigenous river rocks from the nearby Tujunga Wash. It was commissioned by Orlando C. Lane, the owner of the first Ford automobile dealership in Burbank.
837 E. Olive Ave - 1918
Although the architect is unknown, this home, which retains all of its original exterior details, is important because it is the only known Oriental Craftsman style house in the city of Burbank. Features that link it to Oriental Craftsman style are the stylized roof eaves and stone piers at the porch.