The new year is here, and we’re all about bringing you the best things to do in LA, whether you are homegrown and live here full time, or if you have friends and family visiting and would love to show all that our beautiful city has to offer. One of the best ways to gain insider access to Hollywood’s glitz and glamour is through studio tours. The four major studio tours in LA provide a chance to get up close and personal with celebrities and production teams as they create movie magic and TV history. You’ll also get to go deeper into some of the classic films and see just how imaginative and resourceful studios can be when it comes to getting the perfect sound, visuals and storyline. If you’re lucky, you also may see a dreamy movie star or TV actor buzzing by you in their golf cart on their way to set. Here are four of the main studio tours in LA, plus an extra special behind the scenes tour of what is widely considered the happiest place on earth.
Pro Tip: The studio tours can fill up quite quickly, so be sure to get your tickets in advance. Also, each studio lot has their own parking procedures and some are cash only, so be sure to have that information on hand before you go. Finally, the studio tours can vary in both price and time, and you can follow our guide below to get clear on which experience is right for you!
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood is our first pick for many reasons. First, from the time you enter the parking garage to the time your tram takes off on the lot, you are given movie star treatment. We love that although the tour can be quite large in the number of attendees, it feels like your own private experience with only 10-12 guests at a time on the tour. The Warner Bros. Tour has a great mix of both driving by numerous outdoor sets and sound stages and ample opportunity to wander around on your own. At just under three hours, this tour was the longest one we went on, and we still were left with wanting more. Our highlights included the new Storytelling Showcase highlighting nearly 100 years of Warner Bros. The new grand finale delights fans of the DC Universe and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts with recreated sets, authentic props, costumes, and memorable photo opportunities. Gilmore Girls fans will also delight in getting to walk around some very familiar scenes, and there are some great photo ops at ‘Central Perk’ and in front of the iconic Friends fountain! For the fashion lover, you can marvel at some of the original costumes and outfits worn by stars like Lady Gaga in A Star is Born and the cast of Crazy Rich Asians.
Bonus: After you work up an appetite walking around the studio, head to The Smokehouse in Burbank for a martini, steak, or just to admire the many old Hollywood stars that frequented the joint. Legend has it that The Smokehouse was also George Clooney’s go-to restaurant for many years while filming ER.
Location: Universal Studios, Universal City
This tour is SO much fun and packs so much within the 60 minute run time. The studio tour is included with park admission, so you can spend the whole day going on rides and then hop on the tour for a nice relaxing break. Comedian and The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon makes a (pre-recorded) appearance as you get to travel throughout one of the world’s biggest TV and movie production lots. We loved the exclusive behind the scenes look of the Jupiter’s Claim set on Jordan Peele’s latest horror movie, NOPE. We don’t want to give away all the twists and turns on the ride, but let’s just say there are some jaw dropping moments that will leave you quaking with delight.
If you’re a movie buff looking for a classic Hollywood tour, look no further than the Paramount Studios Tour. From seeing the original Forrest Gump bench to the “little New York” city, Paramount has a large part in Hollywood’s history and future. Make sure to download their Paramount Studio Tour app, as it provides a fun extra bonus to see how the props in front of you were actually used in their respective movies. We loved the insider glimpse into Hollywood’s top TV shows like I Love Lucy and films like the original King Kong. Paramount Pictures offers three different studio tours, and while their main tour is just about 2 hours long and covers much ground, the VIP also offers some extra perks including a gourmet lunch.
Location: Culver City
The Sony Pictures Tour is our choice for when you’re in the mood to explore on foot, as this two-hour guided walking tour gives you the close up experience of a working studio. Create some great Vision Board pics by holding an Oscar and an Emmy Award, and visit sound stages once used for giant films like The Wizard of Oz, Men in Black and Spider-Man. Swing by smash-hit games shows Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. Our favorite was the scoring stage and we left having a deeper appreciation for the labor intensive process of making a movie and all the integral parts within production from start to finish.
Neighborhood: Hollywood and Disneyland, CA
Okay, we’ve done the movie thing and now we’re ready to celebrate in the land of the Magic Castle and Mickey! If you really want to go big with plenty of activities and a week long excursion of fun and magic, the Disney Backstage Adventure is six fun-filled days long days and includes a tour of Walt Disney Studios & Archives, a Hollywood walking tour, and tour of Jim Henson Company. The tour is on the lux side coming in just over $4000 per ticket for adults, but it also includes a bevy of amenities including coverage for most of your meals over 6 days, a VIP Disneyland ticket with your own private Disney Adventure guide, and hotel accommodation at both the Loews Hollywood Hotel and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa.
Whatever tour you choose, we wish you a wonderful experience and have a feeling it will make you fall in love with La-La Land a little bit more.
Here are more activities to do in LA and they’re F-R-E-E!