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Hollywood

Visiting the Studios

If you've never been to L.A.—or if you have, and are coming back with your kids—it's hard to resist the allure of being where the magic happens among the cameras, props, and backlots of Tinseltown's studios.

Nearly 70% of all L.A.'s entertainment productions happen in the Valley. And to really get behind the scenes, studio tours are the best way for mere mortals to get close to where celebs and the industry's crème-de-la-crème work.

Most tours last several hours, and allow you to see where hit television shows are filmed, spot actors on the lot, and visit movie soundstages—some directors even permit visitors on the set while shooting.

Specific sights change daily, so if there's something in particular you're dying to see, it's best to call ahead and ask.

It's All About Location

Many L.A. first-timers make the incorrect assumption that because Hollywood is where all the action takes place, it's also where the stars work.

The only studio that's still located in Hollywood is Paramount; Warner Bros., Universal Studios Hollywood, and NBC Television Studios are north of Hollywood, in Universal City and Burbank.

Paramount Pictures

Best For

Paramount offers an intimate—eight to 10 people at a time—two-hour tour of its 63-acre lot. It's probably the most authentic studio tour you can take, giving you a real sense of the film industry's history. Paramount is the only studio left in Hollywood—all the others are in Burbank, Universal City, or Culver City.

Touring Basics

Guests primarily visit sets and soundstages that are not in use—though directors occasionally allow visitors during production, so there's a decent chance of seeing a celebrity. Other stops include the New York back-lot and the studio's iconic Bronson Gate.

What's Been Filmed Here

Chinatown, The Godfather, The Untouchables, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Austin Powers, Cloverfield, Titanic, Star Trek, and the most recent installment of Indiana Jones are just a few of the notable films shot here.

Tips for Touring

For an inexpensive lunch costing as little as $10, try The Café, the studio's commissary, a buffet where you can grab everything from sandwiches to pizza to Mexican food.

Getting Here

From Melrose Avenue, enter on Windsor Boulevard at the main gate. Parking is just north of the gate on the left, and there's additional parking at the lot on the southwest corner of Windsor and Melrose.

Visitor Information

Kids must be 12 or older to tour the studio. 5555 Melrose Ave., Hollywood 323/956-1777 www.paramount.com Tours weekdays by reservation only, $35.

Warner Bros. Studios

Best For

If you're looking for an authentic behind-the-scenes look at how films and TV shows are made, head to this major studio center, one of the world's busiest. There aren't many bells and whistles here, but you'll get a much better idea of production work than you will at Universal Studios.

Touring Basics

On the VIP Tour, which lasts almost 90 minutes, you'll see the studio from inside an electric cart with 11 others. The specifics of what you'll actually see changes daily, but after viewing a short film on WB movies and shows, you'll be taken by tram to visit sets like the often-recycled Anytown U.S.A.

as well as soundstages and back-lot locations for popular films and shows. The studio's museum has a floor dedicated to Casablanca and 85 years of WB history; another belongs exclusively to Harry Potter. The tour ends here, and you can explore it at your leisure.

The Deluxe Tour is a five-hour affair that takes you onto working production sets and includes lunch at the commissary (great stargazing ops).

What's Been Filmed Here

Without A Trace, The Mentalist, Friends, the original Ocean's Eleven, Casablanca, and Rebel Without a Cause.

Tips for Touring

Showing up about 20 minutes before the scheduled time of your tour is recommended. VIP Tours leave continuously throughout the day; the Deluxe Tour leaves daily at 10:20 am.

Getting Here

The studio's Web site (www2.warnerbros.com/vipstudiotour) provides good directions from all parts of the city, including Downtown (take 101 north).

Visitor Information

3400 W. Riverside Dr., Burbank 818/972-8687 www.wbsf.com VIP Tour is $48 per person; the Deluxe Tour is $225 per person Weekdays 8:30-4:30. Children under 8 are not admitted. Advance booking is recommended. Parking is $7 at Gate 6.

Universal Studios Hollywood

Best For

This studio is more a theme park with lots of roller coasters and thrill rides than a backstage pass, though its studio tour does provide a good firsthand look at familiar TV shows and major movie sets.

Touring Basics

The tour lasts about an hour and you'll sit on a tram with nearly 100 other people. You'll pass back-lots, dressing rooms, and production offices.

There's also a VIP Tour where you can explore a historic, working movie studio's back-lot and score a closer view of sets, costumes, and props. It's a full-day outing that includes a two-hour studio tour, lunch, valet parking, and front-of-the-line privileges for the theme park's thrill rides.

What's Been Filmed Here

See the airplane wreckage from War of the Worlds, the Desperate Housewives' Wisteria Lane, King Kong miniatures, Psycho's infamous Bates Motel, and the animatronic Great White Shark from Jaws.

Tips for Touring

You may be tempted to get the $109 pass that takes you to the front of the line. Try to resist this splurge. Once inside, you'll find that the lines, if any, move quickly. Pass on the premium and spend it on a decent lunch outside the park.

Getting Here

The park is located in Universal City. From Hollywood, take the 101 Hollywood Freeway north to Universal Studios Boulevard.

Visitor Information

100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City 818/622-3801 www.universalstudioshollywood.com Ticket prices for the studio tour are included in park admission ($74); $239 VIP tour, parking is $15; $10 after 3 pm. Preferred parking is available for $20 Contact park for seasonal hrs.

NBC Television Studios

Best For

In contrast to other studio tours, you get to walk on the set rather than being confined to a tram. It's the only TV studio that offers a behind-the-scenes look at production.

Touring Basics

The guided 70-minute tour—a rare opportunity to see the inside of a TV studio—emphasizes the history of the station from its roots in radio. You'll visit an old broadcast booth, listen to bands rehearsing, view setups for jokes, check out rehearsals, see sets under construction, and visit the prop warehouse and the studios where shows are taped.

What's Filmed Here

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Days of Our Lives, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and Access Hollywood.

Tips for Touring

If you decide to take a last minute studio tour, definitely call ahead; low ticket prices and advance purchase means tickets tend to sell out quickly the day of.

Getting Here

The studio is located in Burbank. The best way to get here from Downtown or the Hollywood area is to take the Hollywood Freeway 101 North to Barham Boulevard, which forks off onto West Olive Avenue. Make a right on West Alameda Avenue and then a right on Bob Hope Drive. The studio is on the right.

Visitor Information

3000 W. Alameda Ave., Burbank 818/840-3537 www.nbc.com Tours $8.50. There's no minimum age requirement for children; those under 4 are free.

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