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Skip the Biggest Tourist Trap in Los Angeles—Here’s What to Do Instead

Don’t spend your time in traffic.

Los Angeles is a city that is synonymous with glamour and celebrity. With its star-studded streets and iconic landmarks, it’s no wonder it’s a popular destination for tourists hoping to see someone famous. And because of this, one of the most popular ways to experience the city is to take a celebrity homes tour. Celebrity mansions, such as those of Tom Cruise, Jennifer Aniston, Britney Spears, and many others, are often featured as part of the tour. Areas visited may include Bel Air, Mulholland Drive (where Jack Nicholson lives), Beverly Hills, the Rodeo Drive shopping district, or the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

These tours offer a glimpse into the lives of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and they can be a lot of fun. However, it’s important to remember that these tours are just that: tours. They won’t give you an intimate look into the lives of your favorite celebrities, and they won’t guarantee that you’ll see any of them in person.

Why Celebrity Home Tours Aren’t Worthwhile

If you really want to take this type of tour, check references about the companies on platforms such as TripAdvisor for customer reviews. The competition for profit is high among tour companies, which can lead to dubious practices. Many companies are offering this type of tour, but not all of them are reliable. It is not uncommon for a guide to indicate a house as belonging to a star who, in fact, never lived there. Often, the façades of the mansions that tourists see are mostly hidden by high walls or vegetation. In other cases, the stops to see Hollywood homes can take only a few seconds. You have to be quick if you want to take pictures of the celebrity gate. And you might not get that pictures at all–the vehicle only lets tourists out at strategic stops, usually at lookouts such as Mulholland Drive. And might we remind you of Los Angeles’ famous traffic? You never know where you might get stuck.

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Another con? The bus tour itself isn’t great. The tour takes about two hours, and the price can vary a lot, although the itinerary is practically the same (usually starting at around $40 per person). Each bus’ comfort and maintenance can vary widely. Many of the vehicles used are modified from their original use. Most of the time, the driver is also the guide, and often, the vehicles are open-air. While guides are often well-informed with stories and history, the interaction can be frustrating for anyone who has difficulty hearing or seeing, speaks English as a second language, or is unfamiliar with the details of many celebrity lives.

How to Do the Tour on Your Own

Celebrity home tours could simply be considered sightseeing tours through the fancy and famous areas of Los Angeles rather than an opportunity to spot or interact with famous people. And from that point of view, it can be satisfying for travelers. It is possible to do this type of tour on your own. Once in Los Angeles, rent a car with GPS to be more mobile in the city. Maps with the stars’ addresses are also available for sale on the Walk of Fame. However, there is no guarantee that the information is updated, considering the nomadic lifestyle of some celebrities. Another alternative is to find free addresses on websites such as Virtual Globe Trotting (which is more reliable because it is constantly updated).

Celebrity Tour Alternatives

Instead of glimpsing houses, sightseers on an Old Hollywood Walking Tour will learn about Hollywood’s past between 1886 and 1960. From the first movie theaters to the iconic buildings on Hollywood Blvd., interesting information about events, classic movies, and well-known names from the cinematic golden age. Some places visited are the Warner Pacific Theatre, the Egyptian Theatre, and Musso & Frank Grill restaurant. It is a nostalgic tour—a way to see Hollywood from other times—but one that can appeal to all ages.

INSIDER TIPHeadphones are provided on the tour, which can be grouped or private.

Tourists can also check out a Haunted Hollywood tour, usually held after 6 p.m., through theaters, hotels, and other spots with a spooky past. A few of the places visited are the Pantages Theatre, the Grand Alexandria Hotel, and the Cecil Hotel. In addition, the guide relates famous crimes and personalities, arson fires, celebrity ghost stories, and serial killers connected to the City of Angels.

INSIDER TIPDestinations may vary according to the company that organizes the tour, as well as the age allowed.

Another option is a guided Historic Architecture tour exploring several historic buildings’ architecture in Downtown Los Angeles. Styles such as Art Deco and Beaux Arts can be observed along the route. Some spots visited may be the same as on the Old Hollywood tour.

If you’re really looking for something different, try a horse-riding tour, ideal for seeing the city from another angle, including the famous Hollywood Sign. With two different routes (Mulholland Trail and Mt. Hollywood Trail), the ride can take anywhere from one to two hours, and no riding experience is necessary. The ranch from which the tour departs is located in the heart of Los Angeles, just a few minutes from Hollywood Blvd.

Where to Spot Celebrities in the Wild

Because you’re in L.A., where so many famous people live and work, you might just spot a celebrity living their life in the city. If you’re looking for places where celebrities are often sighted, there are a few tried-and-true spots. Runyon Canyon,
the 160-acre park, located near Hollywood Blvd, is the perfect place to get some exercise and peep a celeb. Many famous people walk there. Pay attention because they are usually wearing caps and sunglasses. If you’re looking for that “I’m on a Hollywood set” feel, try The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden located in Arcadia. This is not a place to see artists but to visit locations for many famous movies and TV series. The park has been the setting for many classics such as Tarzan (around seven films between the years 1936 and 1955), Fantasy Island (1983), Dynasty (1984), Anaconda (1997), and other well-known productions.

INSIDER TIPThere are no signs at the Arboretum informing visitors which movies and series were filmed there, but some places are easily recognizable, such as the opening of Fantasy Island on the lake.

The Original Farmers Market at the Grove is worth checking out. Besides being an interesting walk to eat or buy fresh goods, it is also possible to cross the path of some celebrities there. Stars like Anne Hathaway, Dakota Johnson, Jennifer Garner, Charlize Theron, and many others have been seen shopping there. As in Runyon Canyon, they usually wear hats, caps, and sunglasses and visit during the week.