So whether you’re a visitor or native Angelino, discover (or rediscover) Los Angeles, the culturally rich, motion picture capital of the world, through these unique tours.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!
SONY PICTURES STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD WALKING TOUR
(310) 244-8687; www.sonypicturesstudios.com
What was once home to MGM Studios, creator of classics like The Wizard of Oz and Singing’ in the Rain, is now home to Sony Pictures Studios – but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience Hollywood’s Golden Era anymore. This intimate two-hour walking tour takes you inside a modern studio but is very informative about the MGM era for classic movie buffs.
WARNER BROS. STUDIO TOUR
(818) 972-8687; www2.warnerbros.com/vipstudiotour
Warner Bros. is filled with colorful back lots that other studios have demolished, which is probably why it’s also the priciest tour.
You’ll see where popular TV shows such as “Friends” and film masterpieces like Casablanca were filmed. The tour ends at the Warner Bros. Museum where you can “ooh” and “ahh” at their extensive collection of celluloid memorabilia.
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS TOUR
(818) 622-3801; www.universalstudioshollywood.com
Just like Warner Bros, Universal Studios makes for a stimulating tour due to their preservation of their fascinating back lots, which have been used for hundreds of blockbuster films, from Back to the Future to Spartacus.
The tour adds a make-believe Hollywood touch with special effects like simulated earthquakes and mechanical sharks.
PARAMOUNT STUDIOS TOUR
The double-arch Paramount gate will welcome you into a small village with a lot of history. This is where “Mork & Mindy,” “Cheers” and classic cinema such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Rear Window were filmed.
Ever wonder what a deserted New York would feel like? Wander through the lot’s massive faux New York set, complete with mock brownstones and landmarks such as Washington Square and the Financial District that eerily doubles for the Big Apple.
WALKING IN L.A.
INSIDE CONTEMPORARY DOWNTOWN
(323) 402-1074; www.redlinetours.com
Merely walking through downtown Los Angeles will let you absorb contemporary structures such as the Walk Disney Hall by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, as well as artwork by L.A. native David Hockney and more.
INSIDE HISTORIC DOWNTOWN
(323) 402-1074; www.redlinetours.com
Downtown’s turn-of-the-century downtown architecture that remains intact possesses the city’s rich history and takes you back to the days of vaudevilles and Mae West. On this tour you will explore the historic theater district on Broadway, the largest theater district in America and will be able to go inside architectural beauties such as the Palace Theatre.
L.A. CONSERVANCY WALKING TOUR
(213) 623-2489; www.laconservancy.org
Thankfully the L.A. Conservancy is around to preserve our city’s historic buildings that would have inevitably been torn down to make condos or strip malls. The organization aims to educate the public about the city’s majestic edifices like the grand Biltmore Hotel, as well as its cultural neighborhoods like Little Tokyo.
STARLINE TOPLESS FUN TOURS
(800) 959-3131; www.starlinetours.com
Go ahead and make fun of these zany and touristy double-decker tour buses all you want, but you know you secretly want to ride in one. This inappropriately named tour bus lets tourists snap postcard-worthy photos of such landmarks and sites as the Hollywood Sign, Sunset Strip and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
And best of all, the bus is topless! Huh? What kind of bus did you think this was?
(877) 999-2099; www.celebheli.com
If you’re an adventure seeker (and willing to spend the cash), be the unconventional tourist by sightseeing from above. Celebrity Helicopters offers a wide range of tours; the Sightseer’s Dream tour is the cheapest at $69 and is a bargain because you’ll get to fly over spectacular California coastlines and urban sprawl.
There’s also the Celebrity Homes Tour at $169, and for the high rollers – the Deluxe Night Tour for $269, where you can sip champagne, land in front of the restaurant of your choice with your gorgeous date and roll like James Bond.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
DEARLY DEPARTED TOURS
(323) 466-3696; www.dearlydepartedtours.com
Bored of squeaky-clean Rodeo Drive and Disneyland? In this three-hour tour led by Director of Undertakings Scott Michaels, you’ll discover the gore, grit and scandals that make up L.A.’s macabre underbelly.
Visit the infamous the sites of the Manson and Menendez murders, where Janis Joplin and Jim Belushi spent their final hours and most morbid of all, where George Michael was arrested for dropping his pants.
(323) 223-2767; www.esotouric.com
This tour company brings a number of intelligent and unorthodox tours to enlighten you of L.A.’s underground culture and social history.
Literati will particularly enjoy Haunts of A Dirty Old Man: Charles Bukowski’s Los Angeles, the Real Black Dahlia tour and the always sold-out James Ellroy Digs L.A. tour.
Even their snacks are unconventional, which include Black Dahlia and Nicotine flavored gelato at Scoops in East Hollywood.
OFF ’N RUNNING TOURS
(310) 246-1418; www.offnrunningtours.com
Being a tourist can mean eating bad food and sitting on tour buses all day, but Off n’ Running Tours came up with the ingenious idea of jogging and sightseeing at the same time.
Guided runs take you through exciting L. A. areas and are customized according to your skill level and desired distance.
The Running from the Paparazzi route takes you through affluent Rodeo Drive and star haven Robertson Boulevard, while the Marvelous Mansions route takes you through Holmby Hills and past celeb residences, most notably, the Playboy Mansion.
Remember – reservations are required or strongly recommended for these tours. Please check their Web sites or call for special promotions and holiday hours!