There’s no business like show business. And there’s no place like the City of Angels to get a taste of it. Known as “the entertainment capital of the world” since silent movies were all the rage, the city is teeming with cinema-inspired sightseeing – from red carpet premieres and studio tours to iconic buildings and landscapes featured in countless TV shows and films.
Centered mostly in Hollywood, here are some of the top things to do and see for a movie lover’s vacation for all ages.
TCL Chinese Theatre
Sure, it’s one of LA’s most touristy destinations. But the Chinese Theatre – formerly known as Grauman’s, which opened in 1927 on Hollywood Boulevard – is a must-visit on your Tinseltown tour. Outside the theatre, make sure to peruse the sidewalk lined with the handprints, footprints, and autographs of A-list stars, from Marilyn Monroe and Helen Mirren to John Wayne and Tom Hanks. Once inside the pagoda-shaped building, you can either watch a movie or opt for a tour. The 30-minute tour offers a surprisingly entertaining glimpse into the theatre’s glamorous red carpet premiere past. For architecture or design fans, the interior details – from temple bells to revered Chinese dog statues – are spectacular.
Address: 6925 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90028
Hours: Seven tour times are available, from 9:30 am to 7:15 pm.
Admission: $8–$18 VIP Tour Tickets
Perched high above the city, this white-domed building should have its own star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. It’s played a co-starring role in countless Oscar-nominated movies, such as Rebel Without a Cause, the Terminator’s nude scene in the 1984 sci-fi flick, and most recently, La La Land where Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling twirl out a romantic number. Although you might not see movie stars, you will see plenty of natural stars if you look through the powerful telescopes on top of the building. To roam the grounds, it’s free of charge, unless you want to see the planetary show.
Address: 2800 E Observatory Road, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Hours: Tuesday to Friday 12 pm to 10 pm, Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 10 pm
Admission: Griffith Park entrance is free/Planetarium is $7 adults and $5 kids
Paramount Pictures Studio Tour
Celebrating 100 years of cinema-making, Paramount Pictures is the birthplace of hundreds of Tinseltown classics, such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Braveheart, Apocalypse Now, Forrest Gump, and Titanic. To get beyond the highly guarded gates for a behind-the-scenes tour, book one of the three options: a general Studio Tour to explore the prop warehouse and iconic filming locations, the VIP Studio Tour with special access to additional backlots and lunch, or an After Dark Tour exploring the studios’ nocturnal side and access to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Address: 5515 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038
Hours: 9 am to 8:30 pm, Daily
Admission: $58 Regular Studio Tour (2 hours)/$178 VIP Studio Tour (4.5 hours)/$99 After Dark Tour (2.5 hours)
Warner Bros. Studio Tour
Located in Burbank and home to the Ellen Show, Warner Bros. Studios is 110-acres of movie-making magic – both past and present. Although no two tours are the same due to filming schedules, the general tour includes a peek at backlot sets featured in iconic movies and shows – like Casablanca, Friends, and Batman – and kid-friendly movie exhibits, such as Harry Potter, the Batmobile, and DC Universe. If old movies are your thing, opt for the “Classics Made Here” tour for an intriguing delve into the studios’ golden era, from the 1900s to 1960s. The five-hour “Deluxe Tour” is the ultimate immersion with additional stops at the costume and prop departments, plus lunch and a private screening.
Address: 3400 W Riverside Drive, Burbank, CA 91505
Hours: 8:30 am to 3:30 pm, Daily
Admission: $55–$65 Studio Tour/$75 Classics Tour/$295 Deluxe Tour (all-day tour)
Afterward, stop in at nearby Smoke House – a steakhouse with big red leather booths and a dark wood interior that’s been open since 1946. It was a favorite hangout of golden era Hollywood stars like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, and it was the club where Ryan Gosling’s character played the piano in La La Land and the location of 20+ more films and TV scenes.
Address: 4420 W Lakeside Drive, Burbank, CA, 91505
Hours: 11:30 am to 10 pm Monday to Thursday, 11:30 am to 10:30 pm Friday and Saturday, 9 am to 8:30 pm Sunday
Most likely the world’s most exhaustive collection of modern-era movie props, Prop Store is the pioneer of ‘prop art’ – a hybrid of fine art and memorabilia of costumes, original props, and all things related to a movie production. Expect to see mostly sci-fi genre items, like a Gotham City phone book cover from Batman Returns, an original Goonies storyboard, or Biff money from Back to the Future Part 3. Note: If you are serious about visiting, plan ahead. The 20,000-square-foot showroom is located in Valencia, about an hour northwest of Los Angeles, and by appointment only. Luckily, the Prop Store’s online store is up-to-date, so you can do research before making the trek.
Address: 28014 Harrison Parkway, Valencia, CA 91355
Hours: 9 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday
Larry Edmunds Bookshop
Located on Hollywood Boulevard, home to the Walk of Stars, Larry Edmunds has been a film-buff souvenir stop since 1938. Floor-to-ceiling shelves overflow with more than 20,000 motion picture and theater books. You’ll also find scripts, more than 6,000 original movie posters, and around 500,000 movie photographs.
Walk across the street and have a stiff martini and steak at Musso & Frank. Not only is it one of the oldest restaurants in LA, but it has also featured in many films and shows, such as Mad Men, Ocean’s Eleven, and Grace and Frankie.
Address: 6644 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Hours: 10 am to 5:30 pm Monday to Friday, 10 am to 6 pm Saturday, 12 pm to 5:30 pm Sunday
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Pay your respects at the grave sites of many legendary A-listers, like filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille, and actress Jayne Mansfield. Then, spread out a blanket and picnic on the grounds for an outdoor movie screening with hundreds of other local film lovers. Hosted by Cinespia, the movies are crowd favorites (like Saturday Night Fever or Scream) and run all summer long on Saturday nights.
Address: 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90038
Hours: 8:30 am to 5 pm
Summer Hours: 8:30 am to 5:30 pm
Admission: Cemetery is free, Cinespia movie tickets $8–$12
New Beverly Cinema
Owned by director Quentin Tarantino, this historic 1929 theater is currently under renovations. Slated to reopen in December 2018, the New Beverly is for indie-flick fans –expect cult and classic films on 35 mm, plus reels from Tarantino’s own private collection.
Address: 7165 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Where to Stay
When it comes to booking a hotel, Hilton Universal City Hotel is a great choice because it’s near another movie studio tour and movie-centric theme park at Universal Studios, and is centrally located between the Hollywood and Burbank attractions.
Address: 555 Universal Hollywood Drive, Universal City, CA 91608