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What brings people to Hollywood? The big screen, baby! Travelers from around the world love coming to this Los Angeles neighborhood whose name has become synonymous with the television and film industry in general. Odds of celebrity sightings are high (and higher still if you know which hotspots to hit) and recognizing landmarks from the movies is a guarantee. Whether you want to learn about Hollywood’s glamorous history (or its dark underbelly), try to spot famous people (or at least see their houses), or just get a backstage look at a studio to see how the nitty-gritty of filmmaking works, there’s a great Hollywood TV/film tour available for you to take. Below, the very best ones that Viator has to offer.
Best Studio Tour: The VIP Experience at Universal Studios Hollywood
This dense one-day guided tour with backstage access and skip-the-line privileges at Universal Studios Hollywood is well worth the price. It’s a full-day guided tour which includes locations that are closed to the general public, historic backlots, current movie sets, massive prop warehouses, and more. Your guide will also lead you to all of the major public attractions, where you’ll go directly to the front of the line for both rides and shows, including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, TRANSFORMERS: The Ride, Fast and Furious: Supercharged, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Jurassic Park: The Ride, Special Effects Show, and so many more. The VIP experience also includes a gourmet lunch, light refreshments, a VIP lounge, and valet parking. It’s a whole lot of bang for your buck and gives you both a great inside look at how movies are made and easy access to all of the fun public stuff the studio has to offer.
Best Filming Locations Tour: Downtown Los Angeles Filming Locations Walking Tour
Movies aren’t only filmed in studios in LA. Filmmakers also spill into the streets and use real-world backdrops all over the city. This budget-priced walking tour starts off with a screening of a collection of film clips and then takes you to the very locations you just saw. There’s really something for everyone on the list, which includes (among many more) Bridesmaids, Independence Day, Blade Runner, The Soloist, Transformers, The Artist, True Lies, and Inception. Odds are also good that you’ll spot a production of some sort filming out in the wild. This tour is family-friendly and therefore appropriate for all ages, and though it does include a bit of walking, it’s wheelchair and stroller-accessible.
Best Hollywood History Tour: Dearly Departed: The Tragic History Tour of LA
Care to indulge your macabre side? Consider this highly-rated dark history tour which was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s ‘The Layover,’ and which explores the tragedies for which Hollywood is so famous. You’ll see sites of celebrity deaths and infamous murders and locations of scandals which topped the gossip columns, make a stop at a cemetery where celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Natalie Wood are at rest, and, at the end of the tour, visit the Dearly Departed Gallery, which contains all sorts of macabre items, as well as some moderately sordid mementos of people who have passed away (including Rock Hudson’s Rolodex, packed with phone numbers of other celebrities). It’s not a tour for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, and some may simply find the content distasteful, but if you’ve got a dark sense of humor or simply an interest in history, warts and all, hop aboard the “Tomb Buggy” (a comfortable air-conditioned bus) and get ready to shudder.
Best Celebrity-Spotting Tour: TMZ Hollywood Celebrity Hot Spot Tour
If anyone knows where the celebrities are hanging out these days, it’s famed gossip website TMZ, and this tour taps into their insider knowledge to travel around Hollywood and Beverly Hills, past all the hottest restaurants, coffee houses, stores, homes, and more. While you roll, your guide will keep you entertained with trivia, videos, and even live games for real prizes, all while you keep an eye out from your windowless bus for famous faces. (Your guide will be looking, too, which is helpful, as celebrities are hard for us civilians to spot when they’re not in their awards-ceremony best.) It’s a silly, noisy, slightly self-effacing way to go ahead and have fun gawking, plus it gives you some ideas for places to come back to during your trip, should you be so inclined.
Best Movie Star Homes Tour: Movie Stars’ Homes Tour in Los Angeles
Though it’s possible to buy maps of celebrity homes in most tourist shops in LA, they are often wrong, typically out-of-date, and frankly, navigating the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills while also looking at a map isn’t as easy (or fun) as you might think it’s going to be. Instead, consider opting for a tour, where your guide and driver will be equipped with up-to-date information about who lives where and some interesting background information about both the lives of the celebrities themselves and the history of their homes. This tour operates in a small windowless van, allowing it to wiggle down some of the smaller side streets that can’t be navigated in full-sized buses, so you can see even more. On the agenda are the homes of Keanu Reeves, Jackie Chan, Britney Spears, Nicolas Cage, and Dr. Phil, the Playboy Mansion, the former homes of Lucille Ball, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Marilyn Monroe, plus dozens more, as well as filming locations, the famed Sunset Strip nightlife district, and the glamorous Rodeo Drive, where celebrities and the uber-wealthy shop for high fashion. The tour lasts two hours and is appropriate for all ages.
Best Budget Tour: Hollywood - Behind the Scenes Walking Tour
For a deep dive into the history of Hollywood — both the city and the industry that borrowed its nickname from the city — you won’t do better than this simple one-hour walking tour that focuses mainly on the legendary Hollywood Boulevard, the epicenter of the film industry for much of its history. The tour departs from the site of the very first Hollywood film premiere, Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, the older sibling of the more famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, which is also on the tour (the famous handprints out front are a must-see). You’ll also stop at the El Capitan Theatre, where Disney holds many of its premieres, the Dolby Theatre, home of the Oscars, the Walk of Fame, and some lesser-known spots like a local speakeasy dating back to the Prohibition Era and the Blossom Room, which hosted the first-ever Academy Awards. So much of the history of film has happened in this row of buildings and seeing it with the help of a guide who can explain it all is both valuable and extremely fun.
Best Private Tour: Full Day Hollywood Film Studios and TMZ Private Tour
This all-inclusive private luxury tour offers you all the convenience of a guide with much more flexibility than a group tour would have. You’ll be picked up from your hotel by a professional driver/guide in a comfortable climate-controlled vehicle, and then it’s off to see the sights! The planned itinerary includes all of the major hot spots: the Hollywood sign, the Sunset Strip, the Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive, Melrose Place, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and movie star homes, as well as stops at several of the major studio shops: Universal, Warner Brothers, Paramount, CBS TV, plus a tour of the TMZ headquarters. It’s a packed day but, as the only guests, you have some flexibility to slow things down or skip agenda items, or if you prefer, to power on through and see everything you possibly can! The tour guide is also a professional photographer, so whether you’re an amateur photog who’d like some tips during photo ops or you simply want a great shot of yourself standing in a famous location, it’ll happen.
Best Self-Guided Tour: Self-Guided Celebrity Homes and Movie Sites Bike Tour
If sitting in a tour bus listening to a guide speak is not at all your thing but you still kind of want to do be touristy and check out some celebrity homes, this is an ideal option. Designed by a bike rental company, this tour uses a GPS device to guide you through Beverly Hills and Bel Air, where you’ll see celebrity homes and other glamorous mansions, filming locations, the Hollywood Sign, Rodeo Drive, and more. The tour price includes pickup and dropoff from hotels in Los Angeles or Anaheim, as well as bike and helmet rental. Note that in order to take this tour, you should be comfortable on a bike and have a moderate level of physical fitness, as it does involve a fair bit of pedaling.