Going on a studio tour in Los Angeles is a great way to get a behind-the-scenes look at some of your favorite TV and movie sets. As a tourgoer, you'll get to see some of the most iconic backdrops in town, from Monica's apartment on "Friends" to the RV from "Breaking Bad"—but access is limited and be aware that your favorite movie scenes might actually be just a bunch of warehouses full of lights, cables, and set pieces.
Warner Bros.' studio tour in Burbank entails both walking and riding in a cart around to working sets (although rarely are there any actors around). It's the most expensive of the studio tours, but that's because it's a bigger studio and it's also home to some of the most familiar stages like "Friends," "Big Bang Theory," the Harry Potter series, and more. There's even a working Central Perk Café on-site. The regular tour takes three hours and there's also a deluxe version that takes six hours.
Two-hour cart tours of the studio behind the famous Paramount Arches are offered several times a day. Here, you'll see the Bronson Gate, the New York Street Backlot (which is designed to look like NYC), and the Prop Warehouse. You might recognize things from "Forrest Gump" and "I Love Lucy." The VIP Paramount Studio Tour includes a gourmet lunch and talks with archivists and last four hours, 30 minutes long.
The two-hour guided walking tour of Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City includes photo opportunities on the "Jeopardy" set and in front of the mobile meth lab from "Breaking Bad." Tours are offered four times a day Monday through Friday, but they can get very busy—probably because this is one of the cheapest studio tours in town—so it's recommended to make a reservation beforehand.
Universal Studios Tours are unique in that they're actually part of the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. You'll have to pay theme park prices to take the tram tour, which includes special effects sets so you get to experience earthquakes, floods, car crashes, "King Kong" in 3D, and a "Fast and the Furious" simulation along the way. You'll also get to see outdoor backlot sets that have been used in TV shows and famous movies like "Psycho" and "War of the Worlds." The route is ever-changing depending on which sets are in use.
Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio in Newhall, north of Los Angeles, is a working set for everything from westerns to war movies. Its museum houses nine decades of movie memorabilia, including the famous "Dukes of Hazard" car. Tours of the 22-acre lot are only available for groups, but if you come in April, you might be able to attend the annual Cowboy Festival (that is if it doesn't get relocated due to filming).
In addition to the Paramount Studio Tour, you can also visit Paramount Ranch, located in the Santa Monica Mountains. This old western movie set was built back in 1927 and operated for 25 years. After that, it changed hands numerous times, until the National Park Service finally took it over. It is still available for use as a film set or for weddings, but it's open to the public, so you can sometimes watch filming from afar. The ranch is a hub for surrounding hiking and equestrian trails. Best of all, it's free to visit.