Going on a TV and Movie Studio Tour is a great way to get a behind-the-scenes look at where the magic happens. For people who have never been on a movie or television set, the first thing you need to be prepared for on a studio tour is that it is really a bunch of warehouses full of lights, cables and set pieces. You get limited access to sets, and never when they are in use. The chances of seeing actors are slim, although it happens occasionally. The quality of the experience usually depends on the quality of the guide and how much of a fan you are. Some tours are by tram, others are all walking, and some combine the two. Most studio tours have an age limit.
This is a combination cart and walking tour, so you must be able to do the walking part. This tour is the most expensive of the studio tours, but it's a bigger studio, so there's more to see and a better chance of visiting more interesting sets. Warner Bros also offers a 5-hour premium tour.
3400 Riverside Drive
Burbank, CA 91522
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Cart tours of the studio behind the famous Paramount Arches are offered several times a day. After Dark Walking Tours are available some evenings and let you explore the back lot, like New York Street, on foot. Reservations are required.
5555 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
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A 2-hour guided walking tour of the studio including some sets and possibly the only on-set photo opportunity on the Jeopardy set. Tours are offered four times a day Monday through Friday.
The walking really doesn't cover a great distance since this is a smaller studio, but it's a nice little tour that seems to get better marks than the other studio tours and is the most economical as well. Reservations are recommended.
10202 W Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
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You can't compare the Universal Studios Tour with the other studio tours because it is part of the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. Not only do you have to pay theme park prices to take the tram tour, but it also includes special effects sets so you get to experience an earthquake, flood, car crash, King Kong 3D, and the Fast and the Furious simulation along the way. However, you also get to see outdoor backlot sets that have been used in TV shows and famous movies like Psycho and War of the Worlds and some sets, like Wisteria Lane, that are still in use for a variety of productions. The tour has to keep a distance from anything shooting that may be going on, so the route changes.
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. Tours are only available for groups. You can sometimes visit during the annual Cowboy Festival in April if it doesn't get relocated due to filming.
Paramount Pictures set up Paramount Ranch as an old west movie set back in 1927 and operated it for 25 years. After that, it changed hands numerous times, until the National Park Service finally took it over as part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It is still available for use as a film set, wedding or special event venue, but is open to the public, so you can sometimes watch filming going on. The ranch is also a hub for surrounding hiking and equestrian trails. Best of all, it's free to visit.