Going to Hollywood was my son’s choice for our summer vacation this year. Being a 14-year-old boy, he spends a lot of time watching TV, playing video games and hitting me up for $20 every time a new movie comes out. We planned to stay two days in Los Angeles before heading out on a road trip to the Redwoods via the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. In order to ensure that Hollywood lived up to his dreams, I made plans to venture out on two great tours and carved out time to walk along the famous Hollywood Boulevard.
We kicked off our Hollywood adventure by taking a tour of Hollywood through Hollywoodland Tours , which won the “Best Tourist Attraction” award last year in LA. Riding along in an open air van with a canopy allowed us to enjoy the fabulous weather as we traveled around tinseltown to see celebrity mansions and all the LA hot spots, including the famous Hollywood sign.
It was hard not to feel like paparazzi with my camera lens zoomed in on Hollywood estates as we traveled along the winding Mulholland Drive. While on Mulholland Drive we stopped at the Hollywood Bowl Overlook where we were able to hop out of the van and take in the magnificent view of the famous sign my son wanted to see and snapped many pictures.
Returning back to the twist and turns of one of LA’s most famous mountains, I was surprised how well we were able to see the homes of Julia Roberts, Gwen Stefani & Gavin Rossdale, Matt LeBlanc, Adam Levine & Brittany Spears’ first Hollywood home. I was also surprised to see a 30-year old camper trailer set up in front of Warren Beatty’s mansion that housed his security guard. My first thought, was “can’t he afford to build his security guard better digs?” Other exciting moments was checking out Cher’s yard art and seeing a missing dog sign with a reward of $10,000. Believe me, I was looking for that dog!
In addition to the many countless celebrity homes our guide showed us, he also brought us to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and pointed out the hottest shops and restaurants. We also went to the famous rock clubs in Hollywood…the original House of Blues, the Viper Room, Whisky a GoGo, etc. Our tour guide provided us with funny and entertaining stories, leaving us with knowledge to take on any Hollywood Trivia question.
There are three shows that are always on daily in our house thanks to TBS reruns. They are The Big Bang Theory, Friends and How I Met Your Mother. Considering that How I Met Your Mother is filmed at 20th Century Fox and is the only major studio that doesn’t offer a tour, we were happy to visit the Warner Brothers lot, home of my all time favorite show, Friends & my son’s favorite, The Big Bang Theory. By far, this tour was one of the best things we did during the eight days we were in California. We started our visit in the VIP Tour Center where we redeemed our online tickets for the 10:15 a.m. tour. We first watched a five-minute film filled with snippets of Warner Brother productions from both film and television giving us an idea of the tremendous history that had taken place on the Warner Brothers lot since the early 1920s.
After viewing the film we hopped on an open shuttle cart and visited various makeshift towns, cities and neighborhoods. We checked out the Midwest street, quaint town square and a neighborhood street with shell houses that have been used for so many different shows.
We also saw a small grassy area on a backlot that had been used for both of our favorite shows. It was used for the Renaissance Faire scene in the hilarious season 2 episode of The Big Bang Theory. This small backlot location was also made to look like Central Park for the classic Friends episode, “The One Where Phoebe Runs.”
After checking out the houses and walking around the town square we were able to go to the WB Museum. We spent about 20 minutes here and were excited to see costumes and memorabilia from new movies like The Great Gatsby and Man of Steel. I really enjoyed seeing the costumes from The Hangover and memorabilia from Friends including the bracelet Joey gave Chandler in season two that was referred to as the “Woman Repeller-the eyesore from the Liberace house of crap!” I also laughed out loud when I realized there was actually a real 18-page letter that Rachel wrote to Ross.
One of the highlights for my son was visiting the actual set of The Big Bang Theory. Of course they were on summer hiatus, which is why we were able to visit the set. Each room was next to each other in a horizontal line looking out to the audience. The set was actually pretty small and the only one that wasn’t covered for the summer was the hallway with the broken elevator.
We learned all about the tricks that the cast do to find their spot to stand, like looking down at there clothes for lent. Another interesting tidbit is that the bed used from Charlie’s room in Two and a Half Men is now used in Bernadette’s room on the Big Bang Theory. Speaking of Charlie Sheen, it was nice to hear that he was always very friendly to the studio audience and would interact with them between takes. We were curious about how to be part of a live studio audience and were told that anyone can obtain tickets through tvtickets.com. If you do get tickets to a show, don’t think they are a guarantee in because they always oversell in case people don’t show up, so you need to get there early for the line.
My favorite part of the tour was visiting the retired set of Friends. We were able to hang out in Central Perk and sit on the sienna brown velvet couch that the cast spent time on for ten years. It was a happy moment.
From the retired set of Friends we ventured into the Prop department where my son had a good time “playing dead” laying his head in a pool of fake blood. I got a kick out of checking out the props from Argo and picked up the same telephone that John Goodman did when he was waiting for a call to confirm the fake movie.
We wrapped up the tour in a warehouse of famous vehicles which included the Batmobile, the van from Scooby Doo, Austin Power’s Shaguar, Clint Eastwood’s, Grand Torino, and the replica of the Soyuz space capsule featured on the season 5 finale of the Big Bang Theory.
The tour was two and half hours long, and it flew by so quickly. If you plan on being in LA and want to visit the Warner Brothers Studio, make sure you by your tickets in advance on-line because it is a pretty popular tour and sells out.
HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD – WALK OF FAME
We had to do it! I mean who can go to Hollywood and not check out the square plaques with stars along Hollywood Boulevard? I had visited Hollywood Boulevard about twenty years ago and to be honest, it is just as dirty in 2013 as it was back then. The street were lined with beggars and my son (and me for that matter) didn’t know who half the stars were, and some I scratched my head because I wasn’t sure why they deserved a star.
We did try to make the most of it and checked out TCL Chinese Theatre, and the Dolby Theatre which are known for movie premiers where stars line the red carpet. We discovered that at the TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s) the handprints of the stars belonged to many from yesteryear and we only recognized Will Smith and Meryl Streep who has really tiny feet.
I thought it was odd that Academy Award winning stars would travel the red carpet through a shopping area that lead to the theatre. We didn’t take the 30 minute tour that promised behind the scene looks at dressing rooms and the tunnel walk. Instead we grabbed lunch and took in the view from the top of the Hollywood & Highland Center. Below we saw Jimmy Kimmel’s studio and above we noticed that a skywriter welcoming us with a Hollywood message in the sky.
Overall we had a great time in Hollywood and it is definitely a place to check out if you are visiting Los Angeles. I highly recommend both the Hollywoodland Tour and the Warner Brothers VIP Studio Tour. Of course you can drive around yourself on Mulholland Drive, but you would just be looking at really big mansions and wouldn’t know the history like Jennifer Lopez married Marc Anthony on the lawn of the big white house that is now Gwen Stefani’s home. I know, I sound like People Magazine. Did I really need to know this? No, but I couldn’t help be sucked into the gossip of Hollywood. You can also get closer to the Hollywood sign by hiking, which was my original plan, but I figured that would have been better with more time in the schedule. As far as visiting Hollywood Boulevard, go if you haven’t been, but do so with realistic expectations. Finally, the Warner Brothers VIP Tour is a must see and if you let them know your favorite WB shows, the tour guide will cater the tour to your interest. By the way, it is a mecca for Harry Potter, but believe it or not, we are not huge Harry Potter fans.
After an exciting day of visiting celebrity homes and studio sets, we left feeling like a real “Hollywood Insider” and my son’s wish to go to Hollywood was granted and I won an Academy Award for “World’s Greatest Mom”! I’ll spare you my acceptance speech!
Have you been to the movie mecca of the world?