Stars and Studios: 25 Ways To Celebrate Hollywood and Movies around LA

Visits from out-of-town friends and family featured prominently in my childhood; and while, sure, the guests were here to see us, their number one agenda item was generally to see “Hollywood,” – and I’m not talking about that boulevard that was so shabby and run down in the 70s. Our visitors were looking for a glimpse of the movie industry.

My mom was an expert tour guide, who knew where all of the movies stars lived and was only too happy to drive around the basin pointing out sights for the star struck. It’s been years since I’ve toured my home town in this way, but recently we had visitors from Europe whose number one wish list item was The Walk of Fame. (Kudos to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for making sure word about this iconic sidewalk made its way to Slovenia!) My feeling is that we should all channel Lucy and Ethel when we are showing off our glamorous town. Think about where those two dizzy dames would want to trespass, then find a legal way to show it to your guests.

Most out-of-towners have heard of the Universal Studios tour, but it's not the only game in town. If your visitors yearn for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of feature film production, a real studio tour can be expensive but worthwhile. Warner Brothers recently revamped its tour and is the most kid friendly, for kids starting at age 8. Wizard of Oz and Jeopardy fans will want to check out the yellow brick road at Sony, but the Psycho house is still on the back lot of Universal. If your guests are not up to springing for a tour, or the kids involved are too young, many of our studios are worth driving by for their cool architecture and the history they represent (not that we’re thinking of a studio with a pointy hat in Burbank or anything).

As we locals know, “Hollywood” does not necessarily refer to the geographic area bordered by La Brea, Melrose, Western, and Hollywood Boulevards. The business of Hollywood can be spotted and experienced throughout Southern California, from Santa Monica and Culver City to Studio City and Burbank. Beverly Hills and Malibu are must see locales. It is still possible to catch a glimpse of movie western history, and a lot of buildings we drive by everyday are worth pointing out for their connection to the biz. Nevertheless, do make Hollywood your first stop. By heading north on Gower Street from Melrose Avenue, you will pass Paramount Pictures, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and the best view of Griffith Park’s Hollywood sign. Then start checking off items on the list below.

1. Pose by the gate at Paramount Studios, or splurge for the tour.
2. Snap a selfie with the the Hollywood Sign.
3. Stroll among those at eternal rest in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
4. Step lightly on the stars at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
5. Match your handprints at the Chinese Theater, formerly known as Grauman’s.
6. See where Marilyn Monroe became a blonde and Lucy became a redhead, at The Hollywood Museum in the Max Factor Building.
7. “Marvel” at the 4D Superhero movie in Madame Tussaud’s.
8. Sing like Bette Midler in Beaches at The Hollywood Bowl.
9. Peer at Charlie Chaplin’s ye olde studios, now Jim Henson Studios (where The Muppets filmed).
10. Tour Warner Brothers in Burbank and see the Friends set.
11. Watch out for Jaws at Universal Studios.
12. Make a splash with the Nickelodeon splotch.
13. Be spellbound by the sorcerer’s hat at Disney Animation.
14. Sing “Hi-Ho” to the dwarves propping up Disney Studios.
15. Head north to William S. Hart’s western ranch.
16. Hike to the famous Bat Cave in Griffith Park.
17. Check for Harrison Ford and John Travolta's jets parked at Santa Monica Airport.
18. Humor them at Will Rogers State Historic Park.
19. Window shop on Rodeo Drive.
20. Honeymoon at the Beverly Hills Hotel...Liz Taylor did 6 times!
21. Score tickets to tapings of your favorite tv shows.
22. Deal with the power brokers at the Peninsula Hotel.
23. See if the kids can guess what the Capitol Records building is shaped like.
24. Blow through Culver City to see Tara from Gone with the Wind.
25. Use sleight of hand to figure a way into the members only Magic Castle.

And finally, fans of I Love Lucy will remember the infamous job switching episode, when Lucy and Ethel ended up on an assembly line at the chocolate factory and hijinks ensued. That conveyer belt is still in use at Edelweiss Chocolates in Beverly Hills. Lucy used to park behind the store and walk through the kitchen (which is exactly what my mom did) to the front of the shop. She was inspired by the candy making process and created one of her most memorable episodes. The kitchen is just as it was in 1952, and it is even possible to have a very special birthday party there, if you happen to know any chocolate lovers.

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