Inside the actors studios
Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (MCT) - As the Minneapolis Star Tribune's TV critic, I'm occasionally unchained from my couch and allowed to frolic among the beautiful people in la-la land. I've sipped cocktails in Gabrielle's home on Wisteria Lane, sat at the helm of the U.S.S. Enterprise, lounged in Miley Cyrus' pink-plastered dressing room, spat dust on the streets of Deadwood and bellied up to the counter of Ross and Rachel's favorite hangout, Central Perk.
Anyone heading to the Left Coast for spring break should sacrifice a few hours of beach bumming to soak in the show-biz sights of Hollywood's studio tours, several of which are surprisingly accessible and unpredictable. I'm not promising that you'll bump into a big star (although once, while I was aimlessly strolling across the Universal lot, Steven Spielberg nearly ran me over in his golf cart), but you'll get more satisfaction from a studio visit than you will trying to secure a table at celebrity haunt Chateau Marmont. Here are the studios that offer the best experiences:
The last time I took WB's VIP Tour, I had the good fortune to see some stars. As our small tram of a dozen tourists rolled across the corner, we came face to face with ... the contestants of MTV's "America's Best Dance Crew."
OK, so the celebrity-spotting isn't great sport on these tours, but if vintage sets and classic props make your heart flutter, you can't beat the WB experience. The tour, which kicks off with a short film and lasts more than two hours, takes you through the best backlots in the business, whether it's the green, green grass of home for the "Gilmore Girls" or the mean streets of James Cagney's gangster movies.
This summer, the coolest garage in the world will expand to include the Bat-Pod motorcycle from "The Dark Knight" and Neo's Lincoln Continental from "The Matrix." Tours end at a museum stocked with props and an entire floor dedicated to the "Harry Potter" franchise.
If you only have time for one studio visit, make it this one. $45; 1-818-972-8687; www.warnerbros.com/vipstudiotour.
It's appropriate that this tour embarks from an amusement park, because this trip feels more like a thrill ride than a history lesson. Tourists climb aboard a tram that zips through back lots and facades with no opportunity to get out and stretch your legs. Not that you'll need to. The trams offer splendid views of everything from the Bates Motel to Wisteria Lane.
A four-acre fire last summer destroyed a number of sets, but studio officials expect Courthouse Square ("Back to the Future") and New York Street ("Bruce Almighty") to be up and running by mid-summer. In June, stars like Ron Howard and Whoopi Goldberg will accompany tourists via recorded commentary on state-of-the-art monitors. That same month welcomes the launch of "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien," and his studio, located at Universal's main gate, will be included in the tour.
Prices are steep, but keep in mind that a ticket includes full access to the park, home of the new Simpsons Ride.
$67; 1-800-864-8377; www.universalstudioshollywood.com.
The king of late night is the king of this tour, which means when "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" ends in June, the tour may end as well. You may have only two months to pay homage by visiting Leno's set and getting an in-depth history of the franchise. (The tour also includes a peek into Johnny Carson's old set, currently the home of "Access Hollywood.")
Savvy visitors take the tour in the early afternoon, then stay for a 4 p.m. taping. Tickets for the actual show are free, but you must call in advance. The 80-minute tour doesn't accept reservations, so it's first come, first served between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Also included: A visit to the "Days of Our Lives" set. $8.50; 1-818-840-3537.
This two-hour visit requires a comfortable pair of sneakers _ and a vivid imagination. The walking tour celebrates a number of important films, from "The Wizard of Oz" to "Spider-Man 3," but you won't be able to follow the Yellow Brick Road or hang upside down from a fire escape for a smooch from Kirsten Dunst. That's because all the filming is done on soundstages _ no open-air back lots like at Warner Bros. _ and even if you get to go inside one, it'll probably be about as exciting as shopping at Home Depot.
On the upside, this tour may be your best chance to spot a working actor, because of the number of ongoing projects, and there's a nice collection of museum-worthy props, including the neuralizer from "Men in Black" and the Cryptex from "The DaVinci Code." Best of all, you get a nice workout.
$28; 1-310-520-8687; www.sonypicturesstudiostours.com.
Like the Sony tour, the emphasis here is on soundstages and, if you're lucky, you may get to witness a taping. Otherwise, the two-tour visit, a combination of trams and footwork, consists primarily of an oral history of one of Hollywood's most lavish and celebrated studios. Highlights include a visit to the last remaining back-lot set, New York Street, where you can lean against the facades for Jerry Seinfeld's and Ally McBeal's apartment buildings and touch a bench where Forrest Gump declared that life is like a box of chocolates.
$35; 1-323-956-1777; www.paramount.com.
© 2009, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Travel News
- Abbey of St. Foy is longtime medieval pilgrimage route
- Austere Abbaye de Fonteny filled only with light
- British man visits all of the world's 201 nations - without flying in a plane
- The Basilique Ste-Madeleine second only to Notre Dame in size
- Mont-St-Michel island abbey connected with natural land bridge
- Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire Abbey greets visitors near Orleans in central France
- The Abbey of Fontfroide was onetime center of orthodoxy
- France's Saint Hilaire Abbey contains sarcophagus of Saint Sernin
- Bring binoculars to the St. Matthias Abbey Church to see architectural marvels
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
More Rome, Vatican & Italy
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church.
Saint Peter's Square
Saint Peter's Square is located directly in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the papal enclave within Rome. The open space which ...
The Coliseum is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire. It is considered one ...
Sistine Chapel is the best-known chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City. It is famous for its ...
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM) • Catholic Online • 1/17/2013
The Abbey of St. Foy, nestled in the hills of southern France is a beautiful Romanesque church perfectly aligned with its surroundings. The ...
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM) • Catholic Online • 12/5/2012
Found in the Burgundy Valley, the Abbaye de Fontenay is a well-restored 12th-century Cistercian monastery founded by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. The ...
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM) • Catholic Online • 11/27/2012
Thirty-three-year-old Graham Hughes of Liverpool wanted to travel with his feet firmly planted on the soil. To this end, the eccentric Briton can now ...