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Displaying items by tag: Hollywood

Tuesday, 09 July 2019 12:10

Hollywood Landmark Marks 100 Years

By Peter Berk

How deliciously ironic that the story of Musso & Frank Grill – the cherished cultural landmark currently marking its milestone 100th anniversary – should turn out to be every bit as compelling as any of the countless movies, television shows and novels that have been developed and celebrated within its legendary walls.  

Wednesday, 18 February 2015 09:12

Universal Studios Hollywood Celebrates 50 Years

Universal Studios Hollywood 50th anniversary logo Picmonkeyh

TASTE News Service February 17, 2015 – The spotlight shines on Universal Studios Hollywood as it celebrates a milestone 50th anniversary with the much-anticipated opening of the “Fast & Furious—Supercharged” thrill ride, “Springfield,” an-all new immersive experience surrounding “The Simpsons Ride,” and a “Nighttime Studio Tour” as part of the theme park’s pioneering epic transformation.

This undertaking—the most ambitious in the theme park’s storied 50-year history—will radically alter and reimagine its familiar footprint as it sets its sights on the next 50 years.

From its humble beginnings five decades ago, Universal Studios Hollywood has emerged as a progressive and exciting theme park, while remaining true to its roots of immersing guests in the world of movie-making magic.

Since its inception, Universal Studios has lifted the veil on Hollywood’s most illustrious industry, placing guests at the heart of favorite movies and television shows. It continues by working in collaboration with some of the most influential filmmakers in the business—Steven Spielberg, Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Peter Jackson, Michael Bay and Chris Meledandri—to create intriguing rides and attractions. 

“For 50 years, Universal Studios Hollywood has given guests unprecedented access to the world’s most alluring business by inviting them to peek behind the velvet curtain and become part of the exciting movie-making process,” said Larry Kurzweil, President of Universal Studios Hollywood. “We are reimagining over 75 percent of our destination as we build upon our incredible success and expand our vision for the future, and we look forward to entertaining and inspiring guests for generations to come with what will ultimately be an entirely new theme park experience.”

Offered in multiple languages, including Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish and English and led by expert guides, the Studio Tour remains a hallmark Universal Studios Hollywood attraction bringing millions of guests through an authentic movie and television studio and into its elusive world motivated by three compelling words:  lights, camera, action.

Editor’s note: Much more about the studio tour and new attractions for 2015 can be found at Universal Studios Hollywood. If you’re planning a trip to Hollywood, first check out the Los Angeles County section of Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to Southern California wineries and craft beer purveyors.

Saturday, 20 July 2013 12:45

Base Your So Cal Vacation in San Diego

Downton SD View from Harbor Island PicmonkeyDownton San Diego viewed from Harbor Island. Photo by Joanne DiBona

Nearly perfect weather, palm-lined beaches and a friendly, easy-going vibe make San Diego the quintessential Southern California (SoCal) experience. California’s second largest city also offers vacationers the ideal home base for exploring the entire SoCal region with easy access to nearby Anaheim, Los Angeles, Temecula Valley and neighboring Mexico.With direct flights from nearly 50 major U.S. and Canadian cities and a manageable, centrally located airport in the heart of downtown, arriving in San Diego is quick and hassle-free. Visitors can check-in and begin their vacation shortly after landing with dozens of hotels, ranging from family friendly to boutique and luxurious, located just a 10-minute drive from the airport in downtown and neighboring communities like picturesque Harbor Island, Shelter Island and Old Town San Diego.Downtown San Diego and popular neighborhoods are walkable, casual and friendly. The city’s urban core is surrounded by picturesque San Diego Bay and a vast outdoor playground, defined by 70 miles of stunning Pacific coastline. With easy-to-navigate public transportation, uncomplicated freeways and Amtrak servicing northern neighbors, Anaheim and Los Angeles, visitors can base their vacation in San Diego and venture effortlessly to other popular SoCal destinations. San Diego makes for the perfect SoCal vacation with the following suggested day trips.

Sea World San Diego PicmonkeyDolphins are fun at Sea World San Diego.

Attraction ActionSouthern California is recognized for its popular family attractions, and San Diego is home to several, including SeaWorld San Diego, LEGOLAND California Resort, the world-famous San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Fortunately for families, the original Disneyland in Anaheim and Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles are just a quick hop up the road from San Diego and are part of the money-saving Southern California CityPASS. 

Getting there: Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner runs from downtown San Diego’s historic Santa Fe Depot to Anaheim with a station located at the Disneyland Resort; the travel time is just over 2 hours station to station. The drive from San Diego to Disneyland is an easy 90-minute cruise up Interstate 5, making it a cinch to get there and back in one day. Los Angeles is a longer drive north and a further stop on Amtrak which would most likely require an overnight stay while visiting Universal Studios Hollywood.

Money savings tip: Guests can package their trip to popular SoCal attractions and save money with the Southern California CityPASS. Valid for 14 days, this single admission card allows guests three days of access to Disneyland

Hollywood Boulevard Sign PicmonkeyIt's just a couple of hours north of San Diego.

Hooray for HollywoodFrom audience favorites Anchorman and Top Gun to film classics Some Like It Hot and Citizen Kane, many San Diego locations have played important roles in film history. Film buffs traveling to San Diego can walk in the footsteps of Will Ferrell, Tom Cruise, Marilyn Monroe and the master filmmaker Orson Welles before heading north to Los Angeles, the film capital of the world. 

Getting there: Just over a two-hour drive from downtown San Diego, Hollywood offers movie fans Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the chance to see one of their favorite film or TV actors in person. For visitors who don’t want to maneuver through Los Angeles’ expansive, and oftentimes complicated, freeway system, they can also take an Amtrak train to downtown Los Angeles and get around on the city’s rapid transit rail system; its most popular line connects downtown L.A. with Hollywood. A visit to Hollywood is a must-do for many SoCal visitors and can be an easy overnight stay from San Diego.

Keeping it local: San Diego visitors can get a feel for Hollywood at a variety of local settings. Kansas City Barbecue in downtown San Diego served as the backdrop for some of Top Gun’s popular bar scenes, and fans of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy know the importance of the “Panda Watch,” so a visit to the San Diego Zoo with the endangered pandas on display is a must-do for many visitors. The iconic Hotel del Coronado, set along the beautiful Pacific, was the backdrop for the 1959 comedy classic Some Like it Hot, featuring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.

Wine Country, Social StyleKohill Winery tasting room PicmonkeyEast County wineries like Kohill are friendly.San Diego’s East County is a burgeoning wine region with new wines being harvested in the rural communities of Ramona and Warner Springs. Pair these offerings with a trip to the award-winning wineries of the Temecula Valley Wine Country, located just 45 minutes north of downtown San Diego, and wine aficionados can enjoy the romance of a wine vacation without leaving southern California.  

Touring the wineries: Numerous wineries located in San Diego and Temecula offer a wide variety of experiences. Some stand atop hills and provide sweeping views of the Temecula Valley, while others are set off secluded, winding dirt roads; almost all offer wine tastings and tours daily. Many San Diego tour companies offer round-trip wine tasting excursions to Temecula’s wineries, and Destination Temecula offers a variety of tours departing from several San Diego area hotels. Tours include deluxe transportation to and from wineries, with informative narration by knowledgeable guides along the way.

Beyond the region:  California’s award-winning wines reap international recognition, and San Diego is the perfect starting point for a California wine vacation. Guests can begin their journey in San Diego and Temecula Valley and sip their way through popular wineries in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo before ending up in the vineyards of Napa Valley and Sonoma County in northern California

Two-Nation Vacation

San Diego’s unique location along the U.S.-Mexican border provides the perfect home base for visitors to enjoy the best of both San Diego and Tijuana, a city that has experienced remarkable growth in its culinary and cultural offerings in recent years. With an incredible Mexican heritage and influence stateside complemented by exciting dining and arts south of the border, San Diego and Tijuana enjoy a close bond that make for a unique two-nation vacation.

Getting there: The Mexican border is located only 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of downtown San Diego, making a day trip to Tijuana quick, easy and convenient. Guests can drive to the border and park at one of many lots located on the U.S. side before walking into Mexico, and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System also transports guests from downtown to the border on a light rail trolley that runs daily. Avenue Revolucion, Tijuana’s main tourist center full of restaurants, shops and street vendors, is located only a short walk or taxi drive from the border.

Best of Baja: The easiest and most enjoyable way to experience Tijuana is on a day-trip tour. San Diego Scenic Tours offers full- and half-day tours that explore the top sights of Tijuana, departing directly from many San Diego hotels. For a taste of how the locals enjoy Tijuana, Turista Libre offers tours exploring some of Tijuana’s hidden gems, including a disco roller rink and water park, that meet and depart from the border.


Editor's Note: provided TASTE News Service with information for this article. For more information, visit or Taste California Travel's Resource Directory where you'll find links to to the websites hundreds of Lodging and Dining options in San Diego County, as well as links to area wineries and beer-centric establishments. 

Saturday, 22 September 2012 13:42

Warner Bros. Studios Tours

Where else on the planet is it possible to encounter movie stars on a break during filming of their latest movie or shooting hoops outside a soundstage after filming today's scene?

Nowhere except on the legendary Warner Bros. Studios VIP Tour.Warner Bros Studio Tour PicmonkeyVisitors almost part of action.

Indeed, as they pass through the same gates as Hollywood's leading actors, directors and producers do daily, guests of the Warner Bros. Studios VIP Tour are offered a rare look into the world of entertainment, with an intimate view of the inner workings of a thriving motion picture and television studio.

The Warner Bros. Studios VIP Tour transports guests on a one-of-a-kind journey, immersing them in today's most popular movies and television shows. The tour represents an extraordinary opportunity to explore inner Hollywood surrounded by actual filming and production amidst yesterday's and today's most famous sets, sound effects, music, props, scenic art and special effects.

Because nothing is staged - this is real Hollywood at work - there is no telling what, or who, lucky visitors might encounter. The VIP Tour gives guests a snapshot of what's happening at Warner Bros.' working studio and transforms then into industry insiders.

In the early days of the Studio, James Dean could frequently be seen speeding through the lot on his motorcycle, but on one special tour, it was Tom Cruise who actually boarded a cart filled with guests to listen to the tour guide's history of New York Street and its transformation into ancient Tokyo for the movie "The Last Samurai." Stunned visitors couldn't believe their luck, but the reality is that on the VIP Tour, guests regularly come face-to-face with the industry's biggest stars. Martin Sheen once loaned his coat to a chilly guest with the promise that it would be returned to the soundstage after the tour.

Founded in 1923, the Studio's historic lore is well-documented. From the very first talkie, "The Jazz Singer," to the legendary films "The Maltese Falcon," "Casablanca" and "Rebel Without A Cause, " from TV classics "Maverick," "The Waltons," and "The Dukes of Hazzard," to today's hottest shows including "Two and a Half Men," "Mike and Molly," "The Mentalist," "Two Broke Girls" and "The Big Bang Theory," Warner Bros. Studios is an icon known the world-over.

The Studio itself sits on 110 acres in the heart of Burbank, California and features 30 working soundstages on the front lot and a number of versatile backlot outdoor sets seen in countless productions.

Warner Bros. Studios productions have received more than 200 Academy Awards and numerous Emmys and, as a result, a journey through the backlot sets will leave guests feeling quite familiar with their surroundings. It is on these sets that hundreds and hundreds of films have been made including "The Music Man," "My Fair Lady," "Bonnie and Clyde" and several others.

Because every day at the world's busiest movie and TV studio is different, no two VIP Tours are the same. Tour guides are in constant communication with the Studio's production coordinators and whenever possible, guests are escorted onto an active soundstage or backlot film set for an up close and personal look at the sets, props, lighting and special effects that go into the making of a Warner Bros. Studios feature or TV series.

Nowhere else in Hollywood is this possible. In addition, guests are frequently allowed to stand within inches of the action for a bird's eye view as cameras prepare to roll.  On occasion VIP Tour guests have even been cast as extras in film and TV productions.

Whenever possible, tours are personalized to accommodate the group's

interests and desires:


If a guest has a specific interest in motion picture music, he or she might find themselves on the Eastwood Scoring Stage for a lesson in the mixing and recording of vocals and film scores.


Artists may enjoy a visit to the scenic art department, where they'll encounter studio employees hand-painting scenic backdrops, portraits and murals on canvas stretched across a giant wood frame.


Fashion aficionados will marvel at the 60,000 square foot costume department that houses over 50,000 pieces of jewelry, 30,000 shoes, 10,000 hats and 4,000 purses ranging from the pre-historic to the post-apocalyptic eras.


At the Warner Bros. Mill, visitors are not only walked through the massive facility housing the paint and metal shops, but they are introduced to the talented artists and craftspeople responsible for the hundreds of sets built on the Studio lot each year.

In the 6,300-square-foot Picture Car Museum, car enthusiasts can take photos with the "car stars" made famous in some of the most popular movies and television shows, including the Batmobile, the flying car from "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," the General Lee from "The Dukes of Hazzard," and the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine.

Visitors also have an opportunity to explore Hollywood's only studio museum. The Warner Bros. Museum contains a remarkable collection of memorabilia from the Studio's rich and celebrated history. The Museum offers guests an intimate look at the original costumes, props, sets, scripts and correspondence from countless Warner Bros. Studios films and television shows -- materials not before seen by the general public.

The Warner Bros. Studios VIP Tour operates Monday through Saturday with tours departing regularly between 8:15 a.m. and 4 p.m. Extended hours are offered in the spring and summer. The price is $49 per person. For a more in-depth studio tour experience, Deluxe VIP Tours are offered daily at 10:20 a.m. For $250. Children under eight years of age are not permitted. Further information is available at


Sources at contributed to this article.


Editor's Note: Planning a visit to the land of entertainment? In the Los Angeles County sections of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory, you will find links to the websites of hundreds of options for Lodging and Dining in the area. In that directory is also a new section devoted to beer-centric establishments.

Stars Hollywood Walk of Fame SMALL CTTC10031816271387

Searching for Brangelina? Aiming to see movie-making in action? Here's where to find it all in the Golden State.

For more than a century, California has been the world's entertainment hotspot, ever since legendary director Cecil B. DeMille shot Hollywood's first major motion picture in 1913. Studios soon followed, establishing headquarters here, with filmmakers traveling statewide to take advantage of California's diverse landscapes—perfect for everything from cowboys and Indians to classic thrillers.

Now, a century later, the romance and glamour of Tinsel Town is as much a part of Southern California's allure as its fabled beaches. And other parts of the state sparkle with star power. Here's where to sample

the cinematic magic statewide.


1. Get inside the studios.

It's surprisingly easy to get a glimpse of L.A.'s thriving movie and TV industry. Major Hollywood studios are open to the public for tours, the biggest and splashiest being Universal Studios Hollywood, part theme park, part back lot. The studio's special VIP Experience is a must for movie and TV buffs, with exclusive visits to prop rooms and sets. Nearby, Warner Brothers Studios offers a Deluxe Tour with lunch in the studio commissary—a great place to spot stars. Paramount Pictures hosts two tours, including a four-hour option ideal for serious film fans that covers 100 years of moviemaking. Tours at Sony Pictures in Culver City explore the legendary MGM lot, where films like The Wizard of Oz and Spider-Man were filmed.


2. Hang out in movie-making 'hoods.

While people use "Hollywood" as shorthand for the movie industry, Northern California is also home to a thriving film community, especially for digital filmmaking. Pixar Animation Studios, located in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Emeryville and co-founded by the late Steve Jobs, is the wellspring of such digital masterpieces as Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo. Star Wars director George Lucas has long-been based in the area, and his Letterman Digital Arts Center is a buzzing hub of the city's Presidio, a former military base. Neither of these movie-making meccas is open to the public, though nearby eateries often attract people in the industry. Eavesdrop on conversations at Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe in Emeryville or at the Presidio Supper Club in San Francisco and you might overhear details of a movie in the making.


3. Follow in their footsteps.

Want to get really close to the stars? It's easy in Hollywood. Start along Hollywood Boulevard, where the sidewalk is inset with terrazzo and brass stars honoring legends of film, TV, music, and theater along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Grauman's Chinese Theatre beckons with its fabled cement forecourt, where you can bend down and touch the hand- and footprints of everyone from John Wayne to Johnny Depp. Be sure to see how tiny Marilyn Monroe's hands were—and poke your pinky into the imprint left by her stiletto heels.

Next to Grauman's, a different close-up awaits at Madame Tussauds Hollywood, where you can pose next to incredibly realistic wax figures of stars like Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts. Nearby, the Kodak Theatre, home to the annual Academy Awards show, dazzles year-round with Cirque du Soleil's Iris, depicting the story of moviemaking through dance, acrobatics, and music.


4. Go on location.

Less than an hour's drive from Hollywood is Malibu Creek State Park, once home to a movie ranch that served as an international location: Korea in the movie and TV series MASH, Wales in 1941's How Green Was My Valley, and even outer space in the original Planet of the Apes. In the nearby Santa Monica Mountains, Paramount Ranch swung open its barn doors to moviemaking in 1927. Today, you can visit Western sets used for the long-running series, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, starring Jane Seymour.

Moviemakers have turned to locations far from L.A., too. Director Billy Wilder used the elegant Hotel del Coronado near San Diego for the Marilyn Monroe classic, 1959's Some Like it Hot (look for memorabilia in the handsome lobby). Santa Barbara County has been a favorite too, with locations chosen for films including The Graduate, Seabiscuit, and Sideways. Download self-guided tour itineraries, including an 18-stop Sideways ramble, at

Heading north, discover the land that Alfred Hitchcock loved to shoot. The iconic director filmed scenes for 1958's Vertigo at San Francisco's Mission Dolores and Fort Point beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. He also traveled north to the fishing village of Bodega Bay in Sonoma County for the creepy setting of 1963's The Birds (some scenes were shot at still-popular The Tides Wharf Restaurant). Also just north of San Francisco, spooky scenes from the 2011 version of Planet of the Apes were shot in Marin County' Muir Woods National Monument. For an overview of local film locations, consider the three-hour San Francisco Movie Tour.


5. Go where stars go.

From red-hot A-list mega-stars to one-hit wonders, the chances of spotting celebs goes way up in the place where they work, live, and play: Los Angeles. The ritzy shops lining ultra-luxe Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills attract stars with money to burn; visit midweek unless you want to see more gawkers than celebs. With trendy The Ivy Restaurant and edgy boutiques, nearby Robertson Boulevard is another hotspot. And celebs all need their java: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at Sunset Boulevard and Holloway Drive is a fabled haunt.

Stars also love the beach—after all, they can afford the houses. Intimate Malibu Country Mart is like a neighborhood shopping center for the gilded set. In sun-splashed Santa Monica, stars adore such oceanfront hotels as Shutters on the Beach and Casa del Mar. Peruse Montana Avenue's cafes and boutiques, too—fun even if you're not on the star prowl.

Another tip: head to Staples Center when basketball's L.A. Lakers are in town. Scan the crowds (bring binoculars—why not?) for stars, including courtside regulars Jack Nicholson and Leonardo DiCaprio.


6. Attend film and TV events.

Another great way to up your odds of seeing celebs is hanging out along red carpets heading into film festivals, award shows, and tapings. January's Palm Springs International Film Festival features screenings of Oscar contenders, with stars like Charlize Theron and Anne Hathaway blowing kisses to the crowd. The celebrated Santa Barbara International Film Festival shows world and U.S. premieres; past honorees have included Annette Bening and Angelina Jolie.

Every March in Beverly Hills, Paley Center for Media conducts PaleyFest, a series of screenings and panels with casts of such TV shows as Glee, Mad Men, and The Office. Other Paley Center events have included star appearances (think Jeff Bridges) and show previews.

Television shows of all kinds invite live audiences to filmings; peak season is August through March. Seating is limited but tickets are free, and tapings let you see Hollywood in action and favorite stars behind the scenes. For sources, check websites for specific shows, including Ellen and Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Another inside tip: During awards shows, producers loath empty seats on camera. So, when stars leave their seats to present or perform—or if they're just plain late—"seat fillers" slip into and out of the stars' seats on cue. And guess what? They're plain folks just like us. If you're in town during the Screen Actors Guild or other awards show, give it a shot by getting on lists at


( contributed to this article)


Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options in Hollywood and Los Angeles can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.


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