What's great in wine, beer, fine dining,
places to stay, & places to visit
in California State

Spanning a massive 470 square miles, Los Angeles offers what may be the most dynamic grouping of individual neighborhoods of any city in the U.S. In fact, in an attempt to get a handle on the sheer mass of the City, the Los Angeles Times recently counted no fewer than 114 individual neighborhoods within the City limits alone. And, while places like Downtown, Hollywood and Brentwood may be world famous — or infamous — here are a few districts that are lesser known but no less alluring.


Pair of Aces: Los Feliz/Silver LakeLE  Oyster Bar Silver Lake PicmonkeyL&E Oyster Bar on Silverlake Blvd.

These two older neighborhoods, which sit side-by-side about halfway between Hollywood and Downtown and are home to about 70,000 people combined, have grown in notoriety among locals but still can garner a blank stare when mentioned to an out-of-town visitor. Curiously, a lot of early filming history, including the opening of Walt Disney's first studio, took place here. Los Feliz is the slightly more stately of the two, with gorgeous homes dating back to the 1920s lining the hills of its upscale Oaks section next to Griffith Park. Its two primary shopping districts along Vermont and Hillhurst Avenues are heavy on local cafes and boutiques and light on chain stores. Silver Lake, named for its 127-acre reservoir, has long been a mix of artists, gays and young families and has more recently attracted a group of gastropubs and local-flavored eateries.

Quick Vibe: Los Feliz's Skylight Books on Vermont Avenue is a rare breed: a thriving, independent bookstore that's supported by locals and is known for its author readings. The Alcove Café & Bakery on Hillhurst will give anyone sitting on its patio a quick primer on the local community. Silver Lake is known for its music scene, so indie record store Rockaway Records and music clubs Satellite (formerly Spaceland) and Silver Lake Lounge are great for the uninitiated. And, more recently, Sunset Triangle, a pedestrian plaza created from what had been part of Griffith Park Boulevard, offers as good a daytime local vibe as anyplace and hosts two Farmers Markets a week, while Intelligentsia Coffee reflects a neighborhood on the upswing.


Low Key, High Rent: Pacific Palisades

Will Roges on Polo Pony PicmonkeyWill Rogers played in 1920's.Don't let the some of the country's highest housing prices fool you. Pacific Palisades is actually a very low-key, family-friendly community with a small-town feel. Boasting some of the best weather in the city — the community is bordered by a bluff overlooking the Pacific — the Palisades dates back to the early 1920s, and its commercial district covers just a few blocks on either side of Sunset Boulevard. Nature lovers can hike to a waterfall in Temescal Canyon, while polo aficionados (we know you're out there) can rejoice at the chance to attend weekend matches at Will Rogers State Park from April through September.

Quick Vibe: Pacific Palisades' relatively out-of-the-way locale ensures that its Sunday morning Farmers Market is almost exclusively a local affair, while Palisades Park is always full of families looking to take advantage of top-notch facilities mixed in with an ocean breeze. Village Books has been serving the literary set since 1997 and, while the Palisades has little nightlife to speak of, lots of folks hit the Southwestern-influenced Café Vida for breakfast and lunch, especially on weekends




Still Funky: Highland Park

As the gentrification fairy makes its way from Los Feliz and Silver Lake up into Eagle Rock, Highland Park remains a hodgepodge of sorts. Hemmed in by Glendale, Eagle Rock, Mount Washington and the Arroyo Seco Freeway, Highland Park consists of longtime Latino families mixing it up with artists and students at nearby Occidental College. The local art scene has more recently gotten a boost by way of NELAart (Northeast Los Angeles Arts Organization) Second Saturday Night, a monthly event where art galleries along York Boulevard and Figueroa Street keep their doors open late. And, of course, there's always the Lummis Home and Garden, the century-old home that writer/poet/photographer Charles Fletcher Lummis built out of beams, river rock and other assorted materials.

Quick Vibe: On Figueroa, Mr. T's Bowl & Nightclub is exactly what it says it is and has become a fixture for local bands trying to move up. Nearby, the Good Girl Dinette offers an innovative take on Vietnamese cuisine. But the dichotomy of Highland Park is most clearly reflected on a two-block stretch of York Boulevard, where The York gastropub serves a somewhat upscale clientele and wouldn't look out of place in New York, while El Huarache Azteca #1 goes down home with its namesake Mexican dish of giant proportions.


Valley, and Proud of It: EncinoRyan and Friend Toast at The York PicmonkeyOwner Ryan Ballinger shares a moment with a friend at The York

Yes, yes, pop culture vultures will probably associate Encino with title character in the early-'80s Frank Zappa hit "Valley Girl," but there's plenty more going on there aside from shoe emporiums and pedicure salons and, heck, the Galleria is actually on the other side of the 405 in Sherman Oaks. Ventura Boulevard is the main strip, with a ton of places to shop and a healthy hodgepodge of restaurants, including good breakfasts (More Than Waffles), sushi (Daichan Kaiten Sushi), Cuban (a local outpost of the Southern California chainlet Versailles) and Jewish (Jerry's Deli).

Quick Vibe: Encino may wear its suburbanism on its sleeve, but it also includes one of LA's natural treasures. The 2,031-acre Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area includes a wildlife preserve full of ducks, geese and egrets, as well as Lake Balboa, not to mention golf courses, a cricket field, bike paths, an archery range and a Japanese Garden.


Soul from Struggle: Leimert Park

Leimert Park is the ultimate, little-known LA story, having formed into its present version largely when writers, poets and musicians moved there after the 1965 Watts riots. The World Stage best illustrates how the neighborhood evolved, from the jazz of Ella Fitzgerald and R&B of Ray Charles to the more contemporary sounds of its educational and performing arts gallery. Phillips Bar-B-Que is a local and well-respected institution known for its spare ribs, while Ackee Bamboo serves generous proportions of Jamaican food.

Quick Vibe: Two words: drum circle. That's what happens every Sunday afternoon at 43rd Place and Crenshaw Blvd. And every June, the community puts on the Leimert Park Village Book Fair, which attracts more than 5,000 people, as well as more than 200 authors, poets, spoken-word artists and performers.


Rising Sun: Sawtelle

West Los Angeles' Sawtelle district is usually overshadowed by nearby, tonier communities like Brentwood, Westwood and Santa Monica. Heck, it's not even the best-known Japan Town in LA. Downtown's Little Tokyo takes that award. Still, the strip just west of the San Diego Freeway where Japanese and Japanese-Americans started settling in the 1910s remains a compelling place to visit, complete with its nurseries, sushi bars, noodle houses and even the magazine-cum-comic book store Giant Robot (there are actually two in the area). Some have even taken to calling the neighborhood Little Osaka.

Quick Vibe: Food wouldn't be a bad place to start. Hide Sushi is a Sawtelle stalwart, with fresh, no frills, fairly priced sushi, while folks looking to try Tokyo barbecue can check out Manpuku. Or, depending on time of day, you could skip the meal and check out one of the half-dozen nurseries that still dot the boulevard.


TravMedia sources contributed to this article.


Editor's Note: Planning to visit LA? There are links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. Also in the directory is our new section for beer-centric establishments throughout the state.

Sonoma County is known for its wines, its inns and romantic honeymoon vacations, and, yes, as the right place for a family vacation.

With its exceptional variety of natural attributes – the Pacific Ocean, rivers, lakes, ancient redwood forests, and farm lands, you may discover some places that mean memorable adventures for the family.


One-of-a-Kind Family Fun

Train Town is known as “the most well-developed scale railroad in the Americas” and is an adventure for all ages. It features a miniature steam railway that winds its way through 10 acres filled with over 7,000 trees and a 50-foot clock tower. Your journey will take you over five bridges and trestles, through two tunnels to the hamlet of Lakeview where the scale is three inches to the foot. Train Town includes three full-sized cabooses, dating from the 1930s and ‘40s to explore at your leisure. Children will also enjoy a petting zoo and vintage amusement rides including a carousel and a 46-foot fully restored ferris wheel.

In City of Sonoma


Safari West Giraffes PicmonkeyAfrican visitors to Sonoma County.

African Safari in wine country? African Safari on a budget? Yes! Bring the whole family to experience the Serengeti in the hills of Santa Rosa at the unique 400-acre Safari West Wildlife Preserve & African Tent Camp in the heart of Sonoma County. From open-air authentic safari vehicles you will view hundreds of exotic animals, including cheetahs, zebra, antelope, and giraffes. The wildlife park is designed to give the animals the ability to interact and roam about freely, and give visitors a once in a life time experience - a wine country safari. Eat at Delilah’s snack shop or at the Savannah Cafe. Safari West also offers overnight luxury “camping” in raised tented rooms – a unique opportunity to see the stars and listen to the night sounds of Africa.

In Santa Rosa



Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory is the oldest and largest sticker company in the United States. The factory tours are free and you are invited to watch as millions of stickers get printed, packaged and shipped right before your eyes! You will see the sticker museum, a gift shop, and a class where you’ll decorate your own postcard using Mrs. Grossman’s stickers. This is a place your kids won’t want to miss. Reservations for tours are required.

In Petaluma


Candy and Kites specializes in kites, windsocks, flags, books, air toys and beach toys, and also carries 80 gourmet flavors of Salt Water Taffy. You will find just about every type of kite available including stunt, traction and single line. Come to Doran Beach Campgrounds in Bodega Bay on Friday evenings from 6:00pm-7:00pm for the Friday Night Kite Fly with demonstration kites, or bring your own.

In Bodega Bay



At Scandia Family Fun Center you will find a fantasy land which includes two 18-hole miniature golf courses with tiny buildings, bridges and waterways. Also featured are 18 batting cages with slow pitch, fast pitch, and 40mph to 80mph machines. Another unique offering for the whole family are the bumper boats equipped with water sprayers: a great way to cool off on a warm day. And don’t forget to stop by the Lil’ Indy Raceway with a track designed to give you the feeling of actually racing along its straight track and banked turns. There are both single and double cars, so all ages can enjoy the race.

In Rohnert Park



Driven Raceway, for older kids and adults, is a way to satisfy your need for speed in a safe environment. Driven Raceway is Sonoma County’s premiere indoor kart racing and family entertainment facility. Come experience first hand European style racing with the most sophisticated and high speed electric karts available today. Competition electric karts are fine tuned machines that have superb cornering and quicker acceleration than gas powered karts. The race karts are not only emission free, and environmentally friendly, they are extremely safe with staff having electronic control to slow down or even stop the karts (individually or all of them) at any time to ensure that all racers remain safe at all times.

In Rohnert Park



Find the ghoul factor that appeals to boys and girls of all ages - California Carnivores. It isn't just science fiction. Hundreds of carnivorous plants have adapted and evolved into this interesting plant group that lures, traps, and then devours insects. Carnivorous plants grow naturally in swampy areas around the world where the water that is constantly running over and below the ground washes the nutrients away in the soil. In order to get those missing nutrients, the plants have adapted to trap and consume insects.

Since 1989, California Carnivores have grown and sold the widest variety of carnivorous plants in the United States. Venus flytraps, American pitcher plants, sundews, butterworts, bladderworts, tropical pitcher plants and others - all commercially cultivated for either the curious beginner or the discriminating collector.

Operated by Peter D'Amato - author of the book "The Savage Garden: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants" - California Carnivores houses the largest collection of carnivorous plants in the world open to the public, and sells plants onsite at the nursery and through mail-order.

In Sebastopol




Experience Farm Life


Farming is the heart of Sonoma County. Families can pick up a free Sonoma County Farm Trails map at most of the visitor centers and hit the road to explore a variety of working farms. You will experience life-on-the-farm with sheep, llamas, honeybees and butterflies, pet bunnies, taste cheese, see demonstrations, milk a cow, or see baby lambs being born. Or you can buy organic fruits, vegetables, plants and trees direct from the farmers. Seasonal trips to pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and Christmas tree farms include hayrides, haunted houses, animal petting, and more.

Throughout Sonoma Co.



Come to the Spring Hill Cheese Co. dairy to take a tour and see the art of home-made estate produced farmstead cheese. The artisan cheese produced by Spring Hill is made entirely from the milk of pasture-grazed Jersey cows, and the difference in taste is remarkable. Check the website for special events throughout the year: pick your own pumpkin, experience the farm atmosphere, dig for potatoes, eat fresh homemade ice cream, milk a cow, get lost in the hay maze, or climb aboard for a hay ride.

In Petaluma


kids walking horse PicmonkeyKids enjoy walking horse at Full House Farm. 

At Full House Farm kids will enjoy the Life Tour where they’ll spend 60-90 minutes feeding the sheep, collecting eggs, learning about the horses and rabbits and even getting a photo opportunity on the tractor. Horseback riding and equine education is another great option. Also located on the 23-acre estate is the Full House Farm Vacation Rental & Retreat, a three bedroom home with gorgeous views from the top of a ridge. Your stay includes organic eggs from the farm hens, locally made organic bread, butter, jam, coffee and tea and complimentary local world-renowned wine.

In Sebastopol





Four-Footed Adventures


See California's most beautiful landscapes from the back of a horse as you tour with Triple Creek Horse Outfit through Jack London State Park or Sugarloaf State Park. Small group, guided tours on lovingly cared for and gentle horses will take you through meadows, through wooded areas, and over creeks. Some trails encompass hilltop views of vineyards and Native American and early California sites.

In Sonoma



The Armstrong Woods Pack Station offers horseback adventures through the beautiful giant redwood forest trails. You will see some of the tallest and oldest trees remaining in this part of California. The Parson Jones Tree is about 310 feet high; the Colonel Armstrong Tree is more than 1,400 years old. Trail rides include panoramic stops along the way for rest or lunch and instruction on well-trained quarter horses.

In Guerneville



The Chanslor Guest Ranch and Stables is a working ranch with horses, cattle and sheep grazing on the hillsides. Choose from a variety of horseback rides either on the ranch trails or on trails along the beach in the adjoining Sonoma Coast State Park. The coastal views are magnificent. The ranch also offers six guest rooms for overnight stays and serves a fantastic continental breakfast.

In Bodega Bay



The family-friendly Horse N Around Trail Rides along Highway 1 near Bodega Bay offers three different experiences in all, the 30-minute excursion that circles the ranch’s duck pond and the 60-minute Eucalyptus Trail outing where visitors amble through most of the 60-acre property. The final and most spectacular optioin is the “Donation Beach Ride,” a 90-minute trek along the coast from the dunes of Bodega Bay to the South Salmon Creek Beach. Every penny of the ride ($125 per person weekdays; $150 per person weekends) supports Hoof Beats of America Horse Rescue, a non-profit also located on-site. This non-profit arm rescues horses that have been neglected, abused, abandoned or destined for slaughter. Many of the horses used for this ride actually are rescue horses themselves.

In Bodega



SkyHorse Ranch is a 190-acre coastal California wonderland located in the beautiful rolling hills of Valley Ford, overlooking the Estero De Americano. You can enjoy the panoramic views, pastoral spirit, and abundant wildlife within a stone’s throw of fine dining, wine tasting, bicycling, fishing, golfing, kayaking, bird watching, nature hikes, beach walks and much more. It is also renowned for its historic part in Christo’s Running Fence. Christo’s Running Fence, designed and built between 1972 and 1976 was an incredible work of art, a white fence 24 miles long and 18 feet high, that ran from Petaluma right through SkyHorse Ranch, disappearing into the ocean. SkyHorse is about much more than just the Ranch. SkyHorse represents a philosophy anda way of beingthat is focused on creating possibility out of complexity, and moving into the world with clear intention and authentic expression.

In Valley Ford



You can enjoy some of the best and most diverse horseback riding in Northern California at Wildfire Stables, Bodega Bay. The broad range of riding activities includes lessons, open range rides for experienced riders, ocean view rides, trail rides, and of course, our romantic Sunset Ride.

In Bodega Bay





The Pacific Coast Air Museum displays historic aircraft and features antique World War II planes. The museum’s mission is to preserve aviation history and educate children. “Climb Aboard” special events occur throughout the year.

In Santa Rosa


museummonday2 PicmonkeyMondays are special treat at Schulz Museum.

The two-story Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center is dedicated to Peanuts cartoons creator, Charles Schulz, his life, career and art. Walk along the gallery of comic strips or stop in the theater for a showing of a Peanuts TV show. Kids can stretch their imaginations in the education room with a mini library of cartooning instruction books, drawing tables, writing and art supplies. Next to the museum are the Snoopy Home Ice, an ice skating arena, and the Warm Puppy Café. Be sure to stop in for a grilled cheese or tuna sandwich. (Mr. Schulz’ favorite.) Throughout the City of Santa Rosa, you will find Peanuts on Parade: 150 five-feet tall, uniquely painted statues of “Joe Cool” Snoopy, Charlie Brown and Woodstock.

In Santa Rosa



Historic Sites


Sonoma State Historic Park is made up of a number of National Historic Landmark sites and buildings in Sonoma which include the Plaza, the Sonoma Barracks, and the home of the Mexican commandante, General Vallejo. It includes the Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma, popularly called the Sonoma Mission, the last and most northern of California's 21 missions which was built in 1823 and marked the end of “The King’s Highway,” El Camino Real. For 25 days in 1846, Sonoma was capital of the independent Republic of California. The Bear Flag Revolt started events that resulted later in the first California flag and American rule throughout the State.

In Petaluma



Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park is a huge old adobe ranch building with authentic furniture and exhibits that depict early rancho life. It served as the center of General Vallejo’s 66,000-acre ranch and was the largest private hacienda in California between 1834 and 1846. The adobe home was the center of activity on one of the most prosperous private estates established during the Mexican period.

In Petaluma



Hikes & Walks


The Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve is a huge state park of California redwood trees native to the central and northern coast. A trek through this ancient redwood forest is an experience you and your kids won’t forget. The coast redwood is the tallest living thing on our planet and lives to be 500-1,000 years old, grows to a diameter of 12-16 feet, and stands from 200-250 feet tall. Some trees survive to over 2000 years. The Reserve includes a visitor center, large outdoor amphitheater, self-guided nature trails, and a variety of picnic spots. One of the shorter trails leads to a tree over 300-feet tall and the 1,400-year old Colonel Armstrong Tree. The park features strolls along easy, level trails that are disability accessible. While you can drive into the park, the best way to experience the dramatic affect of the towering redwoods is to park in the lot at the park entrance and walk in for free.In Guernevillehttp://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=450


Annadel State Park near Santa Rosa has 5,000 acres of rolling hills, streams, woodlands, and wildflower meadows. Hikers, equestrians, mountain bicyclists, runners and nature lovers can choose from over 40 miles of trails. Lake Ilsanjo and the nearby Spring Lake Regional Park offer fishing, swimming, boating and camping.

In Santa Rosa



Theater Entertainment

kids at Wells Fargo Family Theater Show PicmonkeyKids at Wells Fargo Family Theater Show. 

The Wells Fargo Center for the Arts Family Live Theater Show Series features world-class performances designed for kids ages 3-12 and their families…where music, comedy, dance and drama entertain all ages.

In Santa Rosa









Sonoma County offers biking trails designed for the entire family to enjoy. The Joe Rodota Trail is paved and runs between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. It’s built on a former railroad right-of-way; several bridges have been constructed over the old trestles. The trail is especially popular in the spring with the vivid blooming of the wildflowers. It is an excellent place for bird watching year-round.


The West County Trail between the towns of Sebastopol and Forestville is a paved path and relatively flat with a few gentle climbs. An unpaved horseback riding trail runs parallel. The West County Trail and the Joe Rodota Trail offer beautiful farm and agricultural views. For help with biking tours and plans, you might contact Getaway Adventures & Rentals

In Santa Rosa



Adreneline Pumps


Try your driving skills at Driven Raceway, in Rohnert Park. This indoor, European-style kart revs up your engines as you take these electric karts for a spin. Kids need to be at least 48 inches tall to drive. Traveling with a variety of ages? The younger kids can hang out at the arcade, with just activities as mini bowling, black light mini golf, and more.

In Rohnert Park



If you’re looking for an adrenaline-pumping experience, check out Infineon Raceway where the Jim Russell Racing School has a full range of racing and karting options designed for experienced veterans as well as beginners. The school is one of the first to offer karting programs for children as young as eight years old, giving them the unforgettable fun and excitement of driving or racing a kart!

In/near City of Sonoma



Enjoy this unique course that features a zipline more than 800 feet long. Walk sky bridges high in the air. Marvel at panoramic forest views and deep ravines. Discover the world-famous California Coastal Redwoods in a way you never imagined. Sonoma Canopy Tours. It's high adventure that's green, family-friendly and educational.

In Occidental


 Vintage Biplane PicmonkeyEnjoy open-air flight just like a bird.

Take a flight back in time in a restored vintage aircraft flight over the vineyards, hills and coast of Sonoma Country. Climb aboard a 1942 WWII open cockpit bi-plane with a Vintage Aircraft Company pilot for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

In/near City of Sonoma



Float 500 to 1500 feet above the beautiful sights below in a hot air balloon without perception of motion or height. Above the Wine Country Ballooning flights begin just after dawn when the winds are soft and gentle offering the best views and delightful experience for the whole family.

In Santa Rosa



In Spring 2011, Up & Away Ballooning became the first hot air balloon operator in the United States to offer wheelchair-confined adventurers the opportunity to soar above the magnificent hills and vineyards of the Sonoma County Wine County. The special basket with a lowered rail, easy access ramp and window makes it possible for the seated passenger to enjoy more than180-degree visibility. The basket is only the fourth of its kind in the world.

In Santa Rosa



Coastal and Water Activities


Sonoma County's Pacific Coastline, with more than ten miles of beaches, reefs, coves, tide pools, and headlands is a great family destination. It provides ideal spots for dune hiking, horseback riding, tide pooling, camping, and family picnicking. One of the most popular activities along the coast is whale watching as well as bird, seal, and otter watching. Bodega Head is one of the best whale-watching sites on the North Coast, and year-round home to many kinds of seabirds. The southern migration of the gray whale is from October to February; the northern leg generally occurs from February to April.

More information can be had at the Sonoma Coast Visitors Center.

In Bodega Bay



The Russian River area and its towns offer old-fashioned as well as modern charm and a host of great ways to explore the River. Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, Fishing, Swimming are popular activities at the River. Check in with the Russian River Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center.

In Guerneville


 Petaluma Marina PicmonkeyStroll around the Petaluma Marina.

The Petaluma River is an estuary linked to the San Francisco Bay and has been named as one of the top ten Bay Area leisure boating destinations by Latitude 38 magazine. It offers fishing and a variety of other leisure and recreational activities. Boaters from the Bay Area can stay in the Turning Basin harbor right in the heart of historic Downtown Petaluma and the scenic River Walk area. Check with the Petaluma Visitor Center.

In Petaluma




Novice boaters and families with small children can swim, canoe or kayak on the warm and placid Gualala River, camp in one of six campgrounds along the southern Redwood Coast and explore historic Fort Ross State Park and Salt Point State Park, where marine life is completely protected in one of the first underwater park preserves in California. The Redwood Coast Visitor Center can provide more information.

In Gualala



Lake Sonoma has secluded coves for the quiet boater or angler (the lake is stocked), while water-skiing and jet skis are allowed in other designated areas. Facilities include boat and canoe rentals, a public boat ramp, full-service marina, swimming, a visitor center and a fish hatchery. Contact the Lake Sonoma Visitors Center and Fish Hatchery

In Geyserville707-433-9483


Enjoy the sun and the beauty of the Sonoma Valley at Morton Warm Springs Resort nestled among 20 acres of spreading oaks and large open meadows. Originally a campground for the Wappo Indians, Morton’s is steeped in history, beauty and tradition, and is long known for its healthy geothermal mineral pools and picnic areas. The diving pool, swimming pool and a baby wading pool are all flushed and refreshed nightly with pure and natural sand-filtered artesian spring water. Bring a picnic and the kids for a fun-filled day.

In Glen Ellen



Sources at TravMedia contributed to this report.


Editor's Note: Planning on visiting Sonoma County with the family? You'll find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options at the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. Also listed there are links to the sites of all the wineries and even the brewpubs (for the benefit of the older members of the family)


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 www.wbtour.com.


Sources at TravMedia.com 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.

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