10 Top Los Angeles Tours

hollywood hiking tour
Hollywood Hills Hiking Tour from Bikes and Hikes L.A. Photo Erick Martinez.

We’ve rounded up 10 top Los Angeles tours, from the new to the updated classics, that explore parts of Los Angeles hidden from plain sight.

Los Angeles may be the capital of entertainment, but it’s also a city that thrives on sports, the arts and a multicultural food scene. Plus, it has a fascinating history backed by an ever-evolving skyline and swaying fan palms. We’ve rounded up 10 top tours in L.A., from the new to the updated classics, that explore parts of Los Angeles hidden from plain sight. Draw back the curtain to discover a culturally rich city worthy of its own standing ovation.

By Marina Chetner

Hollywood Hills Hiking Tour
When in L.A., do as Angelenos do: Take a hike. If you’re not sure which of the county’s myriad trails to tackle, a good first step is to sign up for the Hollywood Hills Sunset Hike. An expert guide from Bikes and Hikes L.A. gets the group going from the Greek Theatre box office toward Griffith Park’s highest point, Mount Hollywood, while explaining the intriguing story of philanthropist Griffith J. Griffith, donor of the land. Continue on the 3-mile trail through the Berlin Forest, a gift from L.A.’s German sister city; wave to the Hollywood sign; see locations from Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?; and explore Griffith Observatory as the sun sets. Rated TripAdvisor’s No. 1 Outdoor Activity in L.A., BHLA’s tours also include bike tours of Hollywood and movie-star homes, as well as L.A. in a Day, which covers 32 miles. (Repeat customers score a 20 percent discount on any tour.) There are plenty of photo-perfect views along the way; tag photos with #BikesandHikesLA. Fun for everyone: solo travelers, families and groups. Cost: $52. 8743 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 323.796.8555. bikesandhikesla.com

Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood
Take the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood to get an exclusive look at the studio’s backlot and soundstages, which house The Big Bang Theory and The Ellen DeGeneres Show’s sets. Guides chauffeur small groups in tour carts and stop at the Warner Bros. archive to show Batman and Harry Potter memorabilia, the popping-at-the-seams Prop Department and the Picture Car Vault (aka Batcave)—a showcase of vehicles from all seven Batman movies. New this summer: interactive attraction Stage 48: Script to Screen, offered at the end of the two-hour tour. Allow at least an additional hour to immerse yourself in the full film- and television-production process. You can re-enact a Friends scene on the iconic Central Perk set, design a Batmobile and “fly” on Harry’s broomstick for a photo op. Tour reservations are made in 30-minute blocks, seven days a week, starting at 8 am. Tickets: $62 (under 8 not admitted). Deluxe tours are also available. wbstudiotour.com

Melting Pot Food Tours’ Original Farmers Market Food & History Tour
It’s easy to attribute L.A.’s flurry of farmers markets to today’s farm-to-table trend, but they actually trace back to the Original Farmers Market near the Grove shopping complex. Back in 1934, the location was simply referred to as “3rd and Fairfax,” named for the intersection where farmers sold their produce from the backs of trucks. The area grew to include restaurants and boutiques, and today, remaining stalwarts include Patsy D’Amore’s Pizza, which recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, and Bob’s Coffee & Doughnuts, which boasts a perpetual line. This is where the Melting Pot Food Tours’ Farmers Market Tour starts, and not only do you get to taste a selection of treats, but you’ll also bypass those queues. The 2.5-hour walk provides an excellent introduction to some of the 100-plus merchants and ample opportunities to meet their owners. Standouts include Loteria Grill tacos, Pampas Grill churrasco and Moishe’s Restaurant falafel. A scoop of homemade Bennett’s Ice Cream makes for a sweet endnote. Make sure to come with an empty stomach! Cost: $45-$59, under 5 free. meltingpottours.com

Universal Studios Nighttime Studio Tour.
Universal Studios Nighttime Studio Tour.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery Walking Tour
The most visited graves at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, says guide Karie Bible, are those of Italian-born actor Rudolph Valentino and guitarist Johnny Ramone. Most renowned celebrity? Toto, from The Wizard of Oz. There are plenty of other fascinating sights to see and factoids to learn while traversing the cemetery on a two-hour walk that Bible has been leading for 13 years. More mysterious than morbid, the tour peels back years of history and rumors to reveal intriguing details about these Hollywood stars—stories Bible gleaned from years of research. Want to know more about Virginia Rappe’s death, which led to the Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle scandal? Take the tour. Also available: The Jewish Heritage and Hidden Hollywood tours. Cost: $16. 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, 818.517.5988. cemeterytour.com

The Dodger Stadium Tour
Dodgers fans—OK, all sports fans—will love touring the landmark stadium that has borne witness to baseball milestones from Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965 to Clayton Kershaw’s recent no-hitter. The 80-minute tour starts at the Top of the Park, set against a panoramic view of L.A., then continues to the Tommy Lasorda room, where a highlight reel celebrates moments leading up to the Dodgers’ 10,000 wins. Channel your inner Vin Scully in the Press Box, named for the famous sportscaster; check out a VIP suite (available to rent starting at $4,000); peek inside the historic visitors’ clubhouse; and prepare to be awed by the team’s collection of World Series trophies, as well as Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards, in the memorabilia hall. The best part: hanging out in the dugout. The Stadium Tour is offered three times daily, year-round. Check dodgers.com/tours for more tour options. Tickets: $15-$20, under 4 free.  losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com

Starline Movie Locations Tour Presented With TCM
Those more impressed with movie locations than celebrity homes will love this Starline tour, offered in partnership with Turner Classic Movies. The glass-enclosed bus is customized with stadium seating and a mounted 65-inch TV showing video segments featuring TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. A live onboard guide synchronizes movie scenes with surrounding sights while adding colorful anecdotes throughout the three-hour drive. The 50-plus locations include Paramount Studios (remember its Bronson Gate in the classic film Sunset Boulevard?); Hollywood Center Studios, where Mister Ed, Get Smart and I Love Lucy were filmed; popular movie settings like Park Plaza Hotel and Angelino Heights, seen in Fast & Furious, and downtown Los Angeles (a stand-in for Chicago, New York and Tokyo); and the site of L.A.’s first silent-film studios. Stretch your legs at the Bradbury Building (Blade Runner) and the 1939-built Union Station (The Dark Knight Rises, Catch Me If You Can and classic noir film Cry Danger). Tickets: $60-$75, including pickup from one of 250 hotels ($45-$60 without pickup). starlinetours.com

Art & Architecture Tour of Union Station
Union Station, one of L.A.’s most glorious examples of Spanish Mission-style architecture, celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2014, and, luckily, Metro continues to lead walking tours at the transportation hub. Metro Art Docent Council representatives meet groups at the information booth by the Alameda Street entrance before showing spaces not ordinarily accessed by the public: the historic ticketing area; the former Fred Harvey restaurant, designed by architect Mary Colter and still resplendent in travertine marble and decorated tiles; and the Metro Gateway Headquarters Building, whose murals by James Doolin depict how Los Angeles came to be. You’ll discover mosaics by metro entrances and even an aquarium. Who knew there were alcoves with waterfalls hidden within this bustling expanse? Union Station tours run on the second Sunday and third Saturday of the month. Additionally, public tours of the art in the Metro Rail system are available on the first Saturday and Sunday of every month. Check website for schedule. Reservations not necessary. Free. 800 N. Alameda St., downtown. metro.net/about/art

Universal Studios Nighttime Studio Tour
Universal’s popular Studio Tour just got a revamp. Not only is it being offered at night this summer, but the ride also has an all-new high-tech grand finale: Fast & Furious—Supercharged. As with the day tour, you’ll drive through the backlot of the largest working movie studio and see Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives and Peter Jackson’s King Kong in 3D, as well as the attractions that come alive at night: Jaws’ scare factor goes from a 5 to a 10; Frankenstein’s monster haunts the dark streets of Little Europe; projection technology enlivens building facades; and War of the Worlds is a mess of steam and flashing police lights. The real buzz comes at the end, when Fast & Furious—Supercharged brings you face-to-face with Vin Diesel’s hologram before you’re swept up in a high-speed chase. The Nighttime Studio Tour transitions from the daytime tour at 6:30 pm and runs nightly through Aug. 17 then on weekends through Labor Day (Sept. 7). Pricing varies. universalstudioshollywood.com

San Antonio Winery Tour
There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a tipple or two in the afternoon, especially if it’s in this downtown L.A. gem. Founded in 1917, San Antonio Winery is the oldest producing winery in the city and continues to be run by four generations of the Riboli family, which over the years has expanded the space to cover an entire block of Lamar Street. Complimentary tours take wine lovers behind the scenes to see reams of wine-filled French oak barrels, the Heritage cellar and the bottling plant, which churns out 38,000 wine bottles per week. Popular wines include Maddalena, named after the wife of the owner, Steve; top-rated Opaque Darkness; and the 2010 San Simeon cabernet sauvignon, included by Wine Enthusiast in its top 100 wines of 2014. End the tour in the tasting room with three complimentary samples ($3 on Sundays) or an artisan tasting for $15. There’s also a large gift shop, a casual bistro and the old-school Italian-inspired Maddalena Restaurant (p. 67)—a nice option for brunch, lunch or dinner. 737 Lamar St., downtown, 323.223.1401. sanantoniowinery.com

Los Angeles Conservancy Walking Tours
The L.A. Conservancy was formed in the 1970s by loyalists fighting to save the Los Angeles Central Library from demolition (they won!). You might see this landmark, among many others, as part of its walking tour program, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary. Of the eight docent-led walks, the two that bookend downtown’s legacy are the Downtown Renaissance and Modern Skyline tours, which explore architecture from the first and second half of the 20th century, respectively. Take advantage of the warmer weather with the Modern by Moonlight Tour (the evening version of Modern Skyline, 7 pm), and explore Bunker Hill’s illuminated plazas and skyscrapers before ending at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel’s sky-high lounge for cocktails with a glittery view. Downtown Renaissance and Art Deco tours run on alternate Wednesdays as part of the Downtown at Sunset Tours program (5:30 pm). Other tours include Angelino Heights, Broadway Historic Theatre and Commercial District, Historic Downtown, Millennium Biltmore Hotel and Union Station. Check website for tours and times, and share your photos using #walkDTLA. Cost: $5-$10. laconservancy.org

Been there, seen that? Check out these other great Los Angeles Tours

TCL Chinese Theatres Tour
See costumes from The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind and more on this walking tour as a guide whisks you into a world of movie premieres and tells stories behind the forecourt’s famous hand and footprints (left). Cost: $6.50-$13.50. 6925 Hollywood Blvd., L.A., 323. 463.9576.

Paramount After Dark Tour
Toast dusk with Champagne before setting off, flashlight in hand, on a guided tour that explores historic soundstages, vintage-film vaults and hidden passageways in Paramount Pictures Studios, the oldest operating—and only remaining—major studio in Hollywood. Cost: $78. paramountstudiotour.com

Malibu Wine Trail Tour
Malibu Discovery’s marquee tour takes you through Malibu’s vineyards, stopping at three tasting rooms where you can sample locally produced wines and capping off the afternoon with lunch by the ocean. Cost: $169. malibuwinecountry.com

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