Travel – Los Angeles: San Fernando Valley 2
Daddy of all studio tours is the Universal Studios Tour. From Hollywood, take the 101 Hollywood Freeway North to Universal Studios Boulevard, then turn right and follow the signs to the Universal Studios parking areas.
When Carl Laemmle first began to make silent movies on farmland here in 1915, visitors could pay to watch filming and also buy half a dozen eggs. Apart from the scale of the enterprise, little has changed.
With loads of live attractions and the famous tram ride, Universal is undeniably a theme park, but that’s not going to deter you from seeing Wisteria Lane, the Munster House, the Back To The Future town square and, most famous of all, the Bates house from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.
The tour has recovered from the disastrous backlot fire of 2008, which destroyed the animatronic King Kong attraction. Now Kong is back in a 360º-3D version, overseen by Peter Jackson himself and there's also the inevitable Harry Potter attraction.
Most of Hitchcock’s Psycho was filmed on the Universal lot, though you can find one of the few real locations in the Valley. The BMW dealership Century West BMW, 4270 Lankershim Boulevard at Whipple Street and Valley Spring, just north of the studio is where fugitive Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) trades in her car as she flees 'Phoenix'.
Before heading off to Burbank, and another very different studio tour, take a look at Bob’s Big Boy, 4211 Riverside Drive, built in 1949, and oldest of the chain. It’s a beauty of post-war, space age design. If you fancy a burger, try to get the table by the window with the plaque celebrating the filming of Heat here – this is where Breedan (Dennis Haysbert) works as a dishwasher before being recruited by McCauley (Robert de Niro). Fans of 60s Brit Pop might want to consider the Beatles Booth, occupied by the Fab Four during their 1965 US Summer Tour.
Northeast on West Olive Avenue at Lamer Street stands the magnificently kitschy, African-themed Safari Inn, 199 West Olive Avenue (that’s ‘African’ as in ‘1950s Hollywood African’, of course).
Although you’ll recognise this as where those crazy kids Clarence and Alabama (Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette) lie low in Tony Scott’s film of the Tarantino-scripted True Romance, don’t ask for the room with the zebra-stripes – this particular treat was created in the studio. The Safari was also the ‘Florida’ motel, where the wife of one of the astronauts ominously loses her wedding ring the night before take-off, in Ron Howard’s Apollo 13.