Travel SOS: US celebrity tours

Mary would like to visit LA to do some famed Hollywood celebrity tours, but wants to know which ones are the best? Lee Mylne shares her recommendations.

Q. Mary
I would love to go to LA and do some of the fun celebrity tours – which ones would you recommend?

A. Star-spotting is such fun in Los Angeles, Mary – and one of the tours is a good way to increase your chances of actually seeing someone famous. The guides are experts at spotting them!

There are several companies that offer Hollywood tours that include driving around the exclusive neighbourhoods and seeing (as much as you can behind tall fences and screening trees) the homes of the rich and famous. Most of them transport you in open-top buses – better for snapping those pictures – and have a fun and knowledgeable guide who can fill you in on all the most recent celebrity gossip, as well as the history and famous stories that go with this territory.

These tours usually include Rodeo Drive, where you’ll be driven past the most exclusive stores, and given the chance to photograph famous landmarks such as the ‘Hollywood’ sign, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood ‘Walk of Fame’, the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Playboy Mansion, and Sunset Strip.

Tours range from two to six hours. Two-hour tours usually include Hollywood, Sunset Strip, a number of celebrity homes, and quick swing along Rodeo Drive. A three-hour tour will include the same (maybe a few more celebrity homes), and a stop at either Mulholland Drive or somewhere with a view of the Hollywood sign.

Five to six-hour tours also take in downtown Los Angeles, or Santa Monica beach.

One of the best companies is Ultimate Hollywood Tours, which promises more than 50 movie star homes, including those of Michael Jackson, Madonna, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Julia Roberts and more (as well as where the stars of yesteryear lived, such as Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe). 

Starline Tours, which has been operating since 1935, is another of the most popular tour companies and bills itself as the ‘Original Movie Stars’ Homes Tour’. Starline also claims exclusive access to some residential neighbourhoods where other tour buses are forbidden to go, thanks to ‘special arrangements with municipal officials’. 

All the tour providers are located along a stretch of Hollywood Boulevard, but it is probably best to do some research and book online before you get there. Tours can fill up fast, so booking early is a good idea. If you’ve got reservations, still try to allow plenty of time to get there, as Hollywood Boulevard is packed with tourists and spruikers and can take time to navigate!

Remember that you’ll probably be in an open-top van, so be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat at the least to protect you (or wrap up warmly if it’s cooler weather). Take water with you too, as it can get very hot and thirsty in the LA sun for two or three hours.

Vans normally take about 12 passengers, and remember that you’ll get the best view from the back seats, on the right hand side where you won’t be obstructed by other traffic when you’re taking photos. If there’s a particular star’s home that you want a really good view of, ask the driver or guide before you set out where you should sit.

Morning tours are the best choice for two reasons. The sun is generally going to be in a better position for photos, and the traffic will be less frenetic if you’re out and about before 3pm.

Don’t forget that you should be prepared to tip your driver/guide – in fact, they won’t let you forget it, probably mentioning it a few times (or more) during the tour, in my experience! A good benchmark is about $3-$5 per person for a two or three-hour tour, and $5-$10 per person for longer tours.

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