Tag Archives: LA day trips

Be a star at the Warner Bros. studio tour in Hollywood

Visiting a Hollywood studio has been on my bucket list since I was a child. Now that I’ve done it – it was everything I had hoped it would be.

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Warner Bros. Studio sound-stage

My husband and I along with our teenage son had a blast. This attraction is a top-ten LA must-see.
Located in Burbank, north of LA, it’s hard to get to without a car. We arrived as part of a day-long tour of LA and were dropped off for a couple of hours.
The tour starts with a video presentation and then you board a trolley driven by a guide through the Warner Bros. back-lot.

Along the way, you get off the trolley and walk around the open-air sets designed to look like city streets. There are more brief video presentations along the way. You’re also left to tour some departments on your own.

A highlight for our family was visiting the Ellen set. The sound-stage is enormous and her set, as seen on TV, occupies a small part of the building. You can’t take photos of active sets.

Harry Potter

We also walked around the props building (West Wing Oval Office furniture), costume museum (Harry Potter and DC Comics movies). There’s also an any-town USA street. The cottages are fronts for various production offices.

Friends TV Show

Another highlight was taking photos on the set of the Central Perk Café from the Friends sitcom on Stage 48. Stage 48 is a self-guided tour of the movie process from script and filming to post-production. You can feel like a star and hold a real Academy Award, presented to Warner Bros. for a “best picture” win in the 1930s.

My husband and son enjoyed the Batman-cars garage.


The movie La La Land was filmed on the lot and my husband and I got a kick out of picking out the movie locations. Parts of Jurassic Park (original) were filmed here too (the rainforest close-ups). Yes, there’s a cultivated rainforest on the lot!

Tickets cost about $60 for ages 13 and up. It’s worth the money. Allow three-hours for the tour. The guides are mostly film students and you guessed it, they want to work in the movie business when they graduate. In LA, everyone we met at their workplace said they really wanted to be a ‘producer’ or ‘director’ and that this was just their ‘day job’. It’s a cliché but true. Welcome to LA.

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The southern beaches of LA County

If I asked you to name one beach in the LA area you’d probably reply, Santa Monica or Malibu. I bet you’ve never heard of Manhattan Beach or Hermosa and Redondo beaches. The three beach cities of southern Los Angeles County are easy day-trips from LA. They all have that envious mellow beach-vibe that is the quintessential California of our day dreams.

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Image from Google Maps

The beaches are located in the southern end of Santa Monica Bay and stretch several miles to the northern side of the Palos Verde Peninsula. Leaving Santa Monica, you come across Manhattan Beach first followed in quick succession by Hermosa and Redondo.

Winter temperatures in the beach cities average about 55 degrees (12 Celsius)and 70 degrees (21 Celsius) in summer thanks to westerly winds that also help keep the smog away.

Along the eastern border of the beaches lies the Strand, a concrete bike path that starts in Redondo Beach and leads all the way to Will Rodgers State Beach north of Santa Monica.

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The Strand on Redondo Beach. Image courtesy of Airbnb

Unfortunately, the Pacific Coast Highway cuts the beach cities into east and west neighbourhoods. The west-ends are all about the beach.

Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach is 21 miles (34 km) south of LA on the Pacific Coast Highway and a world away from the carnival atmosphere of Santa Monica. Its clean, wide beach attracts  visitors from around the world.

Along the Manhattan Beach Strand are multi-million-dollar homes that will make you want to run out and buy lottery tickets. Thirty-six thousand residents call this city home.

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Image courtesy of the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP)

Manhattan Beach is most famous for beach volleyball and is home to the annual Manhattan Beach Volleyball Open held in July.

Manhattan Beach Pier is located at the end of Manhattan Beach Blvd. and juts out almost 1000 feet into the ocean and is home to the Roundhouse Aquarium.

Lights, camera, action

Manhattan Beach is home to the Manhattan Beach Studios, a film and TV production facility where America’s Funniest Home Videos was recorded and Marvel Movies like Iron Man 2 were filmed.

Things to do in Manhattan Beach

Beach volleyball, swimming, surfing, body-surfing, cycling, shopping, Roundhouse Aquarium.

Hermosa Beach

Just 1.7 miles (3 km) south of Manhattan Beach lies Hermosa City Beach. Hermosa’s claim to fame is surfing. In January, when we were here, surfers in wet suits braved the waves while families tobogganed down a sand dune on surfboards. This unofficial beach sport brought a smile to my face as I had only ever seen people slide down snow-covered hills.

The city is the smallest of the three beach cities. It has a population of about 20,000 and spans 15 blocks from east to west and about 40 blocks from north to south. But within its border, you’ll find many bars and restaurants as well as shops.

The Hermosa Beach Pier is at the end of Pier Avenue, which is a hub of bars, restaurants and shops. At the start of the pier is the Surfer’s Walk of Fame. There’s a statue of a local surf hero and bronze plaques engraved with the names of surfing luminaries.

The restaurant and bar scene seems more alive here than in Manhattan beach.

Things to do in Hermosa Beach

Surfing, swimming, paddle boarding, fishing off the pier, beach volleyball, cycling, shopping, dining and partying.

Redondo Beach

Just one-and-half miles south of Hermosa, Redondo has triple the population of Hermosa and a Mediterranean vibe that is unique among the three beach cities. Palm trees line the Strand and a concrete wall protects the promenade, much like the in the towns that line the Italian Riviera. Million dollar homes line the east side of the Strand and the beachfront is quieter than Hermosa’s.

The wide and flat beach is ideal for playing volleyball and permanent nets are maintained by the city year-round just like on the other two beaches.

Things to do in Redondo Beach

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Redondo Beach Pier is full of amusements and dining spots.

The Redondo Beach Pier also juts 1000 feet out into the Pacific Ocean, but unlike Manhattan’s pier, on Redondo’s, you can shop, dine and enjoy amusement games.

Other typical activities include surfing, swimming, beach volleyball, fishing, shopping and dining.

All in a day

We visited the three beach cities in a single afternoon. I wish we had a full day. That’s all you really need to experience the laid-back California beach lifestyle far from the maddening crowd.