A HOLIDAY to Los Angeles wouldn’t be complete without taking in the film-star glitz of Hollywood, including the celebrity Walk of Fame. But there are plenty of other things to do says LEAH SIMPSON
1) TMZ Tour: secrets and celebrity hotspots
Launched back in May, this tour gives celebrity obsessives a new way to experience the knowledge and humour of TMZ. Partnering with Starline Tours, the oldest and largest tour company in Los Angeles, the tour is produced by the same staff as the TMZ website and television show. The tour departs from Starline Tours’ main terminal at the world-famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater and heads to the locations made famous by TMZ and their coverage of Hollywood’s most talked about celebrities. Hot spots include where Gloria Allred negotiated Tiger Woods’ and Rachel's ten million dollar settlement, to the courthouse that Lindsay Lohan calls home.
Our guide Van Latham explained that employees must be ready at any time to turn the experience into the ultimate "TMZ" moment when the tour encounters celebrities along the route, and send footage directly back to TMZ's Hollywood headquarters for use on the website and TV show. On the inaugural tour, the creator of TMZ played tour guide for the first tour and spotted P. Diddy shopping in Beverly Hills. He hopped off the bus for a chat and the interview was on TMZ.com before the tour was over.
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The tour’s guides and tour video offer tips to passengers on where the hot nightclubs are and the best way to get past the velvet ropes, points out where stars live, shop and dine. Tours operate daily at 9:30a.m. 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. year-round. Tickets are $69 for adults, $59 for youth 3-11 and may be purchased in advance.
2) Universal Studios Hollywood
Immerse yourself in a full day of movie-making magic as you discover the Universal Studios Hollywood the general public doesn't get to see with a VIP ticket.
Our guide, Tim, took us behind the scenes to visit closed-to-the-public sets and working soundstages, and hear inside stories about the making of famous movies and TV shows.
Our private bus of just a few people took a spin down Wisteria Lane from ABC's hit series Desperate Housewives and we toured the monumental backlot and walk through actual sets, including Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds.
Best of all we were able to get off the VIP trolley and take photos at places such as the original Psycho House and Bates Motel plus the set of Ghost Whisperer and Back to the Future.
Our passes – which also got us front of line access to rides like The Simpsons™ virtual rollercoaster - is well worth the extra bucks if you ask me.
As special guests we got to trawl through the Archive and Collections Department to see how Universal’s historical props, documents, photos and costumes are preserved for history.
Plus we were pampered like a star with access to the VIP Lounge before our morning began, had a gourmet lunch in the exclusive VIP Dining Room and received an exclusive discount on Universal Studios Hollywood theme park merchandise.
In order to provide exceptional personal attention, spaces for the VIP Experience are very limited. Reserve your spot soon.
Only $259 for the ultimate Hollywood studio tour.
Transportation only from L.A costs $45 for adults or $35 for children with StarlineTours.com
3) Warner Bros. Studios VIP Tour
The Warner Bros. Studios VIP Tour literally immerses guests in the inner sanctum of the entertainment industry with an over two-hour journey into the heart of the world’s busiest motion picture and television studio. It is an intimate experience that offers a rare glimpse at real Hollywood at work while bringing guests within inches of the action for a bird’s eye view of actual TV and film projects in the making.
Warner Bros. Studios is a constantly changing and ever-evolving world of film and television production; therefore, no two VIP tours are ever the same.
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Whenever possible, guests are escorted onto an active soundstage or back lot film set for an up-close and personal look at the sets, props, lighting and special effects from some of today’s most popular and critically-acclaimed films and TV shows. My group got to experience the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show, a replica of Central Perk from Friends and even Harry Potter’s Great Hall at Hogwarts (with the magic of green screen).
4) Professional photoshoot with Christian Romero
What better way to capture great memories from your trip to Los Angeles than with photos you can actually be proud of? Generic theme park shots seem like a good idea at the time but just don’t quite cut it when it comes to going through your best snaps once home. And as much as I love my friends and family, I don’t love the way they seem to have a knack of missing the picture perfect moment, and that’s why the idea of bringing in a professional seemed so right.
L.A-based Christian Romero took us to our favourite locations around Beverly Hills, including Rodeo Drive, so we came home with snapshots worthy of a place in a magazine.
5) Exercise like a celebrity, Live Art Pilates
Kristin Carey first fell in love with Pilates when asked to do an Infomercial for a Pilates Combo Unit. They trained her for 3 months and it was like nothing she had ever done. Being an athlete her whole life, this was something different. It was an awareness of her body, working smarter, and feeling stronger and leaner.
Kristin knows from experience because she lived for 3 years with chronic lower back pain from a bad auto accident. She was told surgery was the only option. She didn’t listen and healed herself through physical therapy and Pilates.
The Hall Pass actress is trained by Siri Galliano and works at Live Art Pilates in Beverly Hills where she specialised is post op hip and knee replacements.
Siri Dharma Galliano is one of the leading Pilates trainers in North America and Europe, via her Live Art Pilates Studio in West Los Angeles. A renowned“New York Pilates” instructor with over 20 years of experience, she has trained actors on location in feature films such as “The Matrix 2,” “The Matrix 3,” “Batman,” and the “Kill Bill” films. In addition to her studio and film work, Ms. Galliano has travelled the world helping to sculpt the bodies of celebrity clients such as Madonna, Sting, Uma Thurman and Cameron Diaz.
6) Shangri LA Pool Party, Santa Monica
Overlooking the Pacific since 1939, The Hotel Shangri-La is a striking beacon of Art Deco elegance, a chronicle of Old-Hollywood glamour, and a quintessential nexus of culture. Hidden away on a high Santa Monica bluff, stepping down to the ocean and historic Santa Monica Pier, this timeless Santa Monica boutique hotel has undergone a unique multi-million dollar revamp - promising you your own personal Shangri-la.
But you can’t do LA without making a real splash at a chilled out pool party. The Courtyard entertains an elevated pool, private cabanas, poolside bar and dining, encouraging a never-ending summer.
Ditch Day Fridays take place by the pool from 1-7pm on Fridays.
7) Trapeze School, Santa Monica
Led by Trapeze School New York – the same company who trained Pink for her tour and gave Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker a course for her part "The Catch," – don’t worry you’ll be in safe hands.
You may not have the urge to throw myself off a platform 23 feet in the air but believe me the experience is liberating and something you’ll be proud of forever. You might even learn a few new tricks.
Kids and adults of all ages donned their tightest gear to take part in the lesson on Santa Monica Pier.
Our instructor Ryan was great with the kids and encouraged classmates to encourage each other, especially when we seemed to experiencing an extreme case of the wobbly knees.
Once harnessed up – and after a few practice turns on the metal bar on the ground - I was flying free with a massive audience on the pier watching. Gulp.
8) Beach Butler, Santa Monica
In Los Angeles, holidays start with the beaches. Santa Monica is LA’s oldest and largest beach resort with a wooden pier, funfair and great shopping. Enjoy Santa Monica's world famous beach like a star! To give you even more time to work on your tan, Perry's now offers Beach Butler service at three of its Santa Monica locations. The butler will setup your beach chair, table and umbrella at a designated time and location, deliver tanning products, chilled beverages and even food so that you will never have to leave your towel. When you are ready to leave, they do the clean up, so you don’t have to.
Towels, hats, sunscreen, beach toys and a full array of rentals ranging from extra chairs to boogie boards are available for an additional charge.
9) Dodgers game
I’ve never really understood what baseball is but just knowing it’s practically an institution in the US was enough reason to get me to a game. What turned out to be a game of rounders (my most dreaded sport when it came to P.E lessons at school), it was fun watching the Cincinatti Reds vs LA Dodgers just to experience the ball game atmosphere. And of course for the chance to purchase and pose with the famous blue foam finger.
10) Student Academy Awards
The Student Academy Awards is an annual competition for college and university filmmakers. Winners – selected by the professional filmmaker members of the Academy – receive trophies (but not Oscar statuettes) and cash prizes. Many have even gone on to have successful careers in movies and television.
When we got dressed up and whisked off (in a cab) to the Samuel Goldman Theatre, awards were presented in four categories: alternative, animation, documentary and narrative. We were delighted and very surprised to see actress Jennifer Garner on the stage presenting an award to one of the winners.
We were excited to learn that among the past Student Academy Award winners who have gone on to prominent careers as filmmakers is Spike Lee and two former Student Academy Award winners were 2009 Oscar nominees.
Notable Academy members served as presenters at the June 12 ceremony, and clips from the silver and bronze medal-winning films were shown. Following the awards presentation, the gold medal-winning films and the honorary foreign film winner were screened in their entirety so it’s better than a night at the cinema.
And you get more for your buck too - the event is free and anyone can attend! Apply for your ticket for the 2012 ceremony now.
Five nights in LA with Virgin Holidays including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow direct to LA, two nights accommodation at the 4V Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, three nights accommodation at the 4V Renaissance Hollywood Hotel and Spa on a room only basis, and car hire, starts from £1135. Prices are per person based on two adults travelling and sharing a standard room. Price includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Prices are based on departures on 10th November 2011.
Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected
To book: www.virginholidays.co.uk, 0844 557 3859 or visit one of our 60 stores located in Debenhams and House of Fraser stores nationwide.