There's no better way to learn about what goes on behind the camera's lens than taking a Hollywood studio tour. Most of the studio tours listed below take you through real, working studios. Unfortunately, this means that with only one exception, they only operate on weekdays when the studios are open.
Expect to see all-purpose outdoor sets that can be dressed up to look like all kinds of places and to visit props and wardrobe departments. Most tours will also include a visit to a sound stage, and some studios have nice museums. You'll see the behind-the-scenes workings of a studio, but you won't watch any of them actually making a film.
Any of these studio tours will be more fun when the studio is busy. That usually means August through March, except for the end-of-year holidays. They're still worth visiting during the off-season as long as you understand that they can't show you as much when nothing much is happening.
Studio Tours in Hollywood and Los Angeles
Adventures by Disney: Backstage Magic: There's no better way to do it than this. Adventures by Disney's Backstage Magic tour is a six-day, five-night ramble behind the scenes at film studios, Disney Imagineering and the two California theme parks, venturing into places not normally open to the public. It begins in Hollywood and includes several places you won't get into any other way like the Jim Henson Studios, Disney Studios and behind stage at the El Capitan movie theater.
Paramount Studio Tour: At Paramount, you'll tour the only working studio still operating in Hollywood proper. This tour will take you past the Bronson Gate (from which actor Charles Bronson took his stage name) and through some of the famous spots in studio history. This is the only working studio that lets you take pictures on their tour, takes you around in a comfy cart and it's the easiest to get to using public transportation.
Sony Pictures Studio Tour: In the early days, this studio belonged to MGM and was the place where classic films like The Wizard of Oz and Mutiny on the Bounty were filmed. Their studio tours run weekdays and may visit the sets of the hit game shows "Jeopardy!" or "Wheel of Fortune." Located in Culver City. It includes a lot of walking.
Universal Studios Tour: Over the years since it opened, the Universal Studios tours has morphed into more of a theme park ride than a real studio tour. It's fun to see some of their classic film sets, but you'll learn little about films are made on this tour. Located north of Hollywood in Universal City.
Warner Studio Tour: The informative tram tour takes you to the Warner Bros. Museum, to see the studio's "back lot" outdoor sets and often onto a sound stage or into one of the departments that support the film-making process. Located in Burbank.