It’s no secret that Los Angeles is a filmaholic’s paradise. Not only is LA the heart of the American film industry, but it’s the site of many of the country’s most famous pictures. Gather a group of your dearest cinephiles, book a charter bus, and breathe the same air as your favorite stars with a tour of LA’s top movie locations. Armed with these destinations and a few tips, you can plan an itinerary that hits the most important spots AND entertains with great group activities. If you’re traveling to LA for a conference, tournament, or college tour, consider spicing up you schedule with one or more of these star-struck locations.
How to plan transportation for your group
When planning transportation for a tour, you first have to gauge the size of your group and the level of comfort your passengers expect. Because you’ll be getting on and off the bus frequently, you won’t need all the bells and whistles that a long road trip would require. You will, however, need to spring for a bus with air-conditioning. That LA heat can be intense! If you’re traveling with fewer than 30 people, rent a mini coach bus. Any more than that, go for the full coach. For more tips on bus selection, review our quick guide.
Planning tips for the ultimate tour
Beyond proper bus selection, you’ll also want to make sure you cover a few other things: hydration, scheduling, and communication. Hydration is pretty self-explanatory. Make sure all passengers receive a reusable bottle of water—a great opportunity for branded merch. For scheduling, make sure you don’t overbook your day. Pick a maximum of three movie sites. This will give your group opportunity to enjoy locations. Finally, make sure you stay connected throughout the trip. Start a WhatsApp or Slack conversation with all your members to communicate before, during, and after your tour.
Movie Locations to Visit and Enjoy with a Group
Built in 1935, the Griffith Observatory has been a destination for families, tourists, and stargazers for a very long time. It’s also taken on a role of its own in classics like the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause. The Observatory even played a major role in The Terminator as the site of Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s famous naked landing. While you’re there, take a guided tour of the universe in the Samuel-Oschin Planetarium, or coordinate your tour with a solstice, equinox, or eclipse—all celebrated with gusto at the Observatory. You could also double up on the movie action by taking in the Hollywood sign. Contrary to what you often see in the movies, it’s illegal to approach the sign. The next best thing is to snap a selfie from the Observatory.
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California is an excellent stop on a prospective student tour of Los Angeles colleges. Film buffs will recognize USC as a stand in for several other schools on screen. It has played UC Berkeley in The Graduate, the University of Alabama in Forrest Gump, and Harvard in both The Social Network and Legally Blonde. Traveling with a group of sports lovers? USC is a big deal in college sports, producing more Olympic athletes than any other American university. While you’re there, catch a game at the Galen Center and peep a future gold medalist.
Surfrider Beach played a big role in surf culture, both as a meeting ground for the sport’s pioneers and as the set of countless surf movies. Many of their names have been lost to time but they’ve contributed to all the things we associate with surf culture: long blond hair, chilling under a wooden pier, getting up early, and catching waves at all costs. The beach is a great place to take in the salty air and bright sun. It’s also a good spot for beginner surfers as the waves are smooth and gentle. While you’re there, wander around Malibu. Go star-watching at Malibu Country Mart, hit up a spa, or splurge at the fine dining restaurants.
Santa Monica Pier
Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier is a very popular California theme park. Charter a bus and transport your group to the pier to take in this site of countless films. The Pier has shown up on screen for over 100 years—see By the Sad Sea Waves of 1917, Night at the Roxbury of 1998, and Iron Man of 2008—so it offers something for fans of every era. The Pier is part of its namesake neighborhood Santa Monica, a walkable area filled with parks, cafes, and bookshops.
Millennium Biltmore Hotel
Built in 1923, Millennium Biltmore Hotel is a stunning luxury hotel in the heart of downtown LA. It’s also the shooting location for Splash, Chinatown, Ghostbusters, Cruel Intentions, and many others. The Rendezvous Court, one of the hotel’s beautifully ordained lobbies, has appeared in Mad Men, NCIS, Daredevil, and Blow. If you have the budget, you could put up your group in its rooms for a complete Hollywood experience. If you’re looking for something more wallet-friendly, stay at one of the many hostels in the area and pop in for a drink at the Gallery Bar.
Dodger Stadium doesn’t just appear in baseball films, though Moneyball and For the Love of the Game were filmed there. The Stadium also played home to Star Trek, Mask starring Cher, and Matchstick Men. Take a tour of the Stadium or catch a Dodgers game. Wander further into the Echo Park neighborhood—a movie-lover’s attraction of its own right as it was home to many blacklisted screenwriters of the ‘50s and 60s.
You can’t miss that big, round, brown donut that’s made its way into everything from Get Shorty to Arrested Development. So many movies have put this gorgeous monument to California kitsch on the silver and small screens. It’s a drive-in. It’s a bakery. It’s a Hollywood landmark. Get your butts over to Inglewood, 30 minutes from downtown LA. While you’re there, take in the Marina Del Rey or the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve. Nothing goes better with donuts than fresh air.