Day 4: Warner Bros. Studios
We started our day bright and early with hotel breakfast before checking out and driving to the Warner Bros. Studio, where we had an early tour. It was so much fun to get a “behind the scenes” look! Our first look was at the 100 years of storytelling showcase.
We then moved on to a tour of the Ellen DeGeneres set. This was not her active taping season, but we could walk and explore the set, and of course, pose for pictures.
Another fascinating area focuses on the “Leading Ladies” and movie fashion. There are five dresses spanning two decades of fashion, from the 1930s to the 1950s, that were worn by Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall and Olivia de Havilland. Not to mention Lady Gaga in the recent A Star is Born movie!
Warner Bros. is one of the busiest working studios in Los Angeles and has been in the entertainment industry for almost 100 years! We boarded our tour carts and drove around the back lots.
Sidney and I recently finished the Gilmore Girls series and were surprised at the number of buildings that are still recognizable today from the town Stars Hollow. I recognized the gazebo from the town centre and the Gilmore Girls’ house. Other buildings were recognizable once the guide specifically pointed them out.
Of course, the fountain from Friends is here too. It was used just recently as a backdrop when they taped the Friends: The Reunion show.
When we toured Stage 48, we got a chance to sit down for a photo on The Couch in Central Perk. Besides the coffee shop, you can also shop at the dedicated Friends store. I loved seeing all the Friends areas – it is one of my all-time favorite TV shows.
Also inside Studio 48 is the Big Bang Theory set. Sidney got that couch all to herself before we moved on to some of the Harry Potter experiences.
The guides were so animated and had so many cool stories to tell. My favorite stories were about the backlots and how they keep on reusing buildings by only making small updates or tweaks for new movies or shows. They are quite clever in how they can force size perspective and use camera angles to make things appear larger or further away than they are.
After driving around a bit, we got to walk through the DC Super Heroes and Super Villains area. Here we saw a replica of the Batcave that included the authentic Batmobile from the original Batman movie, the Tumbler from The Dark Knight and the Batwing from Batman v. Superman. Pieter enjoyed this part of the tour more than the Gilmore Girls references.
As a special treat, we were also able to hold a real Oscar reward on our way out! Who knew it was so heavy! Time for a speech:
“I would like to thank my parents, my education in Garies and of course my wonderful husband, Pieter, for this awesome opportunity and trip! And thank you Sidney for spending time with the old folks!”
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Once we were done with our tour, it was time to decide where to next. We already checked out of the hotel and had all our luggage with us in the car. We decided to head directly back to Las Vegas instead of the originally planned stopover in Death Valley. We did want to make a quick stop at the Hollywood Walk of Fame before starting our 5-hour drive to Vegas.
Our drive took us past the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, where they host movie premieres and immortalize the handprints and footprints of the movie stars. After driving around a bit, we decided to leave Los Angeles and get on the highway.
Burbank, CA – Las Vegas, NV – 280 miles
We got caught in famous LA traffic again – it sure gives Atlanta a run for its money!!! Once we turned north at San Bernardino the traffic lightened considerably. It was a welcome change for sure. Not a very green area, but still pretty in its own way. As the afternoon turned into evening, we could see thunderstorms in the distance.
We did stop a couple of times on the way, but the most memorable stop was in Baker, California, where we saw the world’s tallest thermometer. It is 134 feet tall (that is 40 meters) and at dusk, when we stopped there, it indicated a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit. That is a lovely 40 degrees Celsius! The crows hanging around with their mouths open reminded me of a South African saying “So warm dat die kraaie gaap“. When you translate it into English it means “So hot the crows are yawning”. And yes, it was exactly that hot!
After close to 6 hours of driving, we made it back to Las Vegas and our hotel for the night!
Day 5: In and around Las Vegas
We had reservations at the Strat for the next couple of days, but could only check in at 3pm. So we decided to use our morning to sightsee and stop at a couple of tourist spots.
Our first stop of the day was at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. When in Vegas… This trendy tourist landmark is located close to the airport and is considered the official end of the Las Vegas Strip. Fun fact: the Las Vegas Strip is actually located in Paradise, Nevada and is south of the official city limits of Las Vegas itself.
Once we got our pictures taken, we drove up the Las Vegas Strip taking in the sights during the day. If you’ve never been to Las Vegas or the Strip, the first thing you notices is the crowds. Pedestrians everywhere busily make their way from one casino to the next, or visit restaurants or other attractions along the way. We decided to spend some time over on Fremont Street, the city’s actual birthplace, and famous for the city’s first casinos such as Binion’s Horseshoe and The Golden Nugget. It is only open to pedestrian traffic and is home to the Slotzilla Zipline, all under a giant canopy-style roof, and in true Vegas fashion – all lit up day and night.
At the bottom end of Fremont Street you will find the Heart Attack Grill, where you can dine for free if you weigh over 350 pounds (158 kg). Guests are dressed in hospital gowns and served by waiters and staff dressed as nurses and doctors. The menu includes the Bypass Burger (ranging from Single all the way to Octuple of course), Coronary Dog and Flatliner Fries. Wine is served in IV bags that are wheeled out to the guests’ tables. Don’t even try and count calories here!
While the Heart Attack Grill seemed like “fun”, we were not looking for so many calories. For us, a light lunch made more sense. We made our way back to the Fashion Show mall where we could safely park the car (with all our luggage) and walk around in some air-conditioned luxury (!). We grabbed lunch at the food court and people watched while enjoying the view over The Strip.
After checking into the hotel and relaxing a bit, we headed up to the 108th floor for cocktails and snacks while watching the sun set over Vegas. The Strat Tower is higher than the Eiffel Tower and reaches 1,1149 feet (350 meters) into the sky. It is the tallest freestanding tower in the United States. I highly recommend doing this – the views were spectacular from both the indoor & outdoor observation decks!
Here, all the way on the top, is also where you will find three well-known thrill rides. We watched some very brave folks get on the Big Shot, the Insanity and the X-Scream to either be shot into the air or dangled over the side. If that does not provide enough of an adrenaline rush, there is also the SkyJump where you leap (!) over the edge and down to the landing pad below. That was another nope from me but Sidney looked intrigued…!
It was a great ending to a great first day in Las Vegas and we had big plans for tomorrow. How about another out-of-town drive to see some sights? Keep on reading for Part 4!