If you come to Los Angeles wishing to see where movie magic gets made, look on the other side of Hollywood—literally.
“I always tell people that when they see the Hollywood sign, if you climb over that hill, the other side is Burbank—and that’s where the movies are made,” says Tom Whelan, the general manager of Burbank’s AAA Four-Diamond Hotel Amarano, and chairman of the Burbank Hospitality Association.
Indeed, this Los Angeles County town, just north of the geographic Hollywood, is the headquarters for a number of heavy hitters, like Warner Bros. and Disney Studios. “People often don’t realize that Burbank is the media capital of the world,” says Whelan. “Most sitcoms, talk shows, and a lot of movies are all done in Burbank. Remember the movie The Perfect Storm? Those scenes at sea were made in a giant water tank—in Burbank.”
Any visit here could easily center around the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood—with its 110-acre backlot of movie and TV sets, as well as exhibits of props and soundstages—along with a day or two at nearby Universal Studios Hollywood. (Disney Studios offers a few tours, too, especially if you book an Adventures by Disney vacation package.)
But the city is more than a collection of studio lots. Since this is the working turf of many visiting entertainment-industry types, there are plenty of local places to stay, from the plush boutique Amarano (with its saltwater pool, complimentary French bonbons, and a reasonable chance of seeing stars in the lobby) to the retro-styled Safari Inn, which has played small parts in films and shows such as True Romance and Desperate Housewives. Getting here is easy, too: Hollywood Burbank Airport offers easy entry into L.A. by way of airlines such as Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, United, and Southwest.
Beyond the industry-driven Media District, the city has two more distinct areas. The Downtown Burbank district—where the 20th-century city was first born out of the emerging movie industry, along with airplane manufacturing during World War II—is now home to eateries such as Moore’s Delicatessen (an animators’ hangout, complete with doodles on the walls), the braised-beef soft tacos at foodie magnet Guisados, or Fosters Freeze, the ’50s-era drive-in famous for offering the first soft-serve ice cream cones in the region. To go full circle in the movie-making process, watch a blockbuster at downtown’s AMC Burbank 16, one of the top-grossing movie theaters in the U.S. Come in October for the Burbank Beer Festival, when a few blocks of San Fernando Boulevard get blocked off for live music and craft beer tastings.
For more dining and shopping, wander the diverse Magnolia Park neighborhood, with the Cuban-style chorizo pies and guava strudels at acclaimed Porto’s Bakery, or the eco-friendly, all-California beer bar Tony’s Darts Away. Magnolia Park also has a thriving “vintage-inspired” shopping scene, like the ’50s-style fashions at Unique Vintage, or the ultimate Hollywood souvenirs from It’s A Wrap!, the Magnolia Boulevard shop that sells off props and costumes from TV shows and movies; check its website to see which productions are supplying the current inventory.