PHOTO: The iconic water tower at Warner Bros. Studio. (Photo by Christine Bord)
Some of the most iconic movie and TV scenes ever weren't filmed anywhere near the location where they're set. Instead, they were shot in one of the many movie studios around the world.
Take, for instance, the Central Park scenes in "Friends." Those were filmed on a small grassy patch in the middle of the Warner Bros. lot—2500 miles away from the real thing. The gazebo in Stars Hollow any "Gilmore Girls" fan will recognize? It's also located at Warner Bros., just around the corner from "Central Park."
Knowing movie buffs are always looking for some behind-the-scenes scoop, many of the big movie studios began offering tours through their lots years ago, with some being better than others.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood, California
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour is probably the best, and most popular, studio tour in the world.
What makes the tour unique is the combination of movie history and access to current productions. As guests ride through the studio's lot in an open-air tram, they get to peek into the soundstages where hit TV shows like "The Fosters," "The Big Bang Theory" and "Mom" are filmed. Depending on production schedules, fans are even allowed to walk through one of the working sets, see the props up close and personal, and hear behind-the-scenes stories.
After touring garages filled with famous cars (like the Batmobile and the Scooby Doo van) visitors can check out a museum filled with memorabilia from the studio's most famous movies.
The grand finale of the tour is a chance to sit on the "Friends" couch, in the show's original set for the ultimate photo opp. I can attest to the fact that this picture is Facebook gold—if you're into that sort of thing. WB Tour tickets can be purchased online at wbstudiotour.com.
Warner Bros. Studio, Leavesden, UK
Halfway around the world another Warner Bros. Studio Tour also receives rave reviews, especially from "Harry Potter" fans. The "Harry Potter" films called this studio home for ten years and, once filming wrapped in 2010, the movie's producers turned the movie's props, costumes, and sets into a permanent installation on the soundstages where the films were shot. Ticket information for "The Making of Harry Potter" can be found at wbstudiotour.co.uk.
Weta Workshop VIP Tours, Miramar, New Zealand
This special effects and prop company has been around since 1987 but reached world-wide fame after producing sets, wardrobe pieces, and creatures for "The Lord of the Rings Trilogy". But, "LOTR" isn't the only big-budget production Weta has worked on in recent years. The studio recently had a hand in creating special effects for the highly anticipated films "The Great Wall" and "Thor: Ragnarok".
The Weta Workshop VIP Tour is one of the best for fans who want to participate in the world of moviemaking. The tour includes an exclusive demonstration in "the art of movie magic," a hands-on demonstration from an experienced Weta Workshop technician, the opportunity to visit areas usually kept away from the public - like the Weta Workshop boardroom - and a two-course meal at CoCo at the Rox to dine among Weta Workshop artwork. This is also by far the priciest tour on the list at $499 a person. Get all the deets at wetaworkshop.com.
READ MORE Best Movie Tours When Visiting Los Angeles
Walt Disney Studios and Disneyland Resort, Southern California
With dozens of excursions to choose from, Adventures by Disney has mastered the art of the vacation package. Their Disney Studios and Disneyland Resort package, part of their Southern California adventure, is a perfect example of the best in Disney travel. The trip includes a peek "behind-the-magic" with breakfast at The Walt Disney Studios Commissary, a private guided visit the the Walt Disney Archives, a firsthand look at how the magic of Disney is created on a Walt Disney Imagineering Tour and a stay at the Disneyland Resort. More information can be found at adventuresbydisney.com.
Paramount Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains, California
Paramount Ranch's Western Town is the quintessential Old West village, complete with a saloon, jail, and dusty dirt roads. Originally operated by Paramount back in the 1920s, the movie set is now part of the National Park Service and can be explored for free unless, of course, it is being used as an active movie set.
Recently, there has been a renewed interest in the Paramount Ranch because much of the hit HBO series "Westworld" was filmed here. Among the "Westworld" sets fans will recognize is the church which was built in Western Town specifically for the series. To find out how you can find Western Town, visit nps.gov.