Thinking of going to LA late next week, NOT for the Oscars.
February 16, 2012 1:54 PM   Subscribe

I may be going to Los Angeles next week on a brief vacation with my Disney-Channel-oriented 13-year-old daughter. I have signed up for free tickets to a taping of 'Jessie' on Friday the 24th. Will this all work out?

Here's my plan:
- Train from Bay Area to LA Union Station on Wednesday or Thursday. Most likely the San Joaquin, as the Coast Starlight is not likely to be on time in that direction.
- Touristy stuff TBD.
- Show taping 5 pm Friday at Hollywood Center Studios, 1040 N. Las Palmas.
- Return on the Coast Starlight on Saturday or Sunday.

We've been looking for an excuse to take the train for a while - I don't think I'd bother with this idea if it involved air travel.

- Is this doable without a car, or should I rent one?
- How overbooked is the taping likely to be? It's a new show, middle of the first season. I'd like to get an idea of how early to show up.
- What is it like going to one of these? I imagine it might actually be long and boring.
- How serious is the studio about their no-cell-phone rule?
- What's a good neighborhood to stay in - convenient to either the train station, or the studio, or other fun areas, and safe for walking around?
posted by expialidocious to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (18 answers total)
How serious is the studio about their no-cell-phone rule?

Kick you out serious. Anytime they have to re-film a scene costs a small pile of money. A cell phone ringing = re-film scene.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:59 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's totally do-able without a car. HOwever, it will be a shit-ton easier if you rent a car. And my sense is that you're here to have fun with your kid, not to prove how intrepid you can be via public transpo.

Re: the taping. Funnily enough I'm taking my kid to a taping of a different disney/nick/etc show there tomorrow evening. I'll come back and post my observations. (Please MeMail me if I forget.) I've been to a lot of tapings in my time and yes, many of them got boring. But I've heard from a friend who is a warm-up guy that these kid-oriented shows have gotten much better about keeping the kiddos entertained. (He told me about a shoot that stretched to 11pm but the kids were having so much fun that nobody asked to go home! However, that late is not the norm.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:23 PM on February 16, 2012

I lived in LA without a car for 3 years. Based on my experience here are my suggestions:

Definitely doable without a car, but you may spend more on cab fare than a rental car will cost. If you get in a cab in LA and go further than a mile, expect to pay between 20-40 per ride including tip. Don't rely on buses to get you to and from places, they're extremely slow and usually require multiple transfers to get you where you want to go.

The Disney studios should have told you in an email how early to show up - if not, give 'em a call. I'm sure they'll be helpful! I'm guessing if you're 90 minutes early, you should have no problems getting in. Many studios resort to paying people to fill the seats in their audience, so I wouldn't expect it to be too overbooked.

Taping of a show will probably take 3 to 4 hours. If you've never been to a live TV taping, it should be interesting enough - I worked in live TV for 8 years and attended thousands of tapings and still enjoyed being in the audience of the show I worked on. Expect to force a laugh here or there - when you realize something's not actually funny, but is supposed to be funny.

Don't plan on using your cell phone at all during the taping, you will definitely get kicked out.

I recommend you stay somewhere on the west side - it won't be convenient to the train station or the studio, but honestly, you don't want to stay downtown. It's gritty and not for tourists or chilrend. You also don't want to stay in Hollywood where Disney has their studios - it is also gritty and not for walking around at night (or in the day!) with kids. Lots of homeless people and drunk 20-somethings. Hollywood is nice for a few hours - seeing the walk of fame, Grauman's etc., but there's nothing else there for tourists except for a mall, a Hooters, souvenir shops and other let-down tourist traps.

You'll feel safer walking around on the surface streets near the beaches. It's more neighborhoody and less city. Ideally, stay in Santa Monica near the Promenade or in Venice/Marina Del Rey near Washington Blvd. You'll have walking access to shops, beaches, piers and restaurants, and if you want to go somewhere grabbing a taxi in the front of your hotel isn't too difficult.

Have fun!
posted by plasticbugs at 2:26 PM on February 16, 2012

chilrend --> children
posted by plasticbugs at 2:27 PM on February 16, 2012

Also, forgot to mention that Santa Monica near the promenade is LOADED with homeless people, but they're not as nutty/drunk as Hollywood bums for some reason. I'm guessing the Santa Monica PD keeps it that way.
posted by plasticbugs at 2:29 PM on February 16, 2012

You can stay in Hollywood or Mid-Wilshire and still be close enough to fun things to do without having to drive to Santa Monica or the dreaded west-side.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:31 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, hey, that show is shot on my studio lot - as in, I am literally looking out my office window at the set entrance right now. So give a wave to Building 7 when you're here!From just walking around, I've never noticed a huge over-booking level crowd outside waiting.

As for things in the area, Graumann's Chinese Theater (the handprints! The footprints!) is a brisk but very do-able walk from here (1.1 miles). It is an extremely safe area, plus you'll pass by a few sight-seeing things of note - Hollywood High and Chick-fil-A which might be an attraction for someone from the Bay Area. Once you hit Hollywood Blvd there are countless touristy things to do, shops, Wax Museum, etc. You won't need a car if you get a hotel that is centrally located to this area, plus you'll be better off without a car because the studio does not provide parking for tapings and parking in the surrounding area is either permit/metered.

As for the actual filming, they are CRAZY serious about cellphones/interruptions, please listen to the stage managers and have fun!
posted by banannafish at 2:31 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

almost anywhere is doable without a car. LA is not fun nor expedient to get around in without a car. rent one.

can't speak directly to sitcoms, but i have been to a taping of "ellen" and we arrived hours early, even though we had tickets—and there was already a considerable crowd waiting around. it was hours of waiting around.
posted by violetk at 2:36 PM on February 16, 2012

I would also suggest staying in Hollywood as your home base. It's easily accessible from downtown via the Red line, you won't have to worry about travel times in order to make the taping, and there's plenty of tourist stuff that you can do there. It also has pretty easy access to a decent amount of other stuff you'd probably like to do, such as Farmers Market/The Grove in Fairfax District and LACMA in Miracle Mile.
posted by scody at 2:59 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if you do stay through Sunday (Oscar day): be forewarned that Hollywood will be madness in terms of street closures, etc., so that might be further reason to stay somewhere that won't require driving.
posted by scody at 3:10 PM on February 16, 2012

For the cell phone thing, would it be best not to bring it to the studio at all? I got the impression they might not let anyone in with one, which means leaving it in the car or hotel.

Most likely we'll leave Saturday to avoid Oscar issues.
posted by expialidocious at 3:14 PM on February 16, 2012

Union Station to Hollywood is really easy without a car--just take the red line. Some might even argue it's easier taking the subway than driving that stretch. If you stay some place central in the city (such as Hollywood) you will have no trouble getting around without a car. I assume you're asking because you're down with riding public transportation. Here is a map of the system and the rail map. You can use the google trip planner or the one at to figure it out times/connections. Fare is $1.50 or $5 for an unlimited day pass.

The red line also goes to Universal City, if that sort of tourist destination is your thing. I'm not totally sure what 13 year old girls are into these days. The Grove, Universal City walk and Hollywood and Highland shopping complex all seem to have free outdoor performances/events involving people I've never heard of that make teenagers line up around the block. And now I feel really old just typing that.

Downtown has touristy stuff at Olvera Street, Little Tokyo and Chinatown. I always like to get people to go to the observation deck on the 27th floor at city hall, which is open M-F during regular business hours (anyone can go). If you're into big mall type entertainment, there is the LA Live complex of stuff. I've never been so I don't really know what it's like in there.

on preview:
I think they shut down the Hollywood/Highland red line stop for the Oscars, so keep that in mind if you plan on staying around there. And traffic shouldn't be an issue if you're on the subway.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:26 PM on February 16, 2012

Just a note that street closings for the Oscars start on Saturday, I am 99% sure. It will be a huge traffic mess all around Hollywood, so plan accordingly.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:08 PM on February 16, 2012

Just a note that street closings for the Oscars start on Saturday, I am 99% sure. It will be a huge traffic mess all around Hollywood, so plan accordingly.

Yes, that's definitely true (some of the street closings actually start a week or more ahead of time). The extensive closures start rolling out Saturday night/early Sunday morning.
posted by scody at 4:12 PM on February 16, 2012

Re: Cellphones -

I work on a show that tapes in front of a live audience, and we have audience members leave their phones with security guards while they are at the taping. You absolutely cannot bring in a cellphone. Don't even try.

And FYI, it's not really about having to re-film scenes (that's definitely an issue, though) as it is cellphone pictures being leaked onto the internet. You'll be seeing a taping of an episode that's a few weeks ahead of what's airing now, and the studios don't want anything getting out in advance. If there are big stars on the show, it's also an issue of actor privacy.

I'd rent a car. It's doable without one, but it's easier to get around LA with a car. You could also leave your phone in the car - out of sight - while at the taping, so you wouldn't have to deal with security so much. Hollywood Center Studios is in the grittier/shittier/whatever part of Hollywood, and I wouldn't stay anywhere within walking distance. (I used to live there, but it's not a great tourist experience, you know?) I'd stay in West Hollywood - if you're near the beaches, you will live in traffic. No fun.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 6:59 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Rent a car. You will be miserable trying to catch a cab when you're away from the hotel. It's not like NYC where you can just hail one on the street, and you might want to drive out to the beach or the Getty one day.

I would also not stay around Hollywood Center Studios -- West Hollywood is going to feel much safer and much more fun. Although the W up on Hollywood is probably nice. But WeHo is going to feel safer.

Have fun!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 9:50 PM on February 16, 2012

Just got back from the taping of a Disney show at LA Center Studios. Cell phones weren't confiscated at all. At the end of the taping there was an autograph session and pictures were encouraged.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:12 PM on February 17, 2012

Thanks, everybody! We had a great time in LA. I'll post some details for the benefit of future tourists:

We took the San Joaquin train/bus that arrived in Union Station on Wednesday around 4 pm. (That was the only trip that would get us there before the rental car counters closed.) We stayed at a generic motel in the Grove/Farmer's Market area. It turned out to be a good choice of location - the driving was not too bad to any of the places we went.

We spent the first day at the beach in Venice. Rented bikes for a few hours, made sand castles, etc. We went up to the Santa Monica pier to do one ride (ferris wheel) and watch the sunset. Then dinner at a crappy restaurant in the Promenade.

My daughter wanted to see Beverly Hills, so we drove over mid-morning on Friday. We looked in at some ridiculous shops and had lunch at the Urth Caffe. It was the best food of the trip by far - which is not saying all that much. But it was tasty and reasonable.

Then we went to Hollywood. I recognized about 3/4 of the star names on the section of sidewalk we traversed, my daughter only one. (Johnny Depp.) They had already laid out the red carpet, but it was covered in plastic. The Hollywood/Highland intersection was already closed to cars. You could still walk to the entrance of the Kodak Theater and up the stairs.

As it happened, the studio canceled the audience for Jessie at the last minute. So we got on the standby list for Good Luck Charlie. This turned out better than I could have imagined. We started off in the overflow seating, off to the side of the stage near where the directors work. Usually it's only friends of cast and crew who sit there, but I don't think the studio wants to turn anyone away if they can help it, so about 20 of us got a great behind-the-scenes view. The actors hung out in the back row during scenes they weren't in. The audience coordinator brought us soda and popcorn. All the ushers and studio employees were really nice and helpful.

Halfway through the taping some VIP guests left, so we all got take the seats that opened up in the regular audience. So we got that experience too. Afterward you could get photos and autographs from the cast. Everybody had their phones and cameras, but nobody disturbed the taping with them.

They shot about half the scenes that night. They also played the scenes they had already taped, so they could record live audience reaction. The whole thing took about 4 hours, from line-up-and-wait to post-shoot shmooze.

Yesterday we came back up on the Coast Starlight, which was remarkably on time. For about 2 hours between Santa Barbara and SLO, you get great views of the ocean. The whole ride is more scenic than the San Joaquin, which goes through the ass end of every town along the way.

Thanks all for your suggestions!
posted by expialidocious at 2:40 PM on February 26, 2012

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