Started out at the gym and then we met our group for breakfast. Most mornings there was an hour window for breakfast. You could come any time you would like and there was a reserved area for our group. Today it was from 7 – 8 am at Preston’s, the restaurant in the hotel. It was your standard breakfast buffet with hot and cold foods available and they were making omelets to order.
After that, we had time to run up to the room to get what we needed and met back in front of the restaurant at 8:30 for a walking tour along Hollywood Blvd. Our hotel sits on the end of the Hollywood and Highland complex that has stores and restaurants and the Dolby Theatre. In one corner of the complex, there is a “picture taking” spot with a good view of the Hollywood sign. That was the first stop where our guides gave us the history and some stories about the Hollywood sign.
We then walked further into the complex to talk about the large pillars and elephant statues that are incorporated into the complex. Those are actual set pieces from an old movie (that I can’t remember the name of) from the days when they didn't have computers and other effects so they had to build everything to exact size.
Walking a little further, we came to the Dolby theatre which is the location of the Academy Awards. The guides explained how it is set up for that night and we walked down the steps that are where the red carpet is on Oscar night.
We then walked onto Hollywood Blvd and down to the TCL Chinese Theater (formerly Grauman’s). I don’t remember the exact position of our guide, though I believe he was a manager of some kind. He said “Come on in. I have popcorn for you.” So we went inside, while the theater was closed and there was a small popcorn and water for each of us to munch while he gave the tour. He explained the history of the theater and talked about each of the costume exhibits in the lobby. We then got to go into the theater and watch a short movie about how they renovated the theater to make it IMAX. He then spoke about a lot of the different premieres that have been held there and all the elaborate features that some have included. From there we went out front to where the celebrity hand prints and foot prints are located. He pointed out a few and had stories about each one. Chris and I both said that we didn’t think much of this stop when we saw it on the itinerary but it turned out to be one of our favorites.
That was the end of the walking tour. We had a brief stop at the hotel and then we were on the bus to go to Jim Henson Studios. This was the first location we visited that is not open to the general public. We divided into smaller groups and our group started with a movie about the history of the lot which was originally bought and built by Charlie Chaplin. The movie was made with the Muppets so it was informative and entertaining. Then we went to the reception area where there is a display of awards and some original puppets from various Henson projects. We then got to meet a puppeteer who took us into an area where he could show us how they can now work with digital puppets. There was also concept art in this area for upcoming projects (that was where we couldn’t take pictures). And finally a demonstration of how puppet work is done for TV / movies in the sound stage. One member from our group got to try their hand at it as well with the puppeteer. That was probably my favorite part of the tour.
From there we back on the bus and went to Tam O’Shanter for lunch. Tam O’Shanter was a favorite restaurant of Walt Disney. It was where he used to take his employees before he had a studio with a commissary. There is a booth that was his favorite and we each got to sit in the booth and our guide would tell us a little bit about the history of Walt and the restaurant. We also had lunch here, which we had ordered previously at our tour check in . Chris and I both had the prime rib and mashed potatoes. It was very good.
After lunch, we had a surprise activity. I have seen this activity described in other trip reports but it isn't on the official itinerary so I’m not going to give it away. We then headed back to the hotel and were surprised again with an optional activity. I know…so many surprises that I’m not telling… you will just have to take the tour to find out!!
And then we had the rest of the afternoon / evening free. Chris and I decided we want to go to a movie at the El Capitan theater. They had a “VIP” ticket that included reserved seats, popcorn and a drink for $22 so we decided to do that. The theater is owned by Disney and shows one movie at a time (all Disney). That night it was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The movie wasn't on the top of our “to see” list but we wanted to go to a movie at that theater so that was what we were seeing.
It was a week night so there was maybe 10 people in the whole theater. We sat alone in the 3 rows that are reserved for VIP tickets. There is a classic organ and organist that plays before the movie which we wanted to see. But apparently that doesn't happen on weeknights. But there was a great “curtain opening” feature and only a few trailers and NO commercials. The movie was actually very cute and we liked the little souvenir buckets that came with our package. When we left there was a staff person waiting for us with a little gift bag. We were all excited until we got back to the hotel and only found ads for upcoming movies in the bag. But all in all, it was a nice experience and good way to spend in the evening.
I have been a huge Disney and travel fan since childhood. I love going to new places and, of course, heading to Disney as often as I can.