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Paramount is the only major studio still located within the boundaries of Hollywood, which makes the 2-hour "cart tour" around its nearly-century-old headquarters enriching—even the wrought-iron gates Gloria Swanson motored through in Sunset Boulevard are still there. The tour is both an ode to the bygone studio system and a real-life, behind-the-scenes look at working movie and television facilities in day-to-day operation; ergo, no two tours are alike, and chances of spotting a celebrity (if you're not there during weekends or holiday periods) are pretty good, so act cool. The history is incredible, too: Paramount contains the soundstages from the RKO Pictures days, too—including the stages used by Fred, Ginger, and Citizen Kane—and over the decades these 60 acres have hosted everything from everything Star Trek to Lucille Ball's offices to The Brady Bunch to Cheers to Glee.

Guides are generally intelligent and enthusiastic, but they handle more idle tourists than hard-core film nuts, so if you have specific questions about movie history, it's up to you to keep asking things, otherwise the spiel may stick to the lowest common denominator. Overall, the tour here is richer and more historically aware than at Sony and Warner Bros., both of which harp too much on current money-making franchises and less on Hollywood's rich heritage. Visits, which are conducted on a single four-row golf cart (nice and intimate), typically include a trip to the backlot and one or two soundstages of TV shows or feature films, though you can't enter while taping is taking place, plus stops in the studio's custom-built screening theatre and a final visit to the obligatory gift shop. Along the way, your guide may whip out an iPad to show you some clips of things that were shot in front of where you're standing—like the parking lot where Moses parted the Red Sea. The tours depart daily by advance reservation, though you can occasionally get lucky with same-day tickets if you are in the neighborhood. You must be 10 or older to take the tour (all guests over 17 must bring I.D.), and recording equipment is verboten (still cameras are fine in most public areas, but not where there are indoor sets). A "VIP" version is twice as long, includes more craftsmen's areas, and comes with lunch. When the tour is over, you're escorted off the lot and onto the street—that's showbiz!

There is a free app available to help guide you around, but download it before you arrive as the studio doesn't provide free Wi-Fi.