Between the major film studios and constant casting calls, Hollywood has made its presence known in Southern California and established itself as the entertainment capital of the world. Many of the movie locations, however, may surprise you: From stark desert landscapes, to quaint diners, to seemingly average Victorian homes, to run-of-the-mill office buildings, California is home to innumerable places that have graced the big screen (some may have even hosted your favorite actors and actresses). So gas up the car, and get ready to visit a dozen-plus Southern California film locations hiding in plain sight.
San Diego Area film locations
Hotel del Coronado
Location: 1500 Orange Ave.
Appearances: Some Like It Hot
Hotel del Coronado provided the perfect filming location for the 1959 rom-com that was supposedly set in Florida. The gorgeous coastline and vintage architecture of the famed resort embodied the 1920s era, without the intense heat, mosquitoes, and hurricanes of Florida. The entire cast—including stars Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon—was housed at the hotel during the shoot, so consider staying here when you visit.
Location: Balboa Park
Appearances: Citizen Kane
The 1,200-acre Balboa Park is known for being the largest urban cultural park in North America, but it also served as Kane’s Floridian mansion depicted in the newsreel at the beginning of Citizen Kane. The park’s flourishing gardens, 17 museums, and San Diego Zoo made cameos in the movie, too.
Los Angeles Area film locations
Location: 304 S. Broadway
Appearances: (500) Days of Summer, The Artist, Blade Runner
The Bradbury Building is Central Los Angeles’ oldest-remaining commercial building, rising nearly 50 feet high and featuring open cage elevators, wooden banisters, marble staircases, and iron accents. Meanwhile, the building’s Romanesque exterior contrasts the Victorian courtyard, making for a dramatic backdrop. Given its striking appearance, it’s no wonder the building has been a filming location for several movies, music videos, literature, and television shows. The location most famously acted as an office building in (500) Days of Summer and as an apartment for J.F. Sebastian in the original Blade Runner.
Angels Flight Railway
Location: 351 S. Hill St.
Appearances: La La Land
Located one block north of the Bradbury Building, the Angels Flight Railway is one of the few operational funiculars left in California. The landmark appears in the Academy Award–winning La La Land, when protagonists Mia and Sebastian (played by the incredibly talented Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, respectively) ride the railway together.
Dinah’s Family Restaurant
Location: 6521 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Appearances: The Big Lebowski, Nightcrawler
Known for its iconic signage—a bucket of chicken—towering above the building, Dinah’s Family Restaurant is a fun, quirky place to shoot a movie and grab a bite. Pick up a bucket of the famous fried chicken or the lingonberry pancakes (shown on the menu as Swedish pancakes) as you quote your favorite lines from the beloved Big Lebowski and acclaimed thriller Nightcrawler.
The Last Bookstore
Location: 453 S. Spring St.
Appearances: Gone Girl, You
While The Last Bookstore has become a famed L.A. destination in its own right, its recent appearances in films and television series have catapulted it to star status. Once the location of a bank, the bookstore enjoys a few quirks—including a bank vault that is still in place today—in addition to its clever displays.
Location: 800 N. Alameda St.
Appearances: Blade Runner, Catch Me if You Can, The Dark Knight Rises
Built in 1939, Union Station is the primary railway station in L.A. as well as the largest railroad passenger terminal in the West. The station was crafted in the Moderne style (a mixture of the Art Deco, Spanish Colonial, and Mission Revival architectural styles) in an effort to consolidate three separate terminals into one convenient location. While the inlaid marble floors, giant chandeliers, massive windows, and brass and wood accents are enough to attract tourists, this stunning building has also drawn crowds due to its cameo in such star-studded films as Blade Runner, Catch Me If You Can, and The Dark Knight Rises.
Las Palmas Hotel
Location: 1738 N. Las Palmas Ave.
Appearances: Pretty Woman
Located a stone’s throw from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the affordable Las Palmas Hotel is a surprising star in the classic, award-winning film Pretty Woman. Though one would ever guess it, the hotel acted as the home of Vivian Ward (played by Julia Roberts) before Edward Lewis (played by Richard Gere) comes into her life and sweeps her off her feet.
Location: The 1300 block of Carroll Ave.
Appearances: Charmed, Grandma’s Boy, Michael Jackson’s Thriller
This section of Angelino Heights boasts the biggest collection of Victorian homes in all of Los Angeles. Along with being an architectural gem, this neighborhood has garnered plenty of media attention due to its appearances in several TV series, music videos, and movies: The Charmed Halliwell sisters lived at 1329 Carroll Avenue; 1345 Carroll served as a safe place for Ola Ray in Michael Jackson’s Thriller; and Doris Roberts called 1324 Carroll home in Grandma’s Boy.
101 Coffee Shop (originally The Hollywood Hills Coffee Shop)
Location: 6145 Franklin Ave.
Appearances: Entourage, Gilmore Girls, Swingers
This quaint diner filled with brown leather booths and stone walls serves as a backdrop for TV shows and films when it’s not busy dishing up waffles and burgers. Most notably, the 101 Coffee Shop appeared in season 7, episode 17 of Gilmore Girls as well as in several episodes of the TV series Entourage and the movie Swingers.
Pat & Lorraine’s Coffee Shop
Location: 4720 Eagle Rock Blvd.
Appearances: Reservoir Dogs
Enjoy a cup of coffee and a satiating breakfast with your pals at Pat & Lorraine’s Coffee Shop to experience one of Quentin Tarantino’s first movie locations. The diner was featured in the opening scene of Reservoir Dogs thanks to its proximity to the warehouse location—which served as a backdrop for several scenes throughout the American heist film.
Location: 815 Fremont Ave.
In the first Terminator film, Sarah Connor (played by Linda Hamilton) is the mother of John Connor (played by Edward Furlong), the future savior of mankind, and works as a waitress at this Carrows location. The restaurant is still in operation, so pick up some flapjacks while you’re out sightseeing.
The Gamble House
Location: 4 Westmoreland Place
Appearances: Back to the Future
Designed by Charles and Henry Greene in 1908, The Gamble House was originally built for David and Mary Gamble (yes, Gamble as in Procter & Gamble). The American Craftsman home was later designated as a historic landmark and served as Doc Brown’s place in Back to the Future.
Pasadena City Hall
Location: 100 Garfield Ave.
Appearances: Parks and Recreation
The 1927 Mediterranean-style Pasadena City Hall acts as Pawnee, Indiana’s city hall on the star-studded show Parks and Recreation. Many movies have used this exquisite landmark as a backdrop, too, including the Charlie Chaplin film The Great Dictator and the more recent Beverly Hills Cop II.
Cadillac Jacks Cafe and Pink Motel
Location: 9457 San Fernando Rd.
Appearances: Drive, GLOW
Neon signs, classic cars, and a pool dubbed the “Fish Bowl” make up one of the most authentic 50s-era sets. Complete with seven professionally designed and fully customizable hotel rooms, a café, 28 restored vintage automobiles, and a junkyard full of dilapidated cars, Cadillac Jacks Cafe and Pink Motel can capture any scene necessary. The incredible locale has been used for countless photo shoots, movies, and videos—and most notably appeared in the dramatic film Drive and the Netflix series GLOW.
Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park
Location: 10700 W. Escondido Canyon Rd.
Appearances: A Single Man, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Blazing Saddles, Dracula, Friends, The Flintstones, Little Miss Sunshine, Star Trek
Though Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park is located merely one hour northeast of Los Angeles, its otherworldly geological formations would never allude to its place in Southern California. While younger generations may recognize the destination as Bedrock City in the live action Flintstones film, for many, it will be remembered for its numerous appearances in Star Trek. The park made its debut in the first-ever Star Trek episode, which aired in 1967 and showed the Enterprise landing here, but it has since been used in at least eight episodes and two movies throughout the franchise’s history.
Want more to explore? Some other notable Southern California filming locations include:
- 333 S. Arden Blvd., Los Angeles: The home of high-school student David Lightman (played by Matthew Broderick) in War Games.
- 366 S. June St., Los Angeles: Steff McKee (played by James Spader) lived in this house in Pretty in Pink.
- Bronson Canyon - 3200 Canyon Dr., Los Angeles: Made famous by the 1960s Batman TV series, this section of Griffith Park also served as a film location for several classic westerns and the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
- Chandler Valley Center Studios - 13927 Saticoy St., Panorama City: The unassuming office building has become a true icon as the Scranton, Pennsylvania location of Dunder Mifflin in The Office.
- Fox Plaza - 2121 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles: This location is featured in most scenes throughout Die Hard as well as in portions of Fight Club and Airheads.
- The Sanctuary Adventist Church - 19806 E. Ave. G., Lancaster: This is the church where Uma Thurman appears in a wedding dress in both Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Kill Bill: Volume 2.
- Santa Monica Pier - 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica: The popular landmark is where Tom Hanks famously ran into the ocean in Forrest Gump.