Are you a movie fan that likes to take interesting vacations? Wouldn’t it be fun to take a trip to southern California to see movie filming locations?
California is rich with movie history with many interesting filming spots you can visit. If you have never been to Universal City then this is a good place to start. Here you can go behind the scenes and see sets used repeatedly in the movies. After your tour, visit Universal city walk with dining and shopping if you wish but it’s kinda expensive.
Nevertheless, everyone visits these major attractions and you and I are serious movie buffs and want something more interesting.
The very best place in the world for movie and western history fans is Gene Autry’s Museum of the American West witch is part of The Autry National Center at 4700 Western Heritage Way off interstate 5 near Griffith Park. Let me tell you folks this Museum has the most amazing things you have ever seen. Some exhibits are from movie history and many of the exhibits are real life. Annie Oakley’s true history and the actual gun she used to make it for example will have you saying, “Hey, this girl was the real deal”.
After the museum since you are already in Griffith Park take the drive up to Griffith Planetarium and see the spot where James Dean made Rebel Without a Cause. Remember the school trip and the climactic shoot-out. The studios filmed many movies here in this huge city park. Remember the scene in The Rocketeer in front of the planetarium when he fights the hoods and flies up to the blimp. Other films featuring the Observatory include the Steve Martin’s Hollywood satire Bowfinger, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, the spoofy 1987 film Dragnet with Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd.
If you are adventurous and do not mind lot’s of driving, there are many famous filming locations scattered all over southern California. These are houses, stores and malls like the Puente Hills Mall 1600 Azusa Ave. City of Industry, California where in 1985, Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly is accidentally sent back to 1955 in a plutonium-powered DeLorean “time machine” invented by slightly mad scientist Christopher Lloyd.
Some locations can be found on the internet. Some are no longer there but are born again, like the ruins of a demolished steel plant at Fontana, on the outskirts of San Bernardino Route 10 east of Los Angeles where scenes from the Terminator, and future resistance hero John Connor were filmed, is now the California Speedway. Here you can see where Lindsay Lohan made the movie Herbie Fully Loaded and raced the Volkswagen bug with a mind of its own on this racetrack. Not far away in the Lake Arrowhead area is where Lindsay made her first Movie The Parent Trap. You can drive around the lake ( Lake Gregory not Arrowhead ) and discover many scenes from the movie.
North of Los Angeles on highway 14 is an area called Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park. Hundreds of films and commercials are made in this area since they started making movies, including Star Trek IV. The Voyage Home, the Vulcan planet. Vasquez Rocks has been used in hundreds of Westerns and sci-fi movies. The Flintstones, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, Mel Brooks Blazing Saddles, and too many others to name. It is off the beaten path in the middle of the desert but well worth seeing. The entire village of the Flintstones was built here and was open to the public for a while. Just remember that it is a park and after filming is done, the sets are taken away but those crazy rocks are interesting. Take pictures and compare them with movies you see later.
While you are in the area, you must visit The Shambala Preserve for movie and other animals not far away at 6867 Soledad Canyon in Acton. It was started by actress and conservationist Tippi Hedren who is the beautiful blonde in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (And 67 other movies). Mr. Hitchcock said once “Tippi Hedren is really remarkable”. He did not know how right he was even if it was for different reasons. Tippi has devoted much time and effort to charitable causes. Trust me, you will have a great time and be sure to leave Tippi a little donation to help feed those big kitties.
If you plan a trip in October and you do not mind a drive through the desert, you may want to visit The Lone Pine Film Festival. It is held every year in October. This year the dates are October 6th. 7th. & 8th. Taking place in and around the town of Lone Pine California, where filming has continued every year since 1920. Actors and stunt men show up unannounced every year. The area is for sure Hollywood’s favorite movie location for 85 years. Nearly 400 feature films have shot scenes here. It is a huge wilderness area in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains. During the festival, they put up hundreds of little stands with movie photographs on them in the exact spot where they filmed the scene. One of my favorites is the big rocks where Richard Boone held Randolph Scott prisoner in The Tall T. This is where John Wayne made many westerns and in fact, his last public appearance was here in the Great Western Savings commercials.
You never know who may show up at this event. Sometimes actors are filming in the area and just show up. I turned to see why my wife was taking pictures and saw Fred Dryer and Hugh O’Bryan standing beside me. You should see the photo she took of Robert Blake. Because it is not overcrowded, it is easy to talk to someone famous. I have stood on a street corner and talked with Gregory Peck and John Mitchum without anyone bothering us. I talked to Robert Blake and saw him and Dale Evans (Yes Dale Evans) sitting at the same table. I don’t think she cared for his language but she didn’t say so. She told us stories about her and Roy making movies in Lone Pine. Blake complained about how awful it was being a child star but he also told some funny stories.
East of Los Angeles near Palm Springs is an old historic western town called Pioneertown. Gene Autry and Roy Rogers built the place to make western movies. The old western-style saloons and storefronts that once were props for movie cowboys were in danger with the brush fires this year but the firefighters saved them. They still use the town for movies and the last time I checked it was open to the public. It’s in the high desert near Palm Springs.
Since we are near Palm Springs guess what? Even the streets here are named after movie stars. My son and I once sat on a golf course out here asking silly questions to stars as they played golf. I thought it was funny when my son Mark asked Don Knots “Who’s Don Knots”? Don didn’t say anything, he just smiled.
P.S. Don’t forget to research places and events. In the case of most Film Festivals, it’s difficult to get a hotel unless booked months in advance. We used to stay a few miles away in the town of Big Pine. Don’t forget to take pictures and get ready for the best Vacation Ever!