The charming movie musical La La Land starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone has rightfully garnered rave reviews and awards-season buzz. The tap-dancing and singing duo are showcased in a love story that is as much about the pair as it is about the city of Los Angeles. The jazz themes, references to old-Hollywood glamour, and aspirational premise make perfect use of L.A.’s most iconic locations as the backdrop.
If you’re a La La Land fan, good news: You can visit many of the movie’s locations in person. The film featured more than 40 sites around Los Angeles County, but the seven below are some of the most recognisable.
Stone is a barista at a (fictional) coffee shop on the Warner Brothers Studio movie lot in Burbank, where she and Gosling wander through the soundstages and sets featured in classics like Casablanca and 42nd Street. (Part of La La Land was also filmed at Hollywood Center Studios.) Visitors can go behind the scenes at Warner Brothers on one of its backstage tours to see the historic sets and prop warehouses used in its most well-known films.
The stars first meet at this steak joint across the street from the Warner Brothers lot, where Gosling’s character defies the restaurant manager by disregarding the required Christmas carol repertoire in favour of improvised jazz. The SmokeHouse is steeped in Hollywood history, dating back to the time of Bob Hope, Humphrey Bogart, and Judy Garland. It became the hangout for celebrities and movie extras—in fact, SmokeHouse regular George Clooney named his production company Smokehouse Pictures in a nod to the restaurant. You can still sample the namesake prime rib as well as their famous garlic bread, which at one point made the SmokeHouse the largest purveyor of French bread west of the Mississippi.
Fun fact: The exterior of the restaurant shown in the movie is the famous mural “You Are the Star,” depicting Marilyn Monroe, Superman, Shirley Temple, and others sitting in a theatre audience. The painting’s true location is actually on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Wilcox Ave.
3. Rialto Theatre
The couple watches Rebel Without a Cause at this South Pasadena theatre, which opened its doors in the 1920s and served as a stage for vaudeville performances and movies. The theatre was closed to the public in 2010 , but a developer purchased the building in 2015 and has plans to bring it back to life as a fourplex cinema that will maintain much of the original architecture.
Gosling’s jazz-loving character Sebastian brings Stone to this beachfront venue in an attempt to sway her into loving his favourite genre. The bistro’s rich musical history is the real deal: The Lighthouse is where Miles Davis and Chet Baker used to make guest appearances in the 1950s and ’60s. The venue maintains its legacy with jazz brunches and happy hours that now alternate with salsa, country, and pop music nights. After the pair parts ways, Gosling sings the movie’s main theme, “City of Stars,” as he walks down the 300-metre-long Hermosa Beach Pier.
During a how-they-fall-in-love montage, Gosling and Stone are seen walking across this 450-metre-long bridge that rises 45 metres above Arroyo Seco. When it was completed in 1913, it was the highest concrete bridge in the world, connecting Pasadena to Los Angeles. It’s not the bridge’s first cameo—it also appeared in Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid and Being John Malkovich.
6. Sarita’s at Grand Central Market
Downtown Los Angeles
The pair grab food at the Salvadoran restaurant Sarita’s Pupuseria, housed within the downtown Los Angeles market that was built in 1917. Inside, nearly 100 vendors allow visitors to sample ethnic specialties like Sarita’s pupusas, try creative concoctions like the ultimate breakfast sandwiches at Eggslut, or indulge in the original from-scratch recipes at McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams.
Gosling and Stone continue their date with a ride on the Angels Flight Railway across the street from the market, which is definitely worth a photo opp. Note: It is not currently open to the public, but that could change in the future.
While you can’t waltz through the air in this star-filled planetarium, you can visit the observatory that’s featured in one of the movie’s most magical scenes. With some of the best views of Los Angeles and a résumé filled with movie appearances, this cultural landmark is a must-see. (Bonus: Admission is free.) Not far from the Observatory is where the couple’s tap-dancing duet takes place on Mt. Hollywood Drive in Griffith Park, which spans more than 1,740 acres.
See a movie star. Sip a cocktail on a rooftop bar at sunset. Slip on a pair of designer shoes in an ultra-luxurious boutique in Beverly Hills. Play at Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, explore world-class museums, or dance the night away in a starlet-filled club. Welcome to California’s liveliest city, America’s entertainment capital, with mega-star wattage and nonstop things to do.
“You know, you’re really a nobody in L.A. unless you have a really big door.” --comedian Steve Martin
The main hub is the city of Los Angeles, with legendary Hollywood northwest of downtown, the San Fernando Valley to the east, and the inviting beaches of Santa Monica and Malibu to the west.
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