In the summer hit Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Brad Pitt spends a lot of time cruising around Los Angeles in a Cadillac, soaking up the late 1960s ambience along Hollywood Boulevard, the San Fernando Valley, and everywhere in between. As a review in The New Yorker notes, that’s not a bad thing. Indeed, while Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio are the movie’s lead actors, the Los Angeles Times wrote recently that “Los Angeles is arguably the real star of Quentin Tarantino’s new film.”
Tarantino was just six years old in 1969 and has created something of a fairy tale about the L.A. of that era—happily, a city that has not totally gone away. “The movie was mostly shot in the greater Los Angeles area in locations that have retained their mid-century charm,” according to the L.A. Times piece, “including several restaurants the director frequents to this day.”
That article, along with a piece from Discover Los Angeles, details a number of the locations you can still experience today. One prime contender is The Musso & Frank Grill, a seriously longtime Hollywood hangout (it turns 100 this year) that reportedly closed for nearly a week just so regular customer Tarantino could film there—with Al Pacino playing an agent who meets with DiCaprio’s character to talk about new gigs.
Or, check out Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park, which is the location of the former Spahn Ranch, where the Manson Family had set up camp in 1968-1969. According to Discover Los Angeles, Spahn Ranch is actually played in the movie by nearby Corriganville Park in Simi Valley. Like the pre-Mansons Spahn Ranch, Corriganville Park was originally used as a set for Western movies. Hike the park’s trails (check out its Movie Ghost Town), or go to Malibu and take a walk through the 703-acre Cameron Nature Preserve in Puerco Canyon, near Malibu Creek State Park; this is where Tarantino filmed DiCaprio in some scenes from the movie’s fictional TV series Bounty Law.
The landmark Beverly Boulevard restaurant El Coyote makes a big cameo too, as the dinner spot where Sharon Tate (played by Margot Robbie) and her friends ate on that fateful evening in August 1969. For more Mexican food, go to Sherman Oaks’ Casa Vega, another veteran eatery (first opened in 1955), where Pitt and DiCaprio share their own dinner toward the end of the film (seated at table C6, according to Discover Los Angeles). One spot you can’t visit, notably, is the Cielo Drive house where Sharon Tate lived, which was razed in the 1990s and then rebuilt with a new address.
To embrace the movie-loving spirit of the film, go to the Regency Bruin Theatre, where Robbie’s character watches one of her own flicks during the movie—and where Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is playing now. The theater in Westwood Village, near UCLA, first opened in 1936 and is a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.
You could create more California road trips by connecting a variety of classic movie locations around the state. If you want a cool-Western-set road trip, for instance, be sure to include Pappy & Harriot’s Pioneertown Palace, near Joshua Tree National Park, and Lone Pine in the High Sierra.