Where the (movie) magic began for La La Land’s Mia and Sebastian. (Photos: Melissa Valladares)
There might have been no bigger hit among critics and crowds in recent memory than La La Land. The whimsical tale of struggling artists trying to find their way in Los Angeles quickly became an audience favorite after its release in 2016, and eventually received a record-tying 14 Oscar nominations.
Part of what made La La Land unique was that the filmmakers shot in real, accessible locations throughout Los Angeles and made a conscious effort to showcase some of the city’s lesser-known locales.
From the famed movie studio to the city’s romantic observatory, create your own La La Land-themed itinerary with these notable locations from the movie.
Sarita’s Pupuseria at Grand Central Market
Throughout the story, lead characters Mia and Sebastian (played by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling) make the city the backdrop to their romance. One of their dates takes place at this Salvadorian restaurant inside the soaring, century-old Grand Central Market.
While the traditional corn tortilla papusas are what bring most visitors to Sarita’s, the market as a whole offers a vast array of delicious food. Grab some authentic Mexican street grub at Ana Maria, or chow down on deli classics like bagels, lox and pastrami, courtesy of Wexler’s.
Tourists and residents alike take enjoy their meals alongside special events like trivia nights and jazz performances.
Nothing exemplifies La La Land’s respect for film history more than the movie’s nod to the James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause. Not only does the movie feature an actual clip from the classic 1955 film, but its main characters actually visit the location of the film’s dramatic finale, Griffith Observatory.
Open since 1935, the Observatory has been a popular destination for movie makers thanks to its breathtaking views of the Hollywood Hills. Open Tuesday through Sunday, Griffith Observatory’s programing includes astronomy exhibits, star parties and planetarium shows.
Warner Bros. Studios
Early in the movie we see Mia toiling at a coffee shop on a studio lot. By the end of the film, she’s (spoiler alert!) a famous actress who buys her java at the same little cafe. Both sequences were shot at the famed Warner Bros. lot, which has served as the backdrop for countless film and television productions throughout Hollywood history.
The lot offers public tours ranging from tram rides to six-hour explorations of the grounds (including a stop at the props house and lunch at the studio commissary).
Located in the suburban community of Burbank—home to both NBC and Universal Studio—the SmokeHouse served as the location for Sebastian’s unfulfilling restaurant gig. Thankfully, most visitors have a much more positive experience at the popular eatery, which slings mouthwatering plates of baby back ribs, steak and lobster.
A favorite of Hollywood legends like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, the SmokeHouse has been a local go-to since it first opened its doors in 1946.
Another location featured heavily in La La Land is the famed Watts Towers. Built by an Italian immigrant in the Watts section of Los Angeles, the strange-looking towers are only open to the public during regular tours held Thursday to Sunday.
Adjacent to the towers is an arts center, which also hosts events, including one Sebastian would love: September’s Day of the Drum and Jazz Festival, a musical weekend event that serves as a celebration of the genre.
While You’re At It …
Take a cruise on the city’s bustling Century Freeway to re-enact the film’s famous opening musical number; hike the Mount Hollywood Trail where Mia and Sebastian belt out the show-stopping “A Lovely Night”; or take an evening stroll along the Hermosa Beach Pier, where Sebastian dances, for picturesque views of the glorious Pacific.
This article was published through a partnership with Visit the USA, inspiring travelers to explore America’s boundless possibilities.