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October 29 2007

Fantasy travel with Princess Bride, Buffy. Ever wanted to visit the "real" Sunnydale?

In this light-hearted article, a travel writer promotes visiting Santa Barbara, CA because it's the obvious inspiration for the fictional Sunnydale.

"It's a make-believe place, but the series creators didn't leave much doubt about its inspiration. Let's see: A mid-sized town on a sharp bend in the California coast a couple of hours' drive north of Los Angeles, with a University of California campus? We're going to go out on a limb and guess Santa Barbara."

"Exterior shots were actually filmed in Torrance and Northridge".

Ah, yeah, so why are they suggesting touring Santa Barbara, something like fifty miles north of these locations? I'm defensive about this, when I was a kid I lived about two miles from Buffy's house on "Revelo Drive" (sp?) That isn't the real name of the street, which I can't recall at the moment.

If we'd lived there for about two years longer, I would have attended Torrance High, where they shot the exteriors for Sunnydale High and beginning with season 4, the University of Sunnydale. Obviously, Sunnydale was meant to be considerably farther from L.A. than Torrance is, but as for where the shooting actually took place .... snobbery afoot, the luxury community of Santa Barbara had nothing to do with it.
And here I thought Sunnyvale CA might be related.
Santa Barbara is the city located where Sunnydale would be if it existed in our reality (California geography being basically the same). They used aerial shots of Santa Barbara as establishing shots of Sunnydale, but framed them carefully to minimize the size and wealth of it.

UC Sunnydale exteriors were UCLA, and some industrial park.
That isn't the real name of the street, which I can't recall at the moment

Cota Ave, just a few blocks from Torrance High. But season 7 Sunnydale High School was actually in Northridge, at CSUN.

Santa Barbara also has a mission that was rebuilt after a big earthquake (rather than having it disappear underground like Sunnydale's, though), a zoo, an airport, a carousel, a train station, beaches, old graveyards with elaborate tombstones and some mausoleums that would be perfect for Spike to make into a home, and other things found in Sunnydale. And it was the home of the Chumash tribe of Indians, who now run a nearby casino.

The only things are that Santa Barbara has more than one Starbucks (but then again, its population isn't kept unusually low by vampire predation), and, as seen in the establishing shots of Santa Barbara masquerading as Sunnydale, sometime in the twenties there was a big push to remodel all major buildings into the Mission Revival style, with orange mission tile roofs, that doesn't match the Sunnydale Main Street set. But they have lots of early semi-Craftsman-style houses that are nearly identical to the Buffy's house location in Torrance.

But the point of the article is vacation destinations with fantasy connection. While Torrance has some scenic areas (and a restaurant called "Buffy's Cafe" in the historic core), it isn't a major tourist destination, whereas Santa Barbara definitely is.
I recently went to LA and met with a friend there. We took a day and toured all the Buffy related stuff we could find-including the house on Cota and the HS, not to mention the pier where Angel gives Buffy the ring and where Buffy and Faith went to fight over the box of big spiders. This was an incredibly cool adventure and I really recommend it to the more than casual fan of the show. Sitting on the bench where Willow and Buffy met was awesome!
It's interesting the SF Chronicle had this article because there is a "Sunnydale" connection in San Francisco.
It's the name of a light rail station there, located in the south part of town near the San Mateo County line. I found this out when I was there during All-Star Game Weekend.
Speaking as someone who's never been to southern California, for me a distance of 50 miles is probably close enough to look very similar to the setting of the show. And that's probably true for most fans. I do realize that for a local it makes all the difference in the world, though.

AthenaMuze, is there a map somewhere of such places? Or are you very very knowledgeable of shooting locations?
Actually, thanks to the original Slayer and her pals, Sunnydale resembles more this than Santa Barbara.
Just yesterday, I was standing outside the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf that stands on the site of the old burger shack that was used as the Doublemeat Palace. In fact, since I regularly go to the Trader Joe's in that shopping plaza, I see it all the time. And, because I am d#^&$%#& geek, I think about the Doublemeat Palace pretty much every time I go there.

And, of course, the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica is always a good Buffy-related stop (Buffy and Dawn shopped/walked there in the episode Entropy).

Hard to swing a stake in the LA area without hitting a Buffy-related site. Wikipedia has a list of Buffy filming locations - including the park in my neighborhood that was used in numerous episodes.
My idea of a BtVS tour would definitely involve seeing Torrance High School and the actual house in Torrance where a lot of scenes were filmed. I would actually love to go on a tour like that (I got to see where the fictional Monk Cadfael never actually walked in Shrewsbury, England and I was thrilled! Oh and it was also exciting seeing Balliol where the fictional Lord Peter Wimsey didn't really got to college).
Sunfire, actually, my friend (who is based in the area) did all the location hunting. But it was really the highlight of the trip. I was so thrilled.
I'm curious, when exactly and maybe why did the dock disappear? Was this around season two? It is a bit weird in hindsight that the season finale pretty much needed it to take place in the desert since a CGI crater with water would be really pricey, but I'm curious about geography changing towards the end of the series. (Like the introduction of the airport, a thriving non-Bronze nightlife, and so forth)

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