California Love

Going Back to the Future in LA

You too can travel back in time like Marty McFly.

By Bill Wiatrak June 24, 2019

A Delorean from Back To The Future displayed at a Universal Studios park.

Back to the Future is considered by many to be one of the best movies ever made. Besides having a great storyline, the film is full of endearing characters, comedic moments and adventure. It’s a movie that never fails to entertain me.

I love visiting filming locations whenever I travel—case in point: Savannah—and I was recently in the perfect place to visit the best BTTF spots: Los Angeles.

For years, many Universal Studios parks featured an awesome Back to the Future ride (they finally retired the last one in Japan in 2016), and Universal Studios Hollywood Park displayed one of the movie's retro-futuristic cars, the Delorean, which became an iconic symbol of the '80s after BTTF screened.

The original script included a refrigerator as Doc Brown's time machine, but the writers decided to switch to the DMC-12 when the founder of DeLorean was embroiled in drug charges. The controversial auto made for a much more interesting choice in the script and the rest is history. Today, you’ll find a restored Delorean in LA's Petersen Automotive Museumone of three used in the film— and the museum is full of lots of other great movie cars, too.

The clock tower from BTTF on a Backlot Tour of Universal Studios Hollywood.

Image: Bill Wiatrak

Some of the most iconic scenes of BTTF were filmed in the Universal Studios Hollywood lot. You can visit the famous clock tower and square from the first two movies on the Backlot Tour. The building and square have been repurposed for other films, but it’s still very obvious if you’ve seen the movie more than once.

Marty McFly’s house, however, is in a quiet neighborhood built in the '50s at 9303 Roslyndale.

The location was chosen because of the huge electrical tower directly behind the house and the date the home was built. In the original script, the writers planned on using electricity from the pylon to power the time machine. The script was changed to use the clock tower instead (at the exact moment lightning struck).

Marty still had to return to his home in the past, so the location still worked with the timeline and remained in the film. The real-life neighbor to the left is named Joan and lived there through the filming of all three movies. She is happy to chat with fans and even has fliers printed with pictures of the actors, taken behind the scenes, that she might share with you if you ask her nicely.

Doc Brown's house is actually the historic Gamble House.

Image: Bill Wiatrak

Doc Brown’s home (in the 1950s) is actually a well-known historical residence, The Gamble House, built by the architectural firm Greene and Greene in 1908. It’s at 4 Westmoreland in Pasadena, and offers public and specialty architectural tours. But like most of BTTF's other off-studio locations, only the exterior was used.  To the right is a bookstore that also appeared in the movie. You can pick up a BTTF license plate and books on art and architecture.

Claudia Wells inside her cool vintage store.

Image: Bill Wiatrak

Remember Jennifer Parker? You might have noticed there were two actresses that played the role. Claudia Wells was in the first film and Elizabeth Shue took over the role in the sequels. Today, Wells has a high-end used clothing shop called Armani Wells in Studio City. She’s often running the store and is as friendly and sweet as you could possibly hope for. She keeps some movie memorabilia in her shop and loves to talk about her pop culture adventures as well as sell you some amazing clothing. There’s not many gifts as cool as buying someone a tie from Marty McFly’s girlfriend.

On Bushnell street in Pasadena, you can visit George McFly’s home (1711) as well as Biff’s (1809) and Lorraine’s (1727). They’re all within a block of each other. The iconic tree where George was watching Lorraine with binoculars is still there. The owners of the homes are surprisingly courteous. You’d think after 35 years of oglers, their patience might be running thin, but the ones I met couldn’t have been nicer. Of course, you shouldn’t walk in their yards without an invitation and leave the binoculars at home.

Head to Griffith Park to see this iconic tunnel.

Image: Bill Wiatrak

Griffith Park has been used in countless films and boasts a couple famous scenes in Back to the Future. The starting line for Marty when he’s trying to get the Delorean up to 88 mph is located in the park. Even more recognizable is the tunnel from the scene when Biff is chasing him as he tries to escape on his hover board. Traffic is usually too busy to recreate that moment, but it looks the same as you drive through it. It’s worth visiting the top as well to see the filming locations of James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause.

This DIY tour is probably enough to satisfy most fan’s appetites, but if you’d like to visit the Twin Pines/Lone Pine mall, McFly’s high school or even the Burger King from the first movie, this site has all the addresses. 

Looking for something fun to do on July 3, 2020? It’s the 35th anniversary of Back to the Future. Check out a few of these spots. You won’t be alone.

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