The latest news is that we’ve established that everyone’s got the wrong barn for the TwinLone Pines/Pine Ranch. It’s something we’ve suspected for years but only recently felt confident enough to publish – Read more here!
We’ve also added NEW Photos and Video to the 1955 Lyon Estates location and have more exciting updates on the way! We’re working out way back through the trilogy, updating all the articles and adding a ton of high resolution (past and present) photos to the photo galleries on each location. It’s painstaking work, but it’s happening. If anyone’s got a Time Machine and planning on visiting the locations in the greater LA area, give us a shout!
And if you have pictures or videos of these locations, DeLorean or not, send them to us! The best part of Back to the Future is there’s so many fans and such a great fan community. We’d love to hear from you about your location experiences! We weren’t getting email for the last two years but everything is resolved now, send away!
The Peabody Farmhouse and Barn and Twin Pines Ranch filming Location from Back to the Future – AND WHY EVERYONE ON THE INTERNET IS WRONG ABOUT THIS ONE. See the end of this article for visiting information.
PRIVATE RANCH OWNED BY DISNEY, DO NOT TRESPASS! DISNEY WILL BE BRUTAL AND ANY VIOLATORS WILL BE ARRESTED AND PROSECUTED! NOT TO MENTION THERE’S DOGS. BIG DOGS.
The Libyans have suddenly vanished, and so has the parking lot! That’s right, Marty has just successfully become the world’s first time traveler and driven straight into a barn at 88mph. After an out-of-this-world encounter with the local pine tree farmer and his family, Marty flees the barn and heads out of the area as fast as he can, destroying a prize pine as he goes. So where was the farmhouse, the barn, and the entrance to the Ranch? Glad you asked. LA film studios operate within a thirty mile zone to avoid paying extra fees to the union, so where do you find a farmhouse and a barn within thirty miles of Hollywood? Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch!
Little known beyond a small ring of Disney superfans and filming location enthusiasts, Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch was purchased in 1959 after using it for several years to film Spin N Marty. Over the years countless Disney classics were filmed on site, including The Parent Trap, Follow Me Boys!, and many others. Today, TV shows like The Office and big productions like the Pirates of the Caribbean still use the ranch as a filming location.
But because the site is completely off limits to the public – and we mean Period, no exceptions, EVER – it makes the location that much more interesting.
And of course, at BTTF tour, we along with all our predecessors have reported that the Ragwing Barn on the ranch stood in for the Peabody farm barn. I mean literally. Using every search engine known to man, we have determined that every Back to the Future website in English in the entire world lists the Ragwing Barn as the location of Marty’s crash. Every filming locations website, everywhere.
I hate to burst their bubble, but they’re wrong. All of them are wrong. Don’t get me wrong, we were wrong too. Have we used the word wrong enough to show you how wrong everyone was? (Ok, I’ll stop.) The Barn was NOT the Ragwing Barn, and the evidence is obvious. But forget that for a second, how could everyone unanimously make this mistake?
The simple truth is the matter is it’s so difficult to get in to the Golden Oak Ranch (a few have achieved it, but it often takes a long time and a lot of favors) that everyone just reported what the previous person reported on the internet. Bruce Gordon (who worked for Disney) visited the ranch in the 90s, looked around for a barn, saw the Ragwing barn, and decided that must be it. Later, Wesley Treat managed to get in to the ranch, and concluded the barn had “undergone some superficial changes,” and it spread to the rest of the internet as all of the brilliant copy-pasters did their work. We too, took their word for it because we hadn’t managed to make it inside the ranch. We jotted down the location, gave credit to the explorers past, and kept on going.
So why did Bruce, Wesley, and the rest of the internet miss the obvious? It’s easy to make this mistake. Visit any Hollywood backlot twice and you’ll see dramatic changes to the set buildings. They can turn anything into anything, and they do. Most movie ranches are full of temporary facade buildings that are reconstructed and shifted around constantly to suit the needs of a particular production.
But not the Ragwing Barn. Thanks to the folks at cinchset.com for devoting a serious, noteworthy amount of time and research we know all about the Ragwing Barn. Built in the 1920s (or earlier) the barn stood as an actual feed barn for decades until the sides were rebuilt and enclosed in 1972, giving it the look it has today. It has never been structurally modified since, and the aged wood beams inside prove it. See the bottom of this article for a link to a very detailed and well researched article on the Ragwing Barn!
So if we know the Ragwing Barn hasnt changed, we know that it’s too wide and deep to be the right barn. So where is the real barn at the Golden Oak Ranch? And where is the Peabody farm house? The short answer is, gone forever. Your next question will undoubtedly be the same as mine. Then where was this set located?
Well, there are only so many barns on the Golden Oak Ranch now, but there were more in previous years. The same holds true for farmhouse sets. And, don’t discount the fact that many productions build temporary sets from scratch on the ranch and either tear them down after production, or leave the structures standing to be used sporadically until they simply fall apart.
The long and the short of it is, the barn is gone. It’s not the Ragwing barn, and it’s not any barn that’s stood on the Golden Oak Ranch for at least 20 years. The same goes for the house. All we know is that they were sets on the ranch property, and they’ve gone the way of the parent trap set.
Having established the facts and burst literally every fans bubble, we can now all rampantly speculate. My few contacts at Disney simply don’t know what set it was. What I believe to be the house and Barn ARE visible in a production filmed on the ranch in 1977, but until I have screenshots and do a little more research I’ll keep it under my hat. I’m sure this will launch some controversy among fans, so I just wanna say, “Sorry about your barn.”
But for the Hard-Core, Die-Hard, Do-Whatever-It-Takes Back to the Future fan, you will remember that as Marty flees the ranch in the DeLorean he comes off of a dirt road and back out onto pavement just after he runs over that tree. Well that pavement is public property, baby! The gate Marty flees through is actually one of the many gated entrances to the ranch, and the exit into Placerita Canyon Rd is the same spot from which you can get your only legal peek at the other sets on the ranch.From our gallery you can see that the exit to the ranch looked exactly the same as in the film for years, but recently as Disney plans to expand the Ranch into a full fledged movie studio, they’ve revamped all the fencing around the property to look much more appealing and perhaps eco-friendly.
This is not recommended for people with a time restriction for their BTTF viewings, or people who can’t entertain themselves while driving in between locations. Compared to the other SoCal locations… this one’s out there.
Like I said earlier visit this website for the most complete history of the Ragwing barn available. This website contains more about the history of Golden Oak Ranch than any other you’ll find on the web, including Disney’s official ranch website. A special thanks to “K” for backing up my suspicions that we were all looking at the wrong barn with his research and expertise. Contact us at BTTFtour if you have a theory about the proper barn or spot it in other films!
This article has just been updated for 2013 – but we have a few more updates to come in March on this location. Now, hurry up so we can get to the recently updated Lyon Estates… in 1955!
ADDRESS: DISNEY’S GOLDEN OAK RANCH
19802 PLACERITA CANYON RD, NEWHALL, CA
Lyon Estates Filming Location from “Back to the Future”
See the end for Map and Directions
Now Updated for 2013!
Screenshot from BTTF
This has to be one of the greatest locations for any back to the future fan to visit! If you love what the 80’s movie gateway calls “Movie Archaeology” you will LOVE this site! Marty, still reeling after being shot at on the Peabody’s Twin Pines Ranch, pulls over and can’t believe his eyes… It’s It’s his home! The Lyon Estates! Only… it’s not built yet!
Though it seems a short stretch down the road from the farm in the movie, this spot is about 70 miles away in the northernmost tip of Corona, California. During production this was part of the Alta Dena dairy farm. The area was one of the few unspoiled agricultural areas close to Los Angeles and Orange County. The view was incredible. In fact, until recent years you could turn 360° and see nothing but green hills hemmed in by distant mountains and hills in all directions, with the exception of the water tower from the nearby Women’s Prison.
Location in Feb 2013
Technically, the fields visible in the screenshot are private property. In fact, this spot is located on a gated road. Luckily for all of us Back to the Future fans, they open up the gates every fair-weathered weekend for R/C plane flights in a nearby field.
Hemmed in by the Prado Dam park and a few shooting ranges, the location can only be approached from the north, in Chino. In fact, the water tower in the distance as Marty McFly walks towards Hill Valley is actually IN Chino, at the Chino Women’s Correctional Facility. It’s the home of Manson Family member Patricia Krenwinkel, among other ruffians. Or ruffiettes? Whatever, anyway…
When you get to Chino (se below for map and address) make sure you continue south down Chino-Corona road past the prison. That road will actually continue to the left, but keep going straight south on the small paved road (Cucamonga Ave) that branches off, until you see the gates with the “PRIVATE PROPERTY” sign. It’s just beyond. This is farm country, so although you technically take a legal risk (and mind you, this is your OWN legal risk, you hoodlum!) passing the gate when closed, the site is only a few yards beyond the gate and in all my interactions with farm workers and caretakers and R/C enthusiasts back on this strange road, I’m sure no one will mind if you explain that you’re just there to take a few photos. If anyone sees you at all, which I doubt.
Actually, a few years we had a chance to speak to the caretaker’s wife, who told us that it’s ok to be back there (on the road only mind you, not in their fields) to take photos etc, but she did think the idea was a little nuts, and she warned us that if, in fact, you find the gate open on a weekday, to be careful parking your car out of sight of them, because there’s an extremely high chance you could be locked in!
However, avoid the possibility of trouble altogether and try and make it early (I reccomend 10am-noonish just to make sure the sun isn’t in your pictures) on a Saturday or a Sunday. Very little has changed here, other than some added gates and fences. When we first launched BTTFtour we talked about the gravel still visible from production. Sadly they’ve repaved this stretch of road and gravel from the re-paving is everywhere. The gravel from 1985 is not the gravel you’re seeing entering the gates. It’s all washed away and covered up these days.
And for those as obsessive as we are, we should say the Billboard was built slightly behind and to the right of the right-hand gate visible in our photos. The left gate leads to a clear cut path through the fields that some assume was aligned perfectly between the Lyon Estates sign, but that path used to be underneath both gates. (What was once one field was sold and subdivided since BTTF) The south/right hand field allowed their portion of this dirt road between fields to be plowed over, so make sure you adjust your photographs accordingly to get the perfect shot!
Detail. Photo by Brian Montez.
Of course, once Marty starts walking towards Hill Valley everyone turns to their left and snaps a photo towards the women’s prison. If you want to line up that screenshot correctly, you need to travel a bit further south down the road towards the R/C plane field and turn around. It was shot from the bottom of the hill both so that the horizon covered the visible prison buildings and to give the appearance of greater distance. Brian Montez was the first to report this. It’ll feel wrong at first because you have to pass what used to be a shrub in the film but is now a full grown tree! Keep going til you hit the unmaintained dirt road!
Some of you will wonder, no doubt, why this isn’t included in our menu for the locations from Part II. Simple. Rather than return production to Corona, they re-created the scene on stage 12 at Universal. This not only saved money but allowed much greater freedom for shooting the practical effects and bluescreen for the flying DeLorean. Sorry to burst your bubble, but Doc wasn’t struck by lightning here! Although we act out those scenes every time anyway!
2013 Update: We’re sad to say that though this location remained surrounded by 2 or 3 miles of dairy farms in the past, most are now boarded up, and there are several new housing developmentsencroaching on this area. Visit the site as soon as you can. In Southern California subdivisions are a disease that spreads rapidly, and although there doesn’t appear to be development planned for this small stretch of road, there’s no guarantee the amazing view will be unspoiled for long! If you visit in a Time Machine DeLorean, let us know! We’d love to come meet up with you and take a snapshot!
Filming Location from “Back to the Future” part II
This location is a private residence. DO NOT DISTURB OCCUPANTS!
Ah, good old alternate 1985. After Marty and Doc come back from the future and drop of Jennifer, and just after Marty is chased out of what he thinks is his house, he runs up a street alongside the school and sits down on a porch to pick up a newspaper (to check the date). As you probably remember, Alternate Mr. Strickland shoves a shotgun into Marty’s face, tells him the school was burned down years ago, and was just about to make Marty into a eunuch, when he was interrupted by a drive-by shooting.
Well, BTTFtour.com is proud to tell you that the house survived the drive-by intact, and is safe and sound in Whittier, California, right next to the real-life high school used for the films. At first, one might not recognize this as being the right location, because the porch looks much different than it did at the time of filming. It was probably changed just after the film’s release, as Whittier High school is no more than fifty yards away, and the owner’s probably didn’t want any “slackers” taking their own newspapers! (Note the gap in the foundation from the old steps!). You can tell from the comparison shots below that little else has changed. I didn’t recognize the house myself the first time I saw it, but after carefully reviewing the scene on the DVD, I concluded this must, indeed be the right place. The Location Manager for BTTFII later confirmed this for me.
When visiting this location, make sure to either come in daylight or with a friend, as this neighborhood seems to go back and forth with various crime problems from year to year. Not only that, but come between 3 and 5 if possible, as school will be out and it doesn’t look strange. People can get weird these days if they see anyone near a school for any reason (And obviously you don’t want to drive right next to Hill Valley High School and not visit there too!).
I have friends who attended to Whittier High School in the 80s, although they don’t remember any filming, since all of it was done over school breaks. Still, though I’m constantly in the neighborhood, for years I managed to miss Strickland’s House, because I didn’t notice that the background of the shot showing Marty approach the house was the side of the High School gymnasium until years later. Now, however, in the DVD version of Back to the Future part II there is a great deleted scene of Marty looking at the burned down High School that fits in just before he gets to Mr. Strickland’s house. Make sure not to sit on this porch. Most likely you will have a similar experience to Marty… if you know what I mean.
Our most recent visit was February 23, 2013. The house was just recently sold, and is looking much better than it has in years. Of course, this means they painted the porch foundation, so you can’t tell where the original steps used to be. We just added some new photos to the archive!
By the way, this was first published on our site. Another location BTTFtour.com broke to the public back in the day! (Although we know now a few people visited it before us) We’re stoked to have been able to put this puzzle piece back in to the BTTF fandom picture. Of course now it’s linked on mega-sites all over the web. Speaking of pictures, we have a lot more coming for our 2013 updates, and would LOVE to see your pictures of this location! Send em to us and we’ll get them up on the site!
ADDRESS: 12511 BAILEY ST, WHITTIER, CA
GPS COORDINATES: +34.105691, -118.141549
Special shoutout to Wesley Treat, who found this location way before us,(although he didnt ever publish it online) and is a supremely cool dude.
See the end of this article for location and visiting information!
Editor’s Note: this text is from the old version of BTTF tour – we’re going to be revising these articles in the coming days. The photos and screenshots from these articles will all be down below for the time being, instead of thumbnails within the text. Thanks for your patience, and visit us again when everything’s tidied up!
After Marty has a creepy encounter with his Mother and her family in 1955, he foots it across town over to Doc Brown’s, only to discover that the house Doc had been living in in 1985 was merely the left over garage of his former mansion!(If you pay close attention in the film, you’ll notice that Doc Brown’s mansion burned down on Wednesday, August 1, 1962. Now that’s a bit of trivia for you!)
Although the Gamble house looks similar to the house in the movie “Zathura,” no part of the Gamble house was filmed in that movie! It did, however, provide some inspiration for the house in that film.
In real life, this beautiful mansion lies just off the route of the world-famous Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. In fact, this house is quite famous of it’s own accord. It’s called the Gamble House, and it’s extremely interesting location from a historical and architectural point of view. This building used to be the summer home of David B. Gamble (of the Procter & Gamble company) and was built by the famous architects Greene & Greene in 1909. A hallmark of California Craftsman architecture, the house is now owned by the city of pasadena and operated by the architecture department at USC. This site is easily accessible and you are allowed to walk freely on the grounds, although they do charge a fee for tours of the interior.
Due to the historic nature of the location, the Back to the Future film crew was not allowed inside the Gamble house itself, so the location was only used for exterior shots of the house, driveway, and garage. All of the interior shots, including the close up shots of Marty standing on the front porch, were filmed several miles away at another famous, but privately owned, house built by the Greene and Greene firm. That house has another page to itself located here.
As of the last revision of this article, The Gamble House is still open most days for guided tours, conducted by volunteers. However, these do cost money. It’s definitely worth supporting the ongoing restoration efforts at the Gamble House, but if you’re pressed for time this might not be the tour for you. If you do decide to come during business hours, you can visit the Gift shop inside the garage where you can find more information.
It’s also the closest thing you will get to being inside of Doc’s garage, since the movie version was filmed completely on a soundstage and no actual filming took place inside of the Gamble garage. If you don’t have the time, be assured that as of this writing the grounds are open as long as the sun is up, and you can even walk right up to the front porch. Two USC students live here full time to protect the property, so please try not to disturb them, but this is public property on the National Register of Historic Places and is completely free to visit, at least on the outside!
For MUCH more detailed information about the History of the Gamble house, as well as excellent directions and visitor information, visit their website at GambleHouse.org
Hill Valley Town Filming Location from Back to the Future part III
See the end of this article for location and visiting information!
WARNING: WE DO NOT SUGGEST YOU DO THIS LIGHTLY. PLEASE READ: It’s unclear where private and public land stop and begin. Everything you do here may or may not be trespassing – the highway here moves very quick and there is usually a steady flow of traffic, making it somewhat unsafe to backtrack and look around. There are rusty old railroad tracks with nails, spikes, stakes, barbed wire, ruts, etc.. and let’s not forget, PEOPLE WITH GUNS. So I really honestly suggest, and reccomend – THAT NO ONE DO THIS. But since I know you’re going to do it anyway I’ll tell you how we did. But this is strictly for – uh – educational purposes only. Don’t break the law, and be über-cautious out there. Rattlesnakes abound!
In all the years of Back to the Future location hunting, no single trip was as exciting as this. Stuck in Stockton, CA for the weekend, I learned that our hosts had relatives in Jamestown, and that it was not too far away, and of course I was all ears. Five people packed into a tiny Ford 4-door and off we went. Our first stop was at a shooting range. It was the Marine Corps’ birthday, and our hosts’ Grandfather wanted to celebrate it with us… by firing guns! (This, by the way, was a veteran of Chosin Reservoir, if you don’t know about that, look it up!).
Our driver, R, seemed skeptical as we headed south from Jamestown back towards Yosemite Junction, but as vague as my description of this location seemed to be, (If you go, you’ll see for yourself, it’s pretty difficult to give directions to a patch of nowhere…) I had a map in my head and a mission to accomplish.
Now, Yosemite Junction isn’t really a town, and for that matter neither is Keystone. In fact, Keystone isn’t even on most maps. But Yosemite Junction is where the CA-120 splits off of CA-108 and heads east towards Chinese Camp and Yosemite Nat’l Park. If you blink, or sneeze, you will miss both of these towns.
Luckily for the intrepid BTTF tour fan, the very real Railroad tracks which the train ran on in the film run right alongside the road for a stretch of about 1.5 miles as you travel Northbound towards Yosemite Junction. The spot you’ll need to find is where these tracks take a sudden turn eastwards into the hills and away from the road. It’s going to take some serious concentration to find that spot, but there is one landmark that can help! Almost directly across from the point along the tracks you want is the “Keystone Cattle Ranch” – Now, there is a way to get to the location of Hill Valley 1885 on dirt roads, but we DO NOT reccomend you even TRY that way for several reasons, chief among them is that this is PRIVATE PROPERTY, people actually LIVE in those hills (even though you can’t easily see the houses from the highway) and they CAN AND WILL SHOOT YOU.
We realized this from the first, so we had our very patient driver RM pull over inside the Keystone Cattle Ranch driveway, and wait with the car so that we wouldn’t enrage the local cowboys. Of course, this meant that three male punk rockers and a female companion had to run across the highway, which we did – San Diego style. (We suggest you park on the side of the small road across the highway. Remember: This isn’t someone’s lawn in Pasadena, this is the country, and you could get hurt.) Crossing over the weed-choked ditch through tall, dead grass, I couldn’t help but regret the fact that I was wearing shorts. I was a little nervous about ticks, but hey, not every tick has lyme disease, right? So what the hell, I’ll go forward. It wasn’t until we reached the tracks that someone wisely pointed out that we should be on the lookout for Rattlesnakes as well. With that in the back of my mind, we began our northward trek along the rusty and appearently abandoned stretch of track. All of a sudden the sound of automatic gunfire filled the air from the south side of the hills we were traveling alongside. I kid you not, it sounded like a small army. Take warning..
Once we realized that the gunfire wasn’t pointed at or towards us, we continued our journey. You’re gonna have to watch out once you get to the first sign of humanity along the tracks. It’s dozens of rusted, sharp, metal spikes across the tracks, and barbed wire fencing along the side. It’s a tetanus trap nightmare, so be really cautious in getting around it. It looks like it was once meant to keep cattle IN, but then again, it could just as easily have been meant to keep people like us OUT.
The location of Hill Valley 1885 is actually known as Red Hills Ranch. The town itself (minus the clock-tower, of course) had been there long before BTTF III and was created specifically for filming movies. Bonanza, Little House on the Prarie, Pale Rider, and even Unforgiven are just a few of the movies and TV series shot at this location. Since by rail it was only a short trip into this beautiful scenery aboard Railtown 1887’s historic trains, BTTF III was filmed here too.
I have studied the film and the documentaries and behind-the-scenes shots very carefully and memorized the shape and angle of the hills behind the site of HV 1885, so as soon as we rounded the bend, I knew for certain that we had hit the jackpot. Unfortunately, the other people along for the uh.. long hike (make sure you wear sturdy shoes!) weren’t as familiar with the movies and had no idea what we were looking at… because we were looking at nothing!
In 1996 a grass fire burned through the area just west of Chinese Camp, burning it’s way through hundreds of acres of nothing.. unfortunately, the town set used in all these movies happened to be in the middle of those acres of nothing. Along the tracks near the town set the fire becomes evident. Rail ties are nothing but cinders, and a few looked like they had literally exploded from the heat. The only thing even remotely connected to the filming days is a lonely prop windmill, slumped over on the ground. Somehow spared from the fires. On further reflection you notice the stumps of burned trees dotting the hillside.
Not a bad trip at all, not much to see, but for the Back to the Future fan, a MUST see! Numerous other small locations were located on the ranch property as well, including Clara’s home, the location of the switch track, and all the miles of track featured in that horse-chasing, train-racing action footage, but you’re going to need permission to use the back roads and much better shoes than mine, and it’s next to impossible to find those sites unless a local happens to know exactly where they were. They might know, but the only local we encountered was a vagrant family living out of a camper. Man with no shirt, woman with no shoes, and their companions, baby, large dog, and even larger shotgun. So be careful out there… and if you make it to Hill Valley 1885, send us some pictures!
Filming Location from Back to the Future part II – sort of.
If you read one sentence from this page, read this; This location was not actually seen on Screen! Due to popular request, weve included the INSPIRATION FOR the tower of Biff’s Casino; The Plaza Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. A model based off this hotel was used (along with composite shots of the courthouse) to create Biff’s casino as seen on screen. The Rooftop was filmed on the roof of the Universal Studios theme park on the upper lot, and Biff’s suite was filmed on stage twelve. This isn’t really a BTTF location, but because so many of you kind people have sent us in photos over the years, we thought we’d start throwing some of them up. If you’re really interested in visiting a screen-used location from Biff’s Casino, we discovered and published the staircase seen in the movie back in 2007. Check that out here, along with the story of alarms and almost being arrested… sort of.
As an aside, I just stayed in this hotel, in room 2011. The rooms are all remodeled and pretty nice. The best part is they’re dirt cheap, and it sits at the dead end of the Fremont Street experience. I’d definitely stay there again, even though I personally find Las Vegas kind of sad and disgusting.. Check out their website here. (Opens in new page).
OAK PARK CEMETERY Filming Location from Back to the Future part II
PRIVATE PROPERTY, NO VISITORS ALLOWED. SUUUUCKS
When they filmed Back to the Future part II, they filmed the cemetery scene down in Wilmington, California. If you’ve ever been to Wilmington, odds are you won’t want to go back. It’s full of oil refineries and there are times where the smell is overpowering. When you’re not surrounded by refineries, you’re probably surrounded by gangs, as the city is plagued by crime. I’m sure there’s probably a portion of wilmington that residents would describe as “nice” – but I’ve never seen it, and until I see it with my own eyes, I have to admit I’m plagued by doubt.
Marty has learned that in the alternate timeline, (1985a, or just ‘Alternate 1985’) his Father has been murdered. His mother tells him to go to Oak Park Cemetery. Filmed against a backdrop of refinery smokestacks, the setting of the scene made Marty’s discovery of his Father’s murder and Doc’s revelation of being committed to a mental asylum that much more intense.
In order to have a cemetery at a refinery, the location scouts traveled down to Wilmington, where the Ultramar refinery, in an early attempt to look “green,” had a landscaped duck pond on the property. Unfortunately, all the ducks died or found somewhere less disgusting to live, and after several phone calls I was informed by employees of Valero that the area was long since bulldozed and replaced with a large crude oil tank.
Still determined to stand where Marty and Doc stood, I visited the refinery office on numerous occasions, only to be rejected as a visitor. Not only are there serious safety concerns for visitors, but ever since 9-11, rigid and extreme security measures are in place as well. You wouldn’t think it’d be so hard to visit a refinery. As a matter of fact, on the old version of the site I had listed the GPS coordinates, and I literally received an email from the office of Homeland Security politely-but-firmly requesting that I remove the information. I did.
In the years since, I finally managed to get ahold of an employee who’s been there since the 80s. The area with the duck pond, he confirmed, was leveled and a good portion of the background scenery was rebuilt around the tanks. When I asked about getting a photo that would line up with the background of the shot, he looked around for me and let me know that it’s impossible. All hope gone. I feel almost as bad as Marty did standing in the cemetery itself, but I have to declare this location dead. Gone. Lost. All I could get from Valero was a link to a page about the history of their refinery;
Significant new construction and upgrades took place in the early 1980s and mid-1990s with the latter focused mainly on the addition of hydrotreating capacity
So, in the King’s English that means they basically demolished the duck pond area that helped them look environmentally savvy to become actually more environmentally friendly. Hydrotreating removes Sulfur dioxide emissions from fuels.
I’ve put the GPS coordinates and address back up, and I have some photos from the refinery. In an effort to be ‘transparent’ these companies are a lot friendlier to the public than they used to be, and a lot more open about these types of locations.
Sadly, theres little-to-no reason for a BTTF fan, however extreme, to visit this location. It’s far out of the way of the other sites, and like I said, it’s gone without a trace.
BIFF’S CASINO STAIRWAY Filming Location from “Back to the Future” part II
WE FOUND IT! That’s right, the holy grail of Back to the Future filming locations! For YEARS people searched for this sweet spot and couldn’t find it. When we first published it on the site in 2007, it got blasted all over the internet, and no matter how much we politely requested a link back, we didn’t get it. But that’s ok. After a lot of therapy we finally managed to leave the basement and stash away our mason jars full of urine, and get back to running this site.
The year is 1985. The timeline: alternate. Marty McFly has finally confronted freaky pimp-daddy alter-Biff in his sweet suite on the 27th floor of Biff’s Casino, and dashed into the stairwell to make his escape. He heads down stairs, then hops up on and intertwining staircase and makes his way up to the roof. I don’t know about you, but as a kid this scene was one of my favorites. It’s the classic switcheroo.
If you just want the galleries and location scroll down because this one takes a little back story, but I promise if you stick with me, it’s worth reading about how we finally found this place.
I’d been visiting the Back to the Future filming locations for years and it had honestly never even occured to me that this stairway might exist outside of a soundstage. With my old partner (who sadly passed away in a freak accident involving comic books and gasoline) we started bttftour.com as an easy place to publish a bunch of locations that were not available online. Luckily, to aid our quest, Michael J Burmeister, Location manager from parts II and III bequethed his locations list to us back in the early 00s and we were able to find several missing pieces of the BTTF puzzle and share them with all our friends via the internets.
After I had found and visited all the BTTF locations I’d ever hoped to see, I thought the quest was over. One thing kept bugging me though. On one of the lists Mr. Burmeister had sent over, was a listing for “Paradise Casino stairs, The Registry Hotel.” I knew that Paradise Casino was Biff’s casino because the roof was listed above as well. Both addresses were for Universal Studios itself, but the strange part was that the Casino Roof was clearly listed as the roof of the BattleStar Galactica show building (that would ironically later become Back to the Future.. The Ride) and the stairwell said Registry Hotel.
Of course, there’s no registry hotel at Universal Studios Hollywood. But suddenly the clouds of idiocy parted and it dawned on me that maybe THE UNIVERSAL CITY HILTON, Built on the Hill outside the gate at Universal Studios, used to be the Registry hotel!!! Five seconds of googling provided the proof. GREAT SCOTT! We had the address, we had the info, everything was set!! At long last Back to the Future fans everywhere would get a shot at visiting Biff’s Casino!!!!
Stick with me, because this is where the fun begins.
Sometime in the fall of 2005 I swung by Universal. I boldly parked my giant spray-painted van (it looked like this) out front, walked into the hotel, and asked if I could look in the stairway. This wasn’t my first rodeo. I know that’s the dumbest possible thing you can do when looking for a filming location. Maybe I was hung over, I don’t know. All I know is that the suits running the counter seemed personally offended that I wanted to see their stairs, and had two giant, bald, ear-piece wearing, gorilla-faced thugs basically push me out of the building. “That’s cool bros,” I thought, “Time is on my side. I’ll come back later.”
One week later I tried my luck again, this time I figured I’d approach from the rear and enter via the underground parking garage instead of the lobby. Alas! My common sense was turned off again that day, the Van was too tall, and when it inevitably bumped against the height-limit warning bar it set off the loudest alarm I have ever heard in my entire life. I kid you not, this thing literally sounded like one of those submarine alarms from The Hunt for the Red October or the bridge of the Starship Enterprise after some rogue Klingons show up. I could barely hear him over the alarm, but the bald, earpiece wearing, badly sunburned security guard either screamed something about making love to me, or hurting me really badly. I didn’t stick around to find out, and after that experience, I didn’t come back til the fall of 2006.
Dressed to the nines and driving my Mom’s new explorer, I boldly entered via the lobby. After going up the elevator and getting in the only stairwell, I was stoked! Easy! We go all the way up, and we’ll see the spot! We were so stoked to see the right kind of railing, the right kind of doors, the right kind of steps! But when we got to the top, something was dreadfully wrong. Somehow, we couldn’t reenact the scene and hop between stairways.. and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. There were TWO stairways in that scene.. and each set went to the same floor.. how is that possible? Who would build that!? Dismayed, I searched every stairwell in the hotel to no avail and left again in defeat.
Maybe it was a set piece after all, because the architecture made no sense. Who would build two staircases in the same stairwell… but no! On hearing of my woes, a very wise man named Greg instantly pointed out that often such stairways are seen in Parking garages where the bottom and top doors on each stairwell lead to different places. As Marty would say, “Holy Shit!” I forgot to check the Parking Garage!
SO on Valentine’s day 2007 we left Orange County again. Armed with the digital camera and 4 gallons of Gas, we paid the very steep (for 2007) parking garage fee of $4.00/hr, and drove down to “P3.” – After checking every stairwell, we FINALLY found it! It’s on the wall that faces outwards, to the Northwest. In it are two stairwells with two stairways apiece inside of them. You’re looking for the one on your left, towards the freeway. It’s confusing and you’ll probably need to print a photo from this site to make sure you aren’t in the other staircase, which is mirror image to this one.
Finally I was able to live out my childhood dream and jump the banister while my friend ran down in the other direction fruitlessly searching for me. We leapt out the door to the “roof” and reenacted the confrontation scene with Biff. It was a glorious, sexy day that will live in infamy for all time.
It’s still there, and other than paint it hasn’t changed a BIT. Keep in mind that if you visit there’s still a ton of ape-brained muscly armed security and douchey, unfriendly staff ready to hate on visitors. BUT the loophole is if you pay for parking, you pay for the right to use the damn stairwell. LAWYERED. So go forth, Back to the Future fans! Get in Biff’s stairwell and jump around. The only and thing that could make it better would be these, but trust me, still pretty satisfying.
Up until recently, to reiterate, this was the only website to EVER publish it’s location. It would be pretty cool to have a link back here if you publish it. As you just read, it took a lot of sleuthing to hunt the right one – the epilogue to the story is that they saw us coming out of the stairwell and threatened to have us arrested if we didn’t delete the pictures, claiming that we could be taking them for “terrorist reasons.” Luckily, we paid to park in that garage, and they couldn’t do much. Ok, enough of all this, enjoy the pictures we’re proud to present to you! (More coming ridiculously soon)
ADDRESS: 555 UNIVERSAL TERRACE PKWY, UNIVERSAL CITY, CA
Marty’s House Filming Location from Back to the Future part II
This location is in a GATED COMMUNITY. No Tresspassing Signs are Posted. ENTER THIS AREA AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Here it is! The future home of the McFly family! Of course, rewriting this now in 2013, it’s not as “future” as it used to be! In 2000, the locations from the first movie were widely available online. Part II and III were conspicuously absent. After trolling dozens of forums looking for information, I got a random email from a guy named Pat Evans who clued me in on this location!
For those of you who haven’t explored this location yet, The McFly house is located rather randomly in El Monte, California. One can only speculate as to why they chose this for the location, especially given that they used a different location to show “Hilldale” at the end of Part III, in 1985.
El Monte is, for the most part, not that nice of a town. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. It’s more than a little sketchy in places, and so when I first rolled up to explore this place I was a little nervous. Imagine my surprise when I showed up and found this pristine gated community in the middle of all that suburban decay.
Obviously all the set dressing is long gone from this condo, and it blends in well with it’s neighbors, so make sure you confirm the address before you snap your photos. I once went to Amityville and took a picture of the wrong “horror house” because I had heard it was remodeled and was trying to get in and out quickly. I was pretty bummed out with the results when I compared my photos with the ones on the internet. A little research goes a long way!
Well, we’re only two years away from 2015 now, and I’m sorry to report that the McFlys have yet to move in to the property. Instead, I found the same friendly-but-suspicious Asian family living here that I did back in 2000. The house hasn’t undergone any dramatic changes, however, and still makes for a great stop for the devoted Back to the Future fan.
Of course, having said that, I should say that this isn’t exactly a very memorable location to the eye, since the on-screen time of this particular unit was very slight, but we felt it warrants a separate page and a certain amount of attention because, come on, this is Marty Mc-Frickin-Fly’s house in 2015!!!!
As to my former rhetorical question about why they chose this location for the shoot, I think I figured it out. In 2001, Michael J Burmeister, a location scout who worked on both sequels, helped me to confirm a number of locations, and then kindly sent me some ancient document-turned-PDFs from the filming. In reading down the list of Paradox locations again, I realized the home or property owners are named in every instance except in the case of Hilldale 2015 and “Ext McFly Townhouse.”A homeowners association is listed, but no resident.
This leads me to speculate (wildly) that this development was probably brand new and mostly empty at the time. Which makes a lot of sense, given that no one would get super pissed that Doc and Marty are running up and down their street at 4am with huge floodlights, loud cameras, a time-machine-lifting crane, and probably some cliché megaphones.
Anyway, go see it for yourself, snap some photos, and give me a shout! We’re adding a brand new feature to the site to (finally!) display pictures all of you guys have shared with us over the years. We geek out when you geek out!