From Los Santos to Reality: Exploring GTA 5’s True Inspirations

One of the most popular games ever is full of amazing details that surprise us. Just like in the earlier Grand Theft Auto games, Grand Theft Auto 5 has places inspired by real-world spots. But in this game, they made them look even more like the real thing.

Some of these places in Grand Theft Auto 5 look almost exactly like the real ones. They even put in stuff like an observatory, a famous sign, and a well-known mountain. There are fifteen spots in Grand Theft Auto 5 that are based on real-life locations.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Bishop’s WTF?! (Inspired by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!)

You can find Bishop’s WTF?! on Vinewood Boulevard, and it’s like a museum of strange and amazing things. It seems like they named it after a character from the Aliens movie who has the same name. That’s a cool reference to the real-world Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum, which is named after the main character in the movie.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! started as a newspaper thing in 1918, but it became a lot of different things, like radio and TV shows, books, and museums. One of those museums is on Hollywood Boulevard, and that’s where the Bishop’s museum in GTA 5 takes its inspiration from.

The Vinewood Bowl (Inspired by The Hollywood Bowl)

In the fancy Vinewood Hills area, you’ll find the Vinewood Bowl. It’s an outdoor theater where they film the TV show Fame or Shame. There’s a big parking lot nearby, and a cute cafe for people to get drinks and snacks.

The real-life version of this place is called the Hollywood Bowl, and it’s a lot like the one in the game, just maybe with a slightly bigger stage. The Hollywood Bowl has been around since 1922, and it can hold 17,500 people. It’s a perfect spot for big outdoor events in Hollywood.

The Oriental Theater (Inspired by Grauman’s Chinese Theater)

Grauman’s Chinese Theater, now called the TCL Chinese Theater, is super famous in Los Angeles. It’s where they have big movie premieres, and they even have famous people’s hand and footprints in the ground.

In GTA 5, the Oriental Theater looks a lot like the real Chinese Theater. It has the same cool roof and pillars. But here’s a fun fact: in the game, they say the Oriental Theater opened in 1928, which is just one year after Grauman’s Chinese Theater opened for real.

The Vinewood Von Crastenburg Hotel (Inspired by The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel)

Even though the Von Crastenburg Hotel & Resorts chain looks a bit like the Hilton hotels, the one in Vinewood is more like the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. It’s over on Clinton and Meteor streets and has cool stuff like a swimming pool, a nightclub, and a restaurant.

The real Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which the game copied, is the oldest hotel still running in L.A. It has a Spanish-style look, just like the one you see in the game. This hotel opened almost a hundred years ago and even hosted the very first Academy Awards in 1926.

Tequi-la-la (Inspired by Whisky A Go Go)

Tequi-la-la used to be run by the mob, but now it’s a cool nightclub in Vinewood. You can find it on Eclipse Boulevard, and it shows up in lots of GTA 5 and GTA Online missions and fun stuff. They even have a game room downstairs where you can play darts or the QUB3D arcade game.

The real place it’s based on is called Whisky a Go Go, and it’s been rocking on Sunset Boulevard for more than 50 years. Famous bands like Led Zeppelin, System of a Down, and AC/DC have played there. It’s so famous that it even has its own TV channel on Roku Connected TV, and back in the late 60s, they named a human gene after it!

Galileo Observatory (Inspired by The Griffith Observatory)

In Grand Theft Auto 5, you might have been to this place without realizing it’s an observatory. You can’t use the observatory for real in the game, but you can look through telescopes that need coins to work. It’s a great spot to check out the city of Los Santos.

The Galileo Observatory in the game is like the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California. It would have been cool if you could go inside it, but maybe they’ll do that in Grand Theft Auto 6 with more famous places.

Vinewood Sign (Inspired by The Hollywood Sign)

If you’ve driven around Vinewood Hills or seen it from other spots, you might have already figured this out. The Vinewood sign is like a copy of the famous Hollywood sign in Hollywood, Los Angeles. It’s like a big sign for the Vinewood area in the made-up city of Los Santos.

In real life, Hollywood is a super popular place for tourists and one of the most famous spots in the United States. The only thing missing in Grand Theft Auto 5 is the chance to climb the sign!

Del Perro Pier (Inspired by The Santa Monica Pier)

If you’ve traveled around the United States, you might have noticed something familiar in Grand Theft Auto 5. Del Perro Pier is made-up, but it looks a lot like the real Santa Monica Pier.

The Santa Monica Pier is in California, just like many other places in the game. It’s interesting how much Del Perro Pier looks like the Santa Monica one.

Vespucci Beach (Inspired by Venice Beach)

Even real-world places show up in Grand Theft Auto 5. Vespucci Beach is on the west coast of Los Santos, and it’s a place where hipsters and regular folks like to hang out.

It’s kind of like Venice Beach, and you’ve probably been to Vespucci Beach to check out the fancy Super Yachts in the water or ride a sea-doo. Venice Beach is another real place that you can find in Grand Theft Auto 5.

Big Creek Bridge (Inspired by The Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California)

If you’ve ever driven along the western highway in Grand Theft Auto 5 or sailed in the ocean to the west, you’ve probably seen the Big Creek Bridge. The water under the bridge flows into the mountains.

But did you know that the Big Creek Bridge in Grand Theft Auto 5 looks just like the real Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California? They’re super similar! It’s one of the hidden things in Los Santos that only a few people know about.

Playboy Mansion Easter Egg (Inspired by The Playboy Mansion)

The Playboy Mansion is a really cool place to explore at night in the game. Just like in real life, the game’s mansion even has a grotto! The people who made the game paid close attention to all the little details to make it super special.

Even though Hugh Hefner isn’t with us anymore, the real Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles is still a famous spot. And thanks to games like Grand Theft Auto 5, Hugh Hefner’s legacy keeps going strong.

Marlowe Vineyard (Probably Inspired by Malibu Rocky Oaks Estate Vineyard)

You can find Marlowe Vineyard in the northern part of Los Santos, and it’s got some of the prettiest views in the game. It’s a lot like the Malibu Rocky Oaks Estate Vineyard, and they look really alike.

There’s a house on top of a hill, just like in the Malibu vineyard. This is one place in Grand Theft Auto 5 that you absolutely have to check out!

Mount Chiliad (Probably Inspired by Mount San Jacinto)

Mount Chiliad is the biggest mountain in Grand Theft Auto 5, and it’s famous for all kinds of mysteries. People have claimed to see Bigfoot there, and there are stories about UFOs too. Many folks think it looks a lot like Mount San Jacinto, which is a real mountain.

In the game, there are two other named mountains, Mount Josiah and Mount Gordo. Some also think that Mount Chiliad might be inspired by Mount San Antonio or Mount San Gorgonio.

Los Santos Storm Drain (Inspired by The Los Angeles River)

In Grand Theft Auto 5, there’s this cool place called the Los Santos Storm Drain, and it’s a lot like the real Los Angeles River. You’ll do races and missions here, so if you’ve played a lot, you’ve probably been here.

The river in the game looks a bit old and worn, which fits the game’s vibe. But they made it a bit smaller than the real river, and we don’t really know why Rockstar Games did that. Maybe they wanted to make it easier for players to drive through.

Rancho Towers (Inspired by The Watts Towers in Watts, Los Angeles)

In Grand Theft Auto 5, there’s a place called Rancho Towers that you might not know about. They’re down in the southern part of Los Santos, and they look a lot like the Watts Towers in Los Angeles. But in the game, they’re just there for looks, not for anything else.

The real Watts Towers were designed by an architect named Sabato Rodia. In 1921, he and his brother bought a strange-shaped piece of land at 1765 E. 107th Street, as mentioned on

Legion Square (Inspired by Pershing Square)

Legion Square is like a pretty part of Los Santos, right in the middle of downtown. It’s got all these colorful sculptures. You can find this small park near the center of Los Santos, not far from Vespucci Boulevard and San Andreas Avenue. You’ll come here for some side missions, both in the main game and when you play online.

Legion Square looks almost exactly like the real Pershing Square in Los Angeles, with its own colorful buildings in the middle of the city. Funny thing is, in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, there’s a place called Pershing Square too!

  • Badger Building (Inspired by Capitol Records)

The Badger Building is kind of small but pretty important if you know what it’s based on in real life. You can find it over in the Hawick shopping district in Vinewood. In Grand Theft Auto 5, the building doesn’t do much, but in Grand Theft Auto Online, it’s one of SecuroServ’s headquarters.

The way the Badger Building looks is a lot like the real Capitol Records building. This place is super famous for making American albums for big artists like the Beatles. Other famous musicians like Frank Sinatra, the Bee Gees, and the Beach Boys have also worked with Capitol Records.

Liquor Ace (Inspired by Carniceria Toro Loco)

Rockstar pays amazing attention to the tiniest details, and even the small places in the game are like real ones. In Grand Theft Auto 5, Trevor Philips uses Liquor Ace a lot during the main story. You might remember it from the big shootout in the mission “Trevor Philips Industries” and later as the planning spot for the Paleto Score.

Guess what? Liquor Ace is based on a real place too! Fans found a similar old liquor store called Carniceria Toro Loco in Mecca, California’s Salton Sea region.

Maze Bank Arena (Inspired by The Forum)

In the southern part of Los Santos, there’s a big stadium sponsored by the made-up Maze Bank. You might remember it from the story mission “Fame or Shame,” where they do auditions for the TV show. It’s also a popular spot in Grand Theft Auto Online, especially for Arena War events.

The Maze Bank Arena looks a lot like the real Forum in Inglewood, California, where the Los Angeles Lakers used to play. Just like how the Maze Bank Arena is named after Maze Bank, The Forum used to have naming rights from Great Western Bank.

Kortz Center (Inspired by Getty Center)

A bit outside of Los Santos, you’ll find the Kortz Center, a fancy museum with a great view of the city. It’s where an important and exciting story mission called “The Wrap Up” happens, and there are also missions and stuff to do in Grand Theft Auto Online.

The Kortz Center is kind of like a copy of the Getty Center, which is part of the Getty Museum in Brentwood, Los Angeles. They’ve got all sorts of cool sculptures and paintings there, including famous artists like Van Gogh.

El Gordo Lighthouse (Inspired by Point Fermin Lighthouse)

You can find El Gordo Lighthouse in Cape Catfish, Blaine County. If you’ve played the GTA 5 Online Series A heist, you might remember Trevor meeting a buyer at the house on the lighthouse, but things didn’t go as planned, as usual.

The house on the lighthouse looks a lot like the Point Fermin Light, which is a lighthouse on Point Fermin in San Pedro, California. Even though it doesn’t work anymore, the building is still a special place that lots of tourists like to visit.

Morningwood (Inspired by Westwood)

Westwood is a neighborhood in Los Angeles, and in the game, Los Santos has its own version called Morningwood. Rockstar had a bit of fun with the name, making it sound like a funny joke.

In Morningwood, there are lots of buildings and places you can check out in the game, like the Tivoli Cinema, which looks just like the Fox Bruin Theater. You can even buy it and make some in-game money. Morningwood also has stores and businesses that are like real ones in LA, such as Gusset (similar to Victoria’s Secret), Bean Machine (like BJ’s Pizza Grill), and G&B (a bit like American Apparel). If you’re not from LA, you might want to visit their virtual versions in Morningwood.

Hookies (Inspired by Neptune’s Net)

Neptune’s Net is a well-known seafood restaurant and biker bar in Malibu, California. It’s been in movies and TV shows like Iron Man 3, Gossip Girl, and Point Break.

In the game, you can find Hookies on the Great Ocean Highway in North Chumash, Blaine County, and it’s a lot like Neptune’s Net. But in GTA Online, players use it for something less friendly – it’s a spot for their methamphetamine business, which is much more shady than what happens at Neptune’s Net in real life.

ULSA (Inspired by UCLA)

The University of San Andreas, Los Santos, often called ULSA, sits between Richman Street and Picture Perfect Drive in the Richman area. It’s a lot like the famous UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles).

In the game, during some missions, ULSA can be one of the places where important characters have to stay safe for a while. And when you’re setting up for the Diamond Casino heist, you might find the EMP in different spots on the campus.

Portola Drive (Inspired by Rodeo Drive)

Rodeo Drive is known as one of the fanciest shopping spots globally, where the wealthy and famous go to splurge in Beverly Hills.

In the game’s Los Santos, it goes by the name Portola Drive, and players can go shopping at Posenbys or even visit Michael da Santa since his house is on this street. It’s a pretty iconic place, especially in the story mode, where three missions happen: “Casing the Jewel Store,” “The Jewel Store,” and “Job Meltdown.” It’s not a shock that even in Grand Theft Auto, one of the wealthiest places becomes the target of heists.

You can play Grand Theft Auto 5 on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Microsoft Windows.


Q: Are the GTA 5 locations exact replicas of their real-life counterparts?

Absolutely! While the game takes creative liberties, the developers went to great lengths to capture the essence and architecture of the actual places.

Q: Which real-life landmarks can be found in Los Santos?

From the unmistakable Hollywood Sign to the Santa Monica Pier, you’ll spot an array of iconic landmarks scattered throughout the city.

Q: Is there a specific reason for choosing Los Angeles as the inspiration?

Indeed, Los Angeles offers a diverse range of landscapes, making it an ideal canvas for creating the dynamic world of GTA 5.

Q: How does Blaine County differ from Los Santos in terms of real-life inspiration?

Blaine County draws inspiration from the rustic charm of California’s countryside, with vast plains and forested areas mirroring the state’s natural beauty.

Q: Can you explore real-life locations in GTA 5 beyond the main storyline?

Absolutely! GTA 5 encourages exploration, allowing players to stumble upon various real-life-inspired locations while embarking on side quests and adventures.

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