Top Gun Returns: San Diego’s Iconic Film Locations

Fans of the blockbuster “Top Gun” movie have been waiting more than three decades for Tom Cruise to return to uniform and revive his Maverick character in a sequel. With Cruise recently spotted filming at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, located across San Diego Bay from downtown, and posting on Instagram “FEEL THE NEED” while he dons a flight suit and carries the exact same helmet he wore in the 1986 original, an eagerly anticipated sequel to the action-packed classic has been confirmed.

So in the fast-flying spirit of Maverick’s “need for speed,” it’s time pull out the bomber jacket and aviator sunglasses and revisit the famous film locations in San Diego from the original “Top Gun” film.

  • One of the most memorable scenes in “Top Gun” was filmed at Kansas City Barbeque in downtown. This unassuming, casual sports bar was where Maverick and Goose (Anthony Edwards) play “Great Balls of Fire” at the piano, and where Carol (Meg Ryan) says the famous line, “Goose, you big stud. Take me to bed now or lose me forever.”
  • Proudly sporting a “Top Gun” neon sign on its front window, Kansas City Barbeque displays a large collection of Top Gun and U.S. Air Force memorabilia including mementos, autographed posters and photos from filming.
  • The scene where instructor Charlie (Kelly McGillis) driving in her Porsche stops Maverick on his motorcycle to tell him she’s “falling” for him is set on the corner of West Laurel and Union streets in Bankers Hill. As you drive up the steep incline along West Laurel Street from downtown’s bayfront toward Balboa Park, you will see a big palm tree on the right hand (south) side of the street at Union; this is the exact location where the scene was shot. With beautiful San Diego Bay as its backdrop, the same setting can be visited today, and film fans can recreate one of the film’s most romantic scenes under the shade of the original palm tree.
  • Located at the tip of the Point Loma peninsula under Cabrillo National Monument, the New Point Loma Lighthouse is the setting of Viper’s (Tom Skerritt’s) house in the film. Today, the lighthouse keepers’ quarters house U.S. Coast Guard officers who are fortunate to enjoy the prime oceanfront property.
  • The New Point Loma Lighthouse can be seen from a lookout point near the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, located above at Cabrillo National Monument, or guests can take a road down to the tide pools at the base of the point for a closer view from the road. During Viper’s and Maverick’s walk in the garden, the audience gets to enjoy a glimpse of the coastal house and the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
  • The flight school and flight scenes in the movie were filmed at Naval Air Station Miramar, located approximately 10 miles northeast of downtown. The United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program, more popularly known as TOPGUN, merged into the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center and is now located at NAS Fallon, Nevada. The former Naval Air Station Miramar is currently the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, the aviation element of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.
  • Movie fans can experience the thrill of TOPGUN fighter pilot school during the popular MCAS Miramar Air Show, held September 28-30, 2018. The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, better known as the Blue Angels, has been the indisputable “star of the show” since the 1940s. Flying F/A-18 Hornets painted in Navy Blue and Gold since 1986, these masters of the sky have demonstrated aerial excellence in the Navy’s top piston and jet aircraft.
  • Maverick and Goose embarrass Charlie with a tuneless rendition of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” in a crowded bar scene during the original film. The scene was shot not in a bar but the Mississippi Ballroom of the boutique Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows in University Heights.
  • Opened in 1946, The Lafayette Hotel is no stranger to Hollywood legend and celebrity. Designed by former Tarzan and five-time Olympic gold medal winner Johnny Weissmuller in 1946, the pool at The Lafayette has seen the likes of Ava Gardner and other Hollywood royalty who have lounged poolside over the years.

Happiness is calling in San Diego. For more information on San Diego’s offerings, including exciting vacation packages and valuable coupons for attractions, restaurants and more, visit the San Diego Tourism Authority’s website at www.sandiego.org.

Author: So Cal Life Mag Guest Post

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