15 Of The Big Bang Theory's Real-Life Pasadena Locations

A still from the Big Bang Theory's "The Procreation Calculation." Pictured: Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik), Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki). (Photo by Michael Yarish/Warner Bros. Entertainment)

The hugely popular Big Bang Theory just launched its 12th and final season. The show's had its share of detractors — they addressed their "haters" in an end-of-show title card on the season premiere — but those who love it have made it the longest-running multi-camera comedy in TV history.

The show, set in Pasadena, made liberal use of local references throughout. The city even declared a Big Bang Theory Day back in 2016, with a proclamation thanking it for "drawing national, international (and even perhaps intergalactic)" attention, "[portraying] the City of Pasadena as not only a city of advanced education and pop culture sophistication but also home to the occasional unexpected 'Bazinga!' to countless viewers worldwide," and more.

We talked with Pasadena's own Lindsay Blake from film location website I Am Not A Stalker about where scenes are actually shot, versus where they are in the show's world.

Jim MacQuarrie tracked the show's geography for GeekDad, creating this interactive map of locations mentioned on the show — though it includes some educated but highly speculative guesses:

APARTMENT 4A'S VIEW

File: A still from the Big Bang Theory's "The Nerdvana Annihilation." (Photo by Greg Gayne/CBS)

Tracking down the image outside the main apartment's window, offering a view of a bit of Pasadena skyline, was a big get for Blake. The actual spot where you can see that view: the rooftop of a Pasadena parking garage.

"I kind of always assumed it was fake," Blake said, "like some sort of CGI composite, because I couldn't quite make it work in my head where that vantage point was."

But another member of an online forum did the legwork and tracked it down to the parking garage for the Community Bank Building.

THE MAIN APARTMENT BUILDING

A still from the Big Bang Theory's "The Hofstadter Isotope." (Photo by Greg Gayne/Warner Bros.)

The apartment is officially located at 2311 North Los Robles Avenue — a fictional address, since the street ends in the 2200 block, according to Blake.

But fans have theorized that it's based on the Brookmore Apartments, with fans noting that the inside looks exactly like the show. The strikingly similar features include the exposed brick, a stairwell looping around the elevator, similar front doors — and an always broken elevator. It's even home to some Caltech and JPL physicists, just like the show.

THE APARTMENT BUILDING'S ROOF

A still from the Big Bang Theory's "The Comet Polarization." (Photo by Jordin Althaus/Warner Bros.)

Another spot that took some online collaboration to find was the rooftop used for Bernadette and Howard's wedding — where they go to get married because they know the Google Earth satellite is going to be directly overhead.

It's not the same spot where that window view is shot from, not from around where their fake street address would be, and not from the apartment building people believe theirs is based on.

"I guess they just picked a random spot to use," Blake said. "What they did was they took an aerial view, and they morphed it a little bit."

The rooftop they composited in isn't the real rooftop, and they moved around some other nearby buildings, but the location was tracked down to 215 South Madison Avenue in Pasadena.

"One of the graphic artists that worked on that episode, and that shot, contacted me after I posted that post, and said, 'Oh my God, I cannot believe that you figured it out,'" Blake said. "Because apparently the Big Bang producers wanted to keep it kind of mysterious, and generic, and not a real place. So they had asked him to make it not recognizable, and to change stuff around. And he's like, 'But you guys were right on — that is the exact shot that I used, and I just altered it.'"

CALTECH & JPL

A still from the Big Bang Theory's "The Codpiece Topology." (Photo by Cliff Lipsonl/CBS)

Their original lead characters work at Caltech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory — but they never show the actual locations.

"They don't do establishing shots very much on the show," Blake said.

Still, their presence is pervasive throughout the show, with stories revolving around faculty rivalries, career landmarks, scientific discoveries, and more.

THE COMIC BOOK STORE

A still from the Big Bang Theory's "The Tenant Disassociation." (Photo by Michael Yarish/Warner Bros.)

The guys on the show make Stuart's shop, the Comic Center, a regular fixture of their lives. A [fake website for the store] placed it on Green Street near Pasadena City College and Caltech. MacQuarrie notes that classic Pasadena comic store the Comics Factory is near there, appearing to serve as the real-life basis for the fictional comics haven.

RAJ'S APARTMENT

The so-called "Raj Mahal" is described as being in a converted watch factory. MacQuarrie writes that this likely places it in one of Pasadena's former industrial spaces.

That means south of Old Town on Raymond Avenue, Arroyo Parkway, or Marengo Avenue — likely between Del Mar and Glenarm. Alternatively, there are former industrial buildings in east Pasadena — but they're more modern than Raj's brick building.

THE WOLOWITZES' HOUSE

A still from the Big Bang Theory's "The Matrimonial Metric." (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS)

The home that Howard once lived in with his mother, now with his wife, is somewhere in the hills of Altadena just north of Pasadena, close to his job at JPL. The home's design, according to MacQuarrie, is early 20th century Craftsman-Colonial, which could place it in a variety of places. His best guest: North of Woodbury, west of Lake Avenue.

MORE APARTMENTS

There are even fewer clues to the placement of apartments that have been inhabited by Amy Farrah Fowler and formerly inhabited by Bernadette. MacQuarrie's placing these post-World War II designed homes west of Lake between Green and California.

THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY

A still from the Big Bang Theory's "The Einstein Approximation." (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS)

Penny spent much of her time on the show working at the Cheesecake Factory. This one is an actual place in Pasadena, though the interior looks nothing like the show's vision of it.

BERNADETTE AND PENNY'S OFFICES

A still from the Big Bang Theory's "The Procreation Calculation." (Photo by Michael Yarish/Warner Bros.)

They both work for biotech companies — that means they may be part of the Pasadena Bioscience Collaborative business incubator in East Pasadena, though there are several others near Huntington Memorial Hospital.

MORE REAL PASADENA LOCATIONS

The references to real places abound, from local pub Lucky Baldwin's to bookstore Vroman's.

They even shot some driving footage outside Blake's own apartment — but she's never been able to figure out where it was used in the show.

BONUS: BIG BANG THEORY WAY

Pasadena thanked the show and its cast for putting it on the map in such a big pop culture way, naming a street after the show. Well, OK, it's an alley — as Conan O'Brien mocked them for when it was announced.

The actual sign calls it Big Bang Theory Way, despite the whole alleyness of it.

So now you know where America's favorite nerds and nerd-adjacent friends live their fictional lives, inspired by the real nerds who make important things like spaceships and study physics. fin


You made it! Congrats, you read the entire story, you gorgeous human. This story was made possible by generous people like you. Independent, local journalism costs $$$$$. And now that LAist is part of KPCC, we rely on that support. So if you aren't already, be one of us! Help us help you live your best life in Southern California. Donate now.