The Ferris Wheel.
Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?
A. A Ferris
Wheel at the school carnival.
Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?
A. In Newport
Beach, probably at or near the Harbor School.
Q. When did we see it on the show?
A. In Episode 9 (of the first season), "The Heights", in which Ryan & Marissa find themselves stuck at the top of the Ferris wheel (thanks to a little 'help' from Anna), and end up sharing their first kiss.
Q. What is it actually in real life?
A. A Ferris
wheel. But not a permanent one.
Where can I find it in real life?
A. There has been a lot of speculation about the location of the Ferris Wheel.
The first (and most obvious) guess was that it was the old Ferris wheel at the Balboa Fun Zone in Newport Beach. It wasn't. Compare photos of the two, and they don't match. Plus, the show doesn't really shoot in Orange County.
The next guess was the Ferris Wheel at the Santa Monica Pier. It is next to the ocean and is on a pier, so that would seem to make sense. But it's wrong. The Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica pier is much bigger than the one seen on the show (and with completely different seats).
The reality is that the producers simply rented a carnival (including a rented Ferris Wheel) and set it up in a parking lot.
So where was that parking lot?
At first, I thought it was in Long Beach, at Shoreline Village. But it wasn't.
The carnival was actually set up in a narrow parking lot in Marina Del Rey.
To be exact, it was the parking lot of Burton Chase Park (the same place they filmed some of Jimmy's boat scenes).
The park is located at the west end of Mindanao Way (west of Admiralty Way), at 13650 Mindanao Way. And to narrow it down even more, the particular parking lot was on the north/NE edge of that park, just past the spot where Mindanao way ends in a traffic circle.
In the photo above, the camera was facing north, looking out across the night time channel to the Marina Del Rey Hotel (located on Bali Way on the next berth to the north).
Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?
A. I have to apologize on this one. I was wrong about its location for a long time.
I had heard an interview with someone from the show in which they said that the Ferris Wheel scene had been filmed "in a parking lot in Long Beach". And a close look at freeze-frames from the show revealed that it had been shot at a marina.
So I studied both of Long Beach's marinas and narrowed it down to what seemed like the only possible spot in Long Beach that fit the few details visible in those dark, night time shots. I concluded that it had most likely been filmed in the parking lot of the Shoreline Village center in Long Beach. I was wrong.
It turns out that the carnival / Ferris wheel shot was actually filmed in a marina parking lot, all right, but it was a marina parking lot at Marina Del Rey. Worse, it was the parking lot of a unique seaside park (Burton Chase Park) where I've been many times before; the same park where they filmed Jimmy's boat dock in some of the episodes.
And taking a second, really close look at the photo here (blown up) revealed a dome-like shape across the water that perfectly matches the unique dome at the east end of the Marina Del Rey Hotel, right across the channel from (north of) Burton Chase Park. And of course, the trees, sidewalks, fence, etc., all match. This is definitely the right location. I'm 100% sure this time.
Sorry to get this info out late, but (as the old saying goes), better late than never.
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