The location: The Mall.

Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. A major mall in Newport Beach or nearby - most likely Newport Fashion Island (since an aerial shot of that mall is shown), or perhaps South Coast Plaza (the largest mall in O.C.).

Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. Newport Beach or Costa Mesa.

Q. When did we see it on the show?

    A. In Episode 15 (of season 2), "The Mallpisode", in which Ryan, Marissa, Seth & Summer get locked in the mall after hours and enjoy themselves (until they get spotted by security).

    We also see a mall in Epidode 13 (of season one), "The Best Chrismukkah Ever", where Marissa is busted for shoplifting.

Q. What is it actually in real life?

    A. A composite of several different malls.

Q. Where can I find it in real life?

    A. They created this mall by stitching together scenes from several locations.

    First, we see an establishing aerial shot that shows the real Newport Fashion Island (see the screenshot below), which is located at Pacific Coast Highway & Newport Center Drive, in Newport Beach. But hey didn't really film there

    (Fashion Island a beautiful mall in the real O.C., so if you want to visit, here's a link to the mall's official website.)

    And here's a photo map link the matches that aerial shot.

    Then we get to the actual filming.

    We see the quartet drive through the mall parking lot, park their car and get out (as seen in the screenshot below):

    Those exterior scenes were actually shot in the west central parking lot of Manhattan Village Mall, at 3200 Sepulveda Blvd (between Marine Avenue & Rosecrans), in Manhattan Beach, CA. This is less than a mile west of the studio where "The O.C." is filmed. The kids park near the yellow roof of California Pizza Kitchen restaurant (which is one of my South Bay favorites), on the west side of the mall.

    Here is a photo of the same parking lot, which I shot in 2006:

    Here is a photo map link showing the area where they parked (the yellow roof is the CPK). (Zoom out for to see more.)

    And here is a link to Manhattan Village mall's official website.

    Next, we see a pan of the interior of a large, impressive mall. But this is not Manhattan Village mall OR Newport Fashion Island OR South Coast Plaza. I know, I've been to all three.

    In fact, it's one of the few Southern California malls that I didn't recognize - (since I've never been there). It's the Valencia Town Center, which is located at 24201 Valencia Blvd, in Valencia, CA, way up by up by Magic Mountain amusement park.

    Here's a map link. And here's a link to the mall's official website.

    Finally, they show some other scenes, supposedly inside the mall, focusing on a very small area with escalators and mirrored columns. I suspect that this was not shot at the same Valencia Town Center mall. It appears to be a much more modest location. Actually, it looks like the interior of a department store, rather than a mall quad. But so little of the area is shown that it's impossible to identify. I wouldn't rule out the old, closed, northeast wing of the Del Amo Fashion Square mall (off Carson Street & Hawthorne Blvd) in Torrance; it was empty then, and was used for filming the movie "Bad Santa" before it was torn down in 2005 to make way for a new outdoor mall addition. But I can't verify that, so it's anyone's guess.

    Another mall that is often mentioned on the show is South Coast Plaza, the largest, wealthiest mall in Orange County - almost of a city of its own. In Episode 13 (of season one), "The Best Chrismukkah Ever", Ryan and Marissa go shopping at South Coast Plaza (where she gets busted in the parking garage for shoplifting).

    But they have never really filmed there. In fact, The South Coast Plaza parking garage scene was actually shot right in the parking garage at Manhattan Beach Studios, where "The O.C." is filmed.

    In that episode, Marissa is quoted as saying about the mall: "I like it here. Everything is so perfect." And she's right about that. You can find the real South Coast Plaza at 3333 Bristol Street (at the 405 Freeway), Costa Mesa, CA.

    Here's a photo map link to the real South Coast Plaza.

Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?

    A. I've been to the Manhattan Village mall many times, and have eaten at the California Pizza Kitchen restaurant there on several occasions, so I spotted the restaurant's yellow awning. I also spotted the striped awning of The Corner Bakery, as they pulled into the parking lot.

    The mall interior was more difficult - it took some luck. Although I've been to at least 30 different malls in the L.A./O.C. area (while researching my other website), I had never seen this one before. Fortunately, a Google scan pulled up an almost identical photo of that white mall quad, and I was able to identify it as Valencia Town Center.

    The parking garage used for the South Coast Plaza scenes can be identified by carefully checking the background view in those garage scenes. You can see a golf course from one side (the Marriott Hotel golf course is right next to the studio), and lots of fluffy Canary Island pine trees out the other side (the studio is surrounded by Canary Island pines). An even closer look will detect the peaked top of Bristol Farms market (in the shopping center next door to the studio), and even the satellite dish on that center's roof.

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