Our favorite TV sitcoms succeed when they make us laugh -- and when they make us believe they are really situated in the cities they portray. For example, Seinfeld, which ran for nine seasons, was quintessential New York, but it was filmed in Studio City in California. But it, like so many other shows, used exterior shots from the real New York, which in many cases have become iconic. Think of the one shot of Mike and Carol Brady’s house that you’ve seen a million times.
Many of these locations helped inspire some of our favorite moments on TV, and what’s really neat is many are real, and can be visited, even today.
Seinfeld, Tom’s Restaurant, New York City
Speaking of Seinfeld, let’s start with that show. Visitors in New York can take guided tours of the Seinfeld experience and visit dozens of actual addresses that inspired moments on the show. But none are more iconic than Tom’s Restaurant. Known as Monk’s on the show, the exterior shot featured the wrap-around blue signage, minus the word Tom’s. It was featured in nearly every episode, as it was where the characters Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer would meet to talk about “nothing.”
Tom’s Restaurant is located at 2880 Broadway in the Morningside Heights neighborhood. The owners completely embrace their connection to the show and welcome tourists, who often act out their own scenes in the restaurant.
If you haven't been to New York City, here's what to expect on your first visit.
Friends, Monica And Rachel’s Apartment, New York City
So many great shows are set in New York City, so let’s knock out another. Friends debuted in 1994 and aired for 10 seasons. The main set was the rent-controlled apartment belonging to Monica Geller’s grandmother. The show often used exterior shots of the building, which is located at the corner of Grove and Bedford streets in the Greenwich Village neighborhood.
In the show, the Friends’ apartments were above the Central Perk Coffee shop, which was not a real place. However, there is a small restaurant called the Little Owl Restaurant located in the building.
How I Met Your Mother, MacLaren’s Pub, New York City
This is our last New York City landmark before heading west. The show debuted in 2005 and aired for nine seasons. MacLaren’s Pub was featured in nearly every episode, with the group crammed into their favorite booth. The pub was based on the real life McGee’s Irish Pub located in Midtown (but the real exterior was never shown). But that hasn’t stopped fans from flocking to McGee’s for photos and beers. And, just like Tom’s Restaurant from Seinfeld, McGee’s embraces its tie to the show and works with local tour companies. They even offer discounts to customers who take the tours.
McGee’s Irish Pub is located at 240 W 55th Street in New York City.
Parks And Recreation, St. Elmo Steakhouse, Indianapolis
This show is set in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana, but was shot almost exclusively in Los Angeles. One of the only Indiana based locations used in the show was the exterior of the St. Elmo Steakhouse. To be clear, St. Elmo should be a destination for anyone traveling to Indianapolis as it’s been named as one of the top steakhouses in the nation by various publications. But the added bonus of being featured in an episode of the show as meat lover Ron Swanson’s favorite steakhouse has fans flocking to eat here.
St. Elmo’s Steakhouse is located at 127 Illinois Street in Indianapolis.
Full House, Painted Ladies, San Francisco
Full House debuted in 1987, running eight seasons. And while the comedy mostly took place inside the home of Danny Tanner, the short opening credits featuring the Painted Ladies in the background is what sticks in many people’s memories. The Victorian-style houses were already a popular tourist attraction in the Alamo Square section of San Francisco, but that shot of the homes in the background as the Tanners’ had a family picnic turned them into icons.
The Painted Ladies are located on Hayes and Steiner Streets. They remain one of the more popular tourist attractions in the city. Learn more about how to find them here.
The Brady Bunch, Dilling Street, Studio City, California
Perhaps the most iconic exterior of a suburban home ever shot on film. The shot of the Brady Bunch house has been etched into the collective culture of America and into the minds of generations of American TV watchers.
The house made news when it hit the market in 2018. It was then purchased by HGTV, who then returned it to television, for real, as part of a series called A Very Brady Renovation. The series featured former cast members and included a contest for one winner to stay in the house for six nights with seven guests.
The house itself is located at 11222 Dilling St, Studio City, CA 91602. It is currently not open for tours, but HGTV did put a virtual tour online.
MAS*H, Malibu Creek State Park, California
Set in Korea in the 1950s, the opening shots of helicopters flying to the unit was so unquestionably California that it’s been a running joke for decades. That said, the show was one of the most watched in television history, and the exterior set locations where it was filmed have been fan favorites since the show went off the air.
Those exterior shots were filmed not far from the soundstage in Los Angeles where the interior scenes were shot. Malibu Creek State Park is about a 40-minute drive west from downtown LA. There, you’ll even find a rusted out old Jeep and the famous directional sign from the show, left behind to help visitors locate the set.
If you plan to visit any of these locations, here are some articles to help fill out your trip: