GTA 5 is so much more than an epic crime game. It's also a pretty badass road trip quest. Next time you're driving down the Pacific Coast, hit up some of the real-life locations from Grand Theft Auto V's Los Santos.
There are several areas in Los Santos, the major ones are Blaine County, Downtown, Little Seoul, South Los Santos, Vespucci Beach and Rockford Hills. Practically all are based on real-life neighborhoods surrounding L.A. like downtown Los Angeles, Koreatown, South Central, Venice Beach and Beverly Hills.
The Big Creek Bridge, which you can find on the West Side of the game's Los Santos, might look familiar to you. That's because in real-life, it's the iconic Bixby Bridge, which is actually located a bit north of LA, in Big Sur.
The Los Santos Observatory is located on Verdant Bluffs. No major gang activity to speak of, and no safe houses. This place is super easy to visit in real-life as it's modeled after Griffith Observatory, a popular tourist attraction in L.A. with loads of spacey and sciencey stuffs, and a great view of the city.
According to the GTA V Manual, the Vinewood sign is "a beacon of false hope for impressionable young hopefuls the world over, no visit to Los Santos is complete without a selfie at the Vinewood Sign." This is clearly an homage to the Hollywood sign (also a "beacon of false hope for impressionable young hopefuls the world over.")
In the game, Vinewood Bowl is an entertainment venue located just north of Vinewood. It's based on the real-life Hollywood Bowl in L.A.
The Oriental was modeled on Grauman's Chinese Theatre (now called TCL Chinese Theatre), which is a super-popular attraction on Hollywood Boulevard, where you'll find the hand- and footprints of some of history's brightest stars.
The Von Crastenburg is the location for Franklin's hotel assassination mission. The reward is $7,000 and you unlock a New Safe House. In real life, the Von Crastenburg is the Roosevelt Hotel, which is reportedly haunted by the ghost of Marilyn Monroe, and has been used in countless movies and TV shows.
Tequi-la-la is a nightclub featured in the side mission "Vinewood Souveniers - Willy", in which Trevor has to get a gold tooth from Willy, the bassist for Love Fist. The club was modeled after Hollywood's Whisky a Go Go, a historic rock 'n roll nightclub that was popular in the 1960's.
The Playboy mansion Easter Egg in the game is found in northwest Richmond. Visit it at night when it’s covered in blue and pink neon lights. I'm not entirely sure on how to score an invite to the actual Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, but I'm sure it's quite an experience as well.
Los Santos's Del Perro Pier is modeled after the historic Santa Monica Pier, which has a classic roller coaster, a ferris wheel, restaurants, games, and tons of people watching.
Another interesting part of Los Santos that you can visit is Vespucci Beach, which was a based on a combination of Santa Monica and Venice Beach, the notoriously weird beachside community with a great boardwalk.
South of downtown Los Santos is the Los Santos Forum (AKA the L.A. Forum). BONUS: in GTA 4, it's the location of the 8-Track stadium race.
The Jefferson Towers are located in East Los Santos. The real-life towers are actually the Watts Towers in Watts in South Central L.A. The folk art installation has a fascinating history, and they're definitely worth checking out.
The Los Santos storm drain appears in three missions: The Jewel Store Job, Fame or Shame, and Hood Safari. In real-life, it's based on the L.A. River, which probably looks familiar; it's appeared in tons of movies as well, from The Italian Job to Grease.
The Alamo Sea at the foot of Mount Chiliad in Blaine County is described as “a putrid, salt-rich lake.” This is pretty accurate since it’s based on the real-life Salton Sea, which is often described as pretty gross-smelling, thanks to the fact that the lake is filled with salts and fertilizers from surrounding farms, which killed off the fish population.
In the 1950's and 1960's, the Salton Sea was a popular resort destination, where celebs and stars came to vacation. When the lake's waters got so poisonous that the fish started to die, the yacht clubs and hotels were quickly abandoned and left to rot, leaving a strange, once-opulent mid-century ghost town on the lake's shores.
Salvation Mountain served as the inspiration for GTA 5's Hippie Town in the Desert. It's basically an art installation that serves as a "tribute to God and his gift to the world." Yeah, let's go with that.
A word of caution if you plan on recreating Grand Theft Auto: Skip the hookers and don't plow through pedestrians.