“Top Gun: Maverick” hits theaters on Fri., May 27, but to be honest, the original 1986 “Top Gun” classic starring Tom Cruise + Kelly McGillis still takes our breath away.
Maybe it’s because everyone needs a wingman (love you forever, Goose). Maybe it’s the high-flying action. Maybe it’s the Charlie + Maverick love story. Or, maybe it’s because so much of the iconic movie was filmed right here in our city — and that nostalgia is close to the hearts of San Diegans (ahem, raises hand).
Whatever the appeal is, it’s clear we’ll never lose that lovin’ feeling. Today, we feel the need for a little “Top Gun” 101 as we cruise through some of the local sites seen in the movie.
🍻 Kansas City Barbeque | 600 W. Harbor Drive, Embarcadero
This longtime sports bar + BBQ restaurant is where Goose (Anthony Edwards) and Maverick (Tom Cruise) hop on the piano and play “Great Balls of Fire” as Carole (Meg Ryan) and Charlie (Kelly McGillis) join. If you’re streaming the movie on Netflix, catch the location at around the 1:01:37 mark and again at 1:43.
Today, Kansas City Barbeque is filled to the brim with memorabilia from the movie — and that very same piano, which is the bar owner’s childhood instrument. You can even sit at the keys and have yourself a little fan moment. Pro tip: This famous spot can get crowded on weekends, so consider a weekday visit. Bartender “Chris from Ohio” is awesome.
⚓ Liberty Station | 2820 Roosevelt Rd. (at Historic Decatur Road), Point Loma
This historic location used to serve as the Naval Training Center San Diego and is seen around the 52:33 mark, as Charlie tries to catch up with Maverick. We’d recognize those arches + windows anywhere.
Today, Liberty Station’s buildings have transformed into restaurants, art galleries + small businesses — and the site is also home to Liberty Public Market.
🏠 The Graves House (aka “Charlie’s House”) | 250 N. Pacific St. (at Mission Pacific Hotel), Oceanside
The seaside cottage in San Diego’s North County (and those sweeping views) is unforgettable at the 42:48 mark of the film, as Maverick rides his motorcycle to the front door — and again at 1:24:51.
The small, folk-style Victorian bungalow was built in 1887 by Dr. Henry Graves, and is the one of the oldest homes still standing in Oceanside. In May 2020, the home was moved down the street from its original location to the new Mission Pacific Hotel.
Restored and looking gorgeous, “Charlie’s House” reopened earlier this month as a sweets shop called High-Pie. It’s open every day except Tuesday, from 12-8 p.m.
🏨 The Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows | 2223 El Cajon Blvd., North Park
In the Mississippi Ballroom of this historic hotel in North Park — around the 22:00 mark — Maverick + Goose belt out their one-of-a-kind rendition of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” in a crowded bar, right to Charlie.
The Lafayette opened in 1946 and has always had Hollywood appeal. Developer Larry Imig built the hotel and Olympic gold medalist + “Tarzan” actor Johnny Weissmuller designed its pool, and the property has entertained many celebrities over the years, including Ava Gardner.
🌊 The New Point Loma Lighthouse | Cabrillo Road, Point Loma
Located at the tip of the Point Loma peninsula — under Cabrillo National Monument — this gorgeous spot acted as Viper’s house (1:22:48 mark on Netflix).
This lighthouse began operating on March 23, 1891, replacing the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which was plagued by thick fog + low clouds. Today, the New Point Loma Lighthouse houses US Coast Guard officers — and the view of the Pacific Ocean is just as epic as it was in “Top Gun.”
🏍️ West Laurel + Union streets | Bankers Hill
At around 52:59 Charlie pulls over in her Porsche at this intersection in Bankers Hill. Maverick stopshis motorcycle and Charlie says she’s falling for him. The big palm tree seen in the shot — on the right + south side of Union Street — is still there.
🛩️ Marine Corps Air Station Miramar | Miramar Way
When “Top Gun” was filmed, this site was called Naval Air Station Miramar — and it played the backdrop of the flight scenes + flight school. Today, MCAS Miramar gives civilians a glimpse at high-flying, military pilots during its annual Miramar Air Show. Pro tip: This year, the beloved event runs from Sept.23-Sept. 25.
🛩️ Talk to me Goose
Of course, this is just a sample of the many local spots seen in the movie. We also spy a stretch of the Embarcadero near Seaport Village during Maverick’s motorcycle ride at the 1:03 mark and the locker rooms of The Plunge at Belmont Park around 59:52. There’s a lot to see.
The film’s strong ties to our city have withstood the test of time — so much so that the cast + crew of the sequel saw it fitting to have the world premiere of “Top Gun: Maverick” in San Diego earlier this month. The red carpet was on the deck of the USS Midway Museum — and Cruise even landed in a helicopter.