Issac Van Nuys, for whom the city is named, started the San Fernando Farm Homestead Association in 1869. The railroad connected Van Nuys to points far and near in the early 1870s, and from then on, the area grew quickly. More recently, the city's close proximity to Hollywood has drawn many hopeful actors and actresses. Bob Hope, Gene Autry, John Wayne, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Ron Howard, Richie Valens, Sally Field and Tom Selleck are just a few who were raised in the San Fernando Valley. Marilyn Monroe and Robert Redford attended Van Nuys High School, which was also the film location for Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Rock and Roll High School. The streets and buildings in and around Van Nuys appear in several movies and television shows, and the Van Nuys Airport was used to film the final scene of Casablanca.
Further evidence of the city's Hollywood connections can be found in the more than 100 soundstages located in the area including those of the Walt Disney Company, Universal Studios, Warner Bros., DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, CBS Studio Center and NBC. Many of the studios offer tours so visitors can be part of the "live studio audience!"
Those curious about moviemaking can explore Universal City Walk with its shops, cafes, restaurants and entertainment, and kids can star in a mini television production at Totally Nickelodeon. Located at Universal Studios is the 420-acre amusement park of the same name, where attractions based on movies made at the studio are popular. Universal Amphitheater showcases world-class talent including Garth Brooks, Madonna and Sting.
Warner Bros. Studios have produced many top-rated television shows, including ER and Friends; take the VIP tour and you may see celebrities on break from filming. The tours offered by Warner Bros. show how movies and television shows are made, with technology explained and opportunities offered to talk to those doing the "behind the scenes" jobs. A highlight of the tour is the costume department, which contains over one million items of clothing. The studio also has a museum with displays and exhibits celebrating the studio's first 50 years.
Other popular attractions in the area include Six Flags Magic Mountain and Six Flags Hurricane Harbour. Magic Mountain is home to the Viper roller coaster. The fastest wooden coaster, Colossus, is also found here, as is Superman-The Escape. Kids too small to ride the big rides have their own area with thrills and chills geared especially for them. Hurricane Harbour is wet fun for everyone with racing slides and pools.
The Japanese Garden at the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant is a lush oasis of ponds, lawn areas, and bonsai trees; a 75-minute tour includes both the garden and the plant. A teahouse and stone bridges add to the quiet elegance. The Garden has been featured in a number of films and television shows.
To visit the old West, look no further than the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage. Historical guns, including Teddy Roosevelt's Colt revolver and the gold-plated Smith and Wesson used by Annie Oakley, are on display. Movie clips, Indian artifacts, clothing and other objects give visitors a glimpse into the Wild West. The Getty Museum offers a look at the collections of J. Paul Getty in a stunning environment, complete with gardens and an aqueduct. A research institute and library serve the needs of art historians and art lovers alike. The Skirball Cultural Center celebrates Jewish culture with exhibits, displays, and lectures. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library marks the life and career of Ronald Reagan from his days as a movie star to his accomplishments as president.