10 Iconic Filming Locations of The X Files

The Truth is Out There: How to Visit 10 of the Most Iconic X-Files Filming Locations

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For people who love the unexplained, The X Files was—and is—a memorable sci-fi television series full of monsters, aliens, conspiracies, and dark humor. From 1993 until 2002, the show followed FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully as they tackled strange events in search of one thing: the truth. Even today, The X Files has a strong cult following and has embedded itself in pop culture. And it’s not just the memorable characters we remember; scenes of some of the most bizarre and climactic events stay with us and sometimes haunt our nightmares.

Filming shifted from Vancouver, BC, to Los Angeles, California, half way through the series, spreading out the locations between these two areas over nearly a decade. Sadly, a lot has changed since the series began and ended. As is often the case with filming at run-down places for that extra atmosphere, many buildings have been since demolished… but not all of them. If you look carefully, you can still find some familiar places that bring back a sense of nostalgia.

So, if you feel like playing Mulder and Scully for a day, or just want to reminisce about a bit of 90s pop culture, here are ten places you can still visit yourself from some of the most memorable episodes of X Files.

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1. Britannia Mine Museum – Britannia Beach, British Columbia

BC Museum of Mining by Shaundd [CC-BY-SA-3.0],

BC Museum of Mining by Shaundd [CC-BY-SA-3.0],

If you’re looking for that special filing cabinet in an underground mine tunnel with your name and DNA sample on it, I’m afraid that the Smoking Man cleared it out years ago. But at least you can still see the towering stepped building raided by Mulder at Britannia Beach. Back then, it was part of the decaying ruins of Britannia Mining and Smelting Company, but today it’s a restored museum. Opened in 1900, what was once the biggest copper mine in the British Empire closed its doors in 1974. Building 3 was constructed in 1923.

Building 3 featured most prominently in the second episode of Season Three titled “Paper Clip”. But that was before the $5 million dollar renovation in 2005 brought the site back to life as a shining white beacon on the hillside. You can step inside the BC Museum of Mining to learn about the history of the mine or maybe even try your hand at gold panning. Alright… if you still really want to look for those filing cabinets, you can take the train tour through the mine tunnels.

2. Grouse Mountain Skyride – North Vancouver, British Columbia
View from the top of the Skyride at Grouse Mountain.

View from the top of the Skyride at Grouse Mountain.

Have an itch to get abducted by aliens on top of a mountain? Maybe dangle from a cable high above the trees for a while as you search for UFOs? Or maybe you just feel like “ascending to the stars”… or at least to the top of Skyland Mountain. Well, you can head into the wilderness and climb on board a gondola still today at the Grouse Mountain Skyride: the actual location of the fictional Skyland in the second season’s “Duane Barry” and “Ascension” episodes. The Peak Chalet still waits for you at the top and is available for weddings and other rental purposes. But you can also visit for the spectacular view, ice skating, zip-lining, or even sleigh rides.

Strangely enough, Grouse Mountain is also the site of a 1954 plane crash which killed a USAF pilot. The exact reason for the crash is unknown, though some believe it was caused by a UFO. The wreckage is still visible on the southern slope.

3. Riverview Hospital – Coquitlam, British Columbia
Steps leading inside Crease Clinic at Riverview Hospital.

Steps leading inside Crease Clinic at Riverview Hospital.

No one really wants to be in a hospital, whether it’s for recovering from an accident or having an alien implant removed from your neck. And while hospitals might all seem the same to many people, it’s hard to think of a single episode where someone wasn’t in one for one reason or another. Many of the hospital scenes in the first seasons of The X Files were filmed in the same location: Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam. This historic mental hospital dates back to 1913 when its first building, West Lawn, was constructed. The Crease Clinic building closed in 1992; by 2012, all patients were removed and the entire complex became vacant. The Riverview Redevelopment Project is currently working to reopen the facility as a mental health facility.

Crease Clinic and other Riverview buildings were used for a number of episodes including the pilot episode, “Eve” (Season 1 Ep. 11), “The Calusari” (Season 2 Ep. 21), “Teso Dos Bichos” (Season 3 Ep. 18), and “The End” (Season 5 Ep. 20). It is actually one of Vancouver’s most filmed building complexes in all of Vancouver, so if you actually recognized it from being in Kingdom Hospital, Smallville, Supernatural, or the movie Happy Gilmore, that’s alright too.

4. Ruskin Dam and Powerhouse – Ruskin, British Columbia
Ruskin Dam and Powerhouse.

Ruskin Dam and Powerhouse.

Bridges are often symbolic of transition or change, but on The X Files, a bridge beside a powerhouse for Ruskin Dam (fictitiously placed in Pennsylvania) is where people gather to be taken on board a flying saucer. There might not be the risk of encountering alien warriors wielding guns, but you can visit the real Ruskin Dam in British Colombia. People might look at you strange if you show up in your pajamas, though.

Now owned by BC Hyrdo and featuring a recreation area for visitors, the hydroelectric dam opened in 1930 creating Hayward Lake. It’s currently undergoing a long-term upgrade, so it might not look exactly like scenes from the show by the time you visit. Ruskin Dam was the setting for Season Five’s episodes “Patient X” and “The Red and The Black”.

5. Commodore Ballroom – Vancouver, British Columbia
The dance floor and stage at the Commodore Ballroom.

The dance floor and stage at the Commodore Ballroom.

Put on your blue suede shoes, because some guy with neurofibromatosis wants to rock out to Cher while Mulder and Scully slow dance! Well, it wasn’t really Cher in “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (Season 5 Episode 5); it was diva impersonator Tracy Bell. The “Great Mutato” aside, the end scene of a Cher concert was filmed in downtown Vancouver at the famed Commodore Ballroom.

Other filming locations for this episode include Muskrat Meadows Group Campsite (where the PBJ sandwich was planted to lure out the Great Mutato) and the Harry Burr House in Delta—home of Dr. Frankenstein’s modem reincarnation Dr. Polidori—both on Deas Island.

6. Ovaltine Café – Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver's Ovaltine Cafe. (Jason Vanderhill)

Vancouver’s Ovaltine Cafe. (Jason Vanderhill)

If you have a craving for pie and questioning people about UFO abductions, you can recreate the famous pie-eating scene from “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” (Season 3 Episode 20) right where it was filmed at the Ovaltine Café in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Since 1942, the Ovaltine has offered good food at good prices, though the original 1912 building was intended as an apartment complex.

7. Marine Corps Air Station Tustin – Tustin, California
Hangar No. 2 at MCAS Tustin. (Robert A. Estremo)

Hangar No. 2 at MCAS Tustin. (Robert A. Estremo)

Years of plausible denial and murder to prevent the truth from being made public culminated in the extermination of the Syndicate by aliens. This memorable scene was filmed in an aircraft hangar on the grounds of the former Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin. The facility started as a blimp base in 1942, but was closed by the military in 1999. Of the two blimp hangars on the site, the North Blimp Hangar is planned to be saved and designated a historic landmark (hopefully the one used for filming).

The decommissioned military base is actually somewhere you might be able to freely visit in the near future. Orange County Parks is turning it into a regional park as we speak.

8. Newhall Mansion – Piru, California
Newhall Mansion in Piru, California.

Newhall Mansion in Piru, California.

It’s late on Christmas Eve and you’re looking for something to do. What about checking out that creepy Victorian mansion everyone says is haunted? That’s where Lily Tomlin and Ed Eisner tried to scare Scully and Mulder to death in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (Season 6 Ep. 6). The house wasn’t some stage set; it’s a real place known as the Newhall Mansion, built in 1890 for publisher David C. Cook.

After a fire gutted the home in 1981, former owners Scott and Ruth Newhall rebuilt it to its former glory. You can rent the whole house for weddings and other special events, but I’m afraid you won’t find yourself trapped inside a library with corpses. (That room doesn’t actually exist in the house.) In case you were wondering, the mansion is believed to be actually haunted. By the way, the house was also a filming location for the television series Charmed.

9. Santa Monica Pier – Santa Monica, California
SantaMonica_Pier

The amusement park at Santa Monica Pier.

Now, don’t go losing your head over this, but “The Amazing Maleeni” (Season 7 Episode 8) performed his acts at Santa Monica Pier. A well-known local landmark, the country’s first West Coast concrete pier opened in 1909, but it became an entertainment mecca when an amusement park was established here in 1916. One of the pier’s best-known early regulars was Olaf Olsen: the inspiration for Popeye. You can still visit this pier for food, shopping, and entertainment, though looking for Maleeni’s van will only lead to disappointment.

Maleeni was based on a real magician named Max Malini (1873-1942) who performed for several US presidents including Teddy Roosevelt. Given his level of fame, performing at the pier might have been beneath him.

10. The Queen Mary – Long Beach, California
The Hotel Queen Mary docked at Long Beach.

The Hotel Queen Mary docked at Long Beach.

Remember when Mulder went to the Bermuda Triangle and ended up in some strange time slip with a flapper Scully and Nazi uniform-clad Skinner? Well, you don’t have to leave the country to see where it was filmed. The location where scenes of the time warped ship were filmed for “Triangle” is in the same place it’s been since the day it was filmed: resting beside a dock in Long Beach. Yes, those infamous corridor chase scenes were filmed on the historic Queen Mary.

Today, this luxury liner serves as a hotel with shops, restaurants, and space for special events. As some of you may already know, the Queen Mary also offers ghost tours aboard this allegedly-haunted ship. And during filming of the episode, the cast and crew stayed inside the hotel rooms on board. It’s said that several of them had their own creepy experiences on the ship.

If you’re interested in reading more behind-the-scenes stories and locating these and many other locations, I recommend the books X Marks the Spot: On Location With The X-Files and LAX-Files: Behind the Scenes with the Los Angeles Cast and Crew.


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18 Comments

  1. Pepper

    03/13/2014 at 12:36 PM

    This post is fantastic. A trip to BC is in order!

  2. Neo

    03/25/2014 at 8:14 AM

    The earlier episodes were the best, the ones shot 100% in Canada. Something about Canada is just creepy..

    • Ken Summers

      03/25/2014 at 8:22 AM

      I agree… British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest just have a creepier look to them, which was perfect for The X Files! But I wanted to include a few US places too, just to try and balance things out.

  3. kelsey

    11/16/2014 at 11:45 PM

    Ken, do you know if you can visit/drive to the grounds of Riverview? Visiting Vancouver and thought it would be cool to take photos outside as many films/shows have shot there. Thanks!

  4. Jessica Roberts-Farina

    05/07/2015 at 12:30 PM

    I’m writing a short magazine story on the top 5 “most seen” locations in the show. I’m trying to find a website that has catalogued and numbered all the specific filming locations of The X-Files in Vancouver. There’s lots of info out there that talk about the “most iconic” (like this awesome article), but I’m looking for the “most seen” in the show. Do you have any suggestions for where to look? Thanks!

    • Ken Summers

      05/07/2015 at 3:08 PM

      Hi, Jessica,

      Finding filming locations has been tricky. Vancouver has changed a lot since then. There are some out-of-print books written about behind the scenes, crew, cast, and locations that give a ton of info, but they’re hard to find. I’m not sure I’m aware of any source for the “most seen” locations, since most would be nondescript streets and forests, but I highly recommend these three links for a lot of location reference:

      http://www.x-fileslexicon.com/articles/locations01.html
      http://www.x-fileslexicon.com/articles/locations02.html
      http://xfmarksthespot.tripod.com/

      I hope this helps! Good luck with your article!

      • Jessica Roberts-Farina

        05/08/2015 at 2:38 PM

        Thank you, Ken!

        I was directed to the XF Marks The Spot site by another professional X-Files fan as well and it is exactly what I need. In your professional opinion, would you consider the site to be an accurate, trustworthy source? My understanding is that its content is taken directly from the out-of-print book with the same name.

        • Ken Summers

          05/09/2015 at 1:10 AM

          You’re welcome! I haven’t been to Vancouver, but I definitely would consider their list accurate. I know the one chupacabra episode, there’s a railroad crossing in it that I found using the street signs and Google Maps, so some places can be pretty easily found by poking around the Vancouver area (though many look very different today). All three links I gave you are trustworthy… I’m a stickler for accuracy myself!

      • Tony R

        01/31/2016 at 5:30 PM

        Hey great articles posted about the locations of filming in BC, especially the post of my personal favourite locations from the episode Home (S4E2). Seeing as it was the home I grew up in and the house is on my property, I could provide some quality pictures of the house

        • Tony R

          01/31/2016 at 5:32 PM

          As well as pictures from when the cast from x-files (Scully and Moulder) was on site

  5. Amanda Lynn

    01/23/2016 at 8:55 PM

    Some much yes.

  6. Holly Bouquet

    01/23/2016 at 9:40 PM

    Toomes…

  7. Charlie Bustillos

    01/25/2016 at 12:22 AM

    Favorite show! Wish they would cancel those gay fool.s from Big Bang!

    • Week In Weird

      01/25/2016 at 6:21 PM

      Let’s leave the poor homosexuals out this, they deal with enough adversity as it is.

  8. The Spectacled Eider

    01/25/2016 at 1:28 PM

    Search for the truth!

  9. Tony R

    01/31/2016 at 2:12 AM

    What about that house from the episode Home? (S4E2)
    Filmed in Surrey BC

  10. Pam Cochran Barnett

    06/22/2016 at 4:12 AM

    I certainly hope there will be another season!

  11. bbtreehaus

    10/23/2017 at 5:48 PM

    If you want to travel to Vancouver to see “X-Files” locales, then “X Marks the Spot” by Pittson and Gradnitzer is an invaluable resource. It was written by the location scouts from when the show when it was filmed up in BC. Most of the memorable sites from seasons 1-5 are included within.

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