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Welcome to Sunnydale (Buffy screenshot).jpg
The "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Creator Joss Whedon
Type Fictional city
Notable locations Sunnydale High
The Bronze
The Magic Box
UC Sunnydale
Notable people Buffy Summers
Rupert Giles
Xander Harris
Willow Rosenberg
Cordelia Chase

Sunnydale, California, is the fictional setting for the U.S. television drama Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Series creator Joss Whedon conceived the town as a representation of a generic California city, as well as a narrative parody of the all-too-serene towns typical in traditional horror movies.

Sunnydale is located on a "Hellmouth"; a portal "between this reality and the next", and convergence point of mystical energies.[1]



Sunnydale itself

Sunnydale's size and surroundings are implausible but justified given its origins — to sustain a human population for supernatural evils to prey upon. The town's founder spared no expense to attract a populace, and Sunnydale thus contains many elements of a large city — which the show's writers utilized fully for comic effect and narrative convenience. During the first three seasons, Sunnydale is shown to have 38,500 inhabitants,[2] very few high schools,[3] forty-three churches,[4] a small private college,[5] a zoo,[6] a museum,[7] and one modest main street. Even so, it has twelve gothic cemeteries.[8] These cemeteries are so heavily used that services are sometimes held at night.[9]

In later seasons it is revealed that Sunnydale contains a campus of the University of California system, as well as a profitable magic supply shop. The town is also seen to include a large park containing a creek and a lake,[9] and one of its cemeteries is shown to be adjacent to a lake.[10] Sunnydale has a number of parks: Weatherly Park, Glebe Park, Radcliff Park and Nelson Park are just some of the examples. Sunnydale has a train station,[11] a bus station,[12] a small airport,[13] and a small military base.[14]

Directly beneath Sunnydale High School is a Hellmouth, a subterranean, mystical portal that attracts evil forces. This functions as a major plot device in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as it explains why vampires and other demons are so prevalent in Sunnydale.

Sunnydale possesses many common horror-movie characteristics, such as an abundance of dark alleyways, abandoned mansions and factories, and an adult population that is either clueless or perpetually in denial, in stark contrast to the demon-fighting, supernaturally aware teens.

By the show's seventh season, set in 2002–03, the city's population had fallen to 32,900.[15] In the spring, the town is almost completely evacuated before its destruction.

Sunnydale's surroundings

Sunnydale has a somewhat isolated location.[16]

The town is situated near several acres of woods and forest, including Miller's Woods.[17] Breaker's Woods is a 45-minute drive from town.[18]

Sunnydale is located on or near the Pacific Ocean. An ocean port with several docked ships is nearby.[19] Nearby, Kingman's Bluff stands on a tall cliff overlooking the sea.[20] There is a nearby beach.[21]

Near, or in Sunnydale is an old quarry house built beside a deep lake, located a few feet from a cliff edge.[22] In addition, there is a hydroelectric dam in the vicinity of Sunnydale.[23]

Within a day's drive of Sunnydale is a desert.[24] It is also stated several times to be approximately a two hour drive from Los Angeles.

In the final episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ("Chosen"), and also in the first issue of the Buffy: Season Eight comic book, Sunnydale is depicted being surrounded by desert terrain.[25] However, this appears to contradict information established earlier in the series about Sunnydale's surroundings.

Maps of Sunnydale

Maps of Sunnydale have appeared at various times during the show:

  • A large map of "Sunnydale County" hangs on the wall of Principal Snyder's office and also on the wall of Mayor Wilkins' office.[26] This is actually a map of Santa Barbara County, California with the words "Sunnydale County" superimposed on it. According to this map, Sunnydale is located at a bend on the California coast. To the south and west of Sunnydale is the Pacific Ocean. Joss Whedon stated in November 1998 that "Sunnydale is in fact near Santa Barbara."[27]
  • Giles uses a street map of Santa Barbara as a map of Sunnydale when he is plotting sightings of the Initiative commandos in the series' fourth season.[28]
  • A street map of central Sunnydale is used by the Scooby Gang twice in the seventh season.[29]
  • In the seventh season, Andrew draws a map of Sunnydale to track the First's activities.[30] The general shape of the coastline matches the map used in season three. According to Andrew's map, there are woods between Sunnydale and the ocean to the west and to the south, and directly southeast of the town, at the location where the coast bends, there is a dark forest. There are also woods to the east of Sunnydale, as well as railroad tracks.

Filming locations

Various southern California locations are used as stand-ins for Sunnydale:


Prior to Buffy's arrival

Long before humans settled the area, an entrance to the Hellmouth existed at the site of the future town of Sunnydale.

In ancient times, a magic scythe was used at the site of the Hellmouth "to kill the last pure demon that walked upon the Earth." After this, the scythe was hidden, and its last guardian remained, waiting in a pagan temple that would somehow remain unnoticed for centuries.[31]

Centuries later, Navajo and Chumash peoples lived in this area. One or more groups of monks or friars also settled in this area.[32] As in general California history, these friars can safely be assumed to have been Spanish Franciscans, who arrived in California in the late 18th century.[33] In 1812, there was an earthquake in the Sunnydale region that caused a cave-in in which an entire mission was lost; the very existence of the mission was soon forgotten.[34]

Richard Wilkins arrived in California in the late 1800s, looking for gold. He founded Sunnydale (after considering the alternate names "Happydale" and "Sunny Acres") in a demon infested valley after a Navajo Slayer died there [35] in 1899. He made a pact with the demons to found a town atop the Hellmouth for them "to feed on", in return for the promise of immortality by becoming a pure demon himself. Wilkins became Mayor of Sunnydale.[36]

In the 1930s, there was at least one more major earthquake in Sunnydale. This caused a cave-in that swallowed up the Master and his lair, as well as the temple on Kingman's Bluff. (The date of this earthquake is given as either 1932 or 1937, although it is possible these were two distinct quakes.)[37]

Sometime in the 1980s or 1990s, Richard Wilkins was again elected mayor, now under the name of "Richard Wilkins III", and served more than one term.[38]

By the 1990s, Sunnydale appeared to have become a typical town on the California coast, with a popular mayor, a police force, and a local newspaper (the Sunnydale Press[39]). However, Mayor Wilkins had instructed the police to cover up any supernatural or mysterious violence occurring in the city, and had instructed Principal Snyder to cover up supernatural violence occurring at Sunnydale High.[40]

During the series

The series begins in the winter of 1997, when Buffy Summers, the current vampire slayer, moves to 1630 Revello Drive, and begins attending Sunnydale High. There she meets new friends, including Willow Rosenberg, Xander Harris, Cordelia Chase, and Oz, as well as the vampire Angel and her new watcher, Rupert Giles. This "Scooby Gang" often hangs out at the Bronze, the Espresso Pump (a local coffee house with a retro gas station motif) and the Sun Cinema. Buffy's mother, Joyce, works in an art gallery in Sunnydale.

During their time in high school, Buffy and her friends fight a number of vampires, most notably the Master, Spike, Drusilla, and (when he had lost his soul) Angel. Another slayer, Faith, arrives in their senior year of high school (Season 3) and lives at the Downtowner Motel[41] until she joins forces with Mayor Wilkins.

At the end of the third season (June 1999), Sunnydale High is destroyed in a great conflict that kills Mayor Wilkins and Principal Snyder. After this point, there is no mention in the television show of the political leaders of the city. The police occasionally appear, but the police chief does not. There is no further discussion of the police covering up supernatural evidence, although one newspaper headline suggests this may have continued.[42]

As the fourth season begins (fall 1999), Buffy and Willow begin attending the University of California, Sunnydale. There they discover that the United States government was operating a secret military complex, the Initiative, in a cavern beneath the UC Sunnydale campus. The Initiative is closed down at the end of the season (spring 2000) after a climactic battle with the cyborg Adam. By this time, Tara Maclay and Anya have been added to the Scooby Gang. Later this same year, Giles purchases a magic shop named The Magic Box.[43]

Sometime between the fourth and fifth seasons (during the summer of 2000), the mysterious "Key" is transformed into Buffy's younger "sister", Dawn Summers. The next year brings the deaths of Joyce Summers and also Buffy herself, although Buffy manages to return from the grave. After this point, Buffy and Dawn become co-owners of the family house.[44]

Before Season 5's end, a scene in the city would be shown at least once in the second season of Buffy's spinoff, Angel. In the episode "Disharmony", Cordelia Chase calls Willow from LA when her high school friend Harmony Kendall turns up. We see Willow's side of this call in a rare Sunnydale scene for this series. Angel himself visits Sunnydale at least four times in Buffy seasons 4, 5 and 7.

At the end of the sixth season (spring 2002), the Magic Box is destroyed in a battle between Willow and Buffy. At the beginning of the next season (fall 2002), Sunnydale High is rebuilt, on exactly the same location as before — directly over the Hellmouth.

By this time, knowledge of supernatural phenomena seems to be slowly growing in the town.[42] Sunnydale's population is also revealed to have dropped to 32,900.[45]

In the second half of the seventh season (early 2003), supernatural manifestations at Sunnydale High reach unprecedented levels. Within less than a month, virtually the entire population of the town flees in a mass evacuation.[46] Soon thereafter, the cataclysmic showdown between the Scooby Gang and the First Evil results in the complete obliteration of the town, which collapses into a giant pit, closing the entrance to the Hellmouth.[47]

During the weeks between the series finale of Buffy and the Season 5 premiere of Angel, Lindsey McDonald makes an off-screen trip to the crater and digs up the amulet worn by Spike in the final battle. He sends it to Angel at Wolfram & Hart where it releases an incorporeal Spike. The destruction of the city is mentioned several times during Angel's final season, mainly tying into Spike's brief ghostly status. It is seen one more time when a military general oversees the crater in Season 8. The destruction of the town has also led the U.S. government to brand the Scooby Gang an international terrorist group.


  1. ^ Welcome to the Hellmouth (1.01) introduces the Hellmouth, which is referred to numerous times throughout the series. The entrance to the Hellmouth is seen under the school in The Zeppo, Doomed, Conversations with Dead People, and throughout the second half of season seven.
  2. ^ The "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign says 38,500 in two early episodes: School Hard (2.03) and Lovers Walk (3.08).
  3. ^ In Some Assembly Required (2.02), the three dead cheerleaders attended Fondren High, which is "across town" from Sunnydale High. In Reptile Boy (2.05), Kent Preparatory School is mentioned. In Dead Man's Party (3.02) Joyce mentions a local all-girls' school named Miss Porter's. Yet in most episodes "the high school" refers specifically to Sunnydale High.
  4. ^ Giles is surprised at this figure in What's My Line, Part Two (2.10).
  5. ^ Crestwood College is featured in Reptile Boy (2.05) but never mentioned again.
  6. ^ there are three visits to the zoo in The Pack (1.06), including a class trip and one trip by Buffy on foot.
  7. ^ The museum director who receives the box containing the demon Acathla in Becoming, Part One (2.21) refers to Giles as being "right here in Sunnydale".
  8. ^ According to Giles in Revelations (3.07).
  9. ^ a b Once More, with Feeling (6.07).
  10. ^ Help (7.04).
  11. ^ Buffy finds dead bodies in the train in Crush (5.14).
  12. ^ The bus station is shown in Inca Mummy Girl (2.04), What's My Line, Part One (2.09), and Showtime (7.11), and mentioned in Innocence (2.14).
  13. ^ Kendra arrives by plane in What's My Line, Part One (2.09), and the airport itself is shown in Choices (3.19) and Who Are You (4.16) as well as Bargaining I (6.01). The airport shown in this episode is actually Burbank Airport with "Sunnydale" photoshopped over the word Burbank. In Tabula Rasa (6.08), Giles's ticket shows an itinerary from Sunnydale Airport to Los Angeles International Airport and then to London Heathrow Airport, which is the same route announced on the public address system as Giles awaits his flight in Bargaining, Part I (6.01).
  14. ^ In "Innocence" (2.14), Xander and Cordelia break into the base to steal a rocket launcher as part of his plan to destroy the Judge.
  15. ^ The "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign says 32,900 in Conversations with Dead People (7.07).
  16. ^ When Sunnydale is stricken by a town-wide epidemic — such as the silence spell in Hush (4.10) — no other towns seem to be nearby.
  17. ^ The woods in Homecoming (3.05) are named "Miller's Woods". In Bargaining, Part Two (6.02) and Villains (6.20) the woods are large enough to get lost in.
  18. ^ Giles visited there during Lovers Walk (3.08).
  19. ^ The port is seen in Surprise (2.13) and Consequences (3.15). In Consequences, Giles refers to Buffy and Faith's return from the docks as "coming back to town", indicating that the docks are not part of Sunnydale itself.
  20. ^ Kingman's Bluff is the location of Willow's terrible spell (Grave, 6.22).
  21. ^ It is not specified how close this beach is to Sunnydale. It is seen in Go Fish (2.20) and Buffy vs. Dracula (5.01).
  22. ^ Although the quarry house never appears in any episodes, it does make an appearance in the comic book series The Blood of Carthage, which explains the house's Pre-Columbian origins. The house and its also appear in the Chaos Bleeds video game.
  23. ^ In As You Were (6.15), Buffy, Riley and Riley's wife, Sam, fight a Suvolte demon on a dam. Presumably the dam is either in or near Sunnydale, as Riley and Buffy drive a short distance to reach it.
  24. ^ Giles drives Buffy to the desert in Intervention (5.18), and drives with the Potentials to the desert in The Killer in Me (7.13).
  25. ^ At the end of Chosen (7.22) the town has sunk into a large pit, and the pit is completely surrounded by desert. It is shown this way in the comic book Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #1, "The Long Way Home", pages 14-15.
  26. ^ It was in the principal's office in Dead Man's Party (3.02), and in the mayor's office in various third-season episodes. The best view of the map is in Choices (3.19). Compare this with the map of Santa Barbara County at
  27. ^ Joss Whedon post on The Bronze posting board, November 22, 1998, archived here.
  28. ^ Doomed (4.11)
  29. ^ Once early in the season, and again in Touched (7.20).
  30. ^ Shown in Get it Done (7.15).
  31. ^ End of Days (7.21).
  32. ^ Navajo (Diné) people are mentioned in "The Glittering World" in Tales of the Slayers. Chumash are mentioned in Pangs (4.08). One group of monks were mentioned by the ancient guardian in End of Days (7.21); a possibly different group in Pangs (4.08).
  33. ^ Spike and Andrew journey to a different mission in Empty Places (7.19).
  34. ^ Pangs (4.08).
  35. ^ "The Glittering World", in Tales of the Slayers
  36. ^ Enemies (3.17).
  37. ^ In The Harvest (1.02), Willow refers to an earthquake in 1937 which "swallowed half the town", including the Master's lair. In Grave (6.22), Anya says that the temple on Kingman's Bluff was "swallowed up in the big earthquake of '32". It is possible they are referring to two different earthquakes, but it is also possible that one of them is simply misstating the date.
  38. ^ Enemies (3.17). A sign saying "Reelect Mayor Wilkins" is visible; since no election is currently being held, this indicates a past re-election bid.
  39. ^ It can be seen in Never Kill a Boy on the First Date, Reptile Boy, Becoming, Part One, Bad Girls, Consequences, Graduation Day, Part One, Hush, and Once More, with Feeling.
  40. ^ In Lovers Walk (3.08), Wilkins refers to having covered up Spike and Drusilla's rampages during season two. Snyder and the police chief discuss these coverups in I Only Have Eyes for You (2.19). Wilkins and Snyder discuss it in Graduation Day, Part 1 (3.21).
  41. ^ The sign reads "Downtowner Motel/Apt." in The Zeppo (3.12) and others.
  42. ^ a b In Once More, with Feeling (6.07), the headline of the Sunnydale Press states, "MAYHEM CAUSED. MONSTERS CERTAINLY NOT INVOLVED, OFFICIALS SAY."
  43. ^ The Real Me (5.02), which has been seen multiple times previously — for example, in Lovers Walk (3.08), at which time it is called Uncle Bob's Magic Cabinet.
  44. ^ Joyce's will would have either left the house to Buffy or to Buffy and Dawn. In Empty Places (7.19), Dawn tells Buffy "this is my house, too."
  45. ^ The "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign lists a population 38,500 in several early episodes, including School Hard (2.03) and Lovers Walk (3.08). In Conversations with Dead People, meanwhile, it gives a population of 32,900 (7.07). The sign is visible for a moment at the end of Chosen (7.22) but the population figure is not legible.
  46. ^ The evacuation is seen at the beginning of Empty Places (7.19), although the Bronze is still crowded. By the next episode, Touched (7.20), the town is virtually empty.
  47. ^ Chosen (7.22).

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