Hollywood isn’t the only place where movie magic happens. Many locales across the country have served as film sets. Once the film crews and movie stars leave, however, these places transform into travel pilgrimages for movie lovers looking to live out some big-screen nostalgia. Here are a handful of noteworthy film locations across the USA that may inspire your next trip. Lights, camera…travel!
Stunning aerial view of Manawaiopuna Falls; Photo courtesy of Juergen Wallstabe/stock.adobe.com
Jurassic Park and Jurassic World Franchises
Feel all the “Jurassic Park” vibes in a naturally adventurous setting. While you won’t find dinosaurs on Kauai, you will find Jurassic Park-themed Jeep, ATV, boat, and helicopter tours guiding travelers through this lush landscape that played a starring role in the larger-than-life movies. Join a helicopter tour to get a bird’s-eye view—or should we say, a pterodactyl's-eye view—of Manawaiopuna Falls in the Hanapepe Valley, which was made famous in the opening scene of the original 1993 blockbuster. With feet on the ground, hike to Hoopii Falls, a little-known waterfall that also provided a marquee moment in the original film. It was the fictional site of the Mano de Dios Amber Mine where an ancient, amber-trapped mosquito carrying dinosaur DNA was discovered. Visit Jurassic Kahili Ranch, a private ranch that served as a key setting in several of the films. Even without the organized tour, simply visiting this tropical island will make you feel as though you’ve landed in a prehistoric reality designed by Steven Spielberg.
A Christmas Story House, as it appears today (Summer 2018). Photo courtesy of A Christmas Story House & Museum
A Christmas Story
Step into Ralphie’s world. It’s rare to find a movie house that is interactive, as many are only used for exterior shots when filming. But this home brings a lot of joy to fans of the beloved Christmas classic. A Christmas Story House is open year round for public tours, and there is even an overnight accommodation option for the die-hard Christmas Story fans. (When rented out, the home accommodates up to six guests.) The museum across the street features original props and costumes from the film, such as Randy’s snowsuit, the chalkboard from Miss Shields’ classroom and the family car. You might even be tempted to purchase the most iconic souvenir from its gift shop: your very own leg lamp.
Mountain Lake Lodge. Photo courtesy of Dan Mirolli
Nobody puts Baby in a corner—and if you head to this resort in the mountains of southwest Virginia, nobody will do that to you, either. That’s because Mountain Lake Lodge was the setting for the cult classic Dirty Dancing, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. The Mountain Lake Lodge pays homage to the film by welcoming fans to its themed Dirty Dancing weekends. Even decades after its original 1987 theatric release, these themed weekends sell out. The lodge transforms into Kellerman’s Mountain House and features an itinerary of activities, such as Dirty Dancing trivia and a scavenger hunt, along with group dance lessons and dance parties. Relive some of your favorite dance moves—dramatic air lift, anyone?—and feel as though you’re in the film. You might even have the time of your life.
Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills A Four Seasons Hotel. Photo courtesy of Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills (A Four Seasons Hotel)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA
The Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel, is another property that pays homage to its cinematic fame with an indulgent experience for the Pretty Woman fan. The luxury hotel that played a starring role in the film treats guests who book its "Pretty Woman" For a Day package to a Cinderella-like experience befitting of Julia Roberts’ character, Vivian. The VIP package includes overnight accommodations in a specialty suite, etiquette lessons, a private styling session, picnic lunch with musical serenade, a bath butler (to assist in drawing the perfect bubble bath), round-trip transportation in a Mercedes, and more. If the $15,000 to $100,000 price tag is a bit too much to recreate your favorite moments from the 1990 flick, you could always head to the hotel lounge for a cocktail while wearing a Vivian-inspired, red evening gown.
Las Vegas strip. Photo courtesy of f11photo/iStock.com
LAS VEGAS, NV
Sin City has played a supporting role in many casino-themed films over the years, from Ocean’s Eleven to Casino to Honeymoon in Vegas. As a comedy, The Hangover prominently featured a popular resort right in the heart of the neon-soaked Las Vegas Strip—Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas. The resort’s entrance, foyer, and swimming pool were backdrops to some of the most memorable scenes in the film. It’s an accessible destination for fans of The Hangover and an ideal setting to recreate your own hangover-inspired weekend, minus all the illegal hijinks, of course.
Field of Dreams baseball field. Photo courtesy of Lynn_Bystrom/iStock.com
Field of Dreams
“If you build it, they will come.” More than three decades after Field of Dreams was released, fans of the 1989 film continue to make the pilgrimage to the baseball field in an Iowa cornfield that played a central role in the movie. It’s where the ghosts of legendary baseball players, such as Shoeless Joe Jackson, emerged from the cornstalks to play ball in the fictional baseball film starring Kevin Costner, Ray Liotta, and James Earl Jones. The Field of Dreams Movie Site invites visitors to tour the field and three-bedroom farmhouse from the movie. You can even rent the field (on a per-hour basis) or the farmhouse for an overnight stay. The movie location is roughly 30 minutes west of Dubuque and recently became the site of an annual Major League exhibition game, known as MLB at Field of Dreams. The stadium’s seating capacity is 8,000 people, which provides an intimate experience of America’s favorite pastime if you are lucky enough to score tickets.
Death Valley desert in Eastern California. Photo courtesy of tobiasjo/iStock.com
DEATH VALLEY, CA
The force will likely be with you in Death Valley National Park. It doubled as Luke Skywalker’s childhood home planet of Tatooine in two of the Star Wars films, Episode IV– A New Hope and Episode V – Return of the Jedi. The park is the hottest, driest and lowest region in the country, which made it a challenging place to film. However, its barren salt flats, deep canyons, rolling sand dunes, and rugged mountains, made it a spectacularly otherworldly setting for this iconic, intergalactic series. You can download the free NPS App (National Park Service) to experience a guided-driving audio tour of the Death Valley locations featured in Star Wars.
Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Photo courtesy of Dennis Rosario/iStock.com
Combine paying homage to American history with honoring movie-making history. Ava DuVernay’s historical movie Selma was filmed in two real-life spots that were significant in the Civil Rights Movement. The Edmund Pettus Bridge was the site of Bloody Sunday, the historic day in 1965 when police attacked Civil Rights Movement demonstrators with clubs and tear gas as they attempted to march to the state capital of Montgomery. It’s also where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., played by David Oyelowo in the film, marched. The film’s other noteworthy location is the Alabama State Capitol Building. It stands as the backdrop of one of the movie’s final scenes, when Dr. King makes his famous speech after leading the Selma-to-Montgomery march. The speech led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a landmark piece of federal legislation that prohibits racial discrimination in voting.
Philadelphia art museum. Photo courtesy of MarcoRof/ iStock.com
Most people cannot visit Philadelphia without running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art—or at least attempting to do so. Otherwise known as the "Rocky Steps,” the 72 stone steps leading up to the museum have become a backdrop to one of the most widely re-created movie scenes by travelers to Philadelphia (or anywhere, for that matter). Tens of thousands of tourists attempt it each year. It’s on these steps where Sylvester Stallone, as Rocky Balboa, finishes an intense training session montage in the 1976 film Rocky. His climb ends in dramatic fist pumps of jubilation atop the steps. This climb has been copied in other movies, a metaphor for the underdog rising to the challenge, and it might inspire the same for your life if you make the trip to Philly and do your best boxing jog up the steps.