April 24, 2012 by Amanda
There’s no arguing that there are certain destinations around the world that people visit simply because they saw them in a movie or on TV. Cities, natural sites, and everything in between draw film and television buffs alike – especially if they are big fans.
Film tourism is not a new concept, but it certainly has grown in popularity over the past decade or two. Whereas before only “geeks” and “nerds” sought out sites featured in their favorite movies or TV shows, today it’s quite common for people of all interest levels to visit movie locations – whether out of fanatical devotion or just sheer curiosity.
Film-related tours have popped up in most major cities around the globe, with most highlighting multiple sites that have starred in a variety of films and TV shows. Cities like Rome, Paris, and New York City have played host to so many production sets that just about any street you walk down has probably been used in a movie or television show at some point.
But there are some specific areas of the world that draw fans of specific movies and series. These places become akin to sites of pilgrimage for devoted fans, and it’s not out of the ordinary to find them there, re-enacting their favorite scenes.
New Zealand – “Lord of the Rings” fans
Director Peter Jackson really put New Zealand on the map with his wildly successful fantasy trilogy about hobbits. “The Lord of the Rings” films thrust this small South Pacific country into the international spotlight, and it wasn’t long until the film fans began booking tickets to see Middle-Earth for themselves.
Most of the on-location sites used in the “Lord of the Rings” films have since been restored to their natural states, but there are still plenty of areas film fans will be able to recognize. There are now fully intact hobbit holes at Hobbiton in Matamata, and even non-fans would be able to recognize Mount Sunday in the Canterbury region as Edoras.
Tour companies to consider: Red Carpet Tours for comprehensive 12-day New Zealand tour and day trips to Hobbiton; Wellington Rovers for full-day tours in NZ’s capital; and Nomad Safaris for Queenstown-based tours.
The UK – “Harry Potter” fans
Fans of J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard could of course visit Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando for their Hogwarts fix, but if they really want to get up close with what they saw on the big screen, they’ll have to head over to England.
Everyone can enjoy a visit to Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral (which inspired the Great Hall of Hogwarts in the films), and of course fans will want to visit Platform 9 ¾ at London’s King Cross Station (which, coincidentally, is actually located between Platforms 3 and 4). But the real fans will need to grab a ticket to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, which includes a visit to the studio where the films were shot, with full detailed sets open to explore.
Salzburg, Austria – “The Sound of Music” fans
When I was younger, I was obsessed with “The Sound of Music.” I would watch it once a week for years – every Friday was “Sound of Music” day – and it wasn’t until I was in college that I found out that the whole movie was filmed in Salzburg, Austria. Ever since, I’ve wanted to go there.
And I’m definitely not alone. Fans of Maria and the von Trapp family can visit sites like Mirabell Gardens where Maria and the children sang the famous “Do-Re-Mi” song, the castle used as the exterior of the von Trapp family home, the abbey where Maria was a nun, and more.
Tour companies to consider: Panorama Tours offers the original “Sound of Music” tour.
Tunisia – “Star Wars” fans
This is possibly one of the more difficult locations to get to on this list, being the only one not in the Western world. But it’s also probably the site that draws the most devoted fans.
Fans of George Lucas’ opus go to Tunisia to visit Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine (which is actually named after a real Tunisian village named Tataouine), visit a largely intact Mos Espa set, and see many other sandy, desert-like sites used in “A New Hope” and “The Phantom Menace.” You can even stay in Luke’s home, which is now a hotel in Matmata.
Tunisia has also had starring roles in movies like “Raiders of the Lost Arc” and “The English Patient.”
Tour companies to consider: The only one I could find is Isango, which offers a Star Wars Safari in a Jeep 4×4. Alternatively, you could hire your own driver.
Forks, Washington – “Twilight” fans
This location doesn’t quite belong on this list, because none of the “Twilight” movies were actually filmed in Forks – in fact, author Stephenie Meyer had never even visited Forks before writing her wildly popular books, and most of the movies were filmed in/around Vancouver.
But that doesn’t stop thousands of rabid “Twilight” fans from flocking to this former logging town. I say “former logging town” because today’s it’s been nearly taken over by Team Edward and Team Jacob-related shops and kitsch. There’s not much to see in Forks itself other than Twilight-related shops and murals, but fans can eat at Bella Italia in nearby Port Angeles, and visit First Beach, which is a real beach on the Quileute reservation.
Tour companies to consider: Twilight Tours in Forks has quite a few reviews on Trip Adviser, though you could probably easily see the sites on your own, as well.
Petra, Jordan – “Indiana Jones” fans
Although most of the “Indiana Jones” movies were filmed elsewhere, I will always associate these films with Petra, as it was in the Treasury that the Holy Grail was hidden in “The Last Crusade.” I will never forget the first time I saw it – and I’ve wanted to go there ever since.
Most people who visit this ancient site mention Indy and his grail quest, though it’s well worth a visit even if you aren’t a fan.
Tour companies to consider: Any guide who will get you to Petra will do! You could try On the Go.
New York City – “Sex and the City” fans
New York City has served as the backdrop for hundreds of movies and TV shows over the years. But perhaps one of the most popular series to be set in the Big Apple was “Sex and the City.” Fans of the long-running TV series often follow in the footsteps of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda in NYC, visiting locations and drinking plenty of cosmos.
Like most TV shows, most of the series was actually shot on a static set, but that doesn’t stop “Sex and the City” fans from visiting New York.
Tour companies to consider: On Location Tours offers up a “Sex and the City”-centric tour in NYC.
Hawaii – “LOST” fans
Heading to the other end of the United States, we come to Hawaii, which has also served as a backdrop for countless big-budget films and TV series. In one Oahu valley alone you can pretend to dodge “Jurassic Park” dinosaurs, hide from Pearl Harbor bombers, and relive scenes from “Hawaii Five-O.”
But the most fanatical fans who come here in search of a little TV magic are probably fans of the J.J. Abrams sci-fi thriller “LOST.” Hawaii – and especially the island of Oahu – served as the backdrop for most of this popular show, and quite a few areas of the island are now open to tourists since filming has ceased.
Head to Ka’a’awa Valley at Kualoa Ranch for some truly breathtaking “LOST” scenery, visit the beach where “the crash” took place, and even see the temple where Sun and Jin were married in flashback scenes.
Tour companies to consider: Finding a company is tricky, but Kualoa Ranch operates movie/TV-related tours of its own if you can’t find anything else.
Can you think of any other locations that draw devoted film or TV fans? Have YOU been to any of these places yourself?