50 Movie and TV Locations Worthy of a Road Trip
Movies are often giant advertisements for the locations where they're shot. The baseball diamond from the 1989 tearjerker "Field of Dreams" sees about 65,000 fans a year, proving true the movie's famous line: "If you build it, they will come." There are innumerable movie and TV locations nationwide that still make for intriguing visits even after the film crews and celebrities have departed. Consider these state-by-state spots worthy of adding to the itinerary on a vacation, weekend away, or road trip.
Much of the 2014 movie "Selma," a poignant retelling of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s campaign for equal voting rights, was shot where the historic events actually occurred. Not only does the picturesque state capitol building in Montgomery serve as the backdrop for the movie's final scene; it's where the 1965 Voting Rights March from Selma to Montgomery ended 52 years ago. Visitors can take free, self-guided tours that include the old house and senate chambers, supreme court, and rotunda of the Greek Revival building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Old Tucson, just outside the city of Tucson, has been the set for at least 300 films -- everything from John Wayne's "Rio Bravo" (1959) to the comedy "Three Amigos" (1986) starring Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, and Martin Short. Scenes from the long-running TV show "Little House on the Prairie" also were shot here. Still used regularly as the backdrop for films and TV shows, Old Tucson offers a true Western experience, providing educational programs, tours, and living history presentations about life in the Arizona Sonora region during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Quentin Tarantino's most recent cinematic offering, 2015's "The Hateful Eight," is a western about a bounty hunter that takes place in the dead of a Wyoming winter. But it was actually Colorado standing in for many panoramic and exterior shots, including the 900-acre Schmid Family Ranch outside Telluride, which dates back to 1882. Visitors can hunt there during big-game seasons and rent cabins on the property -- think towering snow-capped mountains lining the horizon, verdant rolling hills, and unspoiled nature as far as the eye can see.
"Dead Poets Society" (1989) includes scenes filmed on location in the historic community of New Castle, originally settled by the Dutch West India Co. in 1651. The New Castle Historic District includes about 500 buildings dating back to the 1700s. About 30 minutes south is another location from the movie: the Everett Theatre in Middletown. Built in 1922, it still hosts musicals and plays.
Surfing and Hawaii are practically synonymous, a fact not lost on producers of the 1991 movie "Point Break," starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves. Surfing scenes in the film took place at Waimea Bay Beach Park in Oahu, on the island's legendary North Shore. Surfers from around the world continue to make pilgrimages here, but it's also a popular place to spot dolphins and turtles.
Nearly 30 years after "Field of Dreams" was released, the baseball field that played a central role in the film still attracts crowds. In the movie, farmer Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner), transforms a corner of his cornfield into a baseball diamond as an antidote to everyday life. And today that's still what's offered by a free visit to the field, on the century-old Lansing family farm in Dyersville. (There are also tours and a gift shop where visitors can buy everything from "Field of Dreams" T-shirts to DVDs.)
"The Day After," a 1983 made-for-TV movie, was a graphic tale about the impact of a nuclear holocaust on a small Kansas town: Lawrence, which the state's film commission brags is frequently recognized as one of the great small towns in this country. Located about 25 miles east of Topeka, it offers tourist attractions including the University of Kansas Natural History Museum, the Dole Institute of Politics, the Lawrence Arts Center, and Clinton State Park.
The majestic and picturesque Oak Alley Plantation outside New Orleans seems designed to serve as a backdrop for grand Hollywood movies. With its namesake canopied alley of oak trees and its location on the banks of the Mississippi, the plantation has hosted film crews for "Interview with a Vampire" (1994) and "Primary Colors" (1998). Visitors can take guided tours of the stunning Greek Revival mansion and grounds, and even spend the night in a cottage on the property, a National Historic Landmark.
The epic Netflix drama "House of Cards," starring Kevin Spacey as politician Frank Underwood, has filmed scenes all over Harford County, which has a self-guided tour to many of the most recognizable locations. Among the stops are Havre de Grace, which stands in as Underwood's hometown of Gaffney, South Carolina; Ladew Gardens and its Japanese section, the setting of a famous meeting between two of the show's characters; and Union United Methodist Church, where Underwood and his wife, Claire, renew their vows.
Michigan's Mackinac Island and its Grand Hotel served as the location of the haunting "Somewhere in Time" (1980), starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. The hotel has a storied history dating back to 1887, even hosting Mark Twain as a guest lecturer and serving as backdrop to Jimmy Durante and Esther Williams in "This Time for Keeps" (1948). It has found a niche in hosting pricey "Somewhere in Time" themed weekends and still claims the longest front porch in the world, which is free to visit.
"Prairie Home Companion" fans consider the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul an essential pilgrimage. The oldest surviving theater space in the city, it hosted the famous radio show beginning in 1981 and almost all filming for the 2006 movie of the same name starring Garrison Keillor, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, and Woody Harrelson. Only one scene was shot elsewhere -- at Mickey's Diner, another St. Paul landmark that is the most-filmed location in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Film & TV Board.
If ghost hunting or the paranormal is your thing, make note of the Missouri State Penitentiary. In operation from 1836 to 2004, it's hosted films including "The Hoodlum Priest" (1961) and "Haunting of Cellblock 11" (2014) and TV shows including the Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures," which investigates legendarily haunted places. There are plenty of rumors of strange and unusual occurrences over the years at the prison once labeled the "the bloodiest 47 acres in America" by Time magazine.
Seemingly countless films have been shot in Las Vegas, but for a more intriguing Western experience, consider Virginia City, about 30 minutes outside of Reno. It provided the exterior town shots for the long-running TV show "Bonanza" (and reappears in the Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures"). The city first boomed in 1859, and its wooden sidewalks, buildings dating back to the mid-1800s, and mine tours are still popular with tourists.
Albuquerque was already a destination with more than 300 years of history. But the AMC hit series "Breaking Bad" practically transformed the city into one of the show's characters during its Emmy-winning run from 2008 to 2013. The Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau has put together a self-guided tour of "Breaking Bad" locations. There are also paid "Biking Bad" tours, trolley tours, and, appropriately, "Breaking Bad" RV tours (in honor of the place the show's characters started cooking meth). For starters, the tours include the homes and car wash owned by the main characters, as well as Saul Goodman's law office.
New York City's landmark Carnegie Deli, opened in 1937, has appeared in a dizzying list of TV shows and movies, notably 1984's "Broadway Danny Rose," starring Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, and shows such as "Seinfeld" and "Mad About You." The deli's walls are covered with the pictures of celebrities who have visited and eaten there, and the menu pays tribute to Allen with a sandwich named after him. It's stacked high with corned beef and pastrami.
"Dirty Dancing" fans probably already know: Lake Lure, location of the 1987 romance and said to be one of the most beautiful artificial lakes in the country, is home to an annual Dirty Dancing Festival Aug. 18-19. It features a free lakeside screening, dance lessons, and a lift competition in the lake (remember the famous scene where Patrick Swayze practices lifting Jennifer Grey above his head?), along with live music, games, a beer garden, and crafts.
Crater Lake National Park is home to the deepest lake in the United States, some of the clearest water anywhere in the world, and more than 90 miles of hiking trails. Hollywood has found all of this stellar scenery hard to resist. The most recent movie to include scenes shot here was 2014's "Wild," starring Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern.
For ruggedly beautiful scenery, Badlands National Park is a must-see brought to the silver screen in Kevin Costner's Academy Award-winning drama "Dances With Wolves" from 1990. Visitors from around the world come to see the park's striking geologic deposits, 242,756 acres of buttes, pinnacles, and spires, and the largest undisturbed mixed-grass prairie in the country.
Described as a magical treat for the eyes, "Water for Elephants" was shot throughout Chattanooga for its 2011 release, but one of the most tourist-friendly locations in the movie is Chattanooga's Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. The museum, which provided two trains for the film starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson, showcases locomotives that date back to the 1800s. Visitors can also ride historic rail lines, some passing through pre-Civil War tunnels.
Since the early 1900s, Monument Valley has been one of the go-to places for Hollywood filmmakers in search of classic American West imagery. And for good reason: The stunning landscape along the Arizona-Utah border is awash in red sand desert panoramas and towering sandstone formations. It's a place that still looks as it did 300 years ago -- or 3,000 years ago. Among the notable films with scenes shot here are the original "National Lampoon's Vacation" (1983), "Forrest Gump" (1994), "Mission: Impossible II" (2000), and "Transformers: Age of Extinction" (2014).
"We Are Marshall" spent 18 days filming in 15 locations in Huntington to tell the story of the Marshall University football team, a tragedy in which 75 players, coaches, and staff died in a plane crash in 1970. After the film was released in 2006, bus tours blanketed the community, and the Cabell Huntington Convention & Visitors Bureau put out a map showing tourists where filming took place and related points of interest, including an overlook near the plane crash site.