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.
This is a rare case in which the location is almost certainly more famous than the movie. Alaska was the location for many scenes in the little-seen 2014 movie "Wildlike," about a troubled teen who runs away and treks through the Alaskan wilderness. The film showcases such locations as Denali National Park, 6 million acres surrounding North America's tallest peak; Matanuska Glacier, the largest in the country accessible by car (less than two hours outside Anchorage); and the Inside Passage, a unique way to see isolated Alaskan coastal communities not connected by road.
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.
Many notable and classic movies have filmed in Arkansas, including "Gone with the Wind" (1940) and "Biloxi Blues" (1988). But it's the lesser-known 2012 film "Mud" starring Matthew McConaughey that best reveals the colorful, intriguing region. Written and directed by Arkansan Jeff Nichols, the film focuses on the Southeastern part of the state, small towns that many describe as the "real Arkansas." "These places and people have such a particular accent and culture, and they're quickly getting homogenized. I wanted to capture a snapshot of a place that probably won't be there forever," Nichols told the Los Angeles Times.
The high-flying 1986 summer blockbuster "Top Gun" did wonders for U.S. Navy recruiting efforts and America's confidence in its armed forces. It didn't hurt tourism to San Diego, either, by showing off points of interest such as Kansas City Barbeque (the sports bar where Maverick and Goose play the song "Great Balls of Fire" in a legendary piano scene) and the New Point Loma Lighthouse, which serves as Viper's house in the movie. It's perched on the southern tip of Point Loma atop 400-foot cliffs, with amazing, postcard-worthy views.
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.
The 1987 film "Mystic Pizza," which helped make a superstar of young Julia Roberts, gets its name from an actual pizza shop in Mystic. Capitalizing on the movie's following, the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism created a self-guided Mystic Pizza movie trail map with stops at the shop and places such as the lobster processing plant and Mystic Seaport planetarium, where characters work in the film. The tour is a two-for-one, because the Steven Spielberg epic "Amistad" also shot scenes at Mystic Seaport, a historic working shipyard.
"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.
"The Truman Show" put the small beach community of Seaside solidly on the tourist map in 1998 as home to the movie's main character, played by Jim Carrey. A pristine, almost bizarrely perfect place, Seaside was designed to look like an old-fashioned beach town complete with traditional wood-framed cottages characteristic of the Florida Panhandle. Those who'd like to spend some time exploring can rent cottages by the day or week.
Fans of "Fried Green Tomatoes" -- both the food and the 1991 movie -- may want to pay a visit to Juliette. The small town served as the fictional Whistle Stop, Alabama, in the film starring Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates. Juliette dates back to the 1900s and had been nearly abandoned when movie producers stumbled upon it, giving it a serious sprucing up to make it suitable for its big Hollywood close-up. Today, Juliette is a vibrant place where visitors can stop at the Whistle Stop Café (as in the movie) and indulge in a plate of fried green tomatoes.
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.
The landscapes of Idaho have served as the backdrop for numerous films. Some of the best known are perhaps "Heaven's Gate" (1989) and the cult classic "Napoleon Dynamite" (2004). Exteriors for "Dante's Peak," a 1997 film starring Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton, were shot in Wallace in the famous Silver Valley -- known by some as the silver capital of the world -- in an unspoiled mountain environment that attracts a steady stream of visitors. The town has a unique distinction: Every downtown building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
"Bueller ... Bueller ..." Enough said, right? "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was a formative movie for those coming of age in 1986. Along with its lessons about living life in style, it was a love letter to Chicago filmed in legendary locations such as Wrigley Field, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), the second-tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Those not put off by extreme heights can head to the tower's 103rd floor and walk out onto the Ledge -- a glass box protruding from the side of the skyscraper and offering breathtaking views of the city and four neighboring states. Ferris would approve, although he'd probably find some way around the sky-high $22 general admission price.
The Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University has been operating since 1928 and remains one of the most renowned basketball arenas in the world. It also happens to be the location of an iconic scene from the 1986 classic "Hoosiers," about a high school basketball team winning a state championship. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Hinkle also served as a military barracks during World War II. The state's film office suggests visitors stop at Plump's Last Shot, a hole-in-the-wall bar three miles away. It's owned by the real-life hero Bobby Plump, who is portrayed in the movie as the character Jimmy Chitwood, and filled with movie memorabilia and mementos from Plump's sports career.
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.
In a state known for horses, it's hard not to highlight a movie about them. A long list of horse-themed films were shot here, including "Seabiscuit" (2003) and "Dreamer" (2005). For those wanting horse country history as well as Hollywood, the Kentucky Film Office recommends Churchill Downs, site of the Kentucky Derby and scenes from "Secretariat" (2010) and most recently "50 to 1" (2014) starring Skeet Ulrich.
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.
One of the country's treasures, Acadia National Park has not been overlooked by Hollywood. With its picturesque woodlands, rocky beaches, and granite peaks, the park has appeared in 2010's "Shutter Island" (Leonardo DiCaprio's character climbs Otter Cliffs during one of the movie's most harrowing scenes) and the 1999 film "Cider House Rules" (which portrayed a less precarious location -- Sand Beach).
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.
Perhaps one of the most iconic New England towns, Gloucester was the backdrop for "The Perfect Storm," a 2000 telling of the true tale of the ill-fated fishermen on the Andrea Gail, which got caught in an epic storm. The charming seaport alone is worth a visit, including the Crow's Nest bar, which plays a major part in the movie (although what's seen in the movie was a replica on a Hollywood stage). The bar's walls are covered with pictures of the men who lost their lives at sea and snapshots of the Hollywood celebrities who visited during filming.
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.
"The Help," a 2011 award-winning drama starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Octavia Spencer, was shot in Greenwood, a charming Southern Delta town. A new self-guided driving tour to 16 stops covers all major locations in the film, including Hilly's house, Skeeter's house, the Leefolt House, and Minny Jackson's house.
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.
If there's a heaven on earth, it's probably Glacier National Park, according to the Montana Film Office. The 1998 movie "What Dreams May Come" agreed, using the park -- a 1,600-mile wilderness with glacier-carved peaks, alpine meadows, lakes, and 700 miles of hiking trails -- as a stand-in for the actual heaven.
Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium -- home to the world's largest indoor desert, largest indoor rainforest, and largest nocturnal exhibit -- makes an appearance in "Election," a 1999 film starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon. If zoos aren't your thing, consider visiting the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument, which popped up in the 2002 film "About Schmidt" starring Jack Nicholson. The monument, over Interstate 80, showcases detailed displays about 170 years of America's westward movement. Both films are by Alexander Payne -- no surprise that he also directed "Nebraska," a 2013 film starring Bruce Dern, which includes plenty more Cornhusker State locations.
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.
The 1981 Academy Award-winning "On Golden Pond" forever immortalized New Hampshire's Squam Lake in Holderness. It provides an idyllic setting for family drama with Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, and Jane Fonda. Today, tours highlight some of the movie's locations and provide insights about the filming -- sometimes with celebrity hosts such as "On Golden Pond" writer Ernest Thompson and Hepburn's personal assistant, C.J. Willingham.
Princeton University is a popular filming location, as is the eponymous town. The state's Motion Picture & Film Commission lists "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" (2009), "A Beautiful Mind" (2001), and "I.Q." (1994) as filming there.
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.
Movie sites in North Dakota? The state's Department of Commerce points to the tiny town of Medora, population 112. Founded in 1883 along the transcontinental rail line, Medora includes an entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and plenty of stunning scenery and wildlife, making it a perfect setting for scenes from the 2001 film "Wooly Boys," about a sheep rancher, starring Peter Fonda, Kris Kristofferson, and Keith Carradine.
Yet another prison made famous by Hollywood, the Ohio State Reformatory was featured in "The Shawshank Redemption" in 1994 -- and tours of the Mansfield prison, built in 1886, include the fictional warden's office and the escape tunnel used by character Andy Dufresne. The structure combines Victorian Gothic, Richardsonian Romanesque, and Queen Anne architectural styles, which was supposed to inspire inmates to experience a spiritual rebirth.
"August: Osage County" (2013), starring Hollywood heavyweights Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, was filmed nearly entirely in Oklahoma, including in the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, where bison roam free among more than 40 miles of hiking and nature trails. Lookout Lake, at Osage Hills State Park, also makes an appearance, but it's just as famous for its bass, crappie, walleye, and perch.
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.
Who doesn't remember the scene in "Rocky" when Sylvester Stallone runs triumphantly up the steps outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art? The museum is a worthwhile visit in itself, and tens of thousands of visitors each year since 1976 have run the steps. Now they can snap photos in front of a bronze statue of Rocky that the city has erected on the site.
Rosecliff Mansion is a relic of the country's Gilded Age. Built between 1898 and 1902 for silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs, the sprawling home was modeled after the Grand Trianon, the garden retreat at Versailles. A handful of movies have featured the opulent Newport mansion and its larger-than-life ballrooms and dining rooms, including "True Lies," the 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger adventure flick, and Spielberg's "Amistad" slave drama.
Filmed all over South Carolina, the 2000 Mel Gibson movie "The Patriot" did wonders for the state's tourist economy. One of the most notable locations is Botany Bay Plantation, a 4,630-acre Wildlife Management Area operated by the state's Department of Natural Resources. The preserve on Edisto Island is home to salt marshes, freshwater ponds, and trees covered in Spanish moss. There are miles of private beach and wildlife including deer, alligators, fiddler crabs, and egrets.
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.
The country's national parks are clearly a magnet for Hollywood filmmakers. In this case the park is Big Bend and the movie is "No Country for Old Men." The wide-open Big Bend National Park, the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States, is known for its hundreds of bird species, solitary mountain range, and temple-like canyons carved from ancient limestone. The Coen brothers used the wilderness as the backdrop for their 2007 crime-thriller adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's 2005 novel.
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).
Vermont has served as the backdrop for a range of Hollywood offerings, including Alfred Hitchcock's "The Trouble with Harry" (1955), Tim Burton's "Beetlejuice" (1988), Lasse Hallström's "Cider House Rules" (1999), and Robert Zemeckis' "What Lies Beneath" (2000). The best film location to visit might be from the Farrelly brothers' dark 2000 comedy "Me, Myself & Irene," which includes a scene at the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory in Waterbury. Jim Carrey stole ice cream from a little girl in the movie, but visitors have no excuse for such behavior: The tour includes a big sample of the day and smaller taste-test-size samples.
This site isn't for the faint of heart, the drive-by viewer, or those afraid of heights. McAfee Knob in Roanoke -- a slab of rock that juts out into thin air like a diving board, offering sweeping views of the valley below -- is said to be the most photographed spot along the Appalachian Trail. One of those photos is on the poster for Robert Redford's 2015 movie "A Walk in the Woods." Getting to the famous overlook requires a six-mile hike round-trip, which is a breeze compared with following the main character's path along the entire Appalachian Trail.
The 1982 romance "An Officer and a Gentleman" left countless girls and women swooning over Navy officers in white uniforms, but the scenery in this movie is also swoon-worthy. Several scenes were shot in Port Townsend and Fort Worden State Park, notably including the final graduation scene, which took place on the fort's central lawn. Attractions for visitors now that Richard Gere has left town include camping, kayaking, and fishing for salmon.
"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.
The University of Wisconsin, Madison, served as much of the backdrop for Rodney Dangerfield's 1986 slapstick movie "Back to School." Officials at Film Wisconsin still rank the majestic campus near the shores of Lake Mendota as a top movie-related tourist attraction.
"Close Encounters of the Third Kind" from 1977 is a Spielberg classic. Its science fiction plot drew plenty of attention to the iconic Devil's Tower National Monument near Hulett and Sundance. It's America's first national monument and a place considered sacred to the Lakota -- not to mention the site of a spaceship landing. (Right?)
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