How to Visit Your Favorite TV Show and Movie Locations
Let nostalgia take you to your cherished characters' stomping grounds
In 2010, Lee Recca traveled to Scotland and visited several shooting locations for one of her favorite films, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
“My friends and I visited an abandoned shale mine that was used as the home of Tim the Enchanter and, of course, the killer rabbit of Caerbannog,” said the 65-year-old from Denver. “We wanted to reenact the scene, so I found some sheep's wool that was clinging to a bush and used it as the rabbit. Down in a cave, I saw actual rabbit bones, but no bones of hapless people killed by the bunny.”
Recca is one of many travelers who plan overseas trips around their favorite films or television shows.
“We tried to reenact the part where Tim the Enchanter flings thunderbolts from the top of a mountain,” said Recca. “We hurled insults with French accents from the ramparts of Doune Castle.”
From 'Anne of Green Gables' to 'Downton Abbey'
Kitty Felde of Washington, D.C., fell in love with Anne of Green Gables, so she took herself to its Prince Edward Island home for a solo holiday. Anne with an E, an adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, recently dropped on Netflix.
“It was one of the most memorable trips I've ever taken,” said 62-year-old Felde. “I loved it so much, I brought my new husband with me on a return trip. I still dream of the red clay soil, the gigantic rolls of hay, the too-blue-to-be-real sea and sky, the lobster dinners, the kindest people I ever met.”
Laurie Bryant took what she called a trip of a lifetime when she went to West Berkshire, England, to visit Highclere Castle, the site of the very popular British drama on PBS, Downton Abbey, which followed the lives of the Crawley family.
“I couldn’t believe I was standing where the show was filmed,” said the 53-year-old who lives in LaGrange, N.Y. She gushed about the guided group tour that goes to Bampton, the Oxfordshire village that serves as Downton village on the show, and where visitors can tour the home of Matthew Crawley — the heir to Downton Abbey.
Michael and Deidre Blank, of Yardley, Pa., are similarly hooked on Downton Abbey as well as Poldark and ,they say, practically every British drama picked up by PBS. So, when the couple decided to visit Southern England and Northern Ireland last summer, they felt they had to include Highclere Castle, the tin mines and Port Isaac of Cornwall to their itinerary.
“During the last 40 years, we’ve visited southern, eastern, northern and western European countries and have avoided returning to the U.K., but the pull of the gorgeously shot vistas (both internal and external) in these TV series was inescapable,” said Michael Blank.
(Re)visiting Your Silver Screen Nostalgia
If you are more interested in keeping your fandom in the continental U.S., you have plenty of opportunities for escapes and road trips to your favorite movie characters’ stomping grounds. Here are a selection of travel ideas for U.S.-based films:
- If you prefer silent films to the talkies, visit The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont, Calif., where you can watch the best silent films and see old photographs, posters, books and artifacts on such greats as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Speaking of Buster Keaton, did you know there’s a Buster Keaton Museum in Piqua, Kansas?
- Fans of the legendary Jimmy Stewart can visit The Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, Pa., Stewart’s hometown, where you can watch movies in the 1930s vintage movie theater and look at memorabilia on his career. There’s also a Donna Reed Museum in Denison, Iowa (Reed co-starred with Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life) and, yes, a Wonderful Life museum in Seneca Falls, N.Y. (the town the film's Bedford Falls is based on).
- If your favorite movie is Top Gun, head to San Diego for a meal at the Kansas City Barbeque, a working restaurant used in the film’s famous last scene with Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis. Here you can enjoy a meal and even purchase a Top Gun souvenir tank top, t-shirt or hat. The restaurant also has memorabilia and the original piano used in the movie.
- If you enjoy Westerns, you’ll love The John Wayne Birthplace & Museum in Wayne's hometown of Winterset, Iowa. The 6,100-square-foot museum houses the actor’s original movie posters, film wardrobe, scripts, contracts, letters, artwork and sculptures, and one of his customized automobiles.
Road Trip to TV Land
Many of our pop culture memories are tied to characters and settings we got to know weekly on the small screen. TV fans from 1980s and 90s shows shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Blanche Devereaux, Radar O’Reilly and J.R. Ewing have been immortalized in tourist spots:
- On the East coast, try Rue LaRue Café, in Washington Heights, N.Y., which is dedicated to the life and career of a popular Golden Girl, Rue McClanahan.
- One of the most popular television shows of all-time was M*A*S*H and at Malibu Creek State Park in Cornell, Calif., you can stand in the spot where Radar looked out for an incoming helicopter that was carrying casualties in the opening sequence.
- Perhaps you couldn't stop wondering who shot J.R. in the 1980s. In Parker, Texas, you can actually have lunch and take a guided tour on the real Southfork Ranch. Visitors will see the gun that shot J.R., Lucy's wedding dress, the Dallas family tree and Jock's Lincoln Continental.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Festival Circuit
Many annual festivals honor your favorite actors, films and television shows, too, including these two favorites:
- Every August, in Jamestown, N.Y., there’s the Lucy Comedy Fest, which honors the legendary Lucille Ball in her hometown, The Lucy Comedy Fest attracts thousands of fans every year. Here you can tour the area where Lucy was born, enter look-a-like contests, enjoy comedy shows and even stomp a grape or two.
- If you follow the yellow brick road, it will lead you to the Land of Oz, a former theme park in Beech Mountain, N.C. where you can enjoy an annual Wiz festival. Based on the iconic film The Wizard of Oz, the Land of Oz lets visitors walk the yellow brick road with Dorothy as their guide, reliving moments the classic motion picture.
Lisa Iannucci's book, The Film/TV Lover’s Travel Guide, will be published in February 2018 by Globe Pequot Press.