Just because your Hogwarts letter got lost in the mail doesn't mean you'll never see where Harry first learned to ride his broomstick. Ryan Gosling is happily married, but you can still fall in love lying down in the middle of King Street watching the street lights change.
Movies are magical, but they aren't created out of thin air. Some of the most beloved fictional towns in history are very real places, while others were created in order to bring their stories to life and then were preserved with love. These vacation spots from your favorite TV shows and movies are even better in real life and give you a great reason to take a long weekend (or two).
Mystic, Connecticut would be one of the state's top destinations even without its ties to the film that made Julia Roberts famous. Tiny ice cream parlors and homemade fudgeries pop up in the coastal village's winding, walkable streets, its historic downtown providing a time capsule to easier times bordered by scenic shorelines and river walks. But Mystic doesn't need to rely on its natural charms to draw in tourists from across the country as the home of Mystic Pizza, the restaurant that inspired the 1988 cult classic. While there are no longer lines around the block, the pizzeria itself functions almost like a working shrine to the movie with stills of Julia, Matt Damon, and co. lining the walls and the movie playing on a loop to remind diners that this is more than just "A Slice Of Heaven."
Forks, Washington is a real place, and it's even weirder than you ever dreamed. The former logging town was more or less the middle of nowhere before Twilight's author Stephanie Meyer randomly decided to use it as the setting of her paranormal romance series, which has allowed Forks to lean in to the attention with everything it's got. There are homes designated as the Swan and Cullen residences where you can leave mail for your favorite characters, tours of locations that vaguely resemble places described in the novels, and a giant Twilight store of mostly contraband merch. There's even a "Forever Twilight In Forks Festival" annually the week of Bella Swan's birthday in September with dance lessons, a blood drive, and a Twilight movie marathon.
Mystic Falls isn't technically real, but the way that Covington, Georgia has embraced their claim to fame as the home of The CW's hottest vampires has brought the Virginia city to life, just a little deeper in the South. They offer "Vampire Stalkers Mystic Falls Tours" with special behind-the-scenes facts supplied straight from the cast and crew, and they've opened an actual Mystic Grill modeled after the café from The Vampire Diaries complete with a gift shop. Their tourism website offers glances into the daily lives of the show's stars during filming, like Ian Somerhalder's love for the banana pudding ice cream at the local scoop shop. You can see the home where the season one masquerade ball took place, the crypt, and the Gilbert house before buying autographed merchandise at Vampire Stalker's memorabilia store.
It seems like most of the lands on Game of Thrones are too removed from our reality to be real. They must be sets on soundstages in Los Angeles, carefully crafted as the seven kingdoms by artisans hired specifically to bring Westeros to life. LOL, nope. Stark supporters can hop on a plane to Castle Ward in Northern Ireland where literally all of the scenes in Winterfell were filmed, from Bran getting yeeted out of a window to Daenerys forgetting to throw away her Starbucks chai latte. The city of Pentos where Daenerys and Aquaman were wed is also real, but we know it as Dwejra and the Azure Window in Malta.
Good luck getting "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" out of your head if you stay at the Moutain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, Virginia. True fans can stay in the Virginia Cottage that housed Baby and her family, see the famous gazebo, and partake in a Dirty Dancing-themed weekend retreat with dance lessons, parties in Mary's Barn, and a scavenger hunt amongst other activities designed to keep you far, far away from any corners. If you want to see the gym where Baby and Johnny practiced their routine, you'll have to go all the way to Lake Lure in North Carolina, where there are decidedly fewer options for continental breakfasts.
There are La La Land filming locations scattered throughout Los Angeles, naturally. That film was a love letter to the City of Angels more than most films about the entertainment industry are, and let's face it, that entire genre is just in-jokes written by screenwriters who have lived in Sherman Oaks since the mid-1990s. The scenes from the observatory's interior were actually on an eerily accurate recreation because filming isn't allowed inside, but it would be a cool trip even if it wasn't the site of an elaborate dance number with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. The Hermosa Beach Jazz club in the city is where Emma famously says she doesn't like jazz, and Curbed has actually made an extensive map of important locations from the film including the Colorado Street Bridge featured in this photo.
The San Fernando Valley is a part of Los Angeles, but it's history as a storied filming location has its own set of must-sees that are completely separate from the monuments over the hill. Most notably, basically everything that happened on Parks and Recreation was lovingly spread throughout the Valley (and a few locations in Pasadena). Did my roommate have Ben and Leslie's wedding spoiled for her because she accidentally drove by the Pit on the corner of Hazeltine Avenue and Collins Street in Van Nuys during filming? Yes. Have we eaten at JJ's Diner aka the 4 'n' 20 on Van Nuys Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, where they tragically do not serve waffles? Yes. Los Angeles Magazine has a somewhat complete guide to Pawnee, Indiana's complete takeover of the 818, but the Parks And Rec wiki includes some extra shining stars like the Plaza Eagleton, aka the Westfield Topanga Mall where the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, and other Calabasas residents have also been known to shop. Two birds, one stone.
This is a creepy one. The beloved video game series Silent Hill had no ties to Centralia, Pennsylvania, but when it came to recreating the constantly shifting town for the big screen, screenwriter Roger Avary based Silent Hill's real-life description on an equally upsetting abandoned town. A coal fire beneath Centralia began in 1962 and is still burning to this day. The town became uninhabitable for humans, in part because smoke from the fire seeps through every crevice that reaches the depths of the old mine, but seven residents have refused to leave their homes. The roads have been closed and rerouted so no unsuspecting soul drives through Centralia, where the weakened ground could open to a sinkhole anytime, without warning. Maybe don't *stay* in Centralia, but brave souls can take a look through town now that the air quality is back to passable standards. Just don't be a d*ck about it like some of the tourists from this morbidly hilarious Cracked article, and try not to fall into any sinkholes.
The fact that The Shire actually exists is so strange that basically everyone already knows about it. That doesn't mean that a trip to the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata, New Zealand isn't worth every penny. Of course, the guided tours are magic and include commentary about the creation of the too-good-to-be-true town, and evening tours end with a hobbit banquet (second breakfast not included). Get a drink at the Green Dragon Inn during your tour if you choose to visit in the daytime, and use the rest of your time in New Zealand to find all of the other Lord of the Rings filming locations on the island, including Mordor in Tongariro National Park, The Woods in Wellington, and Edoras at Mount Sunday.
It's a sad day for every Gilmore Girls fan when they realize that Stars Hollow is roughly as real as Miss Patty's showbiz stories. Luckily, the idyllic Connecticut small town was inspired by a trip that Amy Sherman-Palladino took through Washington Depot, New Milford, and the surrounding cities while creating what would soon become the Gilmore Girls pilot. The famous gazebo (that really lives on the WB lot and can be seen in their Los Angeles studio tour) is based on New Milford's town center, and the Independence Inn was inspired by the Mayflower Grace Inn and Spa where ASP stayed during her trip. The hotel is wildly expensive, but it's also the most peaceful fall retreat in existence. Complimentary warm apple cider and wine is left throughout the property for guests including in their sitting room, where you can play Scrabble while looking at the Connecticut foliage, their fire-side library, and their expansive spa.
Okay, duh. Portland exists, but in a way that's so strange and antithetical to normal human life that Portlandia was born. Roadtrippers has a great map of the city where you can see the bike path where the dream of the '90s came alive in Portland, the line outside of Fisherman's Porch, or Women and Women First bookstore, which is an *actual* feminist community center in town. You can't really make a sign at Copy Pilot, but you can go meow at the Portland Timbers in Providence Park. And just because they never put a bird on Voodoo Doughnuts doesn't mean it isn't a must-see.
Get ready to cry about old people! Paradise Falls exists, and you can get there without traveling by balloon bundle. Pixar animators spent weeks studying Angel Falls in Venezuela to be able to accurate portray the natural beauty in Up, sending several teams to the falls to try and capture its essence. TBH, traveling by balloon might be the easiest way to access the falls, which are only available to those in small aircrafts restricted to roughly four passengers. The plane only gets you to Canaima, where you'll take a five-hour motorized canoe to base camp, then another hour hike from camp to the bottom of the falls. Don't worry — you'd never have to do this alone, with tours led by experienced guides helping the adventurous and the curious find their way.
Feed the swans in a boat at Cypress Gardens with Ryan Gosling, eat ice cream in the Old Village and dance in the middle of King Street with Ryan Gosling, and ride a bike through Boone Hall Plantation on Ryan Gosling's handlebars in the city of Charleston, South Carolina, where the only thing stopping you from living all of your Notebook dreams is the criminal lack of Ryan Gosling. The town is crawling with engagement and anniversary photo shoots recreating the movie, and there's even a Notebook-themed hotel package for the best romantic getaway you will ever have.
We actually featured Ecola State Park's Cannon Beach as one of the best beaches in America recently with no clue that it's also a filming location from The Goonies. Astoria, Oregon doesn't have any Goondocks to speak of, but the homes that Mikey and his friends were trying to save are very real. Mikey's house is on 38th Street, right near Data's home, and the County Jail where Jake is locked up has now become a museum honoring movies filmed in Oregan like, oh IDK, The Goonies. Refrain from smashing your pizza into the window at Lower Columbia Bowl, and whatever you do, never say die at Haystack Rock.
Not realizing that Field Of Dreams would become wildly popular, the town of Dyserville in Iowa actually created the titular field for filming, turned half of it back into farmland after filming wrapped, then changed their minds and re-created the field when they realized people were flocking to Duserville to see where Kevin Costner fielded his dreams or whatever. It's been there for thirty years and is still going strong with tours of the farm and field and various events like their 30th anniversary festival in July 2019, their annual celebrity softball game and celebration in September, and a yearly fantasy training camp with famous coaches.
Hopping right back over to creepy places only crazy people would want to visit (read: Centralia), Blairstown in New Jersey gives visitors one more reason to avoid New Jersey: Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco near Hardwick. If you think the name is bad, you should hear its claim to fame. The campsite, which is still in use and open to the public, is better known as Camp Crystal Lake, where Jason Voorhees taught us that you can, in fact, be terrified of someone with the last name Voorhees if they put on a ski mask and murder unsuspecting camp counselors. Yup, see where Friday the 13th was filmed, dip your toes in Sand Pond where Jason drowned, or be like Steve and chill at Blairstown Diner while everyone else faces down a serial killer.
If you're looking for an immersive Harry Potter experience, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando should probably be your first stop, if only for the Butterbeer. If you're looking for something a little more grounded in reality or refuse to pay to go to Universal Studios (which is fair), Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England is one of the most recognizable Hogwarts filming locations. You'll immediately remember the grounds from Harry's first flying lesson, and you'll probably cry. We highly recommend starting your trip in London, then making your way to the University of Oxford to see the building that inspired the Great Hall. Hit Northumberland on your way through the countryside as you head towards either Edinburgh in Scotland, where J.K. Rowling wrote her novels in the Elephant House and drew inspiration for many of its magical locations. You'll probably cry again.
If only all Wes Anderson filming locations existed in the real world. While we'll probably never be able to check into the Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom's imagined '60s New England was filmed at Conanicut Island, Rhode Island. Suzy's home, Summer's End, is Conanicut Island Light, and other locations such as Moonrise Kingdom Cove are in the surrounding areas of Fort Wetherill and the affluent Newport, where Taylor Swift has her Rhode Island summer home. This part of Rhode Island does have that beautifully foggy Wes Anderson feeling, suspended in a paradise of ports, piers, and lighthouses.
It isn't Christmas without a Hallmark Movie, the most fantastical film genre there is. Seriously, the Hobbits are more believable than some of these love stories. Evergreen, Vermont from Christmas In Evergreen might not exist, but it was filmed at an equally fictional town you can actually visit, the Burnaby Village Museum in British Columbia. The heritage village pays homage to the town of Burnaby's history, and it goes all out for Christmas in its "town center" where you'll find a general store, ice cream parlour, gazebo, and old-timey trolley. Christmas Cookies was also filmed in BC nearby at downtown Squamish near the tip of Howe Sound.
Winnie The Pooh times five? Yeah, we'll take it. The Hundred Acre Wood might not exist, but it was based on the actual wood the author of Winnie The Pooh's son would explore during his childhood, the Five Hundred Acre Wood. The area is inside of the larger Ashdown Forest in England, which is in the literal opposite direction of our Harry Potter inspired jaunt through the English countryside. Winnie The Pooh was created nearly a century ago, but the region remains a beautiful woodsy oasis despite changing terrain.