Lights, Camera, Travel! Awesome Trips to the Sites of Classic Hollywood Films

Actress on film set.
Photo by Nicoleta Ionescu / Shutterstock.com

There’s no business like show business — and even if you’ll never win an Oscar, it can be fun to stroll the same streets that you saw in your favorite movie.

Most movies are made on sets in and around Los Angeles, but some fantastic productions have been filmed on location. When vacationing, you can take the opportunity to seek out some of the famed sites that once played on the big screen. Watching your favorite movie will never be the same again.

‘Gone With the Wind’ — Atlanta, Georgia

Few films are as entwined with one city as “Gone With the Wind” is with Atlanta, but no scenes were actually shot in Georgia. Frankly, my dear, we don’t give a … you know. The city is still full of “GWTW” sights. Author Margaret Mitchell became almost as famous as her heroine, Scarlett O’Hara, thanks to the Civil War epic romance that hit screens in 1939. You can tour the shabby apartment (now the Margaret Mitchell House museum) where she wrote the blockbuster book — surprisingly, it’s no Tara. (As for Tara itself, it was just a Hollywood facade — but its pieces are in a Georgia barn and someday may be restored as a tourist attraction.) It’s believed that Stately Oaks, a similar white-columned antebellum home in Jonesboro, is one of the sites that inspired Tara, and guides dressed in period costumes will give you a tour. If Ashley Wilkes’ Twelve Oaks plantation is more your style, stay in the B&B in the home that inspired it, now called The Twelve Oaks. Before you leave town, pay tribute to Mitchell by visiting her grave in Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery.

‘Purple Rain’ — Minneapolis, Minnesota

Steve Quinlan / Shutterstock.com

Musician Prince’s 2016 death is still mourned in his hometown of Minneapolis. If his 1984 movie “Purple Rain” still has you humming his classic ’80s tunes, head for a night out at the always-rocking First Avenue, the downtown Minneapolis nightclub where many of the movie’s club scenes were filmed. Be sure to check out Prince’s name among the 500+ stars honoring musicians who’ve played there, all painted on the former Greyhound bus station’s exterior. Head to 3420 Snelling Ave. S. in Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood to see the exterior of the home in which Prince’s character, The Kid, supposedly lived. (Prince bought it after the film, and it’s not open to the public). And there’s plenty to do on sprawling Lake Minnetonka, a suburban lake that offers waterside dining, boat tours and more — and is famously mentioned, but not shown, in the film. Prince tells Apollonia to “purify yourself” in its waters — but after she jumps in a nearby body of water (supposedly the Minnesota River near Henderson), tells her she’s in the wrong place.

Want more? It’s not in the movie, but head to the suburb of Chanhassen, where Prince’s estate and production complex, Paisley Park, now allows tours.

‘Sleepless in Seattle’ — Seattle, Washington

Barry Salmons / Shutterstock.com

You won’t need to sleep in the Emerald City of Seattle when you’re buzzing around (aided by the city’s ample caffeine) to all the sites from Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s 1993 rom-com. Take an Argosy tourist cruise on Lake Union and the tour guides will point out the floating home where Hanks’ character lived in the movie (it’s privately owned). Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner have numerous scenes in and around Pike Place Market, the city’s famed public market, with fish-throwers, chocolate artisans, artists, musicians and more. And if you’re flying in to SeaTac, seek out gate N7, which is where Hanks and Ryan see each other for the first time. Photo op!

‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ — Chicago, Illinois

Kathryn Seckman Kirsch / Shutterstock.com

It was over 30 years ago that Ferris Bueller, Cameron and Sloane had their infamous “Day Off” in Chicago. You can all but recreate their skip day, but BYO Ferrari. First, plan your trip for a day when the Cubs are playing a home game, so you can root, root, root for the home team at Wrigley Field like Ferris and pals. Head over to the acclaimed Art Institute of Chicago to stare at George Seurat’s pointillist painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” as Cameron does (filmmaker John Hughes saw it as a metaphor for moviemaking, according to The Washington Post). Willis Tower (called Sears Tower when “Ferris” came out) is where the characters marveled at the view 103 stories below. New since Ferris’ time: You can walk out on the terrifying glass floor called The Ledge. Sadly, Cameron’s iconic glass-walled house sold for $1.06 million in 2014, and is a private residence, and Ferris’ house is in Los Angeles. But you can drive by and gawk at suburban Glenbrook North High School, which played Ferris’ school as well as the high school in Hughes’ “Breakfast Club.”

‘Jaws’ — Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

Mark Martins / Shutterstock.com

You’re gonna need a bigger boat when you go hunting “Jaws” locations on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. The island stood in for the fictional Amity Island, which was stalked by a great white shark in Peter Benchley’s novel and the resulting 1975 summer blockbuster. Stake out a spot in pristine South Beach in Edgartown, which is where the movie’s opening scene (and, uh, first shark death) was filmed — it’s a favorite beach for many for swimming, fishing, skimboarding and just plain relaxing. Ride the Chappy Ferry between Edgartown and Chappaquiddick for a real shark-eye view: The ferry served as a camera boat on the film, and also appeared in a scene. And don’t miss the “Jaws Bridge,” which connects Edgartown and Oak Bluffs, site of one of the film’s pivotal shark attacks. What’s that sound in the distance? Duh-duh. Duh-duh …

‘Vertigo’ — San Francisco and surroundings, California

Asif Islam / Shutterstock.com

Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” is a 1958 film noir classic, and though much of it was filmed on Los Angeles sound stages, its San Francisco setting is very much a character. Jimmy Stewart tracks Kim Novak to the Legion of Honor art museum to find her staring at a (fictional) painting. The Mission San Juan Bautista, about 100 miles south of San Francisco, is also featured prominently in the film, though here, movie magic plays a role. Hitch added the bell tower using scale models and other trickery, and the terrifying tower staircase that gives Stewart vertigo was built in a studio. And though the film mentions Muir Woods, IMDb says those scenes were really filmed at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Both are breathtaking natural sites worth a visit.

‘The Shining’ — Estes Park, Colorado

The Stanley Hotel
The Stanley Hotel / Money Talks News

Stephen King’s “The Shining” has to be included, even though it doesn’t quite fit with the other filming locations we list here. Not a single scene from the Stanley Kubrick-directed 1980 horror film was shot at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado — but it is indeed the real hotel that inspired King to write the 1977 novel. (And it was used in the 1997 TV miniseries that’s not as well-known as the Jack Nicholson movie.) King and his wife, Tabitha, reportedly were the only guests at the Stanley on the night before Halloween in 1974, as the imposing hotel was just about to close for the winter. That’s where King found his inspiration for the spooky tale of a troubled writer-turned-caretaker who slowly loses his sanity to the hotel’s ghosts. The hotel offers a daytime tour (kids 5+ allowed) and a nighttime “spirit” tour (no kids under 10) that peek into the building’s century-old history, its supposed hauntings, and discuss the movie’s inspiration. As for the Kubrick movie, most of it was shot on sets in England.

‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ — Devils Tower, Wyoming

Edwin Verin / Shutterstock.com

In some movies, the aliens choose to land in a giant city, or among the ice and snow of the Arctic. But in Steven Spielberg’s 1977 “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” it’s the breathtaking Devils Tower National Monument in northeastern Wyoming that beckons to our extraterrestrial pals. It’s understandable — humans have been drawn to Devils Tower for centuries, and it was the United States’ first-ever declared national monument, earning that designation in 1906. In the movie, it becomes the alien mothership’s landing site. In reality, you can hike the trails, snap scenic selfies, visit Prairie Dog Town, camp out at the Belle Fourche River Campground, and become a Junior Ranger (age 4 through adult). And of course, keep your eyes on the skies, just in case E.T. phones home. Wait — wrong movie.

Have you woven movie settings into your travels? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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