Are you ready to travel but a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of fandom-based tourism? Pop-culture travel can feel intimidating because it is travel with a deep, personal connection to your favorite literature, movies, television shows and more. Whether you are just checking out a restaurant you saw in a reality show or you’re traveling to a new country with a hit list of filming locations to visit while in full costume, pop-culture travel has something for everyone.
Pop-culture travel is an opportunity to really connect to your fandoms in a more tangible way. Read all about it in my Beginner’s Guide to Pop-Culture Travel.
Here are eleven ideas to help jumpstart your pop-culture travel planning:
Are you an Indiana Jones fan? Even if you’re not, you’ll likely recognize this historic and archeological city in Southern Jordan. Petra is a UNESCO world heritage site and has been voted a New World of the World. This city has been used as a backdrop for many films include Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Arabian Nights, Passion in the Desert, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, The Mummy Returns, Krrish 3, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and have also been seen on television shows, music videos, and referenced in plays and literature.
Iceland is known for looking almost otherworldly. It’s no surprise that it is often used as a backdrop to represent other worlds or, at least, alternative locations. Filming sites for Game of Thrones can be found all around the island. Films such as Prometheus, Interstellar, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens also used Iceland as a backdrop. But that’s not all. Iceland stands in for the Himalayas in Batman Begins and for Siberia in Captain America: Civil Wars. Journey to the Center of the Earth was set in and around Snæfellsjökull. And really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. LOTR. The Shire. Mount Doom. Mordor. The Paths of the Dead. Edoras. Rivendell. Hobbiton Woods. River Anduin. Gardens of Isengard. Enough said. But just in case it isn’t, Avatar, The Chronicles of Narnia, King Kong, Wolverine, The Last Samurai.
Enoshima (Shōnan) and Kamakura district, Tokyo
If you love anime and manga, you probably know about these districts of Tokyo. Seen in the opening theme of the 1990s anime series Slam Dunk, and then in many subsequent anime and manga series including Ping Pong, Squid Girl, Tari Tari and more.
If Dubrovnik wasn’t already on your radar by 2011, Game of Thrones certainly helped get it there. Dubrovnik’s defensive city stone walls that stretch completely around the old town are the setting for King’s Landing. And that’s not all. You’ll find many iconic and recognizable spots from Game of Thrones all near and around Dubrovnik, including the Pile Gate from the riot scene in Episode 2, Season 6. Dubrovnik has also recently been seen as the Monaco-inspired casino planet, Canto Bight, in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. And if you’re a musical fan, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again filmed on the island of Vis which is a ferry ride away from Dubrovnik.
Empire State Building, New York City, USA
The Empire State Building is a 102-story skyscraper in New York City and is one of the world’s most recognizable buildings. Perhaps its most recognizable pop-culture moment is in 1933’s King Kong when the giant ape climbs to the top of the building in an attempt to escape his captors. Or perhaps Sleepless in Seattle, a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan romantic comedy that uses the Empire State Building as a location, just like a number of other similar romcoms, like Love Affair (1939 and 1994) and An Affair to Remember. Honestly, the pop-culture references for the Empire State Building would take pages and pages of writing to go over in detail. Needless to say, I’m not surprised that this building makes it onto many pop-culture must see lists.
North Carolina, USA
North Carolina is the backdrop of a number of pop-culture staples, from The Hunger Games to the Last of the Mohicans. Or how about when Forrest Gump just kept running? He was running on a road that leads to the famous Biltmore Estate. The Swan with Grace Kelly also filmed at Biltmore. What about the book The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks? And I can’t forget Dawson’s Creek which was filmed all around North Carolina but mainly in historic Wilmington.
Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Georgia, USA
This 47-story hotel in downtown Atlanta might not be as recognizable from the outside, but step inside and I bet you’ll recognize its large atrium. You see the hotel in the films The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. The atrium is also in the 1986 movie Manhunter. If you watched Loki on Disney+, you’ll recognize the hotel as the Time Variance Authority headquarters. The Denzel Washington film, Flight, also used the hotel as a location.
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England
Stratford-upon-Avon is an historic little town on the River Avon in the English county of Warwickshire. Millions of people visit Stratford-upon-Avon every year. Why, you ask? Well, it’s best known as the hometown of English playwright and poet, William Shakespeare. If you are a theatre fan, but especially a fan of Shakespeare, Stratford is a must see destination. It is also the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Kauai, Hawaii, USA
There are too many instances where Kauai plays an important part of pop-culture history. I couldn’t possibly name them all, but we can chat about a few. Lilo & Stitch. I mean, come on. So good. Jurassic Park? The waterfall that the helicopter lands in front of – it’s called Manawaiopuna Falls and you can totally visit it by helicopter. They’ll even play the music. Kee Beach is used as the backdrop for Lord of the Flies. Did you like the book or movie The Descendents? It’s based in Kauai. South Pacific was filmed all across Kauai, as well. The Napali Coast can be seen in Six Days/Seven Nights. And the list goes on.
Tunisia is a beautiful country. If you are a Star Wars fan, Tunisia is a must visit pop-culture travel opportunity. You probably know about the planet of Tatooine, but did you know that Tatooine is a “real” place you can visit in Tunisia in a town called Tataouine? The majority of the desert scenes from the original Star Wars films, as well as subsequent films, were filmed in Tunisia. Many of the original sets are still standing today. Ong Jemal is home to the town of Mos Espa, which is still mostly intact and can be visited. Photo op time! Find the entrance dome of Luke Skywalker’s home in the Tunisian town of Nefta. It’s in pretty great condition since it was rebuilt for Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Don’t worry. There’s even more, but you’ll need to head there and check it out!