In life you are bound to encounter a number of people who don’t watch TV, avoid books or ignore performance art altogether (including sports). But rarely will you encounter someone who says they don’t watch movies—they’re just that universal.
Because of this, film tourism (or “location vacations”) are a big deal. Indeed, scores of scenic or otherwise interesting places might not have entered our collective radars had some movie director chose to shoot somewhere else.
A few of those backdrops are more iconic and perhaps more deserving of a visit. Anyway, here are my favorites:
George Lucas—the most successful movie director of all time—was heavily influenced by this small but open North African nation. He shot Star Wars in the Ksour region and much of Raiders of The Lost Ark in the city of Tozeur. But Lucas wasn’t the only movie-maker drawn to beautiful Tunisia; Monty Python’s Life of Brian, The English Patient, and several others were shot here.
Best time to visit: November—April.
In 1988, Universal Studios built a picturesque baseball diamond between two inviting cornfields here to romanticize and immortalize the beloved American game. Thirty years after building it, Field of Dreams fans still come in droves to explore the heavenly scenery, pay homage to the unchanged grounds, and even play ball at the official movie site. “Still magic after all these years,” one visitor recently remarked. “I didn’t know how much I wanted to see it until I was finally there.”
Best time to visit: August.
Is it any wonder that movies are headquartered in arguably the most beautiful and diverse stretch of land on the planet—not to mention the one with the most accommodating weather and lighting? No, I say. It is not. Welcome to California. Although tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of movies have been filmed in the Golden State, Jaws, The Graduate, Terminator, E.T., Pulp Fiction, Top Gun, The Karate Kid, La La Land and anything shot near the Vasquez Rocks are most famous.
Best time to visit: May—October for beaches; November—December to avoid crowds.
I’ve seen firsthand why New Zealand is such a popular filming location. Like California, its surroundings are stunning. Unlike California, its two small islands are much more concentrated, which explains why Lord of the Rings, King Kong, Avatar, The Last Samurai, and my personal cult favorite Willow were all shot here.
Best time to visit: November—April for sun; June—August for skiing.
If Harry Goulding hadn’t moved to this sacred place on the border of eastern Utah and Arizona in the 1920s, he wouldn’t have fallen in love and would have never traveled to Hollywood to convince John Ford to shoot a slew of famous Westerns here. Had that never happened, Stagecoach, The Searchers, Back To The Future III, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Forrest Gump, Road Runner, and 50 other movies attempting to channel this iconic American backdrop would have looked very different than they do today.
Honorable mention: Astoria, Oregon because Goonies never say die!
Off the Grid columnist Blake Snow writes epic stories for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. Follow him @blakesnow