For most travel destinations, popularity increases over time. It may take years or decades for a destination to become “trendy” thanks to tourists visiting and slowly spreading the word. For a small percentage of destinations, popularity and notoriety can happen virtually overnight. How? Usually thanks to Hollywood or major television networks. Film and TV destinations have popped up in most major cities around the globe, feeding upon the global love affair with entertainment tourism.
Trending destinations like Rome, Paris, and New York have played host to so many production sets that just about any street you walk down has probably been used in a movie or television show at some point. For smaller, lesser-known destinations, sometimes all it takes is just ONE hit blockbuster or popular TV show and the destination is suddenly firmly planted on the radar of fans.
Here are eight examples of destinations that became popular thanks to a movie or TV show:
Known for: “Westerns”
Monument Valley, Utah
Characterized by rust-red plateaus, sandstone arches, and perfectly-chiseled buttes, this Navajo tribal park located along the border of Utah and Arizona has a landscape so awe-inspiring and memorable that it has starred in countless TV shows, commercials, and Hollywood movies — especially “Westerns”. In fact, director John Ford loved Monument Valley so much that he shot 10 Westerns here, including a few starring John Wayne.
Known for: “Twilight”
Photo by Janet Crum CCBY
This location doesn’t entirely belong on this list, because none of the Twilight movies were actually filmed in Forks – in fact, author Stephenie Meyer had never even visited the former logging town before setting her wildly popular books there. This certainly doesn’t stop Twilight fans from flocking to Forks anyway. After the movies, the town has become almost entirely dedicated to Twilight tourism.
Known for: “The Lord of The Rings”
Even though New Zealand was a popular travel destination before Peter Jackson’s hit films about hobbits and Mount Doom, there’s no arguing that more people were made aware of the small South Pacific country thanks to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The films thrusted New Zealand into the international spotlight, and it wasn’t long until film fans began to book tickets to see Middle-Earth for themselves. The country’s tourism authority has even gone so far as to launch massive marketing campaigns promoting New Zealand as the real Middle-Earth.
Known for: “Hunger Games”
Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina
Photo by Mary Ann Baker CCBY
Just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Mountains (and, more specifically, DuPont State Forest and the Little River) have become popular thanks to the first Hunger Games film. The Arena scenes were filmed on-location in the forest and nearby cities like Henry River Mill Village, Concord, and Charlotte also had starring roles as regions of Panem.
Known for: “Indiana Jones”
Photo by Didier Baertschiger CCBY
Even though the majority of the Indiana Jones movies were filmed elsewhere, the ancient site of Petra nevertheless draws plenty of fans wearing Indy-style hats and searching for adventure. It was here in the Treasury that the Holy Grail was hidden in The Last Crusade.
Known for: “The Beach“
Maya Bay, Thailand
Thailand has a lot of beautiful beaches and bays, but one in particular is famous for starring in a movie. The bay is Maya Bay on the island of Koh Phi Phi Leh, and the movie was The Beach, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio. Today, tourists flock to these turquoise waters by the hundreds every single day – kind of ironic since the main character Leo played was trying to avoid touristy experiences just like this one. Over-crowded or not, though, there’s no arguing that The Beach put this beach on the map – and on tour itineraries.
Known for: “Breaking Bad”
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo by Mike Tungate CCBY
Even though the critically acclaimed Breaking Bad TV series has filmed and aired its final episode, fans of the show are still visiting New Mexico by the busload. The storyline was both set and filmed in the city of Albuquerque, and fans can easily see everything from houses to restaurants that were featured in the series.
Known for: “Tomb Raider“
Ta Prohm Temple, Cambodia
Similar to how tourists visit Petra to let their inner Indiana Jones shine, people visit a specific temple at the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia, to unleash their inner Lara Croft. Angelina Jolie filmed portions of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider amidst these ancient Khmer temples; perhaps most notably Ta Prohm, the Jungle Temple. This beautiful site features gigantic tree roots and creeping vines that are slowly reclaiming the ancient stone. The Angkor temples were somewhat popular before Lara, but now this temple is referred to as the “Tomb Raider Temple” by both guidebooks and local guides, proving just how influential a movie can be on local tourism.
Craving more TV and Film Destinations? Look no further.
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