by Kelly Potts
Over the past five years, a new phenomenon has propelled an unprecedented number of travelers to destinations that once were considered obscure. It’s called the “Game of Thrones Effect,” and countries like Iceland and Croatia are reveling in it. But Game of Thrones’ directors are far from alone in their talent for picking set locations that double as desirable vacation spots.
Since the launch of last summer’s supremely binge-watchable ’80s throwback series, who among us hasn’t imagined unspeakable horrors escaping from the government’s local lab every time a light flickers? Bellwood Quarry in Atlanta, Georgia, is arguably the series’ most recognizable site, featured in two pivotal scenes involving a corpse and feats of telekinetic super strength.
Muggles traveling to London can get a taste of what it’s like to board the Hogwarts Express by visiting King’s Cross Station, the location for Platform 9¾. The station’s tribute to wizarding students is marked by a sign and a photo-op-conducive luggage cart careening into the wall. To explore Diagon Alley and the Leaky Cauldron, head to London’s Victorian-era Leadenhall Market, where scenes from the first film were captured.
Your aircraft need not reach lightspeed to transport you to a galaxy far, far away. In fact, several scenes from the original trilogy were filmed within road trip distance for Arizonans. Filmmakers chose the Imperial Sand Dunes in California, just 20 miles west of Yuma, for a crucial Return of the Jedi scene that pits Jabba the Hut against Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber-wielding acrobatic skills. In the same film, the forest moon of Endor, home to the fierce, furry Ewoks, was shot in Redwood National Park.
The western coast of Ireland in County Clare is home to the Cliffs of Moher, one of the most iconic landmarks in the country. These cliffs might also be recognized by devotees of the cult classic Princess Bride as The Cliffs of Insanity. Wesley scales these cliffs by hand in pursuit of Princess Buttercup’s kidnappers, a heroic feat that travelers, upon seeing the 700-foot plunge into the Atlantic from the cliff’s edge, will find inconceivable.
The ornate, 108-year-old Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, was the inspiration for Steven King’s chilling 1977 novel. Director Stanley Kubrick, however, was reportedly nauseated by the idea of shooting his interpretation of the story inside “a wedding cake.” Though the hotel never saw Kubrick’s camera crew, it honors the movie’s legacy and the hotel’s haunted history during its daily historic tours and nightly ghost tours. Guests seeking their own paranormal experience can inquire about upgrading to a haunted room at check-in.
The Wizard of Oz
Turns out Dorothy’s house wasn’t uprooted from Kansas — the entire movie was filmed in an indoor studio in Culver City, California. Nevertheless, the small town of Liberal, Kansas, has devoted itself to recreating the film’s setting. At Dorothy’s House in the Land of Oz, located on the grounds of the Seward County Coronado Museum, guides sporting ruby slippers lead tourists from a replica of Dorothy’s house down a yellow brick road. The road leads to a 5,000-square-foot exhibit that features displays of the Emerald City, the wizard’s chambers, and cast memorabilia.
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