May 29, 2024

Top 10 Filming Locations to Visit

The film industry has changed dramatically since the Golden Age of Hollywood, when the majority of movies and television shows were filmed in Los Angeles. New production centers are emerging all over the world. More than 40 states now offer tax breaks for movie and TV productions [source: Little, Satake]. Filming outside of the United States is also increasingly popular. For example, Woody Allen, known early in his career for filming exclusively in New York, films in Paris, Barcelona and London [source: Itzkoff].

Hollywood is still a major epicenter for film, but it has to compete for the business. According to Film L.A. Inc., a non-profit group trying to lure production back to Los Angeles, on-location filming of feature films, television shows and commercials in Los Angeles shrank 19 percent in 2009 [source: Verrier]. The trend began slowly in the late 1960s, primarily because moviemakers needed ways to cut production costs. By the 1980s, affordable "runaway studios" -- built in places such as Utah, Texas and Tunisia -- were becoming the norm.


Hollywood's loss of film production is a boost to local economies all over the globe, from rural communities to metro areas. Not only does filming on location create jobs and revenue in the short term, it builds long-term economic strength by attracting tourists and film buffs who enjoy visiting places where their favorite movies have been filmed.

Keep reading for details about some of the world's most fascinating filming locations.

Producer Frank Capra Jr. put Wilmington on the moviemaking map in 1983 when he filmed a portion of the horror film "Firestarter" on an old rice plantation near the outskirts of town. Capra's discovery sparked a fire of its own. The picturesque coastal city of about 90,000 -- often called "Wilmywood" or "Hollywood East" -- quickly emerged as a major force in movie production [source: Little]. More than 300 movies and TV shows have been filmed in Wilmington, including "A Walk to Remember," "Weekend at Bernie's," "Nights in Rodanthe," "Cape Fear," "Matlock," "Dawson's Creek" and "One Tree Hill." Film-related activities now make up more than 11 percent of the local economy [source: Colin].

Because of its mild climate, ocean views and rich history, Wilmington already has a lot going for it as a vacation spot. Add tours of the area's largest movie studios and filming locations to the mix, and you've got a one-of-a-kind getaway. Popular pre-planned tours include the 90-minute Hollywood Location Walk of Old Wilmington and the EUE/Screen Gems Studios tour. However, it's easy to explore Wilmington without a tour guide. All you need is a good map and an adventurous attitude. To avoid crowds, consider visiting in the fall or early spring.


Filmmakers can't resist the allure of Savannah. It's a drop-dead gorgeous place. This soulful city on Georgia's Atlantic coast blends traditional Southern charm with free-spirited eccentricity. More than 80 movies and TV shows have been filmed in Savannah, including "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," "Forrest Gump," "Something to Talk About" and "Ruby," the hit reality show on the Style Channel.

There are several movie tour options in Savannah, and virtually every one offers glimpses of filming locations from "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." The non-fiction book -- and subsequent 1997 movie starring Kevin Spacey -- created legions of fans, and many of them express their devotion by making a pilgrimage to Savannah. Whatever you do, don't miss out on seeing the hauntingly beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery, one of the centerpieces of the book and movie.


Other highlights of moviemaking history in Savannah include the famous park bench from the 1994 blockbuster "Forrest Gump," which is now housed in a museum, and the Six Pence Pub, a downtown bar and eatery where portions of the romantic comedy "Something to Talk About" were filmed in 1994. Savannah is rated as one of the 10 best walking cities in the country by Walking Magazine. It's no wonder that movie tours centered on walking are popular tourists' choices.

Here's a word to the wise about Savannah: Not only is it hot and humid in the summer; it's also vulnerable to hurricanes. Although summertime is a traditional time to take a trip, there are fewer crowds and mild weather in the Savannah during the fall, winter and spring, making it a great place to plan an "off-season" vacation.

Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States, best known for its diverse neighborhoods, historical events connected to the American Revolution, and top-notch schools such as Harvard University and Boston College. It's also a longtime favorite of filmmakers. More than 400 movies have been filmed in Boston, including classics such as "The Verdict" and "The Thomas Crown Affair," and more recent award winners such as "Mystic River," "The Departed" and "Good Will Hunting." Boston is equally popular as a setting for TV shows. "Cheers," "Ally McBeal" and "The Practice" were filmed in Bean Town.

An array of sights and destinations attract tourists to Boston -- from Fenway Park to Harvard Square. It's not easy to get around by car in this fast-paced metropolis. It's one movie town where a planned walking or bus tour makes a lot of sense. There's Theater-on-Wheels, a 2-1/2 hour tour of movie and television filming sites, and the Movie Mile, a two-hour guided walking tour of more than a dozen locations from well-known films and shows such as "The Parent Trap," "The Last Detail," "Cheers," "Malice" and "Spenser: For Hire."


Sometimes a sleeper of a movie manages to carve out a spot in the public's psyche. That's what happened with "Groundhog Day," the 1994 comedy starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell. The film was a critical and box office success when it was released in 1994. But the magic of the movie didn't stop there. It has remained enduringly popular among all age groups, not unlike iconic film favorites such as "It's a Wonderful Life."

Some of the magic rubbed off on Woodstock, Ill., the Midwestern town of about 25,000 where most of "Groundhog Day" was filmed. Woodstock, about 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) from Chicago, is now a destination for tourists and movie buffs who love the movie's message of second chances and redemption. Woodstock's stores, cafes, parks and public buildings offer an especially strong sense of place for those familiar with the movie.


At the beginning of every February, Woodstock presents its annual Groundhog Day Festival. You can catch a free showing of the movie at the local theater, take a guided walking tour or join in on in-depth discussions about life lessons in the movie at symposium hosted by a film enthusiast. If you can't make it to the annual festival, a detailed walking tour map of the historic square can be downloaded at the city's Web site.

One of the hottest film location sites of the past decade is Budapest, Hungary. Filmmakers flock to the city because of its central Eastern Europe location, low cost of labor and deep government discounts on production. Another unique characteristic of Budapest: Its streets and storefronts can easily be made to look like scenes in London, Paris and Moscow. Veteran film producer Denise Di Novi, who is co-producing the upcoming movie "Monte Carlo" with Academy Award-winning actress Nicole Kidman, told The New York Times in July 2010 that filming the movie in Budapest, instead of Paris, trimmed millions off the film's budget [source: Bilefsky]. Films made in Budapest include "Dinotopia," "An American Rhapsody" and Steven Spielberg's "Munich."

Although there are few options for formal movie location touring, it's easy to strike out on your own with a guidebook and a little knowledge of films made in the city.


Seattle is known for being a place where quirky geniuses such as billionaire Bill Gates, glass artist Dale Chihuly and grunge rocker Kurt Cobain were able to start creative projects and grow them into world-changing movements in business, art and music. The character of the Seattle movie scene is similar. Not every film or TV show filmed in the Seattle area is an eccentric game-changer, but a number of them are. They include Cameron Crowe's 1989 romantic comedy, "Say Anything," the poetic TV comedy, "Northern Exposure," the cult TV hit "Twin Peaks," the blockbuster 1993 romantic comedy, "Sleepless in Seattle" and the 2008 wilderness drama, "Into the Wild."

The Space Needle is a favorite landmark and a centerpiece of several well-known movies. It took center stage in the 1963 Elvis Presley's hit "It Happened at the World's Fair," Warren Beatty's 1994 thriller "The Parallax View" and Mike Myers's 1999 comedy "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me."


One of the most asked-about Seattle film locations is the 2,700-square-foot (250.8-square-meter) houseboat featured in "Sleepless in Seattle." The boat still floats, but it's difficult to see since it's privately owned. The observation deck on top of the Space Needle has a map that pinpoints the area on Lake Union where the boat is docked. It is also included in a tour of Seattle landmarks offered by Ride the Ducks, a company that uses amphibious vehicles to take patrons on land and sea sight-seeing excursions.

Seattle doesn't have a lot of organized movie tour options, but the Mayor's Office of Film and Video publishes a detailed guide of film locations throughout Washington state. The free guide makes it easy to create a self-guided tour [source: [url=' of Seattle[/url']].

When Paris takes center stage in a film, it often commands as much attention as the storyline and actors. The city's cinematic history is laden with memorable movies -- from Jean-Luc Godard's French language masterpiece "Breathless" to the classic Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant romance "Charade." Although the City of Light's film identity is steeped in history, it's also a modern day film lover's paradise. Here are some suggestions for movie tours of Paris that focus on very recent films:

Fans of "La Vie En Rose," the 2007 biographical drama about French singer Edith Piaf, can go it alone or take a guided tour of Paris through Piaf's eyes. Highlights include the Belleville district, where Piaf spent her early years, and the Paris Olympia Concert Hall, where the troubled songbird performed.


The beloved 2001 French movie hit, "Amelie," takes place almost entirely in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris. Fans of the movie love the adventure of discovering the Café des Deux, the slightly hard-to-find café where Amelie worked as a waitress [source:]. There are numerous walking tours available in the district.

"The DaVinci Code," the 2006 religious mystery adapted from Dan Brown's massive bestseller, sparked a new wave of movie tour-based business in Paris. Fans of the book and movie, often very passionate about every detail of the story, can retrace Robert Langdon's footsteps. There are professional guides in Paris prepared to give detailed walking tours based on the movie, scene by scene, clue by clue.

Steven Spielberg's gripping Holocaust drama "Schindler's List" won seven Academy Awards and exposed millions of movie goers to the true story of Oskar Schindler. The selfish businessman, portrayed by Liam Neeson in the 1993 film, becomes an unlikely hero when he turns his vodka factory into a safe haven for Jews during World War II. The movie shows hope and redemption are possible, even during one of the darkest periods in history.

"Schindler's List" had a huge impact on movie tour industry in Krakow, opening up avenues for tourism based in Jewish history and heritage [source: Silverman]. Many "Schindler's List"-inspired tours are available in Krakow. Some focus on Kazimierz, the city's former Jewish district where much of the movie was filmed, and Podgórze, where Schindler's vodka factory still stands. The factory, which has been turned into a historical museum, is considered a must-see because of its profound educational value. Some organized tours widen the scope of Schindler's history lesson by including a side trip to the Auschwitz concentration camp.


Making a pilgrimage to Krakow is relatively inexpensive, especially in the off season. Visitors often discover that the city has more to offer than a sobering history lesson. In fact, Oskar Schindler would likely approve of Krakow's modern-day personality. It's a gorgeous, bustling city with a thriving cultural arts scene.

Vancouver has a lot going for it -- breathtaking scenery, a temperate climate, and a thriving film production industry that pumps more than $1 billion a year into the local economy [source: British Columbia Film Commission]. The city is often called "Hollywood North" because it's such an intricate beehive of moviemaking activities. It's now the third-largest film production center in North America and the second-largest location for television production outside of Los Angeles. Over a period of about 15 years, more than 2,000 films and TV shows have been shot in Vancouver, including "The X-Files," "Juno," "Stargate SG-5," "Men in Trees" and "Romeo Must Die."

There's a lot to choose from when it comes to enjoying Vancouver's film and television scene [source: limousine. There are several large movie studios in the region, some of which are included on guided tours. Visitors can see working sets from hit TV shows such as "Smallville" and "Supernatural" by signing up for guided tours. The recent vampire blockbuster, "Twilight," was partially filmed in Vancouver. As result, there's a huge demand for "Twilight"-related tours, and there's certainly no shortage of them. It's often worth it to hire a tour guide in Vancouver -- guides are typically up-to-date on interesting trivia related to all the various productions and movie stars.


"The Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy cost almost $300 million to produce and took eight years to complete [source: Brown]. Luckily, the movies were a huge financial and critical success. They drew worldwide attention to New Zealand, the island country in the South Pacific where the trilogy was filmed by resident and native Peter Jackson. "Lord of the Rings" gave New Zealand an opportunity to show off to the world.

Movie tourism tied to Peter Jackson's ambitious projects is now flourishing in New Zealand. Many location tours are designed for the avid fan ready for full immersion in the kingdom of hobbits, elves, wizards and dwarves. One elaborate excursion lasts 12 days and covers breathtaking film locations on two islands. There are also more modest choices that only require a couple of hours.

"Whale Rider" is another movie that brought attention to the New Zealand's stunning beauty and indigenous culture. The surprise 2002 hit movie tells the story of a 12-year-old Maori girl and her family's struggle to accept her ability to lead, despite the tribe's tradition of being guided by men. Guided tours are available in Whangara, the tiny beachside village (population 30) where "Whale Rider" was filmed. One travel agency offers the "Whale Rider Self Drive" [source: Goway]. You get a rental car, an elaborate guidebook and an 11-day itinerary with directions to notable scenes in the movie, accommodations and tickets to Maori concerts and educational presentations.

For more on the movie industry, tourism and other related topics, take a look at the links on the next page.