Movie Quest 2008
Move over Oscar! We have our own thoughts about which movies won our hearts in 2008. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the 10 most travel-inspiring movies—and how you, too, can have cinematic moments on your next trip.
10. GET SMART
Washington, D.C., Russia, and Los Angeles
The comedic spy saga—and homage to the 1960s TV show—follows Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) and Agent 86 (Steve Carell) on their first mission as partners. It's no small task: The duo must track down Kaos, a gang of international terrorists, before it assassinates the U.S. president.
Undercover D.C. The agents work for a clandestine agency headquartered in a secret office at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. (202/633-1000, mnh.si.edu, free). The museum wasn't identified in the movie, but staffers did allow the crew to film Agent 86 in the rotunda. In the scene, he walks past a tour group looking at spy artifacts, which were actually just props for the film. A few blocks away, the International Spy Museum has a large collection of espionage memorabilia on display, including a lipstick-shaped pistol (866/779-6873, spymuseum.org, $18).
Romantic Red Square The partners swap stories about their pasts on a stroll through Moscow's Red Square. For the best people-watching, the Bosco Bar caféwith psychedelic plastic chairs straight out of the '70s—has views of Lenin's mausoleum (011-7/495-627-3703).
Big bang The final showdown with Kaos unfolds at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. As the orchestra tunes up, the clock ticks: Kaos has planted a bomb in the piano that will explode when the orchestra hits a certain chord of a symphony. If you'd like to catch a performance of the Los Angeles Philharmonic this winter, the group will be playing one of conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen's favorite Stravinsky pieces, The Rite of Spring (laphil.com, from $42).
9. SEX AND THE CITY
New York City
Four years after the HBO series wrapped, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and friends roam Manhattan again—on the big screen.
Making history One look at the majestic beaux arts staircase in the main branch of The New York Public Library and Carrie was hooked: This was where she would finally marry Mr. Big (Chris Noth). The 97-year-old library, a few blocks west of Grand Central Terminal, also owns some of the country's oldest historical documents, including a copy of the Declaration of Independence that was handwritten by Thomas Jefferson in 1776 (212/340-0849, nypl.org).
Central casting Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) confesses her marital problems to Carrie over a picnic lunch in the Ladies' Pavilion at Central Park. The cast-iron Victorian structure, named after the women who once used its benches to change into their ice skates, borders Central Park's lake between 75th and 76th streets (centralparknyc.org). "There aren't too many places in Manhattan where you can sit and really take in the city's skyline," says location manager Michael Kriaris. "Central Park is one of those spots, but since we were shooting in autumn, and the scene was supposed to take place in the spring, we had to truck in our own plants and flowers!"
A cheesy reception When Carrie and Mr. Big tie the knot, their brunch reception is held at Junior's, a Brooklyn diner that's been serving New York–style cheesecakes since 1950. The legendary dessert, a Rosen family recipe for three generations, is served plain, embellished with plump cherries, and even topped with red-and-green chocolate chips for Christmas (718/852-5257, slices from $6).
8. KUNG FU PANDA
In the animated flick from DreamWorks, a rather klutzy and portly Chinese panda named Po (Jack Black) is unexpectedly chosen to fulfill an ancient prophecy and become the fearless Dragon Warrior.
Hero's home cooking Po's father is the owner of a traditional noodle house, and he expects his reluctant son to take over the family business someday. To watch real-life chefs sling 10 varieties of noodles by hand, try the Noodle Loft in Beijing, whose house specialty is qiao mian mao erduo, a cat's ear-shaped buckwheat noodle served with chicken or beef broth (011-86/10-6774-9950, from $12).
Palace on a hill Even though Po completes intense training to become the Dragon Warrior, the pudgy panda gets winded trekking up to the sprawling Jade Palace, where the mousy Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) instructs his students in the fine art of kung fu. The setting was modeled after the Summer Palace, a massive imperial complex of more than 3,000 ornate bridges, temples, and pavilions built on Longevity Hill in Beijing (011-86/10-6288-1144, summerpalace-china.com, from $3).