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8 Best TV & Movie Tours
Sure, Los Angeles and New York City get most of the credit and the glory. But many movies and TV shows are actually shot in incredible locations around the country. Lights! Camera! Action! Here are our eight favorite location tours. 1. BOSTON Boston Movie Mile Walking Tour; 1.5 hours; adults, $27, kids $19, private tours available; 866-982-2114; onlocationtours.com/tour/boston-movie-mile Bahstan is a filmmaker’s town. It’s home to Ben and Matt, after all, and also to more than 400 movies and TV shows. Find out why it’s so popular on this walking tour. Drinks at the Bull and Finch Pub, for Cheers, are an absolute must. Then sit on the park benches where Robin Williams and Matt Damon chatted in Good Will Hunting, check out the historic homes in The Thomas Crown Affair and get “made” at one of Jack Nicholson’s mob hangouts from The Departed. (Sorry, make that the Depahted.) Wicked cool: getting to read scripts exactly where they were shot. 2. ATLANTA Big Zombie Tour Part 1; 3 hours; $69 adults, $55 kids; 855-255-3456; atlantamovietours.com/tours/big-zombie-tour The. Walking. Dead. Need we say more? Watch clips from the show on a comfy bus as you visit exact locations. The hospital where Rick first woke up from his coma. The Goat Farm Arts Center abandoned building from “the Vatos.” The Jackson Street Bridge (selfies encouraged!). Every tour is led by a zombie extra who offers insider-only deets and runs a killer trivia game session. (Did you know that HBO passed on the series because it felt it was too violent?) Huge fans should sign up for Parts 2 and 3, plus there’s a walking tour! 3. NEW ORLEANS Original New Orleans Movie and TV Tours; 2 hours; adults $43, children $29; 225-240-8648; nolamovies.com If you’re lucky, you’ll hear the director yell “cut!” during this NOLA excursion, which offers a fun mix of live filmmaking (as of press time, NCIS: New Orleans was shooting), celebrity homes (Sandra Bullock! Brad Pitt!) and location tours including NOLA standbys Interview with the Vampire, Vampire Diaries, True Blood, American Horror Story, and Twilight. Don’t worry, the classics are represented too, including A Streetcar Named Desire and Easy Rider. All neighborhoods are covered, including the French Quarter, the Warehouse District and the Garden District. 4. WILMINGTON, NC Hollywood Location Walk; 1.5 hours; $13 adults, kids free; 910-794-1866; hauntedwilmington.com/hollywood-location-walk.html Wilmington, NC, otherwise known as “Wilmywood” or “Hollywood East,” has been a moviemaking mecca since director Mark L. Lester shot Firestarter here in 1983. Customize your tour and see the locations for teen faves Dawson’s Creek (the famous dock where Dawson pined away for Joey) and One Tree Hill (Blue Post Billiards, where Lucas and Sophia went on their first “tattoo” date), Cape Fear (the Memorial Bridge), Dream a Little Dream (the Coreys’ high school) and Weekend at Bernies (the lighthouse where Parker gets temporarily blinded). Or check out movie props, set pieces, and interiors, hear about your favorite actors, or find out how a winter wonderland is created in the heat of summer. 5. OAHU Hollywood Movie Site Tour, Kualoa Ranch; 90 minutes; adults $49.50, children $39.95; 808-237-7321; kualoa.com/toursactivities A vintage bus takes you 45 minutes from Honolulu to Kualoa Ranch, a 4,000 acre nature reserve billed as “the backlot of Hawaii” thanks to its role in dozens of movies and TV shows since the 1950s, including Jurassic Park, Lost, Magnum P.I., The Hunger Games, Jumanji, Hawaii Five- O, and Pearl Harbor. Examine Godzilla’s footprints, stand at the Jurassic Park gate, and check out the bunkers on Lost. An amazing World War II army bunker houses lots of props, movie posters, and memorabilia. 6. CHICAGO Chicago Film Tour; 2 hours; call for rates; 312-593-4455; chicagofilmtour.com Chi-town neighborhoods absolutely make this tour - Wrigleyville Uptown, the Gold Coast, Old Town – all home to more than 80 films over the past 100 years. Check out locations from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (where surely you’ll want to “Twist and Shout” through Federal Plaza), The Dark Knight (the Chicago Post Office), Transformers 3 (The Uptown Theatre), My Best Friend’s Wedding (the White Sox ballpark), and The Untouchables (South La Salle St.). A tour guide offers up fun film facts and trivia. (Did you know: “Twist and Shout” is the only original version of a Beatles song to appear twice in the top 40, thanks to FBDO and Matthew Broderick’s famous parade scene.) 7. PHILADELPHIA Philadelphia Movie Stars Tour, 2.5 hours, private tours from $33 per person; 215-625-7980; moviesitestour.com Lace up your running shoes to take on the 68 steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rocky-style. This tour takes you there, plus past City Hall, the Italian Market and Ninth Street where Rocky did his training runs. Check out scenes from Tom Hanks’ Philadelphia including the law firm building where Andrew Beckett worked (The Mellon Bank Building) and the library where he studied case law (The University of Pennsylvania Fine Arts Library). The Sixth Sense (St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church), Trading Places (Rittenhouse Square), and Twelve Monkeys (the Met Theatre) are also big stars on this tour. 8. WASHINGTON, DC Washington DC TV and Movie Sites Tour; 2.5 hours; from $40; taketours.com/washington-dc Where else you gonna shoot movies like Air Force One, Independence Day, A Few Good Men, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? Our nation’s capital is a Hollywood dream with some of the most recognizable buildings and monuments in the world (the Lincoln Memorial is host to drunken nights in Wedding Crashers; Constitutional Hall serves as the White House in the West Wing; the reflecting pool is seen in Forrest Gump, The Firm, and Deep Impact, to name just a few). This tour explores them all, starting in Union Station seen in Hannibal, Minority Report, and the Sentinel, takes you to the steps of the house in The Exorcist, past the bar in St. Elmo’s Fire and to the mall in True Lies. Bonus: Tours are led by local actors.
Ultimate Road Trip: Missouri Cities to “Fall” for This Autumn
It's road trip season, and we've rounded up three of the most scenic, delicious, and entertaining ways to explore Missouri this autumn - or any time.JAZZ, BBQ & A FALL FESTIVALGo to Kansas City for the jazz history, stay for pretty much everything else. After you’ve visited the American Jazz Museum, which houses a functioning music club, and any of the other cultural institutions, get a sense of the city’s vibrant creative energy by wandering through a neighborhood like Old Westport, where inventive restaurants and funky boutiques abound. Just don’t leave Kansas City without trying the legendary barbecue. From no-frills spots like B.B.’s Lawnside BBQ and L.C.’s Bar-B-Q, where lines form hours before they open, to the century-old Arthur Bryant’s, there are plenty of places to dig in.Once you’ve fortified yourself, it’s a 55 mile drive to St. Joseph. The town’s slogan offers a glimpse into its history: Where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended. Rooted firmly in Americana, the city offers a mix of buildings, many of them landmarks, that honor its Civil War era history, as well as more eccentric sites like the Glore Psychiatric Museum and the Patee House Museum, which houses a locomotive and a carousel. Stroll through the Museum Historic District to see well preserved homes in a variety of architectural styles, and then hit the Walter Cronkite Memorial, a tribute to St. Joseph’s native son.Speaking of native sons, Samuel Clemens, who would later be known as Mark Twain, was born in Hannibal, and the town is something of a shrine to him. It’s a straight shot 200 miles east along Highway 36, so make a day of the journey. Today it’s known as “The Way of American Genius.” Stops along the way honor Walt Disney, the inventor of sliced bread, J.C. Penney, and other personalities with ties to the Show-Me State. The highway is also referred to as the VFW Memorial Highway in honor of those who have fought for our country, and tributes to military leaders dating back to the Civil War dot the route. When you get to Hannibal, check out the Mark Twain Boyhood Home, then indulge in homemade root beer and by-the-foot onion rings at Mark Twain Dinette. If you’re traveling this fall, plan to stop here October 20 and 21 for the 42nd Autumn Historic Folklife Festival.NATURAL BEAUTY, BIG-CITY CULTURE & SMALL-TOWN CHARMHistory and contemporary creativity blend easily in Cape Girardeau. The Conservation Nature Center showcases the area as it was hundreds of years ago, and a number of significant 19th-century houses, national landmarks and historic districts pay tribute to the town’s role in the Civil War. But that past almost serves as a backdrop to the modern day artistic energy. An outdoor sculpture exhibit stretches for nine blocks downtown, and First Friday with the Arts puts the city’s vibrant arts scene on display. It makes an excellent prelude to St. Louis, which is about 120 miles north up Interstate 55. About halfway through your journey, pull over in Perryville and check out St. Mary’s of the Barrens Historic District, a sprawling site established in 1818 that includes a church constructed in 1827 and a gorgeous shrine built in 1929.Next stop: St. Louis. You’ll know you’re approaching because the 600-foot-tall iconic Gateway Arch, the country’s tallest man-made monument, greets you from the distance. Not even the most dramatic photos compare to seeing it in real life. St. Louis is a city of very distinct and inspiring neighborhoods, so after you’ve visited one of the local institutions, like the Saint Louis Art Museum or the National Blues Museum, spend an afternoon just wandering. And go hungry: Maplewood offers gastropubs, craft breweries, and an artisanal chocolate shop; South Grand delivers a global feast with Iranian, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Filipino restaurants; the Hill, a historic Italian neighborhood, maintains that culture in its Italian markets and restaurants.Once you’re fueled up, hit the road and head 60 miles west to Hermann, a small town settled by Germans in the late 1830s. That history is evident in the brick buildings that line the main streets, and it’s celebrated every year in October during Oktoberfest. The city was designated one of the first federally recognized American Viticultural Areas in the country. A winery visit or, better yet, a spin through the seven family-owned vineyards along the scenic 20-mile Hermann Wine Trail will give you a thorough understanding—and taste of—one of the city’s defining aspects.After a good night’s rest, continue your western route for 60 miles to Missouri’s capital, Jefferson City. The striking government buildings, from the State Capitol to the old state penitentiary, set the tone for this stunning city, which balances grand architecture and captivating natural sites, like the Katy Trail State Park and Carnahan Memorial Garden. Cafés, diners, brewpubs, and even the historic eateries, like ECCO Lounge, a landmark established in 1945, are among just a few of the dining options.HISTORY, MUSIC & THRILL RIDESJoplin is home to an Official Missouri Welcome Center, so pop in and get oriented. It’s also home to the state’s largest continuously flowing waterfall. (Pro tip: Go there to watch the sunset.) Outdoor sites are plentiful here, not least among them: Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center, situated next to one of the few remaining chert glades, a unique habitat. Dive deeper into the region’s natural resources at the Joplin History and Mineral Museum, or see what local artists are up to at the Spiva Center for the Arts.Prepare for a thorough history lesson in Springfield, the birthplace of Route 66. You can easily spend days exploring the various sites along the stretch of that famous thoroughfare. Start at the Route 66 Springfield Visitor Center to stock up on information, then zoom along to the Route 66 Car Museum, Relics Antique Mall, and Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium. There are restaurants and breweries for pit stops along the way.Schedule plenty of time to explore Branson, about 45 miles south. After all that driving, taking in a show is a fine way to unwind. The city is home to more than 50 theaters that offer everything from family-friendly variety shows to gospel concerts and musicals, to comedy performances. But nobody who comes to Branson stays seated for very long. Tour Marvel Cave, a National Natural Landmark at Silver Dollar City. With 600 steps, it’s certainly a challenge, but you’ll be rewarded by the wonders 300 feet below the surface. For those who prefer their adventures above ground, Branson boasts thrill rides and endless fun. Mountain coasters, ziplines and outdoor recreation are just a few of the ways to take advantage of the natural beauty.With new direct flights in and out of Branson announced in June and more coming in August, now is the perfect time to plan your visit.
Earthquake Safety: Because It Never Hurts to Be Prepared
You may associate the Italian peninsula with a certain amount of historical upheaval—Hannibal leading his conquering army, including war elephants, over the Alps to march on Rome; the Borgias turning the Vatican into their personal playground; Benito Mussolini… well, you get the idea. But we sometimes forget that the region is also prime territory for a more literal kind of upheaval: earthquakes. The 6.3 quake that struck 22 miles north of Bologna in the early morning hours of May 20 killed at least seven people, injured about 50, and was felt as far away as Milan and Venice. More than 3,000 people were evacuated from the region so that building safety could be assessed, and the damage to dozens of churches and other historical sites is still being assessed. Yes, seismic activity is a downside to one of the world’s favorite travel destinations, but a little background info and some preparedness tips should go a long way toward easing your mind. Italy is earthquake-prone because the African tectonic plate is moving northward at the rate of about 2 centimeters per year, pressing against the Eurasian plate. At the same time, there appears to be considerable seismic activity between Italy and Sardinia; along the Apennine Mountains that run down the center of the country; and in the Adriatic Sea, to Italy’s west, where the earth’s crust may be slowly moving under the peninsula. Translation: The stones of Florence—and of Rome, Naples, and Palermo for that matter—may very well shake under your feet. Of course, your chances of being caught in an earthquake are slim, but it never hurts to be prepared. The U.S. Geological Survey offers some easy-to-remember tips for people who live in seismically active areas, such as California, and some of the USGS’s advice can be readily adapted to travel: Duck, cover, and hold. When an earthquake strikes, get under a desk or table and hold on; stay away from windows. If you are outside, get into an open area away from anything that could rain debris on you (buildings, power lines, chimneys). If you are driving, carefully pull over and stop your car (but get clear of bridges, overpasses, trees, or light posts first). Pack smart. Before you leave home, pack a first-aid kit (along with a handbook), bottled water, and several day’s worth of packaged foods (if you bring canned food, don’t forget a mechanical can opener), a portable radio, flashlights, and batteries. Pack at least one pair of sturdy shoes and a set of tough “play” clothes. Make a plan. Agree with your traveling companion(s) in advance on an emergency meeting place in the event that you lose phone reception or your hotel is evacuated. It should be simple and easy to remember—like the public fountain nearest your hotel. When you check in, assess your hotel room for earthquake safety: Remember, an earthquake can make light fixtures fall, furniture move, and shelves fall over. —Robert Firpo-Cappiello SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: 12 Most Beautiful Paths 11 Surprisingly Lovable Airlines 12 Great Memorial Day Getaways
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