By: Suzanne Steinert
Following the release of Slumdog Millionaire (2009’s Best Picture Oscar winner) and India’s subsequent boom in tourism, it’s no question – movies trigger the travel bug. We’ve created a list of 10 real-life Oscar film locations, based on the 83rd Academy Awards’ Best Picture nominees, on where to best experience the making of movie magic. Though 2010’s quintessential travel flick Eat, Pray, Love didn’t make the cut, the final candidates run the gamut (and the globe) taking us to the edges of our seats, with a mind-bending journey through dream-like Paris, canyoneering in Utah’s majestic desert-scape, a relishing look at royal London based on Best Picture winner The King’s Speech, and more. Read on for plenty of silver screen inspiration for exploration, and get started planning your own award-winning, set-jetting trip! Get a preview of these Oscar-worthy settings with our Film Locations slideshow.
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Black Swan, New York City
Want to experience the inspiration behind Director Darren Aronofsky’s eerily beautiful psychological thriller about a ballerina’s stomach-churning spiral into total madness? Visit film location New York City’s Lincoln Center (www.lincolncenter.org), backdrop for Black Swan and home to the prestigious company from which Nina Sayer’s (played by Natalie Portman) world is fashioned – the New York City Ballet (www.nycballet.com). If you can’t snag tickets to the ballet’s current production of Swan Lake (select dates through February 26), $20 will get you into other shows through the end of February. If money’s no object, attend The School of American Ballet’s Winter Ball on March 14 (www.sab.org) – a glamorous annual benefit featuring a one-time-only performance by the school’s advanced students (single tickets for the public are – eek – $1,500). For a real-life glimpse into a ballerina’s inner psyche, attend a Dancer’s Chat, held during select months by the NYCB, before embarking on a one-hour guided tour of Lincoln Center ($15 for adults), where you might happen upon a rehearsal at the David H. Koch Theater, the ballet’s home-stage. Tiptoe into On Stage Dancewear (www.onstagedancewear.com) on Madison Avenue to pick up a pair of handmade pointe shoes and the perfect tutu. Once you’ve got the gear, drop in on an adult beginner’s class at downtown’s Joffrey Ballet School (from $15; www.joffreyballetschool.com). Afterwards, unwind at newish Brooklyn bar coincidentally named (you guessed it) Black Swan (www.blackswannyc.com), or swing by Forum (www.theforumnyc.com), the East Village nightclub where uptight Nina finally cuts loose.
The Deal: Settle down for sweet ballerina dreams at The Nolitan Hotel (slated to open in April; www.nolitanhotel.com), a spankin’ new minimalist-chic hotel wedged between Little Italy and SoHo with floor-to-ceiling windows and complimentary bike/skateboard rentals. ShermansTravel.com readers receive 25 percent off the best available rate through May 31 (book by March 15 and receive a free upgrade; rates from $289 with savings). Mention ShermansTravel.com or book online with promo code Sherman.
The Fighter, Massachusetts
Filmed on location in Lowell, Massachusetts, the working-class hometown of true-life Irish-American welterweight Micky Ward (played by Boston native Mark Wahlberg), The Fighter is noted for its realistic boxing scenes, choreographed from Micky’s actual fights and filmed at UMass Lowell’s Tsongas Arena (www.tsongascenter.com). On March 19, earn a brag-worthy bruise in the mosh pit of a Dropkick Murphies concert at Tsongas (the popular Irish-rock band also hails from Boston), or catch an infamous Global Fight League throwdown on April 15. Learn how to deliver a knockout punch firsthand at Ramalho’s West End Gym (on Lawrence Street in Lowell) – the old-school facility where Ward himself trained and the movie’s gym sequences were filmed – or watch talented amateurs duke it out during the gym’s next big match on March 25. Celebrate Patriot’s Day on April 18 by attending a Revolutionary War battle reenactment in nearby Lexington – historic site of the "shot heard round the world" and where filming took place at the Lexington Venue movie theater – or dash into Boston (a 40-minute drive) for the annual marathon on the same day.
The Deal: After the race, rest your tired feet at Boston’s Liberty Hotel, offering an exclusive 26-percent discount to ShermansTravel.com readers on a package that incorporates accommodations, breakfast for two, and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot (rates start at $270/night; use online code LSMARTLUXU; www.libertyhotel.com). Otherwise, stay put at the trendy ALOFT Lexington and receive 40 percent off every second night booked through December 31 (rates start at $99/night; alofthotels.com/lexington).
Though production for this sci-fi thriller, noted for its physics-defying visual effects, occurred in six countries and on four continents (from Tangiers to Tokyo and beyond), Paris is the film location of some of Inception’s most pivotal mind-bending scenes. First, grab a panini at Da Stuzzi (www.paniers-gourmands.fr), the Italian café in the 15th arrondissement where characters Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Ariadne (Ellen Page) sit during an incredible explosive sequence in which the city appears to fold in on itself (the corner café had a fake awning added in order to portray a Parisian bistro onscreen). A short walk away, traverse the vaulted Bir-Hakeim bridge near the elevated Passy metro station that is reported to have housed Cobb’s dream training facility and where Ariadne first tests her subconscious’ architectural skills. Next, visit the post-modernist Parc de la Villette (www.villette.com), a conceptually experimental complex with roots in architectural deconstructivism, and ponder its 26 “follies” – seemingly unfinished red metal buildings (they serve as park offices and activity venues) that evoke the impossible objects created in the film’s lucid dream worlds (remember those endless stairs?). The city’s largest park, Villette also lays claim to one of the biggest science museums in Europe and offers a continuous calendar of activities for adults and kids, including circus arts workshops, gypsy dancing lessons, plays, and musical performances. In the evening, get gussied up to see a French flick at the Cinéma Gaumont Champs-Elysées Marignan (www.cinemasgaumontpathe.com), where the stars gathered for Inception’s Paris premiere.
The Deal: Exhausted? Slip into a dream under cotton satin sheets at the street-stylish Mama Shelter (www.mamashelter.com) in boho Belleville, the birthplace of Edith Piaf (whose music echoes hauntingly throughout the film). The Philippe Starck-designed hotel is offering a “Romance” package through the end of April, including one night’s accommodation, Champagne, breakfast for two, and late checkout from $243 (a 30 to 50 percent savings). Also, in celebration of its December opening, posh boutique La Belle Juliette (www.hotel-belle-juliette-paris.com), a 10-minute walk from Da Stuzzi, is offering up to 30 percent off its lowest rates until March 31 (book online with code Ampere).
The Kids Are All Right, Los Angeles
This quirky comedic drama centering on two lesbian mothers (played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), their teenage kids, and their leather-clad sperm donor, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), was shot and set in the hip and hilly LA nabes of Silverlake and Echo Park – both wedged between Downtown and West Hollywood and known for housing the city’s more eclectic denizens. To obtain the cozy vintage vibe of restaurateur and donor-dad Paul’s bachelor bungalow, spend an afternoon at the Rose Bowl Flea Market (admission $8; www.rgcshows.com/RoseBowl) in nearby Pasadena, where the film’s set decorator scored much of his material and stylish Echo Park natives go to shop. Emulate Paul’s organic farming lifestyle and bag a bushel of locally grown, pesticide-free produce (or sample some tasty BBQ) at the Echo Park Farmer’s Market (Fridays 3–7pm; www.farmernet.com) – or visit one of Los Angeles’s 70 community gardens. Wish you could eat at an über-trendy locavore restaurant like the one he owns? Silverlake’s popular Forage (www.foragela.com) is supplied almost entirely by the backyard bounty of certified urban gardens in the surrounding area, with a chic atmosphere, to boot. Wash down your home-grown grub with a cold brew at 1642, Echo Park’s 2010-debuted craft beer bar.
The Deal: Bed down at the Farmer’s Daughter Hotel near to the film locations in West Hollywood; book the Fresh Start package and get breakfast for two and free valet parking (from $217/night; www.farmersdaughterhotel.com).
The King’s Speech, London
Trace King George VI’s (Colin Firth) path to coronation and his challenge to overcome a lifelong stutter with a London-area film locations tour beginning at Wembley Stadium (www.wembleystadium.com), where then Prince Albert struggles to deliver an address at the opening of the film (it’s also set to serve as a 2012 Olympic venue). Continue with an excursion to Ely Cathedral (www.elycathedral.org) in Cambridgeshire (silver screen stand-in for Westminster Abbey, set about 70 miles from the city), or view the imposing portraits of former monarchs in Drapers’ Hall back in London proper (replacement for St. James’s Palace during the accession council scene; www.thedrapers.co.uk). Next, take a stroll down prestigious Harley Street, which hasn’t changed much since the 1920s; number 146 marks the site of speech therapist Lionel Logue’s (played by Geoffrey Rush) actual former practice. A peek into the windows of 33 Portland Place is as close as you’ll get to the shabby-chic, 18th-century townhouse in central London that serves as Logue’s striking consultation room in the film (and, unbeknownst to audiences, was also the same film set for the Duke and Duchess’s Picadilly home) – unless you’re on the VIP list for one of owner Lord Davenport’s lavish, celebrity-ridden soirees. Watch out for crowds around April 29, when thousands will flock to Westminster Abbey (www.westminster-abbey.org) for Will and Kate’s royal wedding! If you’re in town for the event, catch a glimpse of King George VI’s great-grandson and his new bride as they sail through Parliament Square in a horse-drawn carriage, emerging briefly at Buckingham Palace (www.royal.gov.uk) to grace their subjects with that trademark royal wave.
The Deal: The much-heralded St. Pancras Renaissance, set in a grand 19th-century manor, is reopening March 14 after a $300 million restoration, shaving 25 percent off rates during March and April (from $301/night; www.marriott.com).
127 Hours, Southern Utah
The harrowing true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston’s (played by this year’s Academy Awards’ co-host, James Franco) five days spent pinned beneath a boulder in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park (www.nps.gov/cany), 127 Hours is not a film for the faint of heart (gut-wrenching, self-amputation scene? Check!). If you’re too scared to actually see the movie, but still want to wander the remote desert canyons and blazing sandstone formations of its film locations, the Utah Office of Tourism (www.travel.utah.gov/127hours) has crafted five, 127-hour-long customizable itineraries for visitors. We’re partial to the 127 Hours in Moab itinerary for experiencing the film’s iconic landscape, which suggests hiking amongst the desert’s iconic arches and jetboating the Colorado River. True adventure-seekers should enlist the pros at Moab Cliffs and Canyons (www.cliffsandcanyons.com) for high-caliber (and chaperoned) canyoneering in Blue John Canyon, near where Ralston was trapped (in fact, the outfit provided cliffside rigging for the film’s production crew; the full-day trip costs $185/person).
The Deal: Still a little queasy at the too-close-for-comfort film location? Book the 127 Hours in Ogden itinerary through the northern Utah town’s visitors bureau (www.visitogden.com) instead for five full days of activities, including skiing, kayaking, fly-fishing, and in-town (and indoors) rock-climbing; mention ShermansTravel.com and receive a 15-percent discount. Rates start at $1,270 for two, with accommodations (meals not included).
The Social Network, Massachusetts & California
This fictionalized biopic about the creation of Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, includes film locations at Harvard (one of our Top 10 College Campuses to Visit) in Cambridge, Massachusetts (where Zuckerberg is portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg as an ironically misanthropic undergrad when genius struck), and Silicon Valley (now home to Facebook’s powerhouse headquarters). Though the Harvard scenes were all actually shot off-campus and if you, unlike the screenwriter, aren’t privy to a reported private tour of the Ivy League campus’s secret upper-crust clubs, sign up for the next best thing: a free, student-led tour of Harvard Yard (America’s de facto axis of academic affairs) before hitting up an Oscar party at Cambridge’s The Charles Hotel (www.charleshotel.com) on February 27, replete with red carpet and paparazzi. And unless you’ve got a buddy in the biz, you’ll have to resort to drastic measures for the best way to see Silicon Valley’s most famous tech-company complexes: Airship Ventures (www.airshipventures.com) offers 45-minute to 90-minute tours aboard a 246-foot-long zeppelin (one of only two in the world currently in operation) that promise prime views of programming hot spots like the Googleplex and Apple HQ’s (from $375 a pop).
The Deal: Mention ShermansTravel.com for a post-Oscar party stay at Cambridge’s Charles Hotel and receive a 15-percent discount on nightly rates (starting at $220/night with the savings; use online code oscar11) from February 27 through March 2. Or, set off to Silicon Valley where software nerds and taste arbiters alike will enjoy tucking into the Hotel Avante (named one of the “Chicest Geek Hotels in the World” by Wired magazine; www.jdvhotels.com), now offering an exclusive package to ShermansTravel.com readers, including complimentary room upgrade, assorted tech-friendly goodies, and admission to the nearby Computer History Museum (www.computerhistory.org). Weekend rates start from $109/night; call 800-538-1600 to book (promo is call-in only).
Toy Story 3, Select Disney Attractions
The latest installment of Disney Pixar’s beloved film series (featuring voiceovers by Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and now Whoopi Goldberg), Toy Story 3 is the third computer-animated movie in history to be nominated for Best Picture (after Beauty and the Beast and Up). Both Orlando’s Walt Disney World (disneyworld.disney.go.com) and California’s Disneyland (disneyland.disney.go.com) feature interactive Toy Story Mania! attractions, where your little one can splatter eggs on barnyard targets, capture little green aliens, and practice their shooting aim with Woody and Rexx voiceovers or life-size characters to cheer you on. Or, cruise on Disney’s Wonder (disneycruise.disney.go.com) and take in Toy Story – The Musical Broadway-style while singing along to your favorite tunes from the film, like Randy Newman’s classic “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” Last but not least, snag a rink-side seat to Disney on Ice’s (disney.go.com/disneyonice) super-fun show in a city near you (now through May 22; September 22–25), and watch Mr. Potato Head and an army of camo-clad army men (don’t forget Mickey and Minnie!) skate and twirl their way around the rink before a real-life Buzz Lightyear flies to the rescue. To infinity, and beyond!
The Deal: Stay at a Disneyland resort and receive your fourth night free of charge, now through April 11. Or, take to the high seas in May, when kids 17 and under sail free on select Wonder’s 7-night Alaska cruise – the line’s first-ever sailing to The Last Frontier (rates from $889 per person; two paying adults in cabin required for free kids’ stay).
See our Walt Disney World Travel Guide and Disneyland Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find flight, hotel, cruise, and more travel deals.
True Grit, New Mexico, Texas & Colorado
The Coen Brothers’ remake of this classic Western about a crusty old one-eyed U.S. Marshal (played by Jeff Bridges) and a stubborn girl in search of her father’s murderer (Hailee Steinfield) put Granger, Texas, on the map. Set designers transformed the small tumbleweed town, deep in the heart of central Texas and an hour from Austin, into 19th-century Fort Smith, Arkansas, for production. Now that the movie set is gone, head south to Bandera and saddle up at one of the self-proclaimed Cowboy Capital’s half-dozen bona fide dude ranches. Rancho Cortez provides ample opportunity to ride and rope with all-inclusive rates starting from $155/night for activities, meals, and a room in a spacious cabin (or $99 for a spot in the bunkhouse; www.ranchocortez.com). Head further west to beautiful Monastery Lake, just north of Pecos, New Mexico, and embark on a day hike to where further filming took place. Alternatively, fans of the 1969 original (starring John Wayne) can book a weekend package film locations tour of Ouray, Colorado, with On Location with True Grit (from $565 for two; available late May through October; www.truegritouray.com), including Jeep Wrangler rental or guided tour of set sites, two nights at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs (www.boxcanyonouray.com), and a meal at Wayne’s favorite local restaurant, The Outlaw (www.outlawrestaurant.com).
The Deal: Stay at adobe-inspired La Posada (www.laposada.rockresorts.com) – in Santa Fe (where True Grit’s studio rehearsals took place) during March and April and receive 30 percent off, with complimentary wine and cheese on arrival (mention ShermansTravel.com). Rates start from $122/night (with discount).
See our New Mexico Travel Guide, Texas Travel Guide, and Colorado Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find flight, hotel, cruise, and more travel deals.
Winter’s Bone, The Ozarks, Missouri
Methamphetamines. Poverty. Murder. Winter’s Bone (starring nominee and newcomer Jennifer Lawrence) paints a bleak picture of life in Southern Missouri’s Ozark Mountains, an otherwise beautiful landscape that appears stark and desolate onscreen. Most film locations were set near Branson, a popular vacation spot boasting endless activities from fishing to zip-lining, a number of wineries, and square-dancing and variety show establishments. For an out-of-town experience, drive an hour-and-a-half through the Mark Twain National Forest (www.fs.usda.gov) to the sprawling, upscale Stonewater Cove Resort (www.stonewatercove.com), situated on 500 acres along the shores of Table Rock Lake in the midst of the Ozarks. The handsome, intimate retreat (there are just 18 rooms, with 3 more coming in March) is debuting a new tree house spa facility on Memorial Day, plus five zip-lines. Or, to experience true rustic Ozark living, rent a fully furnished log cabin near Branson via Hidden Falls Cabin Rentals (www.hiddenfalls.us) from just $175 per night (including taxes; two-night minimum rental required) and lend a hand towards addressing some of the poverty portrayed in the film at one of the region’s many volunteer organizations, like Habitat for Humanity (www.lakeoftheozarkshabitatforhumanity.org).
The Deal: From March 1 through April 17, Branson is offering a 3- to 4-night Spring Break Family Getaway package representing a savings of $105 on activities and accommodations (from $349 total for 2 adults and up to 3 children; www.explorebranson.com). Or, head to Stonewater Cove Resort (stonewatercove.com), where ShermansTravel.com readers can get an exclusive upgrade from "Active" rates to the higher-level "Adventure" rates, featuring boating to archery to ATV tours, through the end of May ("Active" rates from $709/night/couple; upgrade represents $640 in savings for one couple, or about $1,280 for a family of four; four-night minimum required).
Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find flight, hotel, cruise, and more travel deals to Missouri.