No amount of conscientious travel planning can prepare you for those unexpected, trip-ruining twists: violent hurricanes, lost or stolen passports, abrupt political turmoil . . . sudden zombie attack? Yes, the threat is real, but only if you’re deranged enough to believe everything you see on movie and TV screens. Reanimated corpses by the millions have terrorized the public imagination ever since monster maestro Bela Lugosi appeared in White Zombie, considered the first feature-length zombie film, in 1932. With season three of The Walking Dead now terrorizing AMC viewers, we wondered where we might hide, and whether we stood a fighting chance, if we took a wrong flight and ended up in a zombie film. While dozens of B-movies tempted us with tantalizing travel titles – Female Mercenaries on Zombie Island, The Horror of Party Beach, Spring Break Zombie Cruise, and Zombie Honeymoon among them – we chose some of the more popular, big-budget fictions that resonated more deeply in our collective subconscious. At the very least, we hope our list spawns a few Halloween costume ideas.
Atlanta, The Walking Dead
Desolate Atlanta highways, shopping malls, and surrounding suburbia set the scene for season one of AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead (season one, 2010; season two, 2011; season three, 2012) in which protagonist Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma and discovers that most of humanity has morphed into undead corpses. In one of the season’s most striking scenes, Grimes rides horseback down Freedom Parkway into an abandoned downtown Atlanta, where just one whiff of prey turns the monsters into an indefatigable mass hungry for some Southern comfort food.
The Center for Disease Control provides such a secure hideout that our rugged survivors throw a party with the stockpiled food and drink supplies, swilling bottles upon bottles of vino with nary a concern about the flesh-eating millions outside – until [SPOILER ALERT] the heroes discover a giant clock counting down the seconds before the generators die and the building self-destructs. (Post-explosion, we can only imagine the characters’ throbbing hangovers.) Our advice for season two: pit stops at The Varsity (www.thevarsity.com) – hot dogs have enough preservatives to survive an apocalypse, no? – and The World of Coca-Cola (www.worldofcocacola.com).
Chance of Survival: High
The CDC, for as long as it has fuel, presents the best opportunity to hunker down and concoct a cure.
See our Atlanta Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on hotels, flights, vacation packages, and more.
Austin, Planet Terror
Ragtag bands of like-minded freaks, their faces illuminated by an eerie glow, form teeming masses that storm Austin’s bars and barbecue joints. This isn’t the plot for Robert Rodriguez’s film Planet Terror (2007) – the bio-weapon-triggered zombie gore-a-thon that combines with Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof to form Grindhouse – it’s the annual South by Southwest Music, Film & Interactive Festival, where smartphone-toting (and tweeting) hipsters converge each spring. If you catch indie film fever and decide to join them next year, enjoy a beer and a movie at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (www.drafthouse.com/austin), where you’ll spot the neon sign for The Bone Shack, the fictional barbecue dive in Planet Terror where go-go-dancer Cherry Darling (played by Rose McGowan) nurses a leg wound, several scenes before her leg is completely severed and replaced by a zombie-slaughtering machine gun.
Though set in rural Texas, Planet Terror was shot in and around Austin. Whatever you do, don’t even think about approaching the governor’s mansion (we hear that’s where the most gruesome zombies dwell). Try hiding out with the bat colony that lives beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge (better to become a world-weary vampire than a vacuous zombie). Take comfort in the fact that the Texas Department of Transportation will give you fair warning if a zombie attack is imminent. In July 2009 someone hacked into Austin’s digital road messaging system, normally used to report traffic conditions, and programmed the words to read "The end is near! Caution! Zombies ahead!"
Chance of Survival: Moderate
You have a fighting chance as long as you wear a gas mask, have access to a car, and can drive like the wind. Make like Cherry Darling and hightail it to Mexico.
See our Austin Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on hotels, flights, vacation packages, and more.
The Caribbean, Pirates of the Caribbean
Okay, we confess: the fourth installment in the popular Pirates franchise was filmed primarily in Hawaii (on the islands Oahu and Kauai). We deemed Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) worthy of making our list, however, as it’s the first Pirates film to feature actual zombies (though hardly the first to scare the living daylights out of us, given the array of sea monsters and pirate ghosts in the first three). And we weren’t about to stoop so low as to include Weekend at Bernie’s 2, the only zombie film (if a partially revived Bernie classifies it as such) to have been shot in the Caribbean, to our knowledge. Considering that most of the locations in On Stranger Tides are fictional, we’re going to have to ask you to use your imagination (while it’s still in working order!).
An uninhabited island (such as Isla de Muerta, the skull-shaped isle featured in the first Pirates film) could provide quite the safe haven (we use the term loosely) as infection rates would be kept low, and secret hideouts would abound. Pray that vicious mermaids aren’t lurking nearby, though, for wherever they are, Blackbeard and his ghoulish zombie crew are sure to follow (mermaid tears are vital for eternal life). Scarily, the real-world Caribbean may offer just as damned a fate. Don’t plan on hiding out anywhere near the Bermuda Triangle, notoriously blemished with the deaths of countless sailors and Navy pilots. It’s even said to be haunted by the ghost of none other than Blackbeard himself! As crazy as it sounds, your best bet might be Gitmo (the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba) – it’s well guarded, but will it keep zombies from coming in as well as it keeps detainees from getting out?
Chance of Survival: Low
Unless you’ve got trusty Jack Sparrow by your side, always one to escape the most dire of circumstances, don’t count on a lengthy future. Failing this, it might help to off Blackbeard, as per the movie, and hope the zombie crew goes down with him!
See our Caribbean Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on hotels, flights, vacation packages, and more.
Las Vegas, Resident Evil
As a convoy of zombie apocalypse survivors trudges through the Mojave Desert in Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), the sand and dunes all blend together. But when the group heads to Vegas to gather fuel and supplies, the scenery starts to get interesting. A worn and sandblasted Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, the “fabulous” barely visible, invites the survivors into a ghost city. The Nevada desert has crept into Las Vegas and taken it back. Gone are the lights, bustle, and glitz of the Las Vegas Strip; only its ersatz landmark resorts remain. A zombie attack closes in on the group under the Paris Las Vegas Eiffel Tower, and their only escape is up the tower, which makes for a very dramatic and interesting battle.
You’ll have to get creative in Vegas. Hotels and casinos are a bad bet; there are too many corners and slot machines behind which zombies could lurk (and it might be hard to tell them apart from the eyes-glazed-over nickel slot players). The undead are notorious for their poor coordination and cannot swim well, so we recommend large bodies of water. To shake off a handful of zombie pursuers, take advantage of the eight acres of Bellagio Fountains. Or, head to the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay (www.mandalaybay.com/entertainment/shark-reef-aquarium.aspx) for more serious situations concerning larger swarms. The hunters will become hunted in 1.3 million gallons of water swimming with sharks, sawfish, giant rays, piranha, and jellies.
Chance of Survival: Low
The T-Virus infected zombies are only part of the problem. Food, supplies, and gas are hard to come by. All the money in Vegas couldn’t buy a trip to the Alaskan safe zone. Extinction is imminent, although even that can’t prevent Cher from taking the stage for her last last show at Caesar’s Palace.
See our Las Vegas Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on hotels, flights, vacation packages, and more.
London, 28 Days Later
Let’s be honest, when a viral outbreak of any sort occurs, it helps when you aren’t in one of the most populous cities in the world, filled with millions of potentially infected, blood-thirsty crazies. This nightmare is brought to life with chilling precision in Danny Boyle’s acclaimed horror film 28 Days Later (2002), in which the city of London is practically unrecognizable, the usually bustling sidewalks of Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street all but eerily deserted. Even Manchester United football (i.e. soccer) fans, a perennially rowdy staple here, seem to be in hiding.
Perhaps best not to seek shelter in crowded hotspots like Trafalgar Square, King’s Cross, and Camden Markets. You could test out the London Underground (hey, it worked during WWII) or despite its strong association with torture and death, you may want to seek shelter within the prisons of the Tower of London. No one would blame you, however, for adopting the more resigned, yet highly realistic, approach to make the most of what could very well be your last night before transitioning to full-blown cannibalism. Why not, then, bunker down in one of London’s countless homey pubs (we recommend The Red Lion in Crown Passage) and enjoy a classic pint of old ale, or get into the spirit of things and down a Bloody Mary (we hear the best ones can be found at The Bear on Camberwell Road). Or, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, venture out and catch a show at the Old Vic (www.oldvictheatre.com) and hope the cast live long enough to reach their curtain call. Want a final bird’s eye view of the majestic (albeit infested) cityscape before you bid adieu? Hop on the London Eye (www.londoneye.com) – we’re betting it’d be free.
Chance of Survival: Low-Moderate
Things look bleak, but here’s an idea: See how many Bloody Marys you can stomach, and you might very well blend in with the zombies!
See our London Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on hotels, flights, vacation packages, and more.
Los Angeles, Thriller
Although not a full-length feature, Thriller (1983) was the first big-budget music video with as much emphasis on the story line as the song, which makes it a bona fide short film. Shot in and around Los Angeles, the seminal video showcased the Palace Theatre – the oldest remaining Orpheum vaudeville theater in the country – in newly revitalized downtown L.A.; a warehouse district in East Los Angeles, where the dance sequences were filmed; and the historic Angelino Heights neighborhood, considered one of L.A.’s first suburbs.
We’d recommend staying away from any abandoned warehouses in East L.A. – that just sounds like a bad horror movie cliché waiting to happen. The Palace Theatre, on the other hand, is one of 13 historic structures listed on the Los Angeles Conservancy’s (www.laconservancy.org) historic downtown self-guided tour. While an open auditorium may not be the best place to hide, you could hole up at the landmark Millennium Biltmore (the hotel also has spent time on screen in films like Pretty in Pink and The Sting) or the Los Angeles Central Public Library (mindless zombies have no use for books, right?). In addition, the Conservancy offers guided tours of Angelino Heights (first Saturday of the month at 10am; $10), where you’ll find beautifully preserved Victorian houses on display. Just watch out for zombies punching through the walls and floors, and make sure you know all the available exits.
Chance of Survival: High
After all, the zombie dance sequence in Thriller was all just a bad dream. Or was it?
See our Los Angeles Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on hotels, flights, vacation packages, and more.
Maine, Pet Sematary
The release of Pet Sematary (1989; misspelling taken from the sign that hung there) prompted the name “Gage” to be permanently removed from expecting parents’ lists of potential baby names . . . or at least it should have. Inspired by, and filmed in, author Stephen King’s home state, the movie “brought to life” (pun intended) King’s disturbing story about a cemetery that brings any creature (human or animal) buried there back from the dead. The deadly road central to the film’s plot was inspired by King’s experience living on a busy thoroughfare in Orrington, Maine, while teaching at the University of Maine for a brief time.
Most folks who visit or relocate to Maine, like the characters in Pet Sematary, go to get away from something. The further north you drive, the less populated it gets. If you’re too spooked by the potential of running into an undead cat with a taste for flesh to explore the secluded towns that inspired the setting of the film, go at least as far as Bangor (the nearest city to the fictional town of Ludlow). The coast of Maine is beautiful and there are plenty of fun stops along the way, like L.L. Bean’s Flagship store in Freeport, the perfect place to grab some zombie-fighting gear. In Bangor, check out 177-year-old Mt. Hope Cemetery, where pivotal scenes of Pet Sematary were filmed. For the ultimate scare, visit “Fright at the Fort” for what the Bangor Daily News called the best Halloween experience in the state (Oct. 19, 20, 26, 27; 5:30-9pm).
Chance of Survival: High
Luckily for visitors, those buried at the Pet Sematary come back to terrorize their loved ones, not strangers.
See our Maine Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on hotels, flights, vacation packages, and more.
New York City, I Am Legend
Weeds crowding Times Square, deer prancing through the streets, and even lions roaring on Broadway (presumably escaped from the Bronx Zoo, the only zoo in the city that houses them) make up the eerily empty – by day – version of New York City in the Will Smith flick I am Legend (2007). Filming practically evacuated entire sections of the city – including several blocks of Fifth Avenue – to create the deserted city landscape; digital effects completed the illusion.
Under normal circumstances, scientist Robert Neville’s pad would be enviable: A townhouse at 11 Washington Square Park North, with views of the just-renovated park’s iconic arch. In a post-apocalyptic world, this hideout protects him from “darkseekers,” the zombie-like creatures born of a doomed cancer cure who now roam the streets of New York City (and presumably the entire world) after sunset. Daytime supplies safety as Neville circles Manhattan, visiting the South Street Seaport to radio any survivors, hunting deer for food in Times Square, and trapping zombies near Grand Central Station for experiments in his home laboratory, where he frantically searches for a cure. Our suggestion: Hunker down at the Port Authority Bus Terminal (surely even zombies know to steer clear of that station).
Chance of Survival: Low
Bridges and tunnels connecting Manhattan to the mainland were bombed out to stop the virus’ spread; survivors must subsist on the concrete jungle’s meager natural resources (or find a boat to sail across the Hudson).
See our New York City Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on hotels, flights, vacation packages, and more.
Pennsylvania, Night of the Living Dead
The blood-splattered shots and half-devoured bodies (which were really roast hams covered in Bosco chocolate syrup) of the Night of the Living Dead (1968) were filmed in Western Pennsylvania. Opening scenes were filmed in Evans City Cemetery, which, in a creepy turn of graveyard events, could not be used to film the 30th anniversary edition because a tornado had unearthed several graves. The farmhouse where the characters spend a majority of the film fighting amongst themselves about how to ward off and escape “those things” was located in the town of Zelienople; the owner of the home was already planning on demolishing it and loaned it to the filmmakers.
Holing up in a farmhouse – particularly the cellar, which proves to be a deathtrap – is obviously a bad idea when an approaching horde of hungry zombies is growing in number. Instead, speed the escape car to nearby Pittsburgh, where hiding places abound. Try to blend in at Scarehouse (www.scarehouse.com), ranked as one of “America’s Scariest Halloween Attractions” by Travel Channel, and your brain-hungry captors will likely confuse you as one of their own. Or, gather your weapons and ride the cable-powered funicular to the top of the Duquesne Incline (www.duquesneincline.org). Once to the top, jam the funicular’s gears with a nearby stick or branch, clear the gift shop shelves of pretzels, potato chips, and soda for sustenance, and keep an eye on all of downtown Pittsburgh until the danger passes.
Chance of Survival: High
These first-generation 1968 zombies are dull and slow. They’re so determined to bust down the doors of your farmhouse hideout that they probably won’t notice if you escape. Just take care to leave behind any dimwitted companions who might accidentally shoot you or set fire to the escape car.
See our Pennsylvania Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on hotels, flights, vacation packages, and more.
Valdosta, Georgia, Zombieland
Though chronicling an epic road trip across a zombie-infested U.S., much of the filming for Zombieland (2009) took place in Georgia. Key scenes play out at “Pacific Playland,” the real-life Wild Adventures Amusement Park in Valdosta, Georgia (www.wildadventures.net). The 170-acre park boasts over 50 rides and a 17-acre water park. A slew of new roller coasters and water attractions have revitalized this local favorite since Herschend Family Entertainment bought the park in 2007.
As Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) find out, a theme park is not the best choice for avoiding zombies, particularly at night. Thrill rides like the Firecracker and the Rattler may offer temporary respite, but once the ride stops you’re right back in the zombie-filled crowds. We’d suggest heading to the mini golf course for an easy alternative weapon if you find yourself low on ammo, while the nearby go-karts could serve as escape vehicles in a pinch. If possible, lure the zombies into Wild Adventures’ animal exhibits where elephants, black bears, rhinos, and lions will make quick work of your undead pursuers.
Chance of Survival: Moderate
Unlike traditional zombies, these mad cow-infected monsters are super fast moving. However, they still aren’t all that bright. Make sure you’re packing heat, and beware of public restrooms (one of Columbus’s 32 rules of survival).
See our Georgia Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on hotels, flights, vacation packages, and more.