The Fictional Places That Attract Real-Life Tourists

Hang with hobbits, brunch with Bond, and try not to shoot your eye out.
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A visitor pitches from the mound at the Field of Dreams during a family vacation in 1996. (Kevin Wolf / AP)

In the new April issue of the The Atlantic, Adam Doster tells the story of the real-life Field of Dreams that turned Dyersville, Iowa into a worldwide tourist destination after the movie became an unlikely Hollywood hit. When new owners bought the field and the adjoining farm in 2011 and announced ambitious plans to develop a multi-field sports complex, the field stopped being so dreamy and started dividing the town politically. But the Field of Dreams is hardly the first fictional setting to draw visitors to its real-life location—here are seven others from around the world.


Brian Jones poses with his Red Ryder air rifle outside the renovated A Christmas Story home in Cleveland. (Amy Sancetta / AP)

A Christmas Story
The Parkers' House

When life-long A Christmas Story fan Brian Jones failed his vision test to become a Navy pilot, his father built him a consolation prize: a lamp with a woman's leg as the base, just like the one Ralphie's father wins in the 1983 holiday classic. Jones loved the lamp so much that he started his own company to manufacture replicas, and when the house from the movie went up for sale in 2004, he used some of his lamp-making profits to buy the Cleveland, Ohio, home on eBay, sight unseen, for $150,000. While only the home's exterior and backyard were used in the movie, Jones spent close to $240,000 transforming the inside into an exact replica. He has also turned the house across the street into a Christmas Story memorabilia museum that attracts 50,000 visitors each year by his estimate. Some of the items are from Jones' personal collection, but much of it comes from other fans. “A lot of it finds me,” Jones said last year. "People who worked on the film read about the house and call me up and say, 'Guess what I've got?'"

Paul Stephenson / Flickr

On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Piz Gloria

Production manager Hubert Frölich spent three weeks traveling across France and Switzerland searching for a real-life Piz Gloria, the snow-capped headquarters of long-time James Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld for 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service. When he came across a rotating restaurant atop the 9,744-foot Schilthorn peak in the Bernese alps, he knew he'd found the spot. "It was as if [Bond author Ian] Fleming had seen the exact location and had described it," Frölich said. There was one problem: Construction was incomplete, so the filmmakers team struck a deal. In exchange for using the spot as Blofeld's hideout, the production would finance completion of the property, including a helicopter pad and the cable car station by which it's accessible. Today, the restaurant retains the Piz Gloria name and honors its cinematic heritage with museum displays and a daily James Bond breakfast, during which 007 fans can spot roughly 200 mountains during one solar-powered rotation. Martinis—shaken, not stirred, of course—are readily available at the bar.

Paramount Pictures

Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Cameron's House

Nicknamed for the photographer who once owned it, the iconic glass-walled Ben Rose home in Highland Park, Illinois, is a part of 1980s teen-movie history. Yet despite its starring role in the John Hughes classic, it's been a hard sell to prospective homeowners. The house first went on the market unsuccessfully in 2009 with an asking price of $2.3 million before returning last year at the significantly reduced price of $1.5 million instead. As Chicago magazine reported, the realtors' new plan was to emphasize its architectural pedigree—A. James Speyer designed the home, first built in 1953, in the style of Ludwidg Mies van der Rohe—over its pop-culture legacy. (Speyer's student, David Haid, built the second unit in 1974 as a showroom for Rose's car collection.) But as Chicago noted, there are plenty of reasons why the architecture isn't a total draw. The building's interior was in major need of renovation, the adjustable walls were impractical though stylish, and the two separate units were a poor fit for Chicago winters. The number of Bueller fans who stop by for pictures—its spot at 370 Beech Street is no secret—probably didn't help. If only a red-hot 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California came with it.

A crowd gathers in front of Tom's Restaurant in anticipation of the final episode of Seinfeld in 1998. (Ed Betz / AP)

Seinfeld
Monk's Café

Tom's Restaurant in New York's Morningside Heights neighborhood was already immortalized in pop culture well before its neon-marquee lit up Seinfeld as the fictional Monk's Café: The diner is the same one that inspired Suzanne Vega's song "Tom's Diner." The restaurant’s location near Columbia University has made it a popular spot with students over the years, including alumni Barack Obama and Meghan McCain, who often brought her dad, Senator John McCain, to dine. The highest endorsement, however, came from the Seinfeld stars themselves: Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander have been known to stop by, even though the interior of Monk's Café was shot on a soundstage elsewhere. As for the food, it's standard diner fare, but that's of little importance to tourists. "I mean it's the Tom's Restaurant from Seinfeld," wrote one Yelp reviewer. "It is worth it just for the sign out front."

AP

The Shining
Overlook Hotel

If there's anything fans of The Shining can take away from Stephen King's 1977 horror story—or the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film adaptation King disapproved of—it's that retreating into the mountains to clear your head can end horribly. That hasn't kept tourists away from the Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood, Oregon, though, probably because it's a proud piece of American history nestled into a gorgeous mountainside. During his dedication of the building, which was built by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s and became a national historic landmark in 1977, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said he envisioned the Timberline as a future wonderland of winter recreation. The lodge faltered financially while under the government’s operation, but Richard Kohnstamm, whose family still runs the Timberline today, used his own money to get the resort into shape just before skiing's popularity took off in the 1950s. Though the film only used exterior shots of the lodge, the Timberline has been home to Shining-related events and celebrations, including a 1920s-style party like the one Jack Torrance encounters. Also key to the resort's longevity: the lack of a murderous hedge maze.

Hobbiton. (AP)

The Lord of the Rings
Middle-earth

Tolkien Tourism existed well before director Peter Jackson turned J.R.R. Tolkien's world-famous works into blockbuster trilogies—Tolkien's birthplace in South Africa and the English landscapes that inspired his writings have long attracted visitors. But The Lord of the Rings movies made New Zealand the place to be for cosplaying hobbits, casual fans, and The Bachelor contestants alike. Tourism surged 40 percent between 2000 and 2006, and a 2004 survey reported that six percent of visitors counted The Lord of the Rings as one of their main reasons for visiting. Though Tolkien never visited New Zealand himself, the country has been happy to capitalize: It paid millions of dollars in film subsidies, gave its “100% Pure New Zealand” tourism tagline a “100% Middle-earth” spin, and even filmed a special Air New Zealand safety video starring hobbits.

Jazz Guy / Flickr

Ghostbusters
The Firehouse

When actor, screenwriter, and director Harold Ramis died in February of this year, fans mourned the loss of the Ghostbusters creator outside of Hook & Ladder 8, the New York City fire station film buffs know as the on-screen headquarters of three paranormal exterminators. While the station itself didn't pay tribute, contrary to an outdated, widely circulated Twitter picture, fans did show up with flowers, candles, and Twinkies—a reference to one of his most memorable lines. In the film, the Ghostbusters take over the abandoned firehouse long after it had been shut down by the city, which almost happened in real life when then-Mayor Bloomberg included the station on a list of proposed money-saving closures. "Who you gonna call?" read a Facebook page set up in protest. "The Mayor and Tell him NO." (The station is still active, but you cannot, however, try this pole.)

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Nolan Feeney is a former producer for TheAtlantic.com.

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