Not all movies are made up of props and fake scenery in a studio. Now more than ever, movies and television shows have been taking advantage of filming at local restaurants to serene scenery. For superfans like me, this is our dream to actually be able to visit a place from a show that meant so much to us.
These destinations have a second life now, where they’re not just known for good corned beef like Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City, but that scene between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal sitting at one of their tables inside in When Harry Met Sally. These places are bringing visitors from all over because of these cameos on-screen. It merges fiction and real life, becoming much bigger than what the film originally intended to be. Be sure to add these American travel destinations made iconic by movies and shows to your list for your next trip.
1) From Big Little Lies, Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur, California
This instantly recognizable bridge along Highway 1 was seen on numerous occasions in Big Little Lies, including the opening credits. In the show it was just another morning where scheming mothers Madeline, Celeste, and Jane (played by Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley) were driving their children to school. Other spots just north in Monterey such as the police station defined scenes in the HBO series.
2) From Breaking Bad, the White residence and Los Pollos Hermanos in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Almost every location shot in Breaking Bad was an actual place, not a set. Fans can spend an entire day driving around Albuquerque to various locations including Walter White’s house, Jesse Pinkman’s house, Los Pollos Hermanos (known in real life as Twisters), and A1A Car Wash (named Octopus).
3) From Seinfeld, Tom’s Restaurant in New York City, New York
This isn’t just any restaurant—this was the daily spot for the friends of Seinfeld to hang out. Visitors can dine in Tom’s Restaurant, where the exterior still looks just like it did from the early episodes of the show. It’s a popular stop for Columbia University students because it’s located on the ground floor of Armstrong Hall, home to the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
4) From Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Cabazon Dinosaurs in Cabazon, California
The Cabazon Dinosaurs were not a set from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, but are in fact a real tourist attraction right outside of Palm Springs in California. With an exhibit including more than 50 dinosaurs, guests can climb inside some of the dinosaurs too!
5) From Rocky, The Art Museum Steps in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Art Museum in Philadelphia is what made the “Rocky Steps.” You can’t visit the museum without seeing photos being taken of tourists raising their fists in the air reenacting the movie’s training montage, when Sylvester Stallone runs up all 72 stone steps. The movie went on to win Best Picture at the 1977 Oscars.
6) From When Harry Met Sally, Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City, New York
While guests visit this East Village staple for their corned beef, Katz’s Delicatessen gained cult popularity from When Harry Met Sally. The deli in New York City even has a sign designating the exact seat where the scene between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal was filmed.
7) From La La Land, Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California
Academy Award winning La La Land gave viewers the itch to explore Los Angeles, including the iconic scene of Sebastian and Mia (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone) looking over the city of L.A. from Griffith Park and Griffith Observatory, where they performed “A Lovely Night.” Another scene included the characters riding the landmark Angels Flight, the world’s shortest funicular, which was put into operating use as a result of the film’s success.
8) From Parks and Recreation, Pawnee City Hall in Pasadena, California
Most scenes from Parks and Recreation took place at work, City Hall in their town of Pawnee, Indiana. But in real life, this visually stunning government building with intricate architecture, crowning six-story cupola that rises 206 above the ground, is actually the Pasadena City Hall in California.
9) From Jurassic Park, Hanapepe Valley in Kauai, Hawaii
Steven Spielberg filmed some of the most well-known movie scenes in Jurassic Park on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, featuring Manawaiopuna Falls in Hanapepe Valley. While you won’t see any dinosaurs, tourists can feel like they’re a part of the movie on a helicopter tour of the island.
10) From The Social Network, Boston University Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts
Although the notorious CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg attended Harvard University, it was actually Wheelock College in Boston where the movie The Social Network was filmed. In 2018, Wheelock College merged with Boston University. The film won numerous Oscars in 2011 for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Music Score, and Best Film Editing.
11) From Insecure, local eats in Los Angeles, California
Issa Rae’s HBO show Insecure has showcased Issa’s home turf of South Los Angeles. The latest season shows Issa dining at Hilltop, a cafe and coffee shop (she’s an investor in real life). Throughout the series, Molly and Issa revisit Merkato, one of LA’s oldest Ethiopian restaurants in Little Ethiopia, which is right down the way from LACMA.
12) From Wild, Pacific Crest Trail, Oregon
Reese Witherspoon was nominated for Best Actress for her role in Wild as Cheryl Strayed. Based on the bestselling 2012 memoir, the movie portrays a powerful story of bouncing back after tragedy. For Reese Witherspoon’s character, she walks alone along a 1,100 mile stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert all the way to the Canadian border.
13) From Forrest Gump, the bus stop bench in Chippewa Square, Savannah, Georgia
What was so appealing about the classic Forrest Gump is that there was something for everyone, as the lead character went through major events in American History. Throughout the movie, Forrest Gump, played by Tom Hanks, sits on a bench telling his life story to various strangers. The bench has been moved to a local museum, but you can still visit the setting in Chippewa Square in Savannah.
14) From Iron Man 2, Randy’s Donuts in Los Angeles, California
Yes, even superheroes enjoy a nice box of donuts sometimes—especially if they’re the best ones in Los Angeles. In Iron Man 2, the hero enjoys a box while sitting in the legendary giant donut signage on the roof of the building. Since the movie, tourists have added this stop on their list for a tasty photo op.
With the popularity of road trips this Summer, take advantage and see some of your favorite on-screen places. It’ll bring you to areas in our country that you probably haven’t visited before. Who knows, you might meet some fellow fans of the movie or show along the way.
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