Classic Films that Inspire Travel in America

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There are films added to the canon of classics for their skillful acting, superb writing or emotional capacity, and then there are films that shine through purely because they take us somewhere else. Viewers are swept away by the Silver Screen — off to the wilderness of Alaska, the rough streets of Lower Manhattan, the picturesque Pacific Coast.
The backdrops of our favorite films often become popular tourist destinations, taking us out of our own immediate worlds both literally and physically. Here are some of the classic American films that are perfect for inspiring your travel plans:
  • Seattle: “Sleepless in Seattle” — Did you know that Pike Place Market is America’s 13th most-visited tourist destination? We think that has something to do with the fact that it served as the filming locale for scenes between Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner in “Sleepless in Seattle.” Specifically, Hanks and Reiner shot a scene in Pike Place’s Athenian Inn, which is still alive and well in the market today. The film also shot at Gas Works Park and other iconic spots in Seattle.
  • Alaska: “Into the Wild” — If ever a film inspired wanderlust, it has to be “Into the Wild.” The 2007 biographical flick told the story of writer Christopher McCandless’ adventures traveling the U.S., ending in the Alaskan wilderness. Those who venture northward to see the place in real life should stop by the 49th State Brewing Company in Healy, where the bus that was used in the movie still stands as a popular tourist attraction.
  • Cape Cod: “Jaws” — Set on Martha’s Vineyard, the classic 1975 shark tale spurred several waves of travel to the tiny Cape Cod island. Several of the film’s scenes were captured on and around Martha’s Vineyard, including Chief Martin Brody’s home — which has since been completely renovated — the Amity Police Department, Amity Hardware, “the bridge” and of course, the swimming beach where the Alex Kintner attack took place. Some local tour companies still offer guided tours of these famous “Jaws” landmarks.
  • New York: “When Harry Met Sally” — There are hundreds of iconic filming locations in New York City, from the famed firehouse from “Ghostbusters” to the Fifth Avenue Tiffany’s store from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” But undeniably, the one that tops the list is the Houston Street mainstay, Katz’s Delicatessen, site of the famous “I’ll have what she’s having” scene from “When Harry Met Sally.” Film buffs might also remember scenes from Washington Square Park, the Loeb Boathouse and the Mall in Central Park. The Mall, the pathway that leads to the legendary Bethesda Fountain, also served as a filming location for “Maid in Manhattan,” “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “Big Daddy.”
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  • Savannah: “Forrest Gump” — As far as classic filming locations go, none is as storied and iconic as the bench at the Chippewa Square Bus Stop in Savannah, Ga. That’s where the bench scenes from the film “Forrest Gump” were shot. Anyone wishing to relive this famous scene should stop by the Savannah History Museum, home to a replica of the prop bench produced by filmmakers and then donated to Savannah after the film wrapped. The display also features one of Hollywood’s most famous props — the suitcase carried by Hanks throughout the film.
Oregon Coast
  • Oregon Coast: “The Goonies” — Superfans of the cult classic “The Goonies” often make their way to the sleepy, one-time canning town of Astoria, Ore., along the Pacific Coast just across the Columbia River from Washington state. That was the town where the 1980s picture took place and the site of several of its signature scenes, most notably ones featuring the Clatsop County Jail and the home of protagonist Mikey Walsh. Nearby Cannon Beach and its geographical landmark Haystack Rock, about 30 minutes south of Astoria, also served as filming locations.
  • Cleveland: “A Christmas Story” — Just south of downtown Cleveland, at 3159 W. 11th Street, stands the site of several exterior shots from the 1983 holiday classic “A Christmas Story.” This one’s particularly appealing to diehard classics fans, since the home now operates as a museum and is open for tours year-round. The home was restored in 2004 by a San Diego entrepreneur, who bought the property on eBay for $150,000.
If you’re on a mission to see some of the country’s most famed filming locations, know that many of the storied buildings — especially private homes — remain private and off-limits to the public. Your best bet is to hit some of the public spots or filming locations that have been converted into museums, restaurants or public landmarks. When you do, you just might find yourself swept up in some classic Hollywood magic!