An Oscar Winning Road Trip: Explore the United States’ Most Cinematic Destinations
No Movie Magic Required.
Nowadays, movies are rampant with CGI, but sometimes, the awe you feel in front of your screen is linked to places that are very real. Ever watched a movie and wanted to be there? Well, it might be easier than you think.
With this epic road trip itinerary, you’ll be able to discover locations so picturesque they’ve got starring roles in some of your favorite movies.
For this trip you will need: a driver’s license, a strong playlist, a lot of snacks, and a solid ride with unlimited mileage because we’re going on a long drive.
Plan a U.S Trip Around Your Favorite Movies:
Your first stop on this journey is Boston: the state’s capital and one of the oldest cities in the country. If you’re a history buff, the Freedom Trail is where it’s at: a 2.5 miles walk that does a better job than any history teacher at showcasing all there is to know about the founding of America.
Boston is the backdrop of many movies. Go catch a Red Sox game to feel like Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon in Fever Pitch. Take a 30-minute drive up to Salem to have a magical time and add a dash of Hocus Pocus to your trip. Head on over to the Boston Public Garden to see the very bench Matt Damon and Robin Williams sat on in Good Will Hunting, which by the way, is one of the best movies to hear real Bostonian’s accents: both Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were raised in the city.
Must-see spots: Harvard University (Cambridge), The Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall Marketplace (better known as Quincy Market) and Beacon Hill.
Time to next stop: 3 hours and 30 minutes, 345 km (215 miles)
If you want to add a little stop on your way to your next destination, I strongly recommend popping into Martha’s Vineyard where you can get near the water and proclaim: “We’re gonna need a bigger boat!” Yes, Jaws was filmed right in between our first and second destinations on an island just South of Cape Cod. If you don’t mind the extra mileage, it’s well worth it.
New York City, New York
The Big Apple is by far the most famous American destination. How many movies have you watched set in this city? The number of alien nations and super villains who choose New York City as their victim is laughably high. Luckily, your friendly neighborhood Spiderman is always there to help.
Here, it’s all about the boroughs, five of them to be exact, and you can find familiar sites from your favorite picture all over every single one of them. The best way to start your first day in New York is with the most important meal of the day at the fanciest spot: Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The jeweler has actually opened up a café! The Blue Box Café is on the fourth floor of their New York City store.
Central Park sees so many celebrities that your chance of spotting one becomes exponential. Ghostbusters (I mean: “who you gonna call?”), Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, When Harry Met Sally, and so many others all have shots set in this city’s oasis.
NYC is a museum heaven. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET for short) in particular, may remind you of classics like Maid in Manhattan (hello early 2000s JLo), The Nanny Diaries, and Hitch. If you want to add some real star power to your adventure, head over to Broadway where you can catch amazing artists bringing classic gems to life. Mamma Mia anyone?
And who could forget King Kong climbing up the quintessential Empire State Building.
Must-see spots: the Brooklyn Bridge, Coney Island, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Terminal, the 911 Memorial, Times Square and so many more.
Time to next stop: 13 hours and 30 minutes, 1425 km (885 miles)
Need a break? Why not stop in Roanoke. It’s on the way and the Roanoke Colony is the stuff of legends. A whole season of American Horror Story pulled from the legends. The lost colony of Roanoke is the perfect spooky fireside story. In colonial times, Roanoke was a settlement. The entire population of this settlement vanished without a trace, only the word “croatoan” carved in a tree. No one has ever quite figured out what happened. Almost sounds like the script to a horror flick…
If you’d prefer to stay away from worrisome disappearances, Charlotte, in North Carolina, is the perfect stop to break up the long drive between this stop and the next. Movies such as The Hunger Games, Leatherheads, Logan Lucky, Paper Towns and plenty more were filmed around the city. Just west of the city, Lake Lure is the home of cult classic Dirty Dancing and is the perfect spot to practice those tricky lifts!
Tennessee’s capital, Nashville, is the mecca of country music. It’s no surprise that movies like Country Strong and Walk the Line were filmed here. While you can’t catch his act anymore, you can still visit the Johnny Cash museum and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Music venues are all over the city, hole in the walls and stages like the Grand Ole Opry House have had starring roles in the lives of many artists.
Nashville is also full of surprises: a grandiose Parthenon can be found in the city. You may not be able to visit the set of When in Rome, Mamma Mia! or My Big Fat Greek Wedding on this trip… but you can still pretend.
Must-see spots: Grand Ole Opry, the Parthenon, Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, Radnor Lake, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Wildhorse Saloon
Time to next stop: 7 hours and 30 minutes, 860 km (535 miles)
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is one resilient city. Hurricane Katrina left quite a mark here in 2005, but the Louisiana gem prevailed as always.
Right by the Gulf of Mexico, the Big Easy is home to some insane parties, think something similar to 21 Jump Street. Mardi Gras is known to get a bit rowdy but its history and culture are just as lively as its nightlife scene.
If you’re looking for some tunes to accompany this part of the drive, turn on some Britney Spears. Her 2002 movie, Crossroads, about a cross-country roadtrip that strengthens friendship was, in part, filmed in New Orleans!
Have no fear This is (not) the end of the adventure. On to the next!
Must-see spots: French Quarter, Cafe du Monde, Bourbon Street, Garden District, Barataria Preserve, Burgundy Picture House, Whitney Plantation
Time to next stop: 7 hours and 15 minutes, 815 km (505 miles)
Dallas may not have had that many recent movies shot on its turf, but this Texas city is home to some pretty great classics! I think we can all agree that George Clooney was not the best Batman and that Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze was probably not a great choice, but Batman and Robin sure did not make a mistake when it chose Dallas as its Gotham. Dallas is sleek, modern and packed full with art -- and how can it not be with a six floor museum?
Must-see spots: The State Fair of Texas, Dallas Museum of Art, Reunion Tower, White Rock Lake, Lower Greenville (have a drink or two!), Dealey Plaza, Dallas Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, Dallas Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, Bishop Arts District
Time to next stop: 14 hours and 25 minutes, 1555 km (965 miles)
Need a break? Why not stop in Albuquerque, home of the cult TV show: Breaking Bad. Although don’t go throwing pizza on Walter’s roof, the homeowner isn’t a fan.
Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah
Right on the Arizona and Utah border is Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Both old and new Western movies were filmed in this world renowned location, from How the West Was Won to A Million Ways to Die in the West.
While horseback riding was the thing in the wild west, you can now hike, drive, and take amazing pictures in the park. The number one movie spot you absolutely have to visit is Forrest Gump point. You will assuredly remember the sights from this classic Tom Hanks movie… and it definitely helps that there’s a massive sign to remind you of why the spot looks oh so familiar.
While remote, hotels and cabins are still present in the area, and what a view! If camping is more your speed, Goulding’s Lodge & Campground is a great choice!
Must-see spots: Navajo Tribal Park, hiking the Wildcat Trail, Navajo Spirit tours and plenty of other informative tours, Tribal Park Loop, West Mitten Butte, Forrest Gump Point, Valley of the Gods, Mexican Hat
Time to next stop: 6 hours and 30 minutes, 645 km (400 miles)
Las Vegas, Nevada
Viva Las Vegas! (and all of the Elvis impersonators that come with it) This desert oasis of opulence is famous for all its vices. From the Eiffel Tower to the Egyptian Pyramids, if you think hard enough, here you can picture yourself in Amélie or the Mummy. The main strip is four miles long and has everything you need to have a good time. Picture The Hangover with less facial tattoos and bad decisions.
Must-see spots: The Strip, Luxor Hotel & Casino, Bellagio Hotel & Casino, MGM Grand, the Neon Museum, the High Roller, take a helicopter ride, Eldorado Canyon, Pioneer Saloon, House of Blues
Time to next stop: 4 hours and 30 minutes, 435 km (270 miles)
Los Angeles, California
The literal home of movies…It had to be on the itinerary. Los Angeles, with its Hollywood sign and big shot movie studios is the number one movie destination. Dance on the side of the street or find your way to a pool party à la La La Land. Drive down Sunset Boulevard and hopefully don’t run into any hijacked buses with the likes of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock on board (Speed).
If you really want a peak behind the curtain, going on a tour of Warner Bros Studio is a great idea. It is one of the lots in the city and many beloved sets are just waiting to be visited. So many things were filmed here from TV Shows like Friends and True Blood, to amazing movies like Blade Runner and National Lampoon's Vacation. The staircase from 2002’s Spider-man is still standing and is the perfect place to ponder how uncomfortable an upside-down kiss would actually be.
You might not catch yourself Singin’ in the Rain though, as this is one sunny city. Reliable sunlight is one of the reasons Hollywood ended up well, in Hollywood. Rainy days can ruin production, so shooting pictures in sunny L.A.was simply logical. Who wouldn’t fall in Crazy, Stupid, Love with this city?
Other movies filmed in the city: The Big Lebowski, Rebel Without a Cause, The Bling Ring, Drive, Clueless, Nightcrawler, Inherent Vice, Straight Outta Compton, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Molly’s Game, Hail, Caesar!
Must-see spots: Santa Monica Pier, Disneyland, Universal Studios, the Grove, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Venice Boardwalk, Rodeo Drive, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), Griffith Observatory, Getty Center, Grand Central Market
Time to next stop: 5 hours and 45 minutes, 615 km (385 miles)
San Francisco, California
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge gets quite a lot of airtime in movies. Kind of like New York, it is often the victim of horrible events. In 1978’s Superman the landmark gets utterly destroyed and the Rock’s San Andreas did not go lightly on the city.
As if being right by the ocean, having amazing views, and Victorian-style architecture wasn’t enough, San Fran is also home to the one prison that everyone knows about: Alcatraz. Catch Me If You Can is definitely a phrase those who spent some time on the island regretted uttering.
Must see spots: Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point, Alcatraz Island, Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, Chinatown, the Exploratorium
Time to next stop: 9 hours and 45 minutes, 1020 km (635 miles)
This artsy city has gathered a bit of a reputation, but in true hipster fashion, it’s always been cool. Case in point, cult movie of the eighties, The Goonies was filmed in Portland! Netflix has also jumped on the bandwagon, and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was filmed in the city as well. Hopeless romantics will also recognize it for the classic that is He’s Just Not That Into You.
Aside from romance, Portland is known for its nature. The city is renowned for being environmentally friendly and it shows! You can spend your days outside in parks or on bike paths -- all of it with gorgeous snowy mountains in the background.
Must-see spots: Portland Japanese Garden, Pittock Mansion, Portland Mercado, OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry), Mount Tabor, Multnomah Falls
If driving isn’t quite for you and you’d rather hop on a plane, here are two amazing American destinations where some of the most beautiful movies ever were shot.
This state is a bit of a trek, but oh so worth it. Out in the Central Pacific, Hawaii has some of the most beautiful views out there. Movie magic could be used to try to replicate the lushness of these volcanic islands, but why bother when you can get the real thing?
The number of pictures filmed on the islands is incredible. Walking in the jungle on Oahu feels exactly like entering Jurassic Park, minus the man-eating dinosaurs. Or, like entering Hunger Games: Catching Fire arena, minus the murderous children. Like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, minus the horrible ex, or like 50 First Dates, minus the amnesia.
Hawaii looks better than any CGI ever could and it’s one hundred percent real.
Must-see spots: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kailua Beach, Hanauma Bay, Waipio Valley, Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, Kauai's Waimea Canyon, Whale Watch in Maui, Green Sand Beach, a Kona Coffee Farm Tour, Highway 560
Alaska finds itself separated from the rest of the United States by Canada. If you want to drive from Oregon to Alaska, in the right season, it might be doable, but I strongly advise against it in the winter.
Alaska is known for the beauty that can be found in its nature. Documentaries have been filmed in this northern state for many years and if you want to see some Bears up close, but not too close, this is the place to be. Hike, bike, kayak and simply take in the beauty of the great outdoors.
Must-see spots: Denali National Park & Preserve, Kenai Fjords, White Pass Scenic Railway, Glacier Bay National Park, the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, Alaska SeaLife Center, Chena Hot Springs
Driving cross-country in the U.S. means passing through so many different cities and seeing one universe come after the other. The desert, the forest, the beach — they all mean something different to us, and whether it’s your favorite movie or an unforgettable trip, building new memories in new places is always a plus. With a road trip like this comes the added bonus of amazing travel memories that can be recalled solely by looking at a screen and thinking “I’ve been there.”
Looking to visit one (or all) of these amazing locations? Jubel crafts you a personalized experience matching
Your Style. Your Budget. Anywhere.