We've all heard the saying "Life imitates art." And further to that, especially lately, vacations imitate the movies. Obviously not down to every plot detail—but when choosing a theme, travelers look to James Bond's London, Twilight's Washington coast, or "The Shire" as fabricated in rural New Zealand.
|The Hobbit, Hobbiton Farm, New Zealand|
When Peter Jackson decided to film "The Lord of the Rings" series in New Zealand, viewers became enchanted with the faraway country's dramatic mountainous beauty. With "The Hobbit" now in theaters, New Zealand's bucolic farms are in the spotlight—particularly this one—a former private farmstead now turned into the Hobbiton movie set and open to the public for tours.
|Skyfall Bond Tours, London|
Great Britain's most famous fictional spy might criss-cross the world for his sexy super-secret missions, but the UK claims him as its own –and when "Skyfall" hit theaters in October, the UK went "all in" on their 007 bet with a huge movie-related tourism marketing campaign that splashed across billboards, social media and movie screens in 21 countries.
|Life of Pi, Pondicherry Botanical Gardens, India|
Although (spoiler alert) most of "Life of Pi" takes place on the open sea and was brought to the big screen via CGI, the first part of the story unfolds in Pondicherry, India. No organized theme tours are yet being marketed in the West, but real-life Pondicherry landmarks such as the Botanical Gardens were featured in the film and are open to tourists.
|Twilight, Forks and La Push, Pacific Northwest|
Thanks to a little yarn called the "Twilight Saga," formerly obscure Pacific Northwest outposts like Forks and La Push have gone on the pop-culture grid, with themed tours offering Twi-hards a real-life look at Bella Italia (where Bella and Edward had their first date), the Swan home and the windswept beach of La Push (shown here, appropriately, at twilight).
|Hunger Games, DuPont State Forest, North Carolina|
The next place hoping that movie tourism will rescue distressed areas from a slump is North Carolina, where "Hunger Games" was filmed. The rural western parts of the state, including DuPont State Recreational Forest, where the gruesome Games took place, expected and received a huge tourism boost following the first Hunger Games film. Since many film locations were private property, some locals decided it was a mixed blessing. Let's hope they figure out the logistics before the sequel comes out in November 2013.
|Best Exotic Marigold, India|
Unlike the movie, which centered around travelers encountering a hotel that didn't quite live up to its billing, the real-life version of the "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," offered by Greaves Tours, is a Best of India highlight itinerary that incorporates locations like Tripolia Bazaar and the flower mart in Jaipur.
|Vertigo and The Birds, San Francisco|
Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece thrillers may be outside of Millenials' cultural radar, but just because folks under 40 haven't seen the films doesn't mean they don't know the landmarks—or can't appreciate a San Francisco Bay Area tour with moody Hitchcock undertones. The popularity of these classic tours may see a bump due to the Hitchcock biopic hitting theaters Dec. 7, 2012.
|Rice Terraces near Ubud, Bali|
If ever a movie has inspired women to cast off their everyday shackles and go journeying in search of enlightenment (and second-chance romance … or really good shopping), it's "Eat, Pray, Love." Most people don't have the flexibility to take a year away from "real life" the way the memoir/movie's main character did, but even if they only have a week, they invariably find their way to Ubud in inland Bali.
|Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Savannah, Ga.|
Some Savannah tourism professionals believe the book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" helped put the city back on the map after decades of obscurity—with the 1997 feature film release securing its position. Fifteen years later, a myriad of Midnight tours help visitors explore the old Southern city of Savannah through the perspective of one of its steamiest and creepiest real-life mysteries.