Best Cinematic Destination (2015)


Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars ... iconic TV shows and movies have launched a new era of tourism, one where fans make pop culture pilgrimages to walk in the footsteps of fictional characters at the very destinations where the most famous scenes were filmed.

  • Scotland


    "Alba gu bràth!" (roughly translated to "Scotland forever") was the battle cry yelled by William Wallace (Mel Gibson) in the 1995 Oscar-nominated period drama Braveheart. But a visit to the William Wallace Monument to see his actual sword is just the start. Scotland's Eilean Donan castle featured in Highlander as the abode of Clan McCloud and as the headquarters of MI6 in The World is Not Enough. Rosslyn Chapel in Edinburgh played a prominent role in The Da Vinci Code, while scenes of the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter series was filmed crossing the 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct along the West Highland Line – a train ride visitors can experience for themselves.
    Photo courtesy of vichie81

  • Petra, Jordan

    Petra, Jordan

    Wadi Rum and Petra in Jordan, both UNESCO World Heritage sites, saw visitor numbers skyrocket after the release of the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail starring Harrison Ford. The two locations were also featured in the more recent Michael Bay release Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in 2009.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Jordan

  • New Zealand

    New Zealand

    For film fans, a trip to New Zealand brings to mind one thing: Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson's already classic fantasy trilogy showcased the dramatic landscapes of the country in front of global audiences, and today, visitors can tour the set of quaint Hobbiton near Matamata on the North Island, visit the Weta Cave Workshop in Wellington to see sets and props from the films or take guided day trips from Queenstown or Wellington into the countryside to see the very landscapes depicted in the movies.
    Photo courtesy of Sara Orme / New Zealand Tourism

  • Salzburg, Austria

    Salzburg, Austria

    2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the classic film The Sound of Music, and fans from around the globe will be heading to beautiful Salzburg to participate in the festivities. No matter when the visit, travelers to the Austrian city can visit many of the film's iconic locations, including the Benedictine Convent on Nonnberg where the nuns sang about the many problems of "Maria," Mirabell Gardens where Maria and the von Trapp children coo "Do-Re-Mi," the Leopoldskron Palace which doubled as the von Trapp residence and the Sound of Music Pavilion at Hellbrunn Palace, where the song "I am 16 going on 17" was shot.
    Photo courtesy of TheYok

  • Dyersville, Iowa

    Dyersville, Iowa

    In 1987 and 1988, a film crew scoured the countryside of rural Iowa for a spot to build a baseball diamond. The location they chose over a quarter century ago has never been the same since. Ever since Field of Dreams was released in 1989, this modest baseball diamond in the middle of a corn field near Dyersville has attracted visitors from around the world who come to experience a little bit of the magic for themselves. Visitors to the Field of Dreams Movie Site are invited to bring along a bat, ball and glove to hit few in the same place where Kevin Costner once did.
    Photo courtesy of Field of Dreams Movie Site

  • Albuquerque


    For better or worse, Blue Sky and Breaking Bad secured Albuquerque a spot on the cinematic map, spawning a citywide effort to ride the show's success and give visiting fans a full experience via trolly and bike tours, filming location maps, Blue Sky candy cooking classes and themed treats at local businesses, like Breaking Bad rock candy from The Candy Lady, Blue Sky donuts from Rebel Donuts, Walt's White Lie and Heisenberg's Dark Ale at Marble Brewery and a Breaking Blue cocktail at popular Irish bar O'Niell's. The successful first season of Better Call Saul plus the plentiful filming happening throughout town means cinematic tourism isn't likely to meet the same end as Walter White.
    Photo courtesy of Lydia Schrandt

  • Dubrovnik, Croatia

    Dubrovnik, Croatia

    A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Old City of Dubrovnik in Croatia on the Dalmatian coast features prominently as the double for King's Landing in the wildly popular HBO series Game of Thrones. Visiting fans of the show might recognize Bokar Fortress, used in the second and third seasons, as well as the Trsteno Arboretum which doubled as the gardens of King's Landing where Tyrion and Varys were depicted plotting their schemes. The Dubrovnik Tourist Board produces a map for self-guided tours of the city's many filming locations.
    Photo courtesy of pershinghks

  • Bruges, Belgium

    Bruges, Belgium

    The cult classic, dark comedy thriller In Bruges took viewers on a cinematic journey through the winding waterways and back alleys of one of Belgium's most beautiful cities. Visitors too can ply the canals of Bruges, the 'Venice of the North,' while staying at the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce, an intimate B&B that doubled as the hotel where hit men Ken and Ray (Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell) hole up after a tough job. Many of the city's churches, museums, bridges bars and restaurants also featured in the film.
    Photo courtesy of chrispixe

  • Santa Barbara Wine Country

    Santa Barbara Wine Country

    Move over Napa Vally! The 2004 Oscar-winning film Sideways put Santa Barbara Wine Country firmly on the map for both movie junkies and oenophiles. Today, visitors with a glass of Pinot Noir in hand ("I am not drinking any f**king Merlot!") can follow in the footsteps of Miles and Jack as they road trip through the verdant valleys of this California wine region. Popular filming locations include the Days Inn Windmill in Buellton, the Hitching Post II, the Lompoc Farmers' Market, Ostrich Land and Solvang Restaurant.
    Photo courtesy of Bill Cates

  • Las Vegas

    Las Vegas

    Las Vegas has some of the most recognizable locations in the world to the point where first-time visitors might get the feeling they've been there before in another life. This is thanks in large part to Sin City's prominence in Hollywood. Long before The Hangover and Oceans 11 brought their comedic antics to The Strip, the city was already well established as a filming location. Dustin Hoffman overlooked the neon lights from the two-level Emperors Suite at Caesars Palace in the 1988 drama Rain Man, while Martin Scorsese's 1995 hit Casino was shot mostly in the Riviera. Even reality TV has cashed in, as hundreds of fans flock to the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, featured in History Channel's Pawn Stars, each day.
    Photo courtesy of photoquest7


We asked a panel of movie and TV tourism experts to nominate 20 destinations where TV shows and movies play a major role in the tourist scene, then we turned it over to USA TODAY 10Best readers to pick their favorites. The polls have now closed and the results for Best Cinematic Destination are in!

When you think about how often Scotland features in iconic film franchises – Harry Potter, James Bond, Braveheart and The Da Vinci Code to name a few – it's no surprise this country came in first place.

Runner-up for Best Cinematic Destination, Petra, became famous after the 1989 release of the Harrison Ford classic Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail and has since featured in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Cinematic Destination are as follows:

  1. Scotland
  2. Petra, Jordan
  3. New Zealand
  4. Salzburg, Austria
  5. Dyersville, Iowa
  6. Albuquerque
  7. Dubrovnik, Croatia
  8. Bruges, Belgium
  9. Santa Barbara Wine Country
  10. Las Vegas

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Simon Hudson (Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development at the University of South Carolina) and Stefan Roesch (Film Tourism) were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of the film and TV travel industry.

Additional nominees for Best Cinematic Destination included Australia, Berkshire, London, Morocco, New York, Paris, Southern Tunisia, Stockholm, the Thai Islands and Tokyo.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners. The contest was promoted on 10Best and USA TODAY.

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AlertThe Experts

Simon Hudson

Simon Hudson

Simon Hudson

Stefan Roesch

Stefan Roesch

Stefan Roesch