Any way you slice it, movies are one of the major American exports, and across fifty states there’s plenty of natural and manmade beauty to mine for blockbusters. Whereas many countries can claim only a few instantly-recognizable wonders (Jordan’s ancient city of Petra from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade comes to mind), virtually every landmark in the U.S. has grabbed a little screen time. From Westerns and indie flicks to true classics like The Shining and Blade Runner, America boasts a wealth of must-see tourist attractions familiar to filmgoers everywhere. Below, 10 of the coolest film landmarks to visit in the USA.
The Bradbury Building
Enter The Bradbury Building, and you may get the sense that you’ve seen this place before. While it opened in 1893 as an office building, it’s best known for its role as Tyrell genetic designer J.F. Sebastian’s house in Blade Runner (1982). Its distinctive internal stairwells are gorgeous and instantly recognizable from the film. Today, the building is on the list of National Register of Historic Places, and the lobby is open for tourists to come and snap a photo. On the ground floor, you’ll find Blue Bottle Coffee, which is always a reliable spot for a pick-me-up.
La Verne United Methodist Church
The church from the closing scene of The Graduate
(1967) is still standing and in much the same condition, which probably prompts an annoying number of reenactments from tourists looking to capture some of the magic of the classic Dustin Hoffman vehicle (the final of scene of which was also parodied on-location in Wayne’s World 2
). In the center of the town of La Verne, this functioning church is a beautiful location all on its own, Mrs. Robinson or no Mrs. Robinson.
Famous as the location for the exterior shots of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining
Timberline Lodge & Ski Area is the only ski resort in the continental United States that stays open year round. Mt. Hood is a naturally occurring glacier that allows skiers and snowboarders to ride in near perfect conditions throughout the year. Mt Hood is also home to two of the most well-known ski and snowboard summer camps in the industry. High Cascade and Windells have operated for over two decades at Mt. Hood. These two camps have helped produce talents that have gone on to win medals in the Olympics, X-Games, U.S. Open, European Open and about every other contest in between. This mountain is a hotbed for professional athletes to train during the summer and learn new tricks they will display in the coming season.
Bowling Alley, Park
Famous from the startling final scene of There Will Be Blood
(to name just one of its many appearances on film), Greystone Mansion was the home of Edward L. Doheny’s son, Edward Laurence ‘Ned’ Doheny Jr., who wanted to escape the chaos of downtown Los Angeles. Architects Gordon B. Kaufman and Paul Thiene designed the estate, which was completed in 1928. Doheny Jr. was not concerned with budget; therefore the mansion was lavishly furnished and included a billiard room, bowling alley, and two-story living room. The mansion was sold to the city of Beverly Hills in 1965, and it has since been the filming site for many popular Hollywood movies. The home is currently open to the public as a park and garden.
Monument Valley is located in the south-east corner of Utah, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park sits in the heart of the Navajo Nation and stands as an icon of the American West. Often featured in Hollywood’s plethora of John Ford’s Westerns (including Stagecoach
and The Searchers
), the rugged and dramatic red landscape has become synonymous with the Old West. Monument Valley brims with culture, boasting the Goudling Film and Cultural History Museum in Goulding’s Lodge, The Dinosaur Museum in Blanding, Newspaper Rock National Historic Site, and the Bluff Fort Historic Site (displaying the legacy of trail-blazing settlers). Guided jeep tours also offer an alternative to hikes, in order to get up close and personal with Monument Valleys’ rugged and dramatic red giants. Wake up early to catch the sinuous shadows of the Natural Bridges National Monument (Utah’s first national monument), which houses three flowing-water-sculpted bridges, including ‘Sipapu’, the second-largest natural bridge in the world.
The site of Close Encounters of the Third Kind
‘s climactic scene (1977), Devils Tower is a solitary rock formation rising 1,267 feet into the air, is America’s first national monument. The igneous stump-shaped rock is climbable, but many Native American
tribes – like the Lakota – hold this structure as sacred, with ancient legends aplenty surrounding the tower.
Firehouse, Hook & Ladder Company No. 8
The legendary firehouse from Ghostbusters
(1984) is, in reality, a functioning FDNY fire station in Tribeca. Built in 1903, the firefighters of Hook & Ladder No. 8 are real-life heroes on par with their fictional counterparts: They were among the first responders to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. Facing closure in 2011, this landmark was saved by the intervention of Bill de Blasio and remains in service after a $6 million renovation.
Palace of Fine Arts
As seen in Vertigo (1958), San Diego’s Balboa Park was developed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, while San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts was part of the competing 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. It’s gorgeous for photos or a walk, but it also has a café and Palace Games, a fantastic escape room to test your wits.
Doubling for the fictional Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard
(1988), the real Fox Plaza is a Los Angeles landmark that has also appeared in movies like Airheads
, Fight Club
, and Lethal Weapon 2
. With such a vaunted career in movies, it’s easy to overlook the architectural marvel that it really is, having been co-designed by architect and Space Age enthusiast William Pereira.
Dallas City Hall
The unmistakable OCP Headquarters from Robocop
(1986) is in actuality the Dallas City Hall, a staggering pyramidal design by I.M. Pei that slops at a 34° angle, shielding the downtown area from the blistering Texas sun. A landmark of modernism, the City Hall is a perfect double for the dystopic corporations of Robocop’s futuristic version of Detroit, which has its own Robocop
-themed tourist attractions including a statue of Robocop himself to be unveiled sometime in 2018.