12 Awesome Pop-Culture Tours
Sometimes, it’s not enough to watch your favorite TV show or listen to a legendary band’s music; you also want to immerse yourself in the experience.
1. Game of Thrones: A Unique Tour of Croatia
The epic HBO series famously films in remote locales around the world, including Northern Ireland, Morocco, and Iceland (standing in for the Wall, where the Night’s Watch spends its frozen days and nights). But if you’d prefer not to succumb to frostbite, take this tour along the Adriatic Coast: GoT obsessives spend four days visiting Croatian filming locations, including Dubrovnik, which hard-core fans will recognize as Seven Kingdoms capital King’s Landing. (But be prepared to call in a Lannister debt if you book the tour: The trip costs $3200.)
2. Hunger Games Unofficial Fan Tours
You probably wouldn’t want to live in Panem, the nation at the center of The Hunger Games, or participate in the titular bloodbath at the series’ center. But on these tours, Katniss superfans come pretty close to seeing the world created in the films. You can choose to visit North Carolina, where DuPont State Recreational Forest was transformed into the Arena in the first film, or Atlanta, Georgia, to see the spots used as President Snow’s mansion and the cornucopia in 2013’s Catching Fire. There are also immersive, weekend-long trips meant to simulate the experience of actually participating in the Games—but maybe save those for the really die-hard fans.
3. BBC’s Sherlock Locations Tour
Travel as Sherlock and Watson do—in one of London’s iconic black taxi cabs—during this three-hour jaunt, which visits some of the sites used on the BBC series. Among the spots fans will see: St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, where—spoiler alert!—Sherlock fakes his death in the second series; the exterior of Charles Augustus Magnussen’s office; and, of course, 221B Baker Street. (Tour-goers also get a free cuppa at Speedy’s Cafe, the coffee shop next to the detectives’ office.)
4. The Doctor Who Experience
How do you properly celebrate a show that’s been on the air, in some iteration or another, for five decades? You give it a gigantic space in Cardiff, Wales, and fill it with enough props from the series to satisfy the biggest Whovian. This immersive experience opened in 2012 and includes artifacts from the show’s more than 50 years of existence: Costumes worn by every Doctor, from William Hartnell to Matt Smith, are on view, along with creepy models of some of the Doctor’s biggest foes, such as the Weeping Angels and the Daleks. (And like the Doctor himself, the experience regenerates every so often, with new props added on a rolling basis.)
5. Highclere Castle
Downton Abbey’s upstairs-downstairs drama has its basis in reality: The show is filmed at this 5000-acre estate in Hampshire, England, which serves as the home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. In fact, the story of Lady Almina, the fifth Countess of the castle, parallels that of Lady Grantham: She married into British aristocracy, and converted the home into a hospital during World War I. So what will Downton addicts see? The exterior is immediately recognizable, but fans can also explore the house itself; the bedrooms and library are among the rooms that were used as locations on the show.
6. The Field of Dreams Site
It’s unlikely that if you visit this site, a mysterious voice will lead you to your destiny, or summon the ghosts of long-gone athletes. But still, fans of the 1989 Kevin Costner weepie can check out the Dyersville, Iowa farmhouse featured in the film, as well as its cornfields and the famed baseball diamond. Visitors can run the bases or take in a game—the Ghost Players will take the field, of course—and since the flick will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2014, expect special events throughout the year.
7. Warner Bros. Studio Tour London
Muggles can immerse themselves in Harry Potter’s world—from Privet Drive to Diagon Alley to the Great Hall at Hogwarts—at this Leavesden studio, which opened to the public in 2012. Each section of the site is stuffed with props from the Harry Potter films, including the Knight’s Bus, a enormous scale model of Hogwarts Castle, and the many treasures in Dumbledore’s office. But it’s also interactive: You can pretend you’re in a Quidditch match by riding a broom in front of a green screen, or find out what Butterbeer actually tastes like once and for all.
8. Sex and the City Sites Tour
This three-and-a-half hour bus tour takes groups of SATC fans to more than 40 spots used on the show. It hits three neighborhoods: Midtown (The New York Public Library, Tiffany & Co.), the Meatpacking District (Buddakan, schmancy boutiques), and Greenwich Village (the Magnolia Bakery, duh). And yes, for those who are curious: the tour claims to be R-rated, so it won’t shy away from the show’s, uh, racier settings.
9. Twin Peaks Fest
Looking for a slice of cherry pie and some damn fine coffee? Head to North Bend, Washington, where an annual celebration of David Lynch’s über-weird early-’90s series has taken place for more than 20 years. One of the centerpieces of the weekend-long event is a three-hour bus tour showcasing filming locations from the series, including the waterfall at Snoqualmie Falls (featured prominently in the opening credits) and the Weyerhaeuser sawmill, which stood in for the Packard Mill on the show. (And if you really want to sample that famous pie, take a detour to Twede’s Diner, also known as the Double R Diner on the show.)
10. Magical Mystery Tour Liverpool
Of all the Beatles tours out there—and trust us, there are plenty—this one has one of the biggest perks for dedicated fans: It’s a two-hour bus ride on a replica of the vehicle used in the band’s 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour. (Nevermind the fact that the film wasn’t exactly a hit when it first premiered.) Along the way, tour-goers visit the church where John Lennon and Paul McCartney met for the first time; spots that provided inspiration for songs like “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”; and the Cavern Club, the Liverpool venue where they built up a pre-Beatlemania following.
11. Lord of the Rings Tours and Experiences
Middle-Earth may not be real, but Queenstown, New Zealand is—and several tours offered by Southern Lakes Sightseeing take fans of Frodo & co. to locations used in Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films. Two of the longer tours take visitors on journeys along the trails traversed by the Fellowship, while a shorter tour focuses exclusively on the weapons and props used in the movies, including Aragorn’s hunting knife and Gimli’s ax. (And yes, you can handle and take photos with the weapons—but carefully.)
12. Kramer's Reality Tour
Remember the Seinfeld episode where Cosmo Kramer launched the J. Peterman Reality Tour? That was a spoof on Kenny Kramer's Reality Tour, an actual bus tour run by the inspiration for Michael Richards' character. The bus visits famous Seinfeld scenes and gives you behind-the-scenes info. You might see, for example, "the place where Kramer and Newman got the black market shower heads." Or learn that "there is an actual Russell Dalrymple, Lloyd Braun, Becky Gelke, John Mollica, Al Niche, and even a person called 'The Drake.'"
Despite Jerry's claim that "nobody wants to go on a three hour bus tour of a totally unknown person's life," the Kramer Reality Tour is still going strong more than 15 years after the show's finale. Book your Spring/Summer 2014 tour now! Think your $37.50 ticket comes with a bite-size 3 Musketeers?