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Luggage, Camera, Action! U.S. Filming Locations You Can Visit

Becky Hart | Feb 28, 2024

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We travel to see the world. We watch movies to escape to the land of make believe. It’s time to blur the line between fiction and reality. When you want to visit the filming locations of your favorite movies, TV shows, and musicals, these U.S. destinations are where you need to go.

Don’t miss our dramatic roundup of international filming locations, too.

Where Was Oppenheimer Filmed?

When you do a tour of the locations of Oppenheimer, the 2023 blockbuster about atomic scientist Robert J. Oppenheimer, you aren’t just seeing a bunch of sets. These filming locations are also the real deal.

Los Alamos, New Mexico

The Manhattan Project was carried out in a few locations, but none of them was near New York City. The movie crew went where the work was really done, filming extensively in New Mexico and in Los Alamos in particular.

The Manhattan Project National Historical Park is actually three sites. Go to Los Alamos and you’ll see the secret lab where they built the first atomic bombs. Some of the buildings from that era are still standing and were used in the movie. This includes Oppenheimer House, where the scientist and his family lived in the 1940s. There’s a self-guided tour available on the NPS App of key sites in the park.

Los Angeles, California

It’s not terribly surprising that a movie would be filmed in Los Angeles, but in the case of Oppenheimer, the location adds historical accuracy. The titular character taught at UCLA, among other universities, throughout his career.

You can visit UCLA on a campus tour, although these are geared toward prospective students. Alternatively, do a self-guided tour at your own pace. Keep an eye open for Kerckhoff Hall, the main set on campus for Oppenheimer.

UCLA is no rookie when it comes to movie filming. You might also recognize it from Legally Blonde, among others.

Stars were also spotted filming at the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel. For more than 100 years, the hotel has hosted presidents, celebrities like The Beatles, and of course filmmakers. It even hosted the Academy Awards in the 1930s. Today, it’s a luxurious hotel in the center of LA and worth a visit, even if just to gawk at the décor.

Where Was The Notebook Filmed?

First of all, let’s all acknowledge that the book and the movie are different. While the book plays out in North Carolina, the movie is set in a fictional town in South Carolina. Producers actually filmed many of the scenes in the Palmetto State, so a trip to Charleston would let you see many of the movie sites in a weekend.

Boone Hall Plantation, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

Allie’s family’s summer house was filmed in two Charleston locations. Interior shots were done at Calhoun Mansion downtown, but exterior shots are of Boone Hall Plantation. The current owners still live in the house today and while you can tour parts of the first floor, the home contains personal family items, so they ask visitors — and film crews — not to take photos or video.

Boone Hall was one of the longest running plantations in the United States, producing cotton, indigo, and bricks during its most successful economic times. In addition to visiting the house, you have free range over the grounds where you can see former slave cabins that are outfitted to explain what life would have been like for those working on the property.

The Avenue of Oaks is perhaps one of the most classic views in Charleston with hundreds of centuries-old trees, draped with Spanish moss, lining the drive up to the main house.

Cypress Gardens, Moncks Corner, South Carolina

If you don’t remember the rowboat scene, you clearly weren’t paying attention. Allie and Noah had their romantic moment at Cypress Gardens. Swans played a key role in the romanticism of that scene, but you won’t find any there now since swans aren’t native to South Carolina. What you can see, though, are crocodiles, fish, and all manner of Low Country creatures.

Visit the Butterfly House, explore the Swamparium (just a fun name for tanks filled with swampy amphibians and other animals), or yes, rent a rowboat.

El Matador Beach, Malibu, California

One of the few scenes filmed outside South Carolina, the beach scene — “Say I’m a bird!” — was acted out in Malibu. El Matador Beach is part of a larger state beach. In addition to frolicking through the surf like Allie and Noah, you can explore sea caves along the coast, go snorkeling, or take a hike along any of the trails.

The parking lot is small and the path down to the beach is fairly steep, but if you can manage to find a spot, it’s well worth the effort. Especially if you get there in time for sunset.

Where Was Forrest Gump Filmed?

I challenge you to think of a movie that was quoted more in the 90s than Forrest Gump. This memorable tale took us on a ride through some notable moments — and places — in American history.

Monument Valley, Utah

Three years of running came to an end for Forrest in Utah. And when he suddenly decided he was done, the sandstone buttes of Monument Valley stood behind him.

Monument Valley is located on the Navajo Nation Reservation along the Utah-Arizona border. If you’re traveling alone — not on a tour — you can drive the Tribal Park Loop scenic route for some of the most iconic views. There are plenty of tours you can join to take you farther from the main road where the wide-open spaces and red rocks stretch for miles.

Other movies that have filmed in Monument Valley include Mission: Impossible II, National Lampoon's Vacation, Back to the Future Part III, and 2011: A Space Odyssey.

Chippewa Square, Savannah, Georgia

Is there a more iconic part of the movie than the bench where Forrest tells his story with a box of chocolates? The bench isn’t there anymore — one of the benches used in the movie is now in the Savannah History Museum — but you can stop by the park.

The park itself offers its own charm with tree-lined paths and a statue commemorating General James Oglethorpe, founder of the colony of Georgia. Nearby is the Savannah Theatre, Eastman-Stoddard House, and local restaurants.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

It’s one of the most visited and most recognizable sites in Washington, D.C. — the Reflecting Pool looking out from the Lincoln Memorial toward the Washington Monument. In Forrest Gump, the Tom Hanks character gives his anti-Vietnam War speech before reuniting with Jenny in that pool.

In real life, the Lincoln Memorial has been the site Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech and countless other marches and rallies in support of civil rights. As part of the National Mall, include the Lincoln Memorial as you explore other key sites like the African American Civil War Memorial, Constitution Gardens, Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

Where Was The Hunger Games Filmed?

We all remember the drama of the arena, but there were plenty of other pivotal scenes in The Hunger Games that were filmed in very real places.

Swan House, Atlanta, Georgia

In Catching Fire, the second movie in the franchise, there are some tense moments with President Snow. The power struggle plays out in the real-life Swan House in Atlanta, Georgia. Built in 1928, it was a family home for nearly 40 years before being purchased by the Atlanta Historical Society.

You can tour the house and surrounding gardens. They’re part of a 33-acre campus packed full of museums, preserved nature lands, and historic homes.

Henry River Mill Village, North Carolina

President Snow’s mansion may have been all opulence and extravagance, but at the other end of the spectrum is the rundown District 12. Scenes of Katniss’s home were filmed in the abandoned Henry River Mill Village, North Carolina.

The movie has helped to turn things around for this village about an hour from Asheville. You can now take guided tours, and there are ongoing plans for restaurants, vacation rentals, a museum, and more.

Scenes around District 12, like when Katniss and Gail go hunting, were filmed in the Pisgah National Forest, also in North Carolina. The franchise switched things up for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, though, using Poland to represent District 12 in the prequel.

Where Was Hamilton Set?

The 11-time Tony award-winning rap concert-turned-musical theater phenomenon is based on real historical events, meaning there are real historical sites to visit to make Hamilton come alive. Turn up the soundtrack and string the sites together in one visit for one epic road trip.

Trinity Church, New York City, New York

“She is buried in Trinity Church near you ...” Angela sings these words in the show’s final song, referencing the burial of her sister, Angelica, in the same location where Alexander Hamilton was buried.

You can visit Trinity Church and its churchyard with the gravesites of both Angelica and Alexander on your next trip to New York City. Beyond just being his final resting place, this church was integral to Alexander’s life. He was involved in the congregation and attended King’s College, which was built on land provided by Trinity Church.

Weehawken, New Jersey

“Weehawken, dawn. Guns drawn.” The saddest part of both the musical and Alexander Hamilton’s real story is the fatal 1804 duel between him and Aaron Burr at Weehawken. Burr’s contempt for his frenemy becomes deadly when he shoots Hamilton in the show’s final moments, making him the story’s villain.

History lovers and Hamilton fans can pay a visit to the famous Weehawken dueling grounds and Hamilton Park where plaques commemorate the Burr versus Hamilton duel and others that took place in the same spot. Hamilton’s son, Phillip, also lost his life in a Weehawken duel.

Weehawken is just across the Hudson River from New York City. It’s not too far a jump if you’re looking to check some iconic destinations, like the Empire State Building, off your bucket list.

Yorktown Battlefield, Yorktown, Virginia

“The battle of Yorktown ...1781.” The battle that championed American independence took place in Yorktown, Virginia, where American soldiers miraculously defeated a global superpower.

The battlefield is now preserved by the National Park Service. Visitors can experience it through museum exhibits, guided tours, and the Yorktown Victory Monument. You can even take in other historical sites by walking to the nearby historic village of Yorktown.

Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia

“Whatever it is you do in Monticello ...” If you’ve studied Jefferson and Hamilton’s relationship, you know they weren’t each other’s biggest fans. The musical represents their inability to see eye-to-eye in a number of ways, but the Cabinet Battles may be the most memorable.

Hamilton makes a few references to President Jefferson’s plantation residence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Visit Monticello to learn more about the author of the Declaration of Independence and unpack the complicated slave history of the American South. There are also gardens to explore, family-friendly tours, and a vineyard.

Real Travel Insurance for Real U.S. Trips

The characters and stories of your favorite movies might not always be based on reality, but the truth is that anything can happen when you travel. As you make your way across the U.S. to relive your favorite screen moments, be sure to protect your trip with the right travel insurance for you.

U.S. residents getting their fill of home-grown moviemaking should consider Seven Corners Trip Protection USA. This customizable plan gives you coverage for trip cancellation and trip interruption, plus the option to add other benefits like baggage protection or medical coverage, depending on your unique needs. Coming to the U.S. from abroad? We have plans for you, too.

Find the best coverage for your trip with a simple, interactive guide at SevenCorners.com, or talk to one of our licensed agents. We’ll have you ready for your next trip before you can say, “Action!”

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