7 Dazzling Movie Sets That Exist In Real Life

by  Teresa Bitler | May 5, 2014
Hobbiton movie set, New Zealand
Hobbiton movie set, New Zealand / DVrcan/iStock

Beloved for their ability to bring new worlds and characters to life, movies – like travel – help us escape the often mundane reality of day-to-day life. Although they exist only on the big screen, occasionally, you can experience a piece of these worlds in person. Here, seven stunning movie sets you can visit today:

Hotel Sidi Driss, Tunisia (above): Located in southern Tunisia, Hotel Sidi Driss served as the Lars Family Homestead in “Star Wars IV.” Admittedly, even at $10 per night, staying at the hotel isn’t for everyone. The rooms are basically caves dug out of the ground with a simple mattress on the floor, but hey, if it was good enough for Luke Skywalker, it’s good enough for the diehard fan. If you don’t want to spend the night, you can stop for lunch or beer at the bar. 

Field of Dreams, Iowa: Stand on the same baseball field that a disembodied voice once instructed Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) to build. Located in Dyersville, Iowa, you’ll find the farmhouse and baseball diamond featured in the movie Field of Dreams. There are no guides, but admission is free and you can take all the photos (or run the bases) as much as you want. This Father’s Day weekend, Field of Dreams celebrates the 25th anniversary with a celebrity game, interviews with the cast, and concerts.

St. Joseph Plantation, Louisiana: This sugar cane plantation served as the backdrop for the Academy Award-winning 12 Years a Slave. You can tour the Manor Home ($15) and explore the outbuildings, including the original slave cabins, detached kitchen, blacksmith’s shop, carpenter’s shed and schoolhouse. Bonus: Neighboring Oak Alley Plantation, with its lined drive of 28 oak trees leading from the Mississippi River, were featured in Interview with a Vampire.

Atlas Corporation Studios, Morocco: It’s a grueling, 4-hour drive through olive groves and Berber villages to Atlas Corporation Studios in Oarzazate, Morocco, but for roughly $7, you’ll get a 30-minute tour where scenes from movies such as Prince of Persia, The Mummy Returns, Black Hawk Down, Alexander the Great, and Kingdom of Heaven were filmed. Although you won’t see it, a replica of the Coliseum built for Gladiator sits in the nearby desert.

Popeye Village, Malta: It took eight tons of nails and two thousand gallons of paint to create Sweet Haven Village, the fictional seafaring community featured in the 1980 musical Popeye, starring Robin Williams. The Malta destination, now known as Popeye Village, brings the movie to life. Visit Popeye in his cabin, interact with other movie characters or jump on water trampolines. Park admission is approximately $15.

Twisters, New Mexico: Whole tours revolve around visiting the sites of popular TV shows like The Sopranos, Sex in the City, and The Walking Dead, but you don’t need a guide to find Twisters, the Albuquerque burger joint that was transformed into Los Pollos Hermanos for Breaking Bad. Get your photograph with the Los Pollos Hermanos logo inside the restaurant, then drive by Walter White’s car wash (Octopus Car Wash) or even his house at 3828 Piermont Dr. N.E. The Albuquerque Trolley Co. offers a Breaking Bad tour ($65) if you want to see even more locations.

Malibu Creek State Park, California: Both the 1970 movie and the subsequent TV series M*A*S*H were filmed on what used to be the old 20th Century Fox ranch, now part of Malibu Creek State Park. Getting to the filming site requires a 4.75-mile roundtrip hike, and don’t expect much when you do arrive, just a few burned out and rusted military vehicles and the outpost’s helipad. Park officials have partially restored the set, though, making it easier to see where the tents and buildings were located during the show.

Encore, encore! Here are a few other movie sets worth exploring...

Tabernas Desert, Spain: More than 200 movies were filmed outside of Almeria, Spain, during the 1960s and 1970s, including The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. You can see some of the sets with a visit to two theme parks: Oasys Theme Park and Fort Bravo. Oasys ($35) offers daily Western shows, shoot outs, museums and zoo while Fort Bravo ($55), built expressly for the film, has a saloon, jail, shops, bank, church, peasant homes and homestead.

Spectre, Alabama: Constructed for the 2003 Tim Burton movie Big Fish, this town is mostly dilapidated facades at the end of a road lined with fake trees. Call the phone number at the gate to gain access ($3).

Hobbiton, New Zealand: Discover Middle Earth at Hobbiton, the set for the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. A tour through the 12-acre Hobbiton site, located near Matamata, takes you to the Hobbit holes, Green Dragon Inn, mill and other structures created for the movies ($75).

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