TV Tourism Trend: 5 Destinations to Watch

by  Mandy Berman | Jul 18, 2013
Nashville / pabradyphoto/iStock

You watch your favorite television show to unwind after a long day at work or to enjoy some entertainment without leaving your couch. But some people are so inspired by what's happening on-screen that they're motivated to travel to the place depicted in their shows. Yes, TV tourism is a real thing, and destinations like Nashville and Northern Ireland reap the benefits when shows are based or filmed there. Here are some notable TV-centric destinations where visitors are flocking this year.

Nashville: Nashville

This prime-time drama about country music stars takes place in Tennessee’s "Music City," and the state capital has seen burgeoning tourism as a result of the show’s popularity. The ABC series was estimated to have a $40 million impact on the city’s local economy after the first season. Not only does the drama share its name with the city, but it also shoots fully on location in Nashville, offering an authentic glimpse into the city's country music scene and unique local flavor. For season two, the state of Tennessee pledges to contribute up to $12.5 million to the show's production, with the city of Nashville chipping in another $500,000. Though TV tours through the city are few and far between (the one we found seems to be completely sold out), you can make your own tour visiting the show's landmarks, like the Ryman Auditorium (home to the Grand Ole Opry), and the more intimate music venue, the Bluebird Cafe.

Game of Thrones: Northern Ireland

HBO’s Game of Thrones takes place on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, but it's is filmed primarily in Northern Ireland. The Irish government estimates that the show has benefited the country’s economy by £65 million (that's $98.2 million) since its debut. While many GoT fanatics were already visiting the show’s locations on their own, from the picturesque Ballintoy Harbour to the 400 million-year-old Caves at Cushendon, tourism boards and tour companies have caught on to the trend. Discover Northern Ireland, the country's official tourism board, offers a guide to key locations on their blog, while the travel site Viator now lists a private, nine-hour tour from Belfast, stopping at numerous filming locations along the country's Causeway Coastal Route.

Girls: Brooklyn, NY

Lena Dunham's HBO comedy-drama about female twenty-somethings and their post-graduate woes has soared in popularity during its first two seasons. The four characters live in Brooklyn's hip Greenpoint neighborhood, and now the tour bus company responsible for bringing Sex and the City bus tours to New York is adding a Girls tour to its roster. While exact planning for the tour is still in the early stages, you can easily make your own tour of the show's major locations, including India Street, where you'll find the exterior of Hannah's (Dunham's character's) apartment, along with her workplace, Cafe Grumpy, and the independent bookstore, Spoonbill & Sugartown, where Hannah is spotted with her boyfriend du jour.

Downton Abbey: Newbury and Oxfordshire, England

BBC's hit period drama is one of the most widely watched television shows in the world, and the real-life castle that serves as the show's main setting has become a tourist attraction unto itself. Highclere Castle, located about 1.5 hours outside of London, now offers tours to the public and sees about 1,500 visitors a day – and they each pay $27 to enter the castle. Fans can also visit the nearby village of Bampton, in Oxfordshire, which serves as Downton village on the show. Numerous tour companies, like Great British Tours and Brit Movie Tours give daylong tours beginning at around $133 per person.

Modern Family: Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Although ABC's hit sitcom takes place in Southern California, it featured a family trip to a dude ranch in Jackson Hole during its third season. As a result, popularity to the Rocky Mountain resort skyrocketed. In addition to the over 400 media features about the episode, United Airlines and Lost Creek Ranch (where the fictional families stayed) ran a sweepstakes for a summertime trip to the resort. It received over 10,000 entries by the time the show aired. Although the sweepstakes is over, you can still take a trip of your own to Lost Creek Ranch, just like the Pritchetts and the Dunphys did, or explore lots of other resort options via the Jackson Hole tourism board.

What's your favorite TV show? Have you traveled to where it's filmed?

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