Ready, Set, PackWhether it's romance or mystery or humor or scenery alone, some movies hit an emotional button that sends us scurrying for our carry-on. Here are a few of the more memorable.
Another great example that inhabits the borderline between documentary realism and fiction is Kenny Kramer's Tours of New York City, says Jason Mittell, pop-culture critic and media studies professor at Middlebury College. Mittell notes that Kramer was the real-life basis for the character Kramer on the sitcom Seinfeld. "Many things in Seinfeld were based on tangential experiences of the writers," he says, "but the interesting thing is, I don't know if they ever shot a single episode in New York." Fans visit a variety of New York landmarks: the façade of the coffee shop where the characters often met; the bar where Kramer apologized for hitting Mickey Mantle; the Midtown office building where Kramer found someone to publish his coffee-table book about coffee tables; and the takeout shop with the great soup and the notorious chef. www.kennykramer.com
They built it; people still come
There's just something about baseball and Kevin Costner. Bull Durham created an upswing in minor-league baseball attendance. And that ballpark his character built in a cornfield in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams still draws about 65,000 fans a year to Dyersville, Iowa (also known as the Farm Toy Capital of the World). Bring your glove and take to the field or borrow one from the left and center field shop behind left field. Young and old wait for turns to take their cut in the box where Archie "Moonlight" Graham winked and then hit a sacrifice fly in the movie. Quench your thirst at the concession stand, which is operated by the Lansing family, who have owned the farm for 99 years.
Welcome to Middle Earth; may i have your passport?
"New Zealand is the big example," says Mittell. "The interesting thing is that fictional Middle Earth becomes the brand of this entire country. They have completely branded themselves as Middle Earth." The Lord of the Rings trilogy of three-hour visual feasts showcased the country's most notable landscapes: the volcanic crags of Tongariro National Park and Ohakune (Mordor), the Southern Alps and Wanaka (the Misty Mountains), and the farmlands of Matamata (Hobbiton). There are Tolkien-themed adventures (tourism.net.nz) and books such as The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook by Ian Brodie (HarperCollins).
Da gathering storm
Much like the Harry Potter films, Ron Howard's film version of publishing darling The Da Vinci Code is certain to take this obsession into the pop-cult pantheon (especially considering that Tom Hanks will star as the story's hero, Robert Langdon). Even before the movie's release next year, bookish pilgrims can take Da Vinci Code barge cruises (eight days and seven nights devoted to bringing the story to life; www.canalsoffrance.com), experience two themed vacations (The Secrets of Da Vinci and Breaking the Code, which take travelers to historical sites made famous by the book; www.globusjourneys.com), or take a more do-it-yourself approach by going to Fodors.com and building a personalized tour with the comprehensive guide spotlighted under the Da Vinci code. “Pop culture is something people enjoy as an escape, but it also provides the raw materials that we use in everyday life to experience the real,” Mittell says. “So in order to experience the Louvre in Paris, we want to experience this fictional representation of it.” As for film professor and self-described Da Vinci code freak Peter Moller, he admits he can think of nothing better. “I went to the web and checked out every one of those strange, out-of-the-way chapels and streets to see if they really exist,” he says. “I would love to follow along in the footsteps of the book.”