The real world is a beautiful place. I won’t deny that. Even still, the collective imaginations of writers and visionaries throughout history have created lands that, in my mind, could never be rivaled by Mother Earth. They’ve built some impossibly amazing places, but they have the advantage really. So let’s not get too carried away. Some fictional lands are based on real sites, exaggerated or improved to make them better than they are in real life. Others are made special because of the fictional world and characters they interact with, aided by a nostalgic love of their stories. Every place on this list, though, also benefitted from the magic of film and TV. But let me make this clear now, before we go any further, you can’t actually go to these places. Well, actually, some of them you can visit, but it’s not the same. It’s never the same. You won’t be part of the same atmosphere as in the movie or TV show. It won’t be as good. I know. I’m ruining this for you.
Let’s start again. Imagine for a second that you could visit any place that you’ve ever seen on TV and film, for real. Of all the cities, towns, countries and lands that your favorite films and television shows have been set in, which would you choose? Imagine that the people, the weather, even the events of those stories were taking place as you visited, would that impact your decision? There are so many incredible settings from TV and movies that it’s difficult to narrow them down, but I’m going to do it anyways because I like you. I think you’re nice. If you ever get the chance to abandon the law of physics and reality and travel to fictional lands, I’ve gone ahead and prepared for you a list of places you should see. There are 16 places on this list, 16 places that make me sad they don’t exist.
16. Sunnydale – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Ok, hear me out. You may not think that the risk of being sucked dry by vampires or killed by a thousand other demons is worth it, but Sunnydale from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a must-visit. The town is impossibly big and makes no sense whatsoever, but it has everything you could need from a city while still keeping a small town mentality. It has a club with great live music, a zoo, an airport, a museum, a military base and a wild number of schools and cemeteries. Every single week, the town also has a really dramatic event in which the entire area is thrown into chaos, but it always, always works out. How fun! It also has a 50s suburbia feel to it, if you’re into that. You can buy a home for cheap because inhabitants mysteriously disappear all the time, so even first time home owners can get an unreal piece of property. Where else is that possible?
15. Spectre – Big Fish
Spectre, Alabama, from the Tim Burton’s Big Fish may not knock your socks off, but for those who like the serene lifestyle, it’s a dream come true. There’s a magic to that place that makes you never want to leave. You walk in with your shoes on, throw them up on the wire, and go barefooting through the grass for the rest of your days. Simplicity can be a beautiful thing. There’s a dance to take part in, well, it’s really just turning in a circular motion over and over again, but sure, we’ll call it dancing. There’s also pie. You hear me? Pie. In real life, the set was constructed in its entirety on a private island, just don’t look at it today. It’s abandoned, decrepit and broken down. Funny enough, it’s actually really similar to the witch’s house in the movie… Dang that movie is good.
14. Pleasantville – Pleasantville
The town of Pleasantville is a great portrayal of the utopian image of 50s U.S. suburbia. It showcases the way we imagine 50s style life in the burbs, ripe with wholesome attitudes, friendly neighbors and picture perfect properties. Even though the movie looks to challenge that vision and set the record straight, the fantasy version of the town looks absolutely amazing. Visit and leave any cares or worries behind. Life is simpler, easier and wealthier. Everyone’s lawn is perfectly cut, there is virtually no crime and no responsibility. I’d definitely visit, but I may never come back.
13. Emerald City – The Wizard of Oz
Despite the fact that the Wizard himself is a big fat phony, Emerald City looks awesome. You got green buildings, green walls, green clothes, green animals and… that’s about it, but I think that sounds pretty good. It may not sound like much, but it looks nice. Like the people are nice and happy, super fake, but happy and nice. The wizard is the big draw in the city, though. People come from all over to see him, suffering some crazy threats by that old lady and joining into a song or three with some sweet little munchkins along the way. If you do get to see him, he gives you gifts. Not great gifts. They’re more symbolic and actually pretty worthless come to think about. But Dorothy and her entourage went through hell and back to get there, so it has to be worthwhile. I’m starting to realize that I’m not a great tourism person. Travel agent?
12. Los Angeles – Blade Runner
Los Angeles 2019—you may say it’s a dystopian portrayal of the real city, but I’d say it looks pretty cool. Sure, you can wait three years and visit Los Angeles, but I don’t think it’ll be the same thing. Ridley Scott was a lot more innovative than real urban planners, engineers and architects. In this world, space travel exists, flying cars are a reality and there are androids walking around posing as humans. This is my kind of place. I think the acid rain is a little off-putting, but if you’re wealthy enough to visit, you’ll be wealthy enough to afford an umbrella. Plus, you’ll likely be up top above all those lowly working stiffs. The city is similar to Metropolis from Metropolis, but I’d go here first because of Harrison Ford.
11. Narnia – The Chronicles of Narnia
Forests as far as the eye can see and filled with amazing creatures of all shapes and sizes. Narnia is led by a ferocious dictator, Aslan the lion, but he’s basically just Jesus covered in fur. There’s been some pretty dark times in Narnia, a bunch of crazies and a few wars, but all told, it’s a beauty. All the animals can talk too, so you’ll know exactly why they’re staring at you, which is more than I can say for my cat, Bernie, at this very second. Time works in strange ways there as well, sometimes it moves really fast compared to the real world and sometimes real slow, so visiting is kind of like letting your kids housesit for you, you never know what you’ll come back to.
10. Cloud City/Endor – Star Wars
The idea of a floating city like Cloud City from The Empire Strikes Back has been around for a while, but we finally got to see it realized beautifully on screen with Star Wars. Even though we don’t get to see the whole thing, we can at least imagine how great it really is. There also has to be some love for Endor because of its inhabitants. All I know is, if I went to Endor I would go crazy petting all those sweet little Ewoks. They are the cutest and fuzziest things in the universe. What more does one need? Beautiful dense forests filled with tiny little bears, that’s the dream.
9. Halloween Town – Nightmare Before Christmas
I’m a sucker for Halloween. Truly. I wish that Halloween was every month, and not even for the candy. I love the decorations and the weather, the movies and the music. In Halloween Town, you are in a constant state of prepping for Halloween, except for the actual day of Halloween, so maybe visit on the actual day. Even if you’re a scaredy-cat, it’s not so bad. The odd freak screaming at you, someone bugging out their eyes at you, or a creature creeping up on you for a jolt is all you’ll face, basically downtown New York without the smell of sewage.
8. Whoville – How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Whoville is basically the Halloween Town for Christmas lovers. It’s a town full of little Whos, a kind and loving little people. The town itself may be contained within a fleck of dust or a snowflake, we’ve seen it two different ways (Horton Hears a Who! and How the Grinch Stole Christmas). Personally, I like the Grinch version better, so I’d visit there first. Outside of the grumpy guts Grinch and Mt. Crumpet, there’s nothing to worry about, except maybe being overfed. The house designs are crazy, the food weird, the toys and gadgets impractically wonderful, all of it is colorful and all of it is welcoming.
7. Springfield – The Simpsons
Springfield has such a memorable layout that it almost feels like home. While Universal Studios has a pretty neat little version of The Simpsons town, it just could never be the same. You see, Springfield is in a cartoon; it just can’t be real. If it were though, the antics combined with the people and the familiar places would be amazing to visit. It’s a well-kept city, even though it’s heavily polluted. It has so much to see, like a forest, a volcano, the gorge, the desert, the flats, the glacier, the bar… Come to think of it, it’s a pretty dynamic place. If you ignore the tire fire and the nuclear power plant poisoning the town, it’s great, a place you could really lay down some roots.
6. Hill Valley – Back to the Future
With the small exception of Biff and his gang of thugs, Hill Valley, California (1955 version) is a magical place. Technically, if we want to break the illusion, Courthouse Square exists on the Universal Studios backlot. Plenty of other scenes from TV and film have been set there. But we’re talking about Back to the Future here, so don’t distract me. Similar to Pleasantville, Hill Valley benefits from a nostalgic look of 50s life. We like to imagine it as perfectly simple and when that image is shown on the silver screen, it is captivating. We also got to witness how the town looks at outsiders, especially from the future, so visiting there instantly turns you into the town’s big focus. You could be a legend.
5. Wonderland – Alice in Wonderland
Have a tea party with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, do mushrooms and smoke whatever that crazy caterpillar is smoking, get big, get small, eat oysters, you get the idea. I’m naming places and things from the movie. But seriously, avoid the Red Queen’s castle and you’re bound to have an awesome time. The entire point of Wonderland is that it’s remarkable, so it’s gotta be. Right? Wait, is that the point of Wonderland? Yeah, I’m pretty sure. It’s wonderful? Even with Tim Burton running the show, other than a few evil things lurking behind the scenes and some weird angular shapes, Wonderland feels safe to me. If you avoid almost getting squashed, dodge getting eaten and barely escape from getting your head chopped off, I feel like you’re going to be just fine.
4. Hogwarts – Harry Potter
When Hagrid said, “You’re a magician Harry,” or whatever it was that he said, Harry’s parents must have been so proud. Nah, I’m kidding. I have actually seen the movies. Yeah, that castle looks amazing. I went to Universal Studios and saw The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and I loved it, but still, being in the real Hogwarts castle would be a bit better. You get to do magic all day, eat magic food, fly on brooms, maybe have someone in your class get murdered each year, but other than that, what could be better? Even though it’s got a horrible crime rate, it’s probably a pretty safe place as long as Harry isn’t there. Now that Harry’s in his mid-30s, it would be a beautiful place to visit.
3. Pandora – Avatar
The setting of one of the most magical stories ever created—oh, sorry, I was still talking about Hogwarts. Let me start again. Pandora is the setting for the 3D film Avatar, a story that was dreamed up in a brilliant mind, and then stolen by James Cameron. Heh, I could do this all night. From one of the greatest science fiction films of all time, Sigourney Weaver of Alien, is also in Avatar. Oh c’mon, that one was pretty good. In all seriousness though, this beautiful landscape is pretty neat. There’s some questionably sexual things going on with their flying horses, but outside of that Pandora really looks like a great place to visit. I’d go.
2. Neverland – Peter Pan & Hook
With the exception of the weird pirates, who are pretty much the only adults around, Neverland seems like the place to be. Fairies, mermaids and native tribes, islands, forests and caves—all within a few minute’s flight. Oh yeah, you can fly. Well, I can’t speak for you, but if I traveled there, I would be able to. You never get old, the mermaids are very, very friendly and, as an adult, you’ll be bigger and stronger than practically everyone in the land. You’d live like a king with little child labourers all around, like an Apple factory except you get to enjoy the fresh air. There’s also the imaginary food and bangarang, whatever that is.
1. The Shire/Rivendell – Lord of the Rings
This one’s a slight matter of preference. Do you like Hobbits or Elves? Do you like pipe weed or reading books? Do you like rolling hills and farmland or mountains Gandalf, mountains? Do you like The Lord of the Rings? Well, if you don’t, you don’t have a soul. Really, you can’t go wrong with either choice because both the Shire and Rivendell would be amazing places to visit. The Shire would be super relaxing, plus its got great food and nice people, but Rivendell isn’t called the “last homely house” for nothing. Both of these places have a real comforting feel to them. In The Lord of the Rings, these two sites both hosted rare periods of calm in the trilogy, so there’s something safe about them as well. Before I nerd out too hard, let’s move on to the next. Nope, no more. These are the best.