In 2013, according to USTravel.org, Americans made 1.6 billion person-trips for leisure. With a huge number like that, it’s obvious that people enjoy escaping from their day to day lives every once in a while. Vacations provide us with the ability to enjoy a change of scenery and unload from the stresses of real-life. Plus, when they include exotic destinations, the package gets even sweeter. However, a vacation doesn’t have to involve getting in a car and driving hundreds of miles or going even further by plane. Each day through different forms of media, people break from their realities and enter fictional worlds that make our environment seem dull and unadventurous.
Fortunately, for those on a tight budget, certain forms of entertainment offer a quick getaway when a real vacation is not feasible, and the majority of people are taking advantage of these fictional rendezvous. In 2012, American households shelled out about $2,600 on average for entertainment like books and movies. As yearly vacations become less affordable, we turn to other routes to find respite. Whether we get to them vicariously with the characters via spaceship or apparating, these fictional places range from the settings of classic tales to newer, more genre-specific locales. Regardless, based on the overwhelming numbers of viewers/readers of these series’, it’s safe to say that people everywhere have enjoyed a daily or weekly escape to these striking environments where adventure—and oftentimes peril—is around every bend. Whether these places are derived completely from the minds of their creators or have some basis in real-life locations, they leave us with wonder and excitement. Pay homage to these 7 fictional places that have left their mark on the modern day psyche.
7. The Galactic Empire & Surrounding Area (Star Wars)
As each film in this epic science fiction saga begins with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”, we are automatically cued to the fact that we are being included in a journey quite unlike any experience we could encounter on earth. George Lucas’ awe-inspiring creation of Star Wars went far beyond the birth of characters so big and vibrant that they have easily become a part of popular culture for the past three decades since their development. Even though civil war exists, and living within this fictional galaxy holds great danger, there are also plenty of marvels, too. Not only can humanoids interact and cooperate with alien species, but they also have a chance to save the whole galaxy from total destruction by rebels. Lightsabers abound and a common farmer’s boy can board the Millennium Falcon on a plight to rescue a beautiful princess. Can you think of any place on Earth where you can get that kind of action?
6. Gotham City (Batman)
For over three-quarters of a century, both kids and adults alike have been intrigued by the stone and steel dwelling place of Batman. While the actual location of this mythical metropolis has never been revealed, fans reckon it is based somewhere off the east coast, perhaps a fusion of several American cities with architectural features that blend Post-Modernism, Art Deco, and Neo-Gothicism. Lots of notable crime fighters have roamed the terribly corrupted streets of Gotham, but none as notable as the Dark Knight himself. This is a shadowy city lined with skyscrapers and haunting gargoyles where super villains take on dirty cops for breakfast. Although most would normally have no desire to live in such a place, we love accompanying the caped crusader on his thrilling excursions.
5. Land of Oz (The Wizard of Oz)
Based on the genius world-building of master storywriter L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz delivers a classic tale of adventure that has awed audiences for more than 100 years. It even matches our innate human desire to seek out striking new environments that stimulate our senses, especially when you consider that the original film displayed Dorothy’s home of Kansas in stark black and white but burst into contrasting color when she arrived in the mystical Land of Oz. Here, lions flee from small dogs and whole cities sparkle in green splendor. Plus, a little girl has the willpower to rescue her beloved dog, Toto and destroy the Wicked Witch of the West. Still, Dorothy’s trademark expression “there’s no place like home”, reminds us that every vacation—no matter how exciting—must someday come to an end.
4. Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
Yet, another miraculous place that has tempted and amazed children for decades is Willy Wonka’s famed yet fictional chocolate factory. All you need is a golden ticket to be transported to a dreamy place loaded with more eccentricity and deliciousness than any other. The senses are loaded within every inch of Wonka’s candy wonderland. There is wallpaper you can lick, rivers of flowing chocolate, tiny green-haired musical men, and astonishingly dreadful inventions that come at a cost to those who do not follow the rules. Most of all, this fantasy environment demonstrates how the greedy are punished and how those who are both patient and humble persevere.
3. Springfield (The Simpsons)
Claiming the title as the longest running television show, The Simpsons stole America’s heart in more than a few ways. In the fictional town of Springfield, a family resides that is uniquely preposterous and witty all at once. Founded on the premise of representing similar towns across America, creator Matt Groening revealed that the location of the show was inspired by the real town of Springfield, Oregon. However, it’s unlikely that the real town has as much spirit. From Moe’s Tavern to the nuclear power plant that Homer has managed to screw up in time and time again, Springfield is much more than home to Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart, and Maggie. The colorful and dynamic city portrays a very real way of life for blue-collar working families, with or without the dysfunction.
2. Middle Earth (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy)
Situated along the central region of Arda, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth is an “objectively real world” to which fans and critics describe as a wasteland version of the continent of Europe as it may have existed 6000 years ago. This ancient world is a habitat for elves, dwarves, hobbits, and tons of other magical creatures. There are also dragons, goblins, and trolls. Yet, as the age of men commences, these other wonderful creatures slowly become extinct and their powers diminish. Again, here exists a place where commoners can single-handedly take on powerful dark lords to rescue civilization from a horrific end. Tolkien’s classic masterpiece took him several decades to pen, but the fantasy world he created will certainly outlive us all.
1. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry (Harry Potter)
Visualized by its creator, J.K. Rowling, on a bustling train ride, Harry Potter later became one of the best-selling book series of all time. This is undoubtedly due to the powerful imagery of the wonderful wizarding world in which a young boy realized his fate to become far more than just the boy who lived under the stairs in a house on Privet Drive. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is a dynamic castle with towering parapets, gargoyles that defend, staircases that change directions, and rooms that disappear and reappear based on necessity. While the witches and wizards that roam its halls have piqued the interest of the entire world, one could argue that the magical institution has greater themes and secrets and serves as a character on its own. Perhaps, the castle is hidden beneath cloud cover and the surrounding forests and mountains as its location remains unknown to the larger world. Or, perhaps, Professor Dumbledore’s potent charms and enchantments keep the school hidden from prying Muggle eyes. Nonetheless, the school serves as a challenge, a teacher, and perhaps the closest thing to home for the greatest wizard that ever lived.