U.S. Road trip suggestions for film buffs…

I was talking to someone recently who wanted to do a road trip roughly from New York City to Chicago, taking in film locations in both places and hopefully along the way. The idea caught my imagination, and of course I lobbied for the road trip to actually start in Boston, one of my favourite U.S. cities, going south through Rhode Island (possibly my favourite state) and Connecticut to NY and onwards. I did some research on d’interwebs, and came up with this recommended itinerary…

Start: Boston, MA (at least a couple of days- Boston’s great. It’s an unusual city in that it feels more like a town than an urban centre, and is full of wonderful places to visit). Founded in 1630 by Puritan colonists from England, Boston was the location of many major events in American history, including the famous Boston Tea Party, it was home of the famous Paul Revere. Boston boasts many excellent museums, including the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, and has distinctive neighbourhoods that each have their own identity.

 Boston “Movie Mile” http://www.bostonmovietours.net/
 Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market (part of “The Matchmaker” was shot here, actually)
 Freedom Trail
Websites: http://www.boston-discovery-guide.com/boston-attractions.html

Approximately 40 mins. North of Boston (if you don’t mind a slight detour) is the famous Salem, MA, home of the Salem witch trials. http://www.salemweb.com/

If you’re interested in American history, Lexington MA is about half an hour west of Boston, and Concord MA is nearby- the Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first battles of the American revolution, and while there’s probably not an awful lot to see apart from small-town New England, there are probably historical parks etc. Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battles_of_Lexington_and_Concord

From Boston I’d head south on Route 3 through Quincy, MA (birthplace of the 2nd and 6th presidents, John Adams and John Quincy Adams- http://www.quincyma.gov/Visiting/) to Plymouth, MA, the site of the colony established by the Pilgrims off the Mayflower in 1620. http://www.visit-plymouth.com/

From Plymouth I’d head west on Route 44 to PROVIDENCE! There are loads of quirky things I love about Rhode Island, in addition to the fact that the Ocean State is a great place to be: my favourite bit of trivia is that it’s the smallest state with the longest state name (the official state name is “the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations”. Put that on a pub quiz sometime and baffle the participants!), the home of A.T. CROSS COMPANY of Lincoln, RI, as well as CVS (Woonsocket) and Cumberland Farms (Cumberland, RI, of course), plus certain loves unique to the state, like coffeemilk and Del’s lemonade. Mary Chapin Carpenter and Janeane Garofalo went to Brown University in Providence, there’s Thayer Street (which is lovely), Federal Hill, WaterFire in the summertime http://www.waterfire.org/ and it’s a lovely town. Rhode Island filming locations are of course available on quahog.org here: http://www.quahog.org/factsfolklore/index.php?id=18 and it’s the birthplace of the famous Farrelly brothers, so many of their films (There’s Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber, etc) were at least partially filmed in Rhode Island. Providence tourism website here: http://www.goprovidence.com/

I’d then recommend heading south through Kingstown to Narragansett (fabulous beach, lovely pier market- wonderful spot) including a stop at the Station House in South Kingstown (one of the best places to sample that Rhode Island staple, johnnycakes. Yum!!!) before heading across the bridges through Jamestown to the famous Newport, Rhode Island, where “Amistad” and “True Lies” were filmed, amongst other things. Check out http://quahog.org/attractions/ of course and http://www.gonewport.com/. Newport is also the home of the best nachos in the world ever, in a little Irish pub in town.

From Newport, head back west and in a slightly southerly direction toward Connecticut and New York. I’d recommend taking U.S. Route 1 (the old main highway, part of the national highway system begun in the 1920s before they started building the Interstate system in the ‘50s. U.S. Route 1 runs from Maine in the north to Miami, Florida, in the south, serving most of the major urban centres on the east coast) over to Misquamicut (http://www.misquamicut.org/) and Watch Hill, the southernmost point in Rhode Island (http://www.visitwatchhill.com/), which is gorgeous. Mystic, Connecticut (home of the famous Mystic Pizza- inspiration for the film, though the film wasn’t actually shot in the pizza place itself) is just half an hour down Route 1 and is also home of Mystic Seaport, which I remember being a fantastic place to visit- http://www.mystic.org/ and http://www.visitconnecticut.com/mystic.html

Just outside Mystic you can pick up the I-95 which will bring you through New Haven, home of Yale University and where “Mona Lisa Smile” was shot, amongst other things (http://www.lovetripper.com/issues/issue-44/movie-locations-ct.html) and further along I-95 is Stamford, which apparently has quite the developing film industry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_films_shot_in_Stamford,_Connecticut). I-95 then drops you through New Rochelle, where scenes from “Goodfellas” were filmed amongst others (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Rochelle,_New_York#New_Rochelle_in_media_and_fiction). From there you’re in to NYC, the city that never sleeps- home of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the Museum of Modern Art, Central Park, the Empire State Building… I highly recommend taking a Circle Line tour to see the city from the water, and of course make a stop at the 59th Street Bridge (home of the 59th Street Bridge Song, aka “Feelin Groovy”, by Simon & Garfunkel). There’s a great list of film locations in New York here: http://www.easynewyorkcity.com/movielocations.htm also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_films_set_in_New_York_City and a great interactive map-based list (yay maps!) here: http://www.newyorkinthemovies.com/.

An hour (and a bit) south of NYC is Red Bank, New Jersey, home of one filmmaker Kevin Smith. http://www.movielocationsguide.com/films_directed_by/Kevin-Smith.php is alright, but http://www.filmbuffonline.com/Features/KSmith%27sNewJersey.htm seems a bit better. Asbury Park, NJ, turns up in “Dogma” and “Chasing Amy”, and is a mere 20 minutes’ drive south of Red Bank. From there I’d hop the I-195 to the I-95 to Philadelphia, which is an important location in American history as well as some interesting film locations. Philadelphia was the original capital of the United States while Washington D.C. was being built, and was where delegates from the 13 colonies met to draft the Constitution of the United States. Home to such attractions as the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House (maker of the American flag), the Edgar Allen Poe house (where he wrote The Fall of the House of Usher), Independence Hall and many others, it’s worth a couple of days at least- see http://www.philadelphiausa.travel/ and http://www.phila.gov/visitors/. Philadelphia turns up in quite a few films; most notably the famous steps from “Rocky” lead up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia’s “filmography” is here: http://www.film.org/film/filmography/.

From Philadelphia I’d head west along I-76/I-176 to Lancaster to take in Amish country, then continuing west take a slight detour north to Hershey, Pennsylvania, home of Hershey’s chocolates (http://www.hersheypa.com/).

It seems most of “Dogma” was filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which works out perfectly as the next link along the journey. I’d head west along I-76 from Hershey to Pittsburgh, Turns out loads of films have actually been filmed in Pittsburgh- including “Silence of the Lambs”, “Groundhog Day”, “Robocop”, etc. Details are here: http://pittsburgh.about.com/cs/movies/a/filmed.htm

From Pittsburgh you can take the I-76 to I-80 up to Cleveland, Ohio- turns out part of “Air Force One” and much of “Happy Gilmore” were filmed here, amongst others (http://cleveland.about.com/od/filmsandfilmmakers/tp/clevelandmovies.htm). Apparently Cleveland also has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, opened in 1995 – see http://www.gonomad.com/destinations/0701/cleveland.html, http://www.cleveland.com/visit/ or http://www.positivelycleveland.com/.

From Cleveland the I-90 would take you across to Chicago through South Bend, IN, home of the University of Notre Dame (the “Fighting Irish”. Har.). Chicago, of course, is chock-full of interesting things to see – I once had to stopover in “the windy city” on a flight to the States, and was sorely tempted to head into town for a wander around. The third-largest city in the U.S., Chicago was founded in 1833 near a portage between the Great Lakes (it’s located along the shores of Lake Michigan) and the Mississippi river watershed. For architecture alone Chicago is well-worth visiting, with buildings by Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Helmut Jahn, Frank Gehry and many others. The Art Institute of Chicago has the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist works outside of the Louvre, the Field Museum has the largest and most complete T. rex ever found, and the Museum of Science and Industry is the largest science museum in the world. Plus of course there’s the Lego Factory Tour (http://www.legolanddiscoverycentre.com/chicago/us) and in addition to the riverboat and lake tours, there are even Segway tours of Chicago (http://www.mysegwayexperience.com/). There are plenty of visitor websites for Chicago: choosechicago.com, explorechicago.org, and visitchicagoonline.com seem quite useful. Chicago is home to the filming locations of lots of great films – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Blues Brothers, The Fugitive, My Best Friend’s Wedding, High Fidelity, The Breakfast Club, etc. There’s a pretty good filming locations site here: http://www.movie-locations.com/places/usa/chicago.html and also a few here: http://www.centerstagechicago.com/other/articles/movie-locations.html

Happy travels!



  1. Nice post, like that you started it in Boston, which is more a town like you said, bonus points for the official RI name, think we are one of the few who know that 🙂

    I should write up a travel for photography post.
    I definitely like northern New England for that, also a lot of spots in Pennsylvannia that I like.

    I did get to Chicago last summer, took some photos, went into the Science musuem, next time will have to see the Art Institute.

    • New England is great for photography – autumn is best, I think, for the foliage – gorgeous! 🙂 You definitely should write one up… (impressive you knew official RI name, too! My favourite bit of trivia… RI is definitely my favourite state – even earned myself the designation of “honorary Rhode Islander”, once upon a time…) Was sorely tempted to hit the Art Institute on my stopover, but knew I’d miss my next flight if I did… 🙂

  2. I have taken a lof of photographs in the nearby forest in Andover/North Andover, Massachusetts, summer, autumn and winter at http://www.pix.ie/seamuskeleher if you want to have a look .. also some at http://seamuskeleher.blogspot.com 🙂

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