A Film Themed Weekend Away
Many of of us love a trip to the cinema – the universal experience of being swept off to a different time, place or lifestyle captures all of our imaginations. But what if we could step into our favourite films and experience them first hand? That is the premise of a new wave of film and television tours, taking place from New York to London, to the hills of Austria. Making for a quirky, themed hen weekend, birthday treat or even just an immersive pilgrimage for fans, these trips are on the rise for combining the real-life experience of the locations with a bit of Hollywood magic.
Emily Norval is a London-based journalist, specialising in the fashion and retail sector. She frequently travels to fashion weeks and major events to cover the next trends in the industry.
For a truly British experience, fans of Downton Abbey have been flocking to London to take the Downton Abbey tours, making like Ladies Mary and Edith with a thoroughly well-to-do look behind the scenes at one of the UK’s best loved exports. Despite the show having recently ended, Lewis Swan, director of organisers for Brit Movie tours, is confident that interest in the tour will remain for some time to come. “Fans of the show book the tour,” he explains, “But even non-fans would still enjoy it. The locations are very pretty and it’s a good day out, those who weren’t fans in the beginning are mostly converted!”
Various trips are available, including the Town and Country tour, which starts in London before heading out to the Cotswolds locations from the show, including Yewtree Farm for a spot of cream tea. The immersive tour includes behind the scenes and historical titbits, with clips from the show screened on the bus to showcase each location. The Abbey and Village tour takes visitors even closer, with a trip to Highclere Castle, the main Downton Abbey set.
Due to the castle’s opening season, the tour runs for two months at Easter and May Bank holiday weekend, and from mid July-Sept. Tour prices start from around £60 per person for individual bookings, with VIP and private tours also available. Tours run predominantly on Saturdays, although if like the Dowager Countess you wonder “what is a weekend?” bookings are also available during the week.
Sex And The City
Something that couldn’t be further from Downton Abbey is cocktails, cupcakes and retail therapy. But they are all on the agenda for the New York Sex and the City tour, for fans looking to plan a weekend worthy of Carrie Bradshaw and her girlfriends. Stopping at major locations from the show (and more recently, the two films), the tour takes fans on a whirlwind trip around the ‘city that doesn’t sleep’.
What sets it apart is the use of local actors as guides, all of whom are die-hard SATC fans themselves. Their infectious enthusiasm ensures even the shyest of visitors find themselves screaming with laughter as the wildest escapades from the show are brought to life, including “reminiscing Miranda’s embarrassing underwear moment in the Village” and a trip to the Pleasure Chest (no explanation needed).
“The visitors that come to take the Sex and the City Hotspots tour are a wide variety of females,” says Alan G. Locher, Director of PR and Marketing for On Location Tours. “We get visitors sharing a girls’ weekend in NYC, fans of the show and women on bachelorette parties. Sex and the City is often the reason why they chose the Big Apple.”
Not only is the tour all encompassing when it comes to capturing the lifestyle of the show, it’s also a great way to take in the sights of Manhattan in general, with the 3.5-hour trip journeying all over the island. Tours cost around $47 per person and run daily. Private limo tours are also available.
Fans of ABBA have been trekking to the home of the band in Stockholm for years, but 2016 is guaranteed to see even more make the journey, with the opening of MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY in January, a new dining experience themed around the movie and musical, created by former ABBA member Björn Ulvaeus. The premise is to bring the Greek Taverna setting of the musical to life, complete with Mediterranean buffet and of course, the familiar music, dance and enjoyment taking place around you.
For a full ABBA-themed experience, your trip should also include a visit to ABBA the Museum, the world-famous tribute to the Swedish pop sensations. “This is a house where we can see all kinds of people, from ages 7-70,” says Ingmarie Halling, ABBA Museum’s Director and Curator. “Our biggest surprise was that so many children love this place.” Indeed, both children and grown ups will love the interactive elements to the museum, which include re-creating ABBA’s most famous videos, posing with their waxwork figures and re-recording their songs.
Interactive features are recorded so fans can download their memories online. True fans who have a little more Money Money Money to spend might want to stay in one of the two ABBA-themed rooms at the Pop House Hotel, located in the same building as the museum. Alternatively, the Hotel Rival in central Stockholm is part-owned by former ABBA member Benny Andersson, although there is no reference to be found there to his time with the band.
Sound Of Music
Another trip combining some of the world’s most famous songs with some impressive scenery is The Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, Austria. Although several tours, from cycling to walking, operate in the city, one of the most popular is Panorama’s Original Sound of Music tour, a four-hour coach ride taking visitors across most of the famous sites from the well-loved film. These include the Von Trapp villa, the gazebo from “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” and up into the hills to take in the amazing panoramic views that inspired “The Hills Are Alive.”
The tour is a particularly popular setting for marriage proposals, according to Panorama Tours’ Online Marketing Manager Anja Schultealbert, as well as guests arriving in traditional costumes such as Lederhosen, so don’t be afraid to go all out. Prices start from €40 per person. Elsewhere, although Austrians famously tend to dismiss the film, Salzburg is full of recognizable sites where fans head to take pictures. The infectious “feel-good” factor of the film permeates the city, from the cycling tours blasting the songs, to groups dressed as Nuns or even Lonely Goatherds, wandering from Mirabell Gardens where “Do Re Mi” was filmed, to Nonnberg Abbey. Panorama Tours also offer package deals, including hotel stays and extra entertainments.
Whatever your preference when it comes to TV and film, there’s guaranteed to be a trip available to bring you closer to the heart of some of your favourite scenes. Lights, camera, action!