The cast of “Dirty Dancing” stayed at the Lake Lure Inn during filming — Photo courtesy of Lake Lure Inn and Spa
There’s something distinctly joyful about 1980s’ pop culture. Popular films like “The Terminator,” “Ghostbusters” and “Dirty Dancing” had a gigantic cultural impact that can still be noticed today. Some of the most unforgettable movies were made during the decade of excess, and it’s fun to revisit them through the lens of travel. After all, who wouldn’t like to step into the world of their favorite movie?
These real-life locations of 1980s’ feature films double as fantastic vacation destinations. However, be prepared for the unexpected. A lot may have changed since these movies were made, but in some locales, you might be surprised by how much has stayed the same!
‘Dirty Dancing’ – Lake Lure, North Carolina
Major scenes from “Dirty Dancing” were filmed on Lake Lure — Photo courtesy of Lake Lure Inn and Spa
When “Dirty Dancing” hit theaters on August 21, 1987, it captured the hearts and imaginations of moviegoers. Many scenes of the movie, including the beloved lake lift scene, were filmed in Lake Lure, North Carolina. Start your journey there by checking in to the Lake Lure Inn & Spa where Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey stayed during filming. As a bonus, the inn even has two “Dirty Dancing” themed cabins.
Next, consider a “Dirty Dancing” boat tour on the lake where your guide will point out filming locations of key scenes from the movie.
‘Splash’ – Castaway Cay in The Bahamas
Important scenes of “Splash” were filmed on the island now known as Castaway Cay — Photo courtesy of Steven Diaz, Disney
“Splash” (1984), a smart and genuinely funny comedy, was a critical and commercial success that instantly resonated with audiences. The movie was filmed in multiple locations, but the famous scene where Madison (Daryl Hannah) meets Allen (Tom Hanks) was filmed along the beach of what’s now known as Castaway Cay. The only way to visit this exquisite beach is to hop on a boat from Disney Cruise Line. Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island in The Bahamas, and cruisers get to spend one or two days there, depending on the itinerary.
‘Ghostbusters’ – The New York Public Library in New York City, New York
The New York Public Library has been the backdrop of many beloved feature films — Photo courtesy of The New York Public Library
“Ghostbusters” (1984) inspired sequels, video games, ghost hunting and intense audience devotion. Many moviegoers went to see it multiple times for repeat laughs. The very first ghost encounter in the movie takes place at the New York Public Library’s flagship location, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, which is located on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue.
The next time you’re in New York City, save several hours to enjoy this beautiful library inside and out, and if you want to stay within easy walking distance, Andaz 5th Avenue is a boutique hotel that’s only steps away from the library.
‘Three for the Road’ – Hot Springs, Arkansas
The thermal hot springs have long been a draw for health seekers — Photo courtesy of Eva Simpson
“Three for the Road” (1987) is an enduring road comedy starring Charlie Sheen and Kerri Green. Key scenes from the movie were filmed in Hot Springs, a picturesque place in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. It’s located among several natural hot springs, hence its name, and that water has long been thought to have healing powers.
Hot Springs went through many changes over the years, and many historical buildings, including Bathhouse Row and several hotels, have been well-preserved. Be sure to try a spa treatment and soak in thermal pools when you visit this Arkansas hot spot.
‘Somewhere in Time’ – The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan
Jane Seymour has returned to the Grand Hotel to celebrate the movie’s huge following — Photo courtesy of Grand Hotel
“Somewhere in Time” (1980) redefined the impact that a slow-moving romance and time travel tale could have. Much of this romantic movie was filmed in and around the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, and the hotel celebrates its place in film history with, among other things, a poster for “Somewhere in Time” still prominently displayed.
The hotel’s unique setting on Mackinac Island, a place where cars aren’t allowed, helps you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, too. The hotel itself is a National Historic Landmark, and you can even plan to visit during special “Somewhere in Time” weekends where fans gather to celebrate the movie’s lasting impact.
‘The Terminator’ – Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California
The Griffith Observatory has been featured in many films over the years — Photo courtesy of Dr. Edwin C. Krupp, Director of Griffith Observatory
One of the most memorable scenes in “The Terminator” (1984) takes place at Griffith Observatory. The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) arrives nude and looks out over the city of Los Angeles at night. If you’re in Los Angeles, you might want to plan a whole day to visit the awe-inspiring Griffith Observatory, located at the south slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park. Other beloved movies with important scenes set here include “Rebel Without a Cause,” “La La Land” and “The Rocketeer.”
‘Rain Man’ – Pompilios in Newport, Kentucky
Pompilios was the location of a memorable scene in “Rain Man” — Photo courtesy of Zac Gill
“Rain Man” (1988) won the Academy Award for best picture, and both critics and audiences were drawn to the well-acted, character-driven drama. One unforgettable scene between the two main characters was filmed in Pompilios, an Italian restaurant in Newport, Kentucky.
In the scene, Dustin Hoffman, who plays the title character, must have pancakes and greatly tries the patience of his brother played by Tom Cruise. In addition to reminiscing about this scene at Pompilios, you may want to visit the World Peace Bell and see a show at the Falcon Theatre while in Newport.
‘The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking’ – Jacksonville, Florida
Many scenes from “The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking” were filmed in Jacksonville — Photo courtesy of Amber Readmond
“The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking” (1988) is a musical adventure movie that was an initial financial failure, but it has become a cult classic that delights children and adults alike with its whimsical quirkiness. Much of this beloved feature film was shot in Jacksonville, Florida. Known for its gorgeous white sand beaches, Jacksonville is the biggest city by area in the United States. After a weekend in Jacksonville, you may want to drive about 40 minutes northeast to breeze past Pippi’s house, called Villa Villekulla, in Fernandina Beach.
‘Parenthood’ – Orlando, Florida
“Parenthood” was filmed at Universal Studios Orlando — Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort
Ron Howard shot the principal photography for “Parenthood” (1989) in Orlando, but he made it look like St. Louis, Missouri. Filmed shortly before the Universal Studios Orlando theme park opened, the Universal film included such locales as the Orlando Speed World Dragway, Chuck E. Cheese (which was then ShowBiz Pizza Place), Publix Supermarket and the AMC Fashion Village 8 movie theater. When visiting Orlando, also visit Universal Studios Orlando to continue the celebration of cinema.
‘Lethal Weapon’ – Emser Tile Building in West Hollywood, California
The Emser Tile Building in West Hollywood plays a part in show business history — Photo courtesy of Visit West Hollywood
The Emser Tile Building was the backdrop for one of the most definitive scenes in “Lethal Weapon” (1987), in which Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) goes to the top to try to talk a man out of jumping off the building. It’s located in West Hollywood, a fun place to spend a week or more, and you’re only a short drive from both the beach and the mountains. While there, you may want to explore on your own or book a West Hollywood tour so you can make the most of your time and learn along the way.