TV Tourism: Visiting Your Favorite Shows

  • Television Destinations

    While most shows are filmed in big cities like Los Angeles and New York, some highlight less visited American destinations. And for these cities and towns, serving as the setting for a primetime show can be the long awaited event that finally puts them on the map. Here are a few places that have capitalized on the exposure, and others that have tried to desperately, but failed. Plus one that wanted to turn the camera away. Photo Credit: gbaku
    The Office
  • The Office

    Scranton, Pennsylvania has never been a big travel destination. In fact, during the last presidential election, Joe Biden consistently mentioned his upbringing in Scranton when at the podium in order to highlight his less-than-glamorous blue collar roots. But the Office, a sitcom about the eccentric experiences of employees working 9-5 at the regional office of a paper distributor, has managed to make this small city seem a little more charming. In 2007, Scranton hosted an Office convention, which drew more 15,000 visitors to the city. In the years since the show debuted in 2005, the city has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to revitalize itself. This year,  Scranton locals took matters into their own hands and organized a series of four-hour long tours running all summer long that visited all the hotspots mentioned in the show, including Paper Magic storefront, the company which the show used as its inspiration.  Tickets for the tour sell for $35 for adults. Photo Credit:
    Northern Exposure
  • Northern Exposure

    The Emmy award winning series about a young doctor forced to start his career in a remote Alaskan town debuted in 1990 and was on air for six seasons. Yet, even though more than a decade has gone by since, the small coal-mining town of Roslyn, Washington, where the show was actually shot, continues to milk its brief TV exposure. Travelers from all over the world make pilgrimages here. The town is loaded with references to moose (a “pensive moose” was a recurring character in the show), stores are still stocked with memorabilia, and a mural featured in the show (pictured here) is still a must-see destination. Up until 2004, there was an annual gathering of fans in town called Moosefest. Roslyn has a tiny population of 1,000, and though it fully embraces Northern Exposure fanatics, the town has also tried to attract tourists through other means (a large golf tournament, a new 6,400 acre luxury resort). But according to the Seattle Times, locals admit this hasn’t produced nearly as much interest as the show. So they continue to rely on the fans, who in recent years have flocked in greater numbers again thanks to the recent release of Northern Exposure DVD’s. Photo Credit: Gene1138
    The Simpsons
  • The Simpsons

    The Simpsons takes place in the town of Springfield, but for years, the show was notorious for never revealing which state it was set in. Turns out there are dozens of Springfields across the country. Of course, the show is a cartoon and is not actually filmed in any town, but to the millions of fans out there, that’s besides the point. Over the years, residents in many of these cities have argued they were the true hometown. Photo Credit: sotti
    The Simpsons' Real Home
  • The Simpsons' Real Home

    In 2007, a contest was held among 14 of the Springfields nationwide to make their case for being the mythic hometown of the show. Though it was mainly a promotional tool, and a silly one at that, these cities and towns recognized the great tourism opportunity and fought for the title. (Each town in the contest was required to have the key landmarks in the show, such as a nuclear power plant and a donut shop.) The mayor of Springfield, Illinois made a video where he exclaimed, “Eat my shorts!,” one of the show’s mottos. Even the late Ted Kennedy issued a plea for Springfield, Massachusetts. However, it was a small town in Vermont that won out. The town got to host the world premier of the movie. They have sold Simpson’s commemorative stamps in their local post office, and they continue to market their newly discovered cultural significance every chance they get. Photo Credit:
    Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley
  • Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley

    We have to include at least one vintage show, so why not get two for one? Both Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley were set in Milwaukee. The city decided to reassert its link to Happy Days last year with a new, slightly scary, bronze statue of the Fonz (pictured here), which has since attracted many tourists. Also, a new Happy Days musical released earlier this year created a new wave of attention for the city. Meanwhile, Laverne and Shirley has left an indelible mark on Milwaukee. Memorabilia from the sitcom is featured in the state museum,  and key locations from the show are still frequently included in tours of the city. However, many Milwaukee natives are looking to move beyond their association with these shows. The problem with latching onto a classic TV show for notoriety is that people worldwide will only know your town through the outdated lens of late night re-runs. Photo Credit: gesika22
    The Wire
  • The Wire

    Perhaps more than any other show on this list, The Wire calls attention to its location with every episode. But unlike some of the other places on this list, Baltimore would prefer that they did not. The Wire is a gritty police drama that focuses on Baltimore’s seedy underbelly. Shortly after the show first debuted, the mayor of Baltimore became very vocal about his disdain for the way the city was represented. But according one interview with the show’s creator, the mayor was initially eager to get the exposure. Still, with or without support from the city, it seems unlikely that many TV tourists would flock to the crime-ridden streets featured in the show for a tour. Unless, of course, you’re one of the people into the new trend of “Ghetto Tourism.” Photo Credit:
  • Glee

    Residents of Lima, Ohio, the setting for Glee, a TV show musical that premiered earlier this year on Fox, were eager to capitalize on their town’s exposure. Then they watched the pilot episode.  “An Ohio license plate and references to the ‘Buckeye State,’ Cleveland and Akron are as close as the show comes to identifying its location,” reports, the town’s main news publication. Perhaps they’ll have more like in the next season. Photo Credit:
    World's Strongest Man
  • World's Strongest Man

    When the annual World’s Strongest Man competition announced it was filming in Charleston, West Virginia, it might as well have been an Olympic bid victory for this small city. When asked about the potential economic impact of the event, Charleston’s assistant mayor said the city was now entering “uncharted territory.” The event, he said, “promises to be the biggest thing that's happening in Charleston so we think we'll be getting more people to come." So what effect did it actually have on the town? The Governor of West Virginia later claimed the exposure would keep coming from re-runs of the competition and would help lift up the city and the state.  But ultimately, Charleston seems to have remained unchanged. Earlier this year, representatives from Charleston were invited to a conference for the ten “fastest dying cities in America.” Cities like Detroit and Buffalo took turns venting about their bad reputations and touting their efforts to revitalize their image. When it was Charleston’s turn, their representative described in detail how the city lured the competition to film there. “It was shown several times on ESPN,” she said, according to one account. Last month, the city hosted another incredible feat of strength and competitiveness: the World Chili Championship. Photo Credit:
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