We may not be able to live a life that compares to a Hollywood romance, but we can draw some inspiration from them to add a little romantic spark to our lives.
Whether you’re looking for a getaway for Valentine’s Day, an anniversary, or just because… here are 5 ideas taken from some of the most popular romantic movies of all time that took place here in the U.S.A.
Pretty Woman (Los Angeles)
One of Lisa’s favorite movies is “Pretty Woman”. The love affair between ‘lady of the night’ Vivian and millionaire Edward is a modern take on the Cinderella fairy tale. You can have a Pretty Woman moment just about anywhere by hopping in a tub full of suds and doing your best Prince impression.
But, to really walk in the shoes of Julia Roberts, you have to head to Los Angeles and visit some of the many sites from the movie. If you’ve got the cash like Richard Gere, you can even book the Pretty Woman package at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. I’ve heard it costs $100,000!!!!
I’m not sure anyone reading this has that kind of cash. For what it’s worth, the place Julia Roberts’ character called home is the Las Palmas Hotel. It’s basically on the other extreme from the Beverly Wilshire, but I don’t know if they’ll let you use the fire escape.
Things to do while in town:
- Hollywood Boulevard – Walk on Vivian and Kit’s “Turf”, from Bob Hope to Ella Fitzgerald.
- Grand Park – Grab a snap dog, cop a squat under a tree, and take off your shoes.
- Rodeo Drive – Spend an obscene amount of money… or maybe just window shop.
- Dinner at Cicada – This restaurant played the role of the Voltaire in the movie. No need to worry about flying snails.
- Attend the Opera – Complete your experience with some culture at the LA Opera House.
Here’s a link to a “Pretty Woman” location map.
Sleepless in Seattle (Seattle/New York City)
Sleepless in Seattle gives us two possible destinations in Seattle and New York City. (Sorry, Chicago & Baltimore). The cross-country romance that brings together Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan at the top of the Empire State Building is beloved by many, and gives us some great locations to seek out that are better alternatives to listening to talk radio.
The main location to see in Seattle is the house boat that Tom Hanks’ character Sam and his son Jonah call home. It’s located on Lake Union and it was sold a few years ago for a few million dollars. There is a house boat vacation rental in the same area calling itself the Sleepless in Seattle Urban Houseboat, but I’m not sure if it’s the very same one used in the movie. In any event, the interior scenes were shot somewhere else.
In addition to seeing the famous houseboat, you can complete your Seattle experience by never going to bed, and by visiting:
- Alki Beach – Great for spying… um, i mean “people watching”.
- Athenian Seafood Restaurant & Bar – where they famously discussed tiramisu. Don’t look for it on the menu, though.
- Dahlia Lounge – Scene of Sam’s first contemporary dating experinece. The original location is now a Yoga studio. The restaurant moved down the street.
- The Hotel Sorrento – Though located in Seattle, room 608 was used as the location of Meg Ryan’s fiancee’s New York City apt. Ask for the Sleepless in Seattle room.
- Seattle-Tacoma Airport – This may just be how you get to Seattle, just like Annie!
This site has a great map of the Seattle locations. To complete your visit, check out the Seattle CityPass for discounts on popular attractions like harbor tours and the Space Needle.
New York City
The iconic scene at the top of the Empire State Building is what you’ll plan your visit around. I’m sure Valentine’s Day is a popular day for enjoying the views of the Big Apple from the observatory. You might want to consider purchasing a CityPass that includes access to the Empire State Building as well as other popular attractions.
Spots to check out in NYC:
- The Plaza Hotel – Probably more famous for “Home Alone 2”, Annie and her fiancee stay here in NYC.
- Tiffany’s – Where Annie gets a ring. (You can also have breakfast at Tiffany’s now!)
- Rainbow Room – Dinner with a view of the Empire State Building
Another of Lisa’s favorites, Dirty Dancing is set in the Catskills of New York. But, the filming was actually done at Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, Virginia and at a Boys Camp in Lake Lure, North Carolina.
Mountain Lake Lodge is instantly recognizable as the site of the fictional “Kellerman’s”. They offer a “Dirty Dancing” package on select weekends each year that includes dance lessons and meals at Harvest, the restaurant which was used for a number of scenes in the movie. Unfortunately, the lake where the lift scene was shot is currently dried up.
Lake Lure, NC
About 4 hours south of Mountain Lake Lodge is the site where the rest of the film was shot. The camp is now a housing development, but you can see the remains of the steps where Jennifer Grey carried watermelons and danced. The floor of the building in which the final dance number was shot is now the floor of the lobby of a the Esmeralda Inn down the road. The Lake Lure Inn & Spa is where many of the cast and crew stayed during filming. They have Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze Suites as well as Baby’s Cabin and Johnny’s Cabin.
Each year, Lake Lure hosts a Dirty Dancing festival, complete with a water lift competition.
I have not personally seen this movie, but Lisa mentioned it and it has come up time and again in my research for this post. So I think it merits being included. One of the iconic scenes was filmed on a lake in Cypress Gardens*. You can spot this location from the walking trail or rent a swamp boat a paddle through it yourself. A bit of trivia I learned was that this scene was shot in January because the local alligators were hibernating.
*As of this post, Cypress Gardens is currently closed due to flood damage.
Charleston, South Carolina
- King Street – The movie theater no longer shows movies. But you can stroll the street and watch the traffic lights change. You’ll also find William Aiken House and the College of Charleston on this street.
- High Cotton Restaurant – One of the restaurant scenes was filmed here. Ryan Gosling’s character had a window seat.
Nearby Mt. Pleasant
- Old Village Post House – You can stay at this B&B that doubled as a date site in the movie. You’ll have to go someplace else to find ice cream, though.
- Boone Hall Plantation – Summer home of the Hamilton family (also a location from Gone With the Wind)
50 First Dates
Our country’s pacific island chain is such a romantic destination that I had to find a movie to include that had authentic destinations you could visit. Enter the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore rom-com “50 First Dates”. It’s not the best movie on this list, but there’s something about the idea of falling in love with someone over and over again. You can say that is what all romance should strive to be.
Sadly, the Hukilau Cafe from the film doesn’t actually exist. But there is an Oahu cafe of the same name that was featured on the Food Network for its famous “loco moco” burger. You can seek that out just to say you ate there. But the real fun is recreating all those dates. After all, nothing beats a first kiss.
Oahu Island, Hawaii
- Kualoa Ranch – the site of many movies with tours that show you all the locations, including the road Lucy takes to work every day.
- Sea Life Park – Where Adam Sandler’s character worked.
- Makapuu Lighthouse – One of the many first kisses took place here.
- Dole Plantation – A must visit and site of another first kiss.
- Sandy Beach – First Kiss
- Halona Beach Cove – First Kiss (and also the site of one of the most famous kisses in movie history)
So, there you have it. 5 great romantic getaways/vacations that you can take right here in the U.S.A. to spark a little romance in real life just like they did on the big screen. Which tops your list? Or did we miss a location that you think is MORE romantic than these? If so, let us know!!