Canadian travel piece by Vawn Himmelsbach
Forget Hollywood, North Carolina is the place for travelling cinephiles
Road-trip your way through North Carolina and visit the filming locations of some of your favourite movies and TV shows, from The Hunger Games to Homeland, Sleepy Hollow, Banshee, Revolution and TIFF’s You Are Here.
Start your road trip in Raleigh (tip: it’s easy to find free parking across the state). Stroll through downtown and keep your eyes peeled for the N.C. Supreme Court and State Capitol buildings, which you might recognize from the hit TV series Homeland (the show, set in Washington, D.C., is actually filmed in North Carolina).
Gorge on the best fried chicken in town (you’re in the South, after all) at Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, created by James Beard-nominee Ashley Christensen. And head over to Mitch’s Tavern for a pint. If it looks familiar, you might recognize it from the bar fight scene in Bull Durham — a classic flick celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
Durham is a quick drive from Raleigh, and both movie and sports fans shouldn’t miss the Historic Durham Athletic Park, where much of the Bull Durham action was shot.
Catch Durham’s chilled-out vibe in the ultra-hip American Tobacco Historic District — factories that once supported America’s tobacco industry now house a collection of shops, restaurants and bars.
Tyler’s Taproom is a must, with 60 craft and specialty import beers on tap including a selection from Fullsteam Brewery, a “plow to pint” brewery that uses local produce — such as sweet potatoes, figs and basil — to make its beers.
Indulge yourself at Four Square Restaurant set in a charming Victorian house; chef Shane Ingram relies heavily on local farmers and changes the menu bi-monthly to reflect the freshest seasonal products.
Where to stay: The King’s Daughters Inn combines the intimacy of a B&B with the luxurious touches of a high-end hotel, from gourmet breakfasts (think: eggnog pancakes), evening wine and scotch, and a turn-down service that includes artisan chocolates and port.
A three-hour drive will take you to Charlotte — and if you’re a fan of Homeland, this is where the action’s at.
Sip a cocktail at the Lobby Bar in the swish Ritz-Carlton, where Carrie gets her first inclination that Brody might indeed be hiding something.
Or smoke a pre-Castro Cuban cigar at Cutter’s Cigar Bar & Lounge at the Marriott City Center — complete with mother of pearl-inlaid pool table and mahogany wood bar — where Carrie meets up with Brody.
And head to Ed’s Tavern for a drink, which you may recognize as the bar where Brody meets up with his veteran buddies.
But there’s more than movie action. Get active at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, which offers up 22 kilometres of mountain-biking and hiking trails, as well as a climbing centre, 335-metre zipline, flat-water kayaking and white-water rafting on a multiple-channel man-made river with class III-IV rapids (an AllSport Pass is $54 for adults).
Or, learn about the city’s history while stuffing yourself with the city’s best cornbread and fried chicken on a “Taste & Glide” segway tour with Charlotte NC Tours.
From Charlotte, drive a couple of hours to Brevard, the ultimate cool in mountain towns. Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the area is home to the Pisgah National Forest, Gorges State Park and, of particular interest to fans of The Hunger Games, the DuPont State Recreational Forest (also known as the “arena”).
The best way to see where your favourite scenes were shot (like when Katniss finds Peeta lying in camouflage) is on a Hunger Games Unofficial Fan Tour — where you’ll also get a chance to test your skills at archery and sling shot. If you’re a cyclist, hiker, climber or kayaker, Brevard is a little slice of heaven. And be sure to take in a waterfall … or 200.
A half an hour’s drive will take you to retro-urban Asheville, known for its farm-to-table cuisine, cutting-edge music scene and thriving arts community. You won’t find big-box retailers here — it’s all about independent, eclectic boutiques, selling local art, funky jewelry and artisan chocolate.
Dinner at The Market Place Restaurant is a must, where chef and co-owner William Dissen regularly updates his menu according to what’s available from local farmers, ranchers, cheese-makers and winegrowers, combining a reverence for Appalachian culinary heritage with worldly traditions.