The FloQ

Travel Insights Blog

The FloQ

Travel Insights Blog

Pop Culture Pilgrimages To Take This Fall

Oct 20, 2023

Katya Lopatko

Tips & Tricks


15 min

When you hear “pilgrimage”, you might think of religious travelers visiting holy sites, or the American pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower. But today, anyone can be a pilgrim.

Unsplash / Jon Tyson

In our pop culture-saturated world, the lines between tourism, entertainment and pilgrimage are more and more blurred. Who says that standing in the Harry Potter graveyard in Edinburgh can’t be a transformative, even religious experience? For many of us, places featured in our favorite shows, movies or books take on a special aura. When we visit locations we’ve only seen on-screen, we might feel a deeper connection with the work of art, like we get to dip our toe into its world. Depending on your level of fandom, you might go out of your way to swing by the Friends building when you’re in NYC — or travel all the way to Georgia to see where the Stranger Things crew got up to their supernatural shenanigans.

With Thanksgiving coming up, pilgrimages are in the air. (Sometimes literally — have you seen those flight prices?) As you make your holiday travel plans, consider putting a twist on the classic meaning of the word and plan your own pilgrimage. Whether you need some inspiration for a last-minute fall trip, or just a little daydreaming fuel to get you through the day, we’ve rounded up some pop culture pilgrimage spots in the US based on favorite fall classics, from cozy to spooky.

Forks, Washington

Unsplash / Boey Zeth

If you grew up in the 2000s, there’s a good chance you have core memories of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga “unconditionally and irrevocably” lodged in your brain. Team Edward or Team Jacob, the delightfully unrealistic vampire vs. werewolf romance plot has left a permanent (bite) mark on a generation. And, as every Twilight fan knows, Bella first lays eyes on sparkly Edward in the tiny town of Forks, Washington. But did you know that you can visit the real-life Forks?

The “rainiest town in the contiguous US,” Forks lies just 30 miles south of the Canadian border, surrounded by stunning coastline and misty rainforests, and with easy access to Olympic National Park. Each year, Forks welcomes visitors to discover the world’s largest permanent collection of Twilight costumes and props, and offers a self-guided tour map so you can visit all the Twilight hot spots around town, including Bella and Edward’s houses. Finally, die-hard fans can plan their visit around the annual Forever Twilight festival, held on the weekend closest to Bella’s birthday — September 13 — which features movie screenings, themed parties, and even a chance to hang out with the actors.

North Bend, Washington

Snoqualmie Falls, WA. Unsplash / Dave Hoefler

While you’re in the area, why not swing by another spooky throwback series, Twin Peaks? Created by acclaimed director David Lynch and Mark Frost, it ran for two seasons in 1990 and 1991 before returning for a highly anticipated third season in 2017. Between the original and the reboot, Twin Peaks has attracted a cult following for its uncanny plotlines, dreamlike style, and campy small-town Americana aesthetic.

While Twin Peaks is fictional, it was inspired by the real town of North Bend, Washington, where some of the iconic outdoor shots were filmed. Today, you can visit “the real Twin Peaks” and see Twede’s Cafe, aka the Double R Diner that serves Agent Cooper’s favorite coffee and cherry pie, Snoqualmie Falls, featured in the opening credits, the Salish Lodge, aka The Great Northern Hotel. If you’re coming from Seattle, there’s even a guided tour that takes you to all the Twin Peaks hotspots.

Los Angeles

Unsplash / Nathan DeFiesta

With Hollywood just around the block, the better question is, what isn’t filmed in LA? The list is endless, but we’ll keep it brief (and spooky) with some fall-themed favs.

First stop: the Rosenheim Mansion, a hundred-year-old house on LA’s Billionaire Row in Bel Air. With its macabre mystique, the house snagged cameos in everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Bones, but its most recent claim to fame is as the Murder House on Season 1 of American Horror Story. Ever since 2011, fans have been flocking to the property, much to the annoyance of the couple that bought the house in 2015. But during the pandemic, they decided to give the people what they want by live-streaming spooky events, like seances in the basement, in the days leading up to Halloween. A few lucky fans even got to spend the night in the basement. Today, the house is once again closed to the public, but you can catch a glimpse of its towering facade from the street. Just be sure to be respectful — there’s nothing creepier than having your privacy invaded.

UCLA campus. Unsplash / Joonyeop Baek

Next up, stop by LA’s two major campuses, not for a classic college tour, but for a visit to hundreds of iconic movies. On the West Side, UCLA’s sprawling campus has been the backdrop of movies like Legally Blonde, Scream 2, and most recently, even Oppenheimer. In Gilmore Girls, UCLA masquerades as Harvard, Rory’s dream school. Then, visit the other Harvard across town at USC, at least as it appeared in Legally Blonde, transforming itself into Yale, Rory’s alma mater, for Gilmore Girls.

Estes Park, Colorado — The Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel in all its spooky glory. Unsplash / Fern M. Lomibao

Stephen King fans have definitely heard of the Stanley Hotel, infamous for being the most haunted hotel in the US and the inspiration for The Shining. Built in the early 1900s, the Stanley Hotel was a peaceful, remote resort for rich East Coasters and a retreat for tuberculosis patients. But after Stephen King’s visit in 1974, and the famous book that came out of the trip, the hotel quickly took on its current reputation. In addition to inspiring the story, the Stanley Hotel also serves as filming location for the 1997 three-part miniseries that King wrote and produced for TV, although the famous 1980 Stanley Kubrick film was mainly shot on a set created at Elstree Studios in England.

Today, horror fans looking for the full Shining experience can book a room at the hotel for around $300 a night, or simply tour the gorgeous property, and maybe even take the Shining Tour, which includes the Shining Suite and one of the film’s axes.

Atlanta area, Georgia

Unsplash / Rafal Werczynski

The second most watched show on Netflix to date, Stranger Things has attracted quite the following since it premiered in 2016. Many of those fans want to see the place where the magic happens, which makes sense considering so much of the show’s appeal comes from its nostalgic 80s aesthetic. While the action mainly takes place in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, many filming locations are actually scattered in and around Atlanta, Georgia. While some, like Hawkins Laboratory and Starcourt Mall, are closed to the public, you can check out Bradley’s Big Buy Grocery Store, which made its first appearance in an iconic Eggo waffle stealing scene in the first season, 25 miles outside of Atlanta in Palmetto, Georgia. You can even take a dip in the Hawkins Community Pool, the real-life South Bend Pool in Atlanta.

Small-town Connecticut

Each time fall rolls around, Gilmore Girls fans know it’s time to bust out their favorite sweaters, cozy up on the couch with some sugary snacks, and pay a virtual visit to our favorite adorable small town: Stars Hollow, Connecticut. Unfortunately, there is no real Stars Hollow — most of the show was filmed at the Warner Bros studio in Burbank. But the idea of Stars Hollow is very real; without it, there would have been no Gilmore Girls as we know it. The creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, said the concept was inspired by her trip to Washington, Connecticut, where she got swept up by the nostalgic charm of the Mayflower Inn (the model for Lorelai’s inn), a diner where guests poured their own coffee (à la Luke’s), and the feeling of safety that comes from everyone knowing everyone.

Even though you can’t visit the real Stars Hollow, you can still have the Gilmore Girls experience by traveling through Washington and other small towns in the region that served as a model for the show. You can even catch the annual Gilmore Girls Fan Fest to commune with fellow fans, meet the actors, and drink lots and lots of coffee.

New York City

While you’re on the East Coast, you might as well stop by the appropriately named Big Apple for countless fall favs. While every season in the city has its unique charm, autumn in New York is special, making it a favorite backdrop for unforgettable fall classics like When Harry Met Sally, written by the rom-com queen Nora Ephron. Clad in their signature chunky sweaters, the characters traipse all around the city, including many spots you can visit today. First up, Katz’s Delicatessen on the Lower East Side, where Sally fakes her famous orgasm in front of a bewildered Harry — and a deli full of customers — on the first day of their very long friendship. Although you can’t have what Sally’s having, you can see the table where the magic happened, and NYC’s oldest deli will be happy to serve you the best pastrami you’ve ever had.

Unsplash / Harry Knight

Round out your NYC pilgrimage with some iconic nineties and noughties sitcoms: Sex and the City, Friends, and Gossip Girl. Starting in the West Village, stop by Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment from Sex in the City at 66 Perry Street, then head to Greenwich Village for the Friends building at 90 Bedford Street (and a glimpse of Ugly Naked Guy’s apartment), following it up with the full Friends tour. Finally, round out your adventure uptown on the Met steps to channel your inner Blair and Serena, scheming world domination over many a lunch break.

Related Articles

Three Easy Ways to Travel Like a Local

Feeling out of your element when you visit a new city? Never fear, with these simple tricks, you’ll be traveling like a local in no time. Goodbye tourist traps, hello hidden gems.

Here’s how to tune into your environment this spring

Whether you’re heading on spring break or staying home, paying attention to your environment can help you get into the spring spirit, giving your brain a boost of good vibes.

Chart Your Course: Prime Digital Nomad Visas of 2024

As digital nomads, something we encounter often is how to stay in other countries for extended periods of time. From a US perspective, this can be tricky to find visas you qualify for.

5 Ways Travel Can Help You Connect

Modern life can make us feel lonely and disconnected, but there’s a lot we can do to change that. Here’s how travel can help you connect with yourself, with others, and with the world.

A Digital Nomad's Guide: Going Off The Grid

In a world of digital nomads, full time travelers, and endless places to visit, how do you go “off grid” for a period of time? How do some of these travelers go to places without internet for weeks at a time, and how can you do it too?

Travel to Asia in America: Part 1, West Coast

Want to travel to Asia without leaving the country? In honor of Lunar New Year, discover some of these top spots to experience Asian culture on the West Coast.

Why Do We Travel?

Amidst the holiday bustle of lights and festivities, a deeper tradition takes center stage — New Year's resolutions. Explore the obsession with self-improvement and the pursuit of personal transformation in the midst of the holiday season.

The Inside Scoop On 12 Top Ski Resorts In North America

Not sure which slopes to hit this winter? We’ve got you. Read on for an exclusive peek into some of the top resorts in North America, from one seasoned (and obsessed) skier to you.

A Digital Nomad's Guide: Embracing the World While Working Remotely

With the increase of online work after 2020, the lure of the digital nomad life is hard to deny for anyone now. But, what does that really mean?

The Ultimate Foodie Guide to Maui, Hawaii

So you have a trip booked to Maui. Congrats, you’re about to be in one of the best spots for food in the US, and maybe even the world!

Is Fall Really The Best Time To Travel?

This travel season, fall is the new summer. Why? Why now? Has summer always been overrated? Read on to find out.

How To Travel (A Little) More Sustainably

Sustainability can feel overwhelming, but here are some simple steps you can take to make your next trip a little more eco-friendly.

Packing For Your Personality

Want to make packing a little less stressful? Whether you’re an overpacker, a procrastinator, a minimalist, or somewhere in between, discover the psychology behind each type so you can make it work for you.

In 10 Years, Will You Look Back And Be Happy You Stayed Home?

On April 15th, 2018, I started on a 2,650-mile journey along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which spans from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, traversing six eco-zones and seven national parks.

Seven Top Outdoor Weekend Activities in the US for Fall 2023

Floqsta has some top picks for your next Fall group outing! As the crisp autumn air rolls in and leaves turn vibrant shades of red and gold, it's the perfect time to venture outdoors and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature.

The Best United States Road Trips For Summer

When it comes to traveling the US, there’s nothing more iconic than a summer road trip. And for good reason.

How To Make A Workcation Work For You

After settling into the comfort of working from home — or couch, or even bed — it’s no surprise that young workers aren’t exactly clamoring to get back in the office.

Five US Destinations For A Coastal European Vacation

Soft sunlight dancing on turquoise water, pastel architecture artfully eroded in the wind, and deeply rooted customs shaping the slow rhythms of daily life give us something we can’t find in the States. Or can we?

Eight Under-the-radar Music Festivals To Check Out

Music festival season is gearing up for its second post-pandemic year, with Coachella officially kicking it off in April. After being deprived of live events for two seasons, music lovers can’t wait to commune with their favorite artists and fellow fans irl again.

Seven Beach Vacations With Amazing Culture In NA

Choosing where to spend your precious vacation time is never easy, especially when you only have a week or two to spare.

Feeling Lonely? Travel Can Help

During the pandemic, conversations about social isolation and its effect on mental health became a hot topic, and for good reason. But actually, the loneliness many of us felt only heightens a decades-long trend.

Can Travel Really Make You A Better Person?

Over the past three years, Google searches for “digital nomad” have tripled in the US, which points to our collective fascination with travel as a lifestyle.

Planning The Perfect Outdoor Weekend Getaway

You can do something good for yourself, your community and the environment. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. Read on to learn how to plan the perfect outdoor weekend getaway — no experience needed.

Introducing “The FloQ”

When was the last time you did something for the first time? It’s easy to get caught up in theday-to-day and lose sight of the things that make life worth living: discovery, growth, connection.