Looking for a cool hotel or inn to stay in for your next vacation? If you're a movie buff like me, you'll love staying where your favorite movies were filmed. Years ago, I had a chance to visit a beautiful, historic hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, where Somewhere In Time was filmed. It was a magical and surreal experience to stand in the same spot where Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) and Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour) first met.
For your trip planning pleasure, here are five iconic movie hotels and/or inns that are still in business today. Start packing your bags and book your flights, dear Reader. You'll have an unforgettable time in any one of these special places. (By the way, the list of cool hotels that are also film locations is quite long. I hope to cover more in upcoming articles. So don't forget to tune in.)
1. The Grand Hotel (Mackinac Island, Michigan)
Located on Michigan's beautiful Mackinac Island where cars and other motorized vehicles are not allowed, The Grand Hotel was the main film location for Somewhere In Time, in my book one of the most romantic films ever made. Based on the novel Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson, the setting for the book is actually the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. But since the Hotel Del Coronado's location was not suited for the movie (too many modern facilities surrounding the hotel), director Jeannot Szwarc and producer Stephen Simon visited The Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island and fell in love with both locations. The rest as they say is history.
Since its opening in 1887 (when rates were $3 to $5 a night), The Grand Hotel has served as a much-loved retreat for summer vacationers. Its grand Front Porch, the longest in the world, serves as the principal meeting place for Mackinac Island residents and guests, as well as a lovely promenade or "Flirtation Walk" for romantics of all ages. In 1947, The Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island were also the film locations for the This Time For Keeps production, starring Jimmy Durante and Esther Williams.
When the hotel management agreed to let Somewhere In Time film for free at the resort, little did they know how famous The Grand Hotel would become as a result. Somewhere In Time has - since the movie was released - generated a phenomenal income for the hotel (over $40 million in revenue). Since 1991, each October the hotel has hosted a "Somewhere In Time Weekend" to honor the movie. The event has attracted many guests including celebrities such as Director Jeannot Szwarc, writer Richard Matheson, and even Jane Seymour herself.
If you'd like to have a romantic holiday by the lake, a trip to Mackinac Island and a stay at The Grand Hotel would be the perfect getaway. While there, take a walk around the hotel and the island to visit all the famous locations where Somewhere In Time was filmed. Your time on Mackinac Island will be forever memorable and treasured. Last time I was there, the Lilac Festival was in full swing. Beautiful fragrant blooms of lilacs covered the entire island. So magical.
2. The Oak Alley Plantation (Vacherie, Louisiana)
I'm not quite sure when Oak Alley Plantation was originally built but after the Civil War the property was in a state of disrepair until 1925 when it was restored by Andrew and Josephine Stewart. With its beautiful historic ante-bellum architecture, Oak Alley Plantation is a national historic landmark, "a testimonial to the Old South's golden age," and the "Grand Dame of the Great River Road." Most of all, the location is famous for being film-friendly. As a result, the list of productions filmed at Oak Alley Plantation is extensive and includes (among others) Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt's Interview With The Vampire, John Travolta's Primary Colors, Faye Dunaway's Midnight Bayou, Ghost Hunters (2008), Days of Our Lives, The Long Hot Summer (the TV version, not the Paul Newman/Joanne Woodward movie), and Betty Davis's spooky Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.
Once on the plantation, you'll be greeted by an unbelievably gorgeous canopy of 300-year-old Oak trees (28 of them) that guides you straight to the front door of the main mansion. There's also a beautiful gift shop, ice-cream parlor and a cafe on site, serving breakfast and lunch to plantation visitors. Today, 600 acres of the estate are leased for sugar cane farming, 450 acres are still virgin woodlands, and 75 acres of the plantation serve as residential areas.
The next time you're in the mood for a getaway in a historical, atmospheric southern plantation (which may even be haunted), book your next trip to Louisiana's Oak Alley Plantation. Who knows? You may run into a movie set or two while you're there.
3. The Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel (Miami Beach, Florida)
Situated on oceanfront Collins Avenue in the heart of Miami Beach's Millionaire's Row, the Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel is a historical and architectural landmark. Designed by Morris Lapidus and opened to the public in 1954, the Fontainebleau was the city's most luxurious resort at the time. In 2008, the hotel had a major $1 billion renovation and was reopened afterward with an impressive guest list that included Usher, Mariah Carey and Robin Thicke. All the glittering details aside, the Fontainebleau Miami Beach is also a regular star on big and small screens. Many major Hollywood productions have shot at the hotel since the 1960's, such as Jerry Lewis's The Bellboy, the television series Surfside 6, James Bond Goldfinger, Woody Allen's Bananas, Scarface, The Bodyguard, The Specialist, and The Sopranos.
If you're ready for a luxurious vacation by the sea in a "devastatingly sexy hotel," as well as reliving a few of your favorite suspense films, make your Fontainebleau reservation tonight. Who knows whom you may run into while sipping your next apple martini? Bond. James Bond.
4. The Timberline Lodge (Timberline Lodge, Oregon)
Who can forget the setting and film locations of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining? Not me. Right from the movie's opening sequence - a series of aerial shots following an old yellow "VW bug" on narrow winding roads speeding through mountain passages, ending up at a lone resort situated at the foot of a snowy mountain - I'm in a trance state of mind. The sequence - accompanied by The Shining's famous eerie score - immediately captivated me, hooks, line and sinker. This unforgettable opening credits of The Shining were shot by a second unit crew as they were heading to Montana's Glacier National Park in a helicopter.
The Shining movie was based on a Stephen King book of the same name. The novel was inspired by King's stay at the Stanley Hotel in Colorado in October 1974. Upon checking in at the hotel, King and his wife Tabitha found out that they were the only two guests in the hotel that night. "When we arrived, they were just getting ready to close for the season, and we found ourselves the only guests in the place - with all those long, empty corridors . . . ." The couple stayed in room 217 of the Stanley Hotel, which they soon found out was haunted. Room 217 later on appears in King's book.
Even though the setting for the novel's Overlook Hotel is the Stanley Hotel where the Kings stayed, Kubrick, a master at creating suspense, decided to use the Timberline Lodge's front exterior for the fictitious Overlook Hotel instead. For some of the movie's other exterior scenes (such as the maze) and all of its interior scenes, the production filmed at Elstree Studios in England. As an interesting side note, the interior of the Overlook Hotel looks similar to the interiors of the Ahwanee Hotel in Yosemite, California.
During the filming of The Shining, the management of the Timberline Lodge asked that Kubrick change the room number used in the movie from 217 to 237 since there is no room 237 at the Timberline Lodge. This was to prevent those guests who stay in room 217 from feeling spooky. Ironically, after the release of The Shining movie, room 217 is the most requested room at the Timberline Lodge. Go figure.
If you're an adventurer and a thrill-seeker, perhaps your next weekend getaway should be at the Timberline Lodge. Room 217 may even be available, in case you dare to ask for it.
5. The Yankee Pedlar Inn (Torrington, Connecticut)
I've always loved visiting New England in the fall. This year, I'm thinking of adding Torrington, Connecticut to the itinerary. Why? Because after watching Ti West's The Innkeepers filmed on location in Torrington, I'm creepily intrigued about the inn where the movie was actually shot ... the Yankee Pedlar Inn.
When asked in an interview with Indiewire where he got the ideas for the haunted hotel story, Ti West shared that "the hotel that inspired the film is actually in the film." In 2008 when he was directing his horror film The House of the Devil (also in Torrington, Connecticut), the cast and crew stayed at the Yankee Pedlar Inn since it was the nicest, affordable place - within 25 minutes of where they were filming. "We would go and shoot this satanic horror movie nearby, but the weider stuff would happen back at the hotel," said the director. "I don't believe in ghosts, but the TV would go off and on, the phone would ring and there was no one on the other end, I had really vivid dreams. It's just a weird vibe in this kooky old place."
The cast and crew of The House of Devil were not the only ones experiencing strange things during their stay at the Yankee Pedlar Inn. "The staff at the hotel believe it's haunted. The whole town believes it's haunted," shared West. "So it has this kind of mystique to it."
The Yankee Pedlar Inn was possibly the grandest inn in Connecticut when it opened on July 28, 1891 as Conley's Inn. Originally built by Frank and Alice Conley, the inn today has 60 individual rooms with private baths, a tavern, a ballroom and a restaurant on its premise. Rumors gently spread that Alice Conley's spirit is still in room 353, where she died. In The Innkeepers, the room that the creepy stranger asked to stay in is room 353.
So if you're a brave movie buff, the next time you happen to be in Connecticut, don't forget to stop by the Yankee Pedlar Inn. Perhaps you'll even stay the night? Ti West himself looks forward to one day revisit the inn because it was where one of his favorite movies were made.