9 Oscar-Nominated Movies to Inspire Your Next Adventure
You may not be at the Academy Awards, but these destinations will make you feel like a star.
This year’s Oscar nominations for Best Picture cover not only a varied mix of genres and storylines but also a diverse range of travel-worthy destinations.
Arguably the year’s best sci-fi thriller, Arrival follows a linguist to a military camp in Montana. Once there, she works to decipher the extraterrestrial language of Earth’s otherworldly visitors. The film, set in the wide landscape of Montana, connects the vastness of the universe with the very intimate nature of human relationships—both with one another and our planet.
Travel to Bozeman, Montana, and you’re bound to feel the same breadth of emotions. In this town, the wildlife of the Bridger Mountains lives alongside the constant influx of Montana State University students. It’s a true college town, home to typical university hangouts like the Bozeman Brewing Co. and Zocalo Coffee House, but it’s surrounded by the breathtaking landscape of the state. With all its beauty and wonder, Bozeman is the perfect place to do some soul-searching.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Downtown skyline of Pittsburgh glimmers in the background in this view from the city's Northside.
Based on the award-winning August Wilson play of the same name, Fences tells the story of an African-American father supporting his family during the American civil rights movement of the 1950s. The film was shot in Pittsburgh, known for its distinct blue collar history. Today, however, the city isn’t known only for its hardworking past. Pittsburgh has grown into a center of progress and culture. It has been ranked as one of the United States’ 100 greenest cities and is home to the world’s first green convention center—the David Lawrence Convention Center. On top of its environmental development, the city has worked to preserve and celebrate its diverse cultural heritage. Visitors can discover Pittsburgh’s history of innovation at the Heinz History Center and indulge in Mediterranean cuisine at Cure or Spanish tapas at Morcilla, both run by four-time James Beard Foundation award nominee Chef Justin Severino.
Aharen Beach on Tokashiki Island in Okinawa, Japan.
Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of Desmond T. Doss, a U.S. soldier who saved the lives of dozens of men during World War II. Doss heroically participated on the front lines of the Battle of Okinawa without ever firing a weapon, dedicating himself to rescuing his fellow soldiers. Though the Japanese island of Okinawa saw one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific campaign, it’s now known as the home of one of the most beautiful coral reef habitats in the East China Sea. Beach lovers can scuba dive, snorkel, and explore the Churaumi Aquarium, while history buffs can spend time at Peace Memorial Park, the site of the battle that changed the course of world history.
Hell or High Water
Big Bend National Park, Texas, U.S.
In Hell or High Water two frustrated brothers take drastic measures when they realize their family’s property is headed for foreclosure. To save their livelihood, they rob banks throughout western Texas. The brothers move through small towns in the state’s far western regions, which means they likely aren’t far from Big Bend National Park. An example of the incredible desert landscapes of the American West, the park is home to 451 bird species, 59 types of cacti, and several border entrances into Mexico. Canyons, mountains, and remnants of old settler communities cover the territory. Plus, once the sun sets, stargazing here will amaze even the most jaded of globe-trotters.
Children enjoy a tour of Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton, Virginia.
In Hidden Figures, three African-American women working at NASA in the 1960s become essential in the successful launch of John Glenn into orbit around the Earth. Through their steadfast focus, the women challenge racial and gender-based biases across NASA and the nation. While the story’s setting isn’t a primary focus, the coastal city of Hampton, Virginia, is more than just a scenic backdrop. It’s home to Hampton University, a historically black university officially founded in 1868 to offer education to freed slaves and, later, Native Americans. Outside its historical significance, Hampton is known for its ocean views, wineries, and dedication to space discovery. Visit the Virginia Air & Space Center, spend time at the city’s beaches, and end your day at the Mermaid Winery.
La La Land
Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
La La Land is more than just a story of two young lovers dreaming of making it big in Hollywood. The film is essentially a tour of all that makes Los Angeles glitter and shine. From the Lighthouse Café at Hermosa Beach and Hollywood Center Studios in central L.A. to the famous Griffith Observatory on the slopes of Mount Hollywood, the musical gives locals nostalgia and newbies an inside look at the magic of all things Los Angeles.
A busy street corner in Kolkata, India.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
This Oscar contender is based on the true, heartbreaking tale of a young boy near Kolkata (Calcutta). He was separated from his biological family and adopted by an Australian family. Years later, he goes back to India in an attempt to find his lost relatives. Though Lion makes it virtually impossible to think about anything but the plight of the story’s protagonist, India’s expansive and robust skyline draws the eye. Kolkata is known for rising slums, heavy traffic, and its large socioeconomic gap between the rich and poor, but it’s also easy to find beauty in the city. Places like the Pareshnath Jain temple or Mother Teresa’s Mission and Mother House give an inspiring view into Kolkata’s spiritual side and the city’s colorful Diwali celebrations inspire equal parts joy and excitement.
Manchester-by-the-Sea, a tiny town on Cape Ann, is the setting for this story of a man whose life turns upside down after he loses his brother and becomes his nephew's guardian. The film, though tragic at times, pays tribute to the majestic Massachusetts seashore. Cape Ann is made of up of four towns: Manchester-by-the-Sea, Essex, Gloucester, and Rockport. Wander through the Thacher Island Twin Lighthouses to see some of the oldest lighthouses in America or sit down at the Lobster Pool for an incredible “lobstah” (lobster) dish. Each town offers its own twist to Cape Ann’s quaint charm, but they all embody New England’s warmth and hospitality.
The Pérez Art Museum Miami at dawn.
A masterpiece of self-discovery, Moonlight follows an African-American boy in Miami who is trying to find his place in the world. Much of the film is set in a low-income neighborhood north of downtown, but visitors to Miami will likely see a different side of this bustling, lively city. Modern art museums and restaurants run by innovative chefs fill the inner corridors, while Miami Beach bursts at the seams with music and carefree ocean lovers. Walk through the Pérez Art Museum Miami, enjoy contemporary dishes at Alter, and indulge in classic local flavors at Pinolandia. There’s something for everyone in Miami, so enjoy the party.
Erin Block is a freelance travel writer and TV/documentary producer in Washington, D.C. Follow her @erinsblock on Instagram and Twitter to see her full story.