Big cities, beautiful beaches, ample parkland and Southern charm.
There are numerous reasons to plan a trip to Georgia. But one reason many don’t know of is the state’s blossoming film career. Georgia acts as the backdrop for several movies and TV shows, including the hit television dramas The Vampire Diaries and The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead
Over in Atlanta, zombies, not vampires, are in the spotlight. The Walking Dead, a post-apocalyptic series filming its sixth season in the spring, is shot in and around Georgia’s capital city.
Big Zombie Tours, operated by Atlanta Movie Tours, launched its first Walking Dead sojourns (using zombie-playing extras from the show as guides) in 2012. As the bus rolls by various sites on the three-hour tour, clips from the show play on a big screen. And, yes, you are welcome to come dressed in your best zombie costume.
“When we started this, we thought we were humongous fans. But we’re not even close,” said Atlanta Movie Tours co-owner Patti Davis.
Later Walking Dead seasons were filmed in rural spots near Atlanta, including Senoia, where a second Big Zombie Tour commences. The town, about 60 kilometers southwest of Atlanta, stands in for the show’s fictional Woodbury. Its pleasant downtown historic area is a far cry from the post-apocalyptic horrors you see on TV.
Still, the zombie invasion has sparked a business boom in this small town of about 3,600 people. The number of commercial enterprises has ballooned to include the Woodbury Shoppe, guaranteed to fill all your zombie needs with items such as a Walking Dead pet nutcracker. Below the shop is a museum displaying jail cells and other props from the show. You can relax with a cup of coffee at the new Waking Dead Café or sip a Waking Dead cocktail (vanilla vodka, Kahlua, ice cream and espresso) at Maguire’s Family & Friends.
The three-hour rural tours take in sights throughout Coweta County, including the Zombie Arena and assorted spots only true fans would recognize.
Meanwhile, the film business is booming in Georgia, and new movie-themed tours are on the rise. Atlanta Movie Tours recently launched the Girl on Fire Tour, with visits to locales from the two sequels of The Hunger Games.
Atlanta Movie Tours’ Big Zombie Tours take fans of the popular television show "The Walking Dead" to filming locations in and around Atlanta, Georgia, like the Mount Moriah Baptist Church, which appeared in season 2.
The Vampire Diaries
Jessica Lowry, co-founder of Mystic Falls Tours in Covington, Georgia, is a big fan of The Vampire Diaries. Six years ago, she and her husband, Travis, were extras on show, a supernatural television drama now in its sixth season. Lowry wrote about the experience on her Vampire Stalkers blog, and soon fellow fans were showing up in Covington, asking her to show them around.
With its charming antebellum homes and stately town square, Covington plays the show’s fictional Mystic Falls, Virginia. In real life, this town about 60 kilometers east of Atlanta is a quintessential small Southern town. Visitors might recognize this self-proclaimed “Hollywood of the South” from its roles in dozens of films and television shows, including the Dukes of Hazzard and In the Heat of the Night.
But fans of The Vampire Diaries are a particularly dedicated bunch with a voracious appetite not only for film locations, but for tidbits about the cast as well. So Lowry launched the Vampire Stalkers guided tour, which takes visitors to key locales from the show and offer insider scoops on how scenes were shot.
“In the beginning, I thought we’d do a couple of tours and the fans would be gone,” Lowry said. “But I’m still meeting people from all over the world. And there are people who come back every year because they want to see the new stuff.”
The Vampire Diaries launched a spinoff show, The Originals, in 2013, and Lowry created a spinoff tour. In the works for spring 2015: a general movie tour that takes in other film sites in the area.
After your tour, pick up a Vampire tribute T-shirt at On Location Gift or try a “vamped-out” barbecue sandwich (served with fang marks) at Bradley’s Bar-B-Que.
Fans of the hit show “The Vampire Diaries” will recognize Covington, Georgia, which plays the fictional Mystic Falls, Virginia, where the show is set.