8 Pop Culture Pilgrimage Sites Fans Continue to Flock To

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The owner of the actual abode at 4 Privet Drive constantly has to deal with people showing up to their famous house. The stream of visitors stopping by the real-life English residence are not witches and wizards: They’re the muggle fans of Harry Potter, often pulling up to the property in full Gryffindor-inspired ensembles. Famous houses shown or referenced in film, songs, and television have long inspired the masses to visit their corresponding real-life locales and walk the grounds, whatever claim to celebrity they have. Though not as glamorous or as rare an opportunity as touring the set of your favorite ’90s sitcom during its run or snapping a photo with the cast, the desire to soak in that star power by association has proven enough to generate a sort of tourism culture around spots like the Beatles’ iconic Abbey Road crosswalk or the Rocky steps in Philadelphia. That said, the situation can become slightly untenable when the site of such widespread public intrigue is a private residence or a place of work, as is the case for most of these abodes. Whether it’s a blockbuster film franchise’s set location, a dwelling that inspired a hit ballad, or merely a shot of the façade featured as the credits roll, these famous homes have their own devoted fan clubs.

The Home Alone House

Young Kevin McCallister’s saga being left behind (mistakenly) over Christmas while his family vacationed abroad cemented actor Macaulay Culkin as one of the most legendary child stars of all time. The 1990 hit film also made the titular home a required stop for any fans who happen around the Chicago suburb of Winnetka, Illinois.

The stately Georgian dwelling’s exterior, living room, and foyer were used in the movie, though most other scenes were shot on a soundstage, according to Vanity Fair. The homeowners told the magazine that fans started seeking out the home not long after the film hit theaters. “We would have not believed back then that there would be sightseers coming to look at that house for years afterward,” said John Abendshien, who lived in the home at the time the movie was filmed. Over the decades that followed, the family dealt with some trespassers on the property, but also met figures like a foreign ambassador as well as a number of Make-A-Wish recipients who visited the famous dwelling. “We had the privilege of meeting so many wonderful people along the way,” Abendshien said.

Carrie Bradshaw’s Brownstone from Sex and the City

Any Sex and the City fan knows that the writer and fashion fiend Carrie Bradshaw has maintained her posh Upper East Side apartment since the show’s original run in the ’90s all the way through to today, with the series’ reboot And Just Like That… But anyone in search of the charming brownstone featured in the show should head to the opposite end of Manhattan, as the real-life abode used for the exterior shots in the program is in the West Village.

New York 1 interviewed the daughter of the unit’s longtime owner in 2021, who shared that Sarah Jessica Parker had to pop in occasionally: “She had to come into his apartment just to shoot a couple of times, you know, stick her head out the window.” The family also shared that fans have never been shy about stopping by the brownstone to make their love for Carrie known: “Screaming day and night, hordes of people, for years, come rain, snow, whatever, they’re at the window screaming, ‘Carrie we love you!’”

Taylor Swift’s Cornelia Street Carriage House

Throngs of fans will follow pretty much anywhere country-pop phenomenon Taylor Swift leads. When she penned a song in tribute to the early stages of a relationship with her now ex boyfriend, British actor Joe Alwyn (per fan theory), and named it after the downtown Manhattan street she lived on at the time, the spot in question was bound to become a Swiftie landmark. The 1912-built three-story carriage house was the singer’s home base for a stretch in 2016 while her Tribeca apartment was undergoing renovations.

The couple parted ways earlier this year (the lyrics specifically allude to fears of the end of the relationship: “And I hope I never lose you, hope it never ends / I’d never walk Cornelia Street again.”), and while the Grammy winner seems to be hard at work and doing just fine these days, some fans took the news hard, many of them making their way to Swift’s Cornelia Street rental to pay respects and be in community with fellow Swifties.

Though the Alwyn-Swift breakup certainly made for an uptick in visitors to the hallowed Greenwich Village dwelling, fans of the singer had been known to stop by her one-time rental prior to the split, and they continue to visit. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the staggering fan presence was powerful enough to scare away potential buyers who were were “shocked by the number of people photographing it. They didn’t make an offer.”

4 Privet Drive from Harry Potter

While Harry Potter’s happiest times did not, canonically, take place in the abode of his extended family members, the cantankerous Dursley clan, Potterheads have enthusiastically made pilgrimage to the real-life residence in the English town of Bracknell over the years. The fictional young wizard was made to live under the stairs and was thrilled to escape his parochial life in Little Whinging, yet those who currently live in the actual home featured in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone say the ever present visitors are sometimes a nuisance. The Sun caught up with the current homeowner who anonymously shared some insights about everyday life in the abode, which apparently sees a “constant stream” of fans.

“We’ve had people in floods of tears. It’s bizarre,” they told The Sun. “The kids, you get it. But obviously the adults. They dress up sometimes in full gear and recreate scenes.” The unnamed resident added that people stop by in cars “all day and sometimes at night.” As one of the most iconic franchises in the modern era, the films have drawn Potter aficionados out to a number of sites shown in the movies, from King’s Cross to Glenfinnan Viaduct. Despite the inconvenience, the homeowner of the “Harry Potter House” understands the obsession (in part) and even moves their car occasionally to accommodate fan photos. “I don’t mind,” they said. “Harry Potter is amazing. I get that. But you do come home from work and they are all on your drive. It’s quite mad.”

The Ghostbusters Firehouse

The 1903 Beaux Arts building featured in Ghostbusters does not regularly bear any identifying insignia tipping passersby off to its status as a famous movie location, though tourists seem to have had an easy time singling out the firehouse used for exterior shots of the phantom hunting team’s HQ in the 1984 classic. Fans commemorating the movie’s 1984 release have descended upon the lower Manhattan edifice annually in June to celebrate “Ghostbusters Day,” some of them in full regalia, ready for any spectral combat.

In reality, the building is a fully operational firehouse attending to the city’s very real incidents. Should New Yorkers experience emergencies of the paranormal variety, they won’t find Bill Murray & Co. hulled up in Hook & Ladder 8—but if there is a fire, New Yorkers know who they’re gonna call.

The Banks Mansion from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Brentwood, an affluent neighborhood about a 15-minute drive from Bel-Air, is the actual location of the Banks family’s lavish manse. The 6,400-square-foot home hit Airbnb in 2020 to commemorate the beloved ’90s sitcom’s 30th anniversary. The Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith, stopped by to promote the lodging company’s opportunity, which included five one-night stays at the mansion as well as a welcome message from DJ Jazzy Jeff.

The real-life abode was only used for exterior shots in the show, but the brief scenes featuring the mansion have been enough to move fans to come snap photos—even if they’re just of the home’s gate.

The Full House Victorian

The San Francisco Victorian home from Full House appears only in the show’s credits, but fans still make a point of stopping by the California abode made famous by the sitcom—which ran for eight seasons from 1987 to 1995 and marked the Olsen twins’ acting debut. Many recall the famous “Painted Ladies” (the colorful homes on San Francisco’s Steiner Street) from the credits, but true fans know that residences on Postcard Row were only used to establish the San Francisco locale and not depict the Tanner family’s canonical full house. The house shown on the opening sequence is a charming dwelling on Broderick Street.

Even John Stamos, who played Uncle Jesse on the show, hasn’t been able to resist pointing out the misconception to fans online. In an exchange captured by Comments by Celebs in 2019, Stamos informed a Full House enthusiast of the mixup in the comments of post she shared showing the Painted Ladies: “Despite my smile, Uncle Jesse was not home,” the fan wrote in her caption.

“Cause you’re at the wrong house,” Stamos responded.

Elvis Presley’s Memphis Estate, Graceland

Of all the pop culture pilgrimage sites featured above, it’s unlikely that any regularly draw a bigger crowd than the King: 46 years after his passing, Elvis’s Graceland home pulls in fans from all over the world. Per the tourist attraction’s website, 500,000 people visit every year. The allure of the icon’s abode—and final resting place—is so powerful that even the surrounding area sees a fairly strong fan presence.

While Elvis impersonators are a dime a dozen, few pop culture pilgrimage sites are iconic enough to inspire their own brick-and-mortar replicas. But there is no force stronger than Elvis: In 2011, thousands of miles from Memphism, a Graceland copycat was constructed in Denmark as a tribute to the crooner’s famed estate.

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