Tourism is a difficult concept to grasp sometimes. Sure, unique geology, ancient architecture and priceless art are alluring, but what if you want to go see something that technically doesn't even exist?
Lucky for you, the following tourist spots cater to those of you whose travels are rooted in the spirit of make-believe.
The small town of Riverside, Iowa has a population of about 1,000 people and has managed to make a name for itself not for anything it's done, but for what it will fictionally do in the future. Riverside claims to be the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk.
The town's claim to fame was completely made up by townspeople, who then wrote to "Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry and asked if it was cool. Roddenberry said it was OK with him and the dreams of a whole town of lonely, strange people were made real.
The town features the USS Riverside,
a starship that looks a lot like the Enterprise but is apparently legally different enough that Paramount won't sue anyone, as well as an annual Trek Fest, featuring all manner of awesome Star Trek crap like a lawnmower trektor pull, a parade, battle of the bands and all kinds of shameful stuff to waste your money on, including bags of dirt from Kirk's future homestead.
Vulcan, Alberta, Canada
Never let it be said that Captain Kirk is the only pretend man from space who gets tourism love. Located just down the road from nowhere in Alberta, Canada, Vulcan was not named so much for Star Trek aliens as it was for the Roman god of fire.
Realizing that Roman gods are passé, the town's 2,000 residents hopped on the Trek bandwagon and decided to drum up some tourism dollars by exploiting the coincidence.
The town boasts a Star Trek–themed tourist station aptly named the Tourism and Trek Station, where you can show up and take pictures with a cardboard cutout of Leonard Nimoy
. It's totally worth the drive!
Elsewhere in town is a model of the Enterprise as seen in "Star Trek V: The One Nobody Liked," and every year they host VulCON: Spock Days/Galaxyfest, which Wikipedia says attracts hundreds of Trek fans each and every year.
Quirky city names exist all over the globe. For Hell, and it's nearly 300 unofficial citizens, there are two possible origins for the town name.
Either it was something overheard in German ("So schön hell!") referring to how beautifully bright the spot was, or one of the town's founders -- when asked about naming the town -- said, "I don't care. You can name it Hell for all I care." Charming.
Hell features an abundance of Hell-themed kitsch
, from signs telling you how to go to Hell to the devil that's perched over the general store's sign. They have their own fictional college that offers non-accredited diplomas right from Damnation University and even Screams Ice Cream Shop, because what visit to Hell would be complete without ice cream? And, if you're in for the long haul, you can head to the chapel and get married in Hell.
Somewhere in time, DC comics opted to set their characters in the world of fiction while Marvel set their characters in "real world" settings. This, in turn, worked out in favor of the town of Metropolis, Ill.
Back in 1972, DC declared the town of about 6,000 to be Superman's official hometown and the Illinois state legislature passed a resolution to the same effect.
The town courthouse is marked by a giant statue of Superman which presumably mocks everyone who gets sentenced to jail time inside, as well as more Superman signage than you can shake a stick at. Every year, in June, the town holds a Superman celebration which draws in fans and comic book collectors from around the country.
The local paper is the Metropolis Planet, as apparently the editors couldn't give in incompletely and call it "The Daily Planet," but rumor has it the Chamber of Commerce used to give out Kryptonite
until DC found out and had its lawyers ask the town to stop. No, really.
Matmata and Thereabouts, Tunisia
If you're looking for a super nerd fix and staying continental isn't going to cut it, then what better place to go than Mos Eisley, home of intergalactic pirates and the best place to find out if Greedo shot first.
The Mos Eisley and Tattooine scenes in "Star Wars" were filmed in Tunisia, and since attracting people to a desert isn't generally the easiest thing to do, the locals have exploited that for fun and profit. After all, if your home is a literal hole in the ground, you probably need all the help George Lucas can offer in terms of attracting visitors.
The sandy home of Luke Skywalker and his aunt and uncle is a Tunisian hotel called the Sidi Driss
that you can visit and stay at for a night or two if you're so inclined. Interior shots of the Mos Eisley Cantina were also filmed here, so you can actually eat a meal (apparently the food is very good) right near where that buttface guy started crap with Luke and Obi-Wan.
Santa Claus, Ind.
Back in the 1800s, this town was named Santa Fe, but when they tried to get a post office in 1856,
the government told them to cram it because there already was a Santa Fe in Indiana. So they switched to Santa Claus because it was apparently the only other Santa they could think of.
Like a good idea that snowballs into a monster of year-long holiday cheer, the Christmas theme of the town has spread everywhere from Christmas Lake to Lake Holly to Lake Noel.
Santa Claus has the only post office featuring that name. Every year a veritable reindeer-load of mail comes in for Santa, which has to be dealt with by "Santa's Elves," who are either dedicated volunteers or people on work release.
For kicks, you can visit Santa's Candy Castle, a Christmas-y theme-park attraction, the Santa Claus Museum and the inexplicably named Holiday World and Splashin' Safari, a theme park based around Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July.