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5 ways to experience the Oscars through travel

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Beyond Atlantis, a 20-by-110-foot screen provides guests with a sight previously seen only by astronauts in space – the sun rising around the edge of a spinning Earth. The orbital sunrise takes place every 12 minutes at the new Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

If you've ever left a movie dreaming of your next travel destination, you're not alone. “Every year there are some films that, aside from being great movies, whet people's wanderlust,” says Travelzoo’s senior editor Gabe Saglie.

Although there wasn't a tourist office's dream like "Sideways" in 2013, this year's lineup of Oscar best picture nominees “is pretty good” for igniting the travel bug, Saglie says. “'Gravity' comes to mind. Outer space is the next frontier and 'Gravity' coincides when intergalactic travel is about to become accessible.”

If you're ready to explore —earth or space— after watching this year's Oscar-nominated films, here are our picks.

Few can swing the stratospheric airfare on Virgin Galactic, but Florida's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex offers down-to-earth options. “Anytime you've got a great space movie, it reminds people about how fascinating space is and how humans are curious creatures and want to explore,” says the center's public relations manager Andrea Farmer. “Movies like 'Gravity' inspire interest about the science behind space travel and the people who make it happen and you can discover all of that here. You can reach out and touch a moonrock, you can experience talking to a real astronaut — it takes it to the next level.”

For moviegoers intrigued by the space shuttle orbiter, “we have the real deal,” says Farmer. “Atlantis has flown on 33 missions.”

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex also offers up-close tours. Ending soon — so go within the next month if you don't want to miss it — is the Launch Pad Tour, which was “the first time ever that the public could go inside the perimeter fence of the launch pad,” says Farmer.

On March 16, SpaceX will lift off, headed for the International Space Station. “Catching a space launch is a great time to visit,” says Farmer. “It will be pretty spectacular when you see the rocket flames lighting up the night sky."

"Dallas Buyers Club"
“Clearly, 'Dallas Buyers Club' is no commercial for Dallas; it wasn't even shot here,” says Dallas-based travel and lifestyle writer Jenny Block, “but it gives us a chance to show off.”

Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, sees a silver lining. “Matthew McConaughey's character … does things in a unique Dallas, Texas, kind of way,” he says. “It says a lot about the optimism and spirit of Dallas.”

Jones believes viewers' perceptions about the city will change when they arrive. “The film is an interesting take on Dallas in the 1980s, and clearly the city has changed dramatically since then,” he says. “If you haven't been here, there's a bit of a surprise because we have the sixth largest gay and lesbian population in the country. We have Oak Lawn, a prominent gay neighborhood with amazing restaurants that fans of the movie may want to experience. And other areas have been reinvented … Bishop Arts District, with its organic homegrown restaurants and boutiques, is an interesting place for visitors who want to experience Dallas in a different way.”   

To experience “Dallas’ kick-ass LGBTQ side,” Block suggests visitors stay at Daisy Polk Inn, eat at Mot Hai Ba, visit Ginger Fox Gallery and have brunch at Komali. They can also get a drink at Eden, go dancing at Sue Ellen's and see an Uptown Players show.

In the near-future of "Her," Los Angeles has no cars. "It's not such a far-fetched idea to experience a car-free version of Los Angeles and in fact, it's happening now," says Susan Lomax, vice president of communications for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. "Thousands of Angelenos and visitors have discovered that ditching the car is the best way to see LA's sites.”

Travelers can do just that with the Car Free LA program, a collection of self-guided itineraries and guided tours that take visitors — on foot, bike or public transportation — to iconic locations throughout the city from the Santa Monica Pier to Walt Disney Concert Hall. Andaz West Hollywood hotel offers guests who want to hit the pavement a “Walk n Roll” package with a to-go lunch, pedometer and a brochure that guides strollers to Hollywood hotspots.

But forget about catching a glimpse of the skyline featured in the film; for that, tourists will need to jet to Shanghai, whose modern Pudong skyscrapers stand in for a futuristic Los Angeles. 

"American Hustle"
"American Hustle" may stir curiosity about Atlantic City, even among travelers just not that into gaming. The casino town has upped their ante though, with initiatives to bring new art and cultural attractions to the city. Opened last November, the Noyes Arts Garage Stockton College houses artists and craftspeople and hosts exhibits, demonstrations, lectures and events; it's also home to the Atlantic City branch of the African-American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey. Other recent projects include the creation of a 1.1 mile sculpture walk linking the Marina District properties, and large-scale public art installations throughout the city by the Atlantic City Alliance.

For your own spin on a ride across Nebraska, try it on two wheels, horseback or on foot. The Cowboy Trail across northern Nebraska (passing through the region where the movie was filmed) runs 195 miles through small towns and wide open spaces. Nature lovers may want to build a trip around the Arbor Day celebration April 25 in the event's home state — stay at Arbor Day Farm for green-themed adventure.