Mad Men. Downton Abbey. Boardwalk Empire. Girls. Hatfields & McCoys. These programs are all up for shelves full of Emmy Awards (September 23 on ABC with Host Jimmy Kimmel) but they also offer some great travel ideas.
These tips are courtesy of Lonely Planet Travel Editor Robert Reid, who says the contenders for Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Drama Series also engender some great travel destinations.
Mad Men: Manhattan
How much money do you have? And how much can you drink? To follow Don Draper and the gin-soaked gang of AMC’s Mad Men puts you into institutions of Manhattan’s high-end scene, sometimes dating back to the Great Gatsby.
For drinks and eats, try the place where Don tricks Roger into a clam-eating/vodka-drinking contest at Grand Central Oyster Bar, ending with Roger losing his lunch. It’s a fittingly grand spot with a glittering vaulted ceiling, turning 100 in 2013. Another winner is PJ Clarke’s, the classic red-brick bar and grill on Third Ave. This is where Peggy celebrates her first ad copy with her colleagues. In real life, Buddy Holly proposed on a first date in 1958 here, and it narrowly escaped destruction by developers (note the towering office buildings surrounding it) during the Mad Men years.
If you want a beatnik night out, like Don and Midge have at the Gaslight Cafe in the Village, the Gaslight’s gone, and the Cafe Wha? has long worn out its authenticity. But the Bitter End still has it. The intimate club hosted folk hootenannys in the ’60s, and its brick-backed stage has since seen Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, Woody Allen and Norah Jones.
Don probably got his suit at Bloomingdale’s, but if you want to dress the part it’s hard to overlook Duncan Quinn, a London suit maker in NoLiTa that goes for a ’60s mod, Beatles style. It’ll cost you a couple thousand at least, but occasional sales sometimes drop prices in half – and, hey, it ain’t cheap to look Don-Draper-good.
Girls: Hipster Brooklyn
The girls of HBO’s Girls provide the ultimate hipster’s guidebook to Brooklyn episode to episode. Sure, Marnie visits the High Line to flirt after an art show, and Shoshana grabs candy from Dylan’s Candy Bar on Third Ave, but the heart of the show, and its dry condescension, is found in two hipster, rising neighborhoods of Brooklyn: Greenpoint and Prospect Heights.
In Greenpoint, Hannah and Marnie live on India Street, but the best place to go for Girls-like fun is along Franklin Ave, where you can fill growler jugs with boutique microbrews at Brouwerij Lane, see bands lug guitar cases into the Pencil Factory, hear readings at the wonderful bookstore Word, and walk down to the waterfront – much of it still untouched. Adam’s ‘sorry’ wall – where he apologizes after having a tantrum at a car – is just south in Williamsburg, at N 5th St and Kent, near the wonderful riverside park and East River Ferry stop. The nearby Peter Pan Donuts and Pastry (727 Manhattan Ave) is such a donut legend that Tina Fey wanted to do unmentionable things to one of the cream-filled donuts.
No neighborhood is more quick-moving and cool right now than Prospect Heights, across busy Flatbush Ave from the stroller central of Park Slope and near Prospect Park, one of New York’s great under-the-radar attractions. Vanderbilt Ave’s had a handful of eateries and bars for years, but the recent surge in hipness is the bars and brunch spots along Washington Ave and Franklin Ave. On Franklin, it’s a slick-slacker zone mid-week for the cheap and very tasty lunch deals at Chavela’s – though tabs double if you go with the margaritas.
Tom’s Restaurant (782 Washington Ave) is a old-school breakfast classic, where staff give out orange slices and coffee to the inevitable sidewalk lines on weekends. But for a more Girls-esque brunch try Aussie-run Milk Bar on Vanderbilt, with toastie brekkies and ‘long black’ coffee style straight out of Melbourne.
Boardwalk Empire: Atlantic City
At St James Place, you can stay, drink and eat at the Inn at the Irish Pub, a former speakeasy that’s broken the century mark that now feels like walking into a Little Rascals set. A mish-mash of old estate-sales furnishings deck the rooms, reached by stairs or an attendant-provided lift. It’s humble compared to the Trump-era casinos, but clean and very much a time-warp. The big, and truly memorable, scene is in the basement, the pub itself, big with locals and cops who come from lunch plates and pints.
Knife and Fork Inn, at 3600 Atlantic Avenue, is a AC legend that served as a speakeasy during the 1920s. At Vermont Ave & Pacific Ave, you can play the keys of an antique pianola in the entry of a 19th-century Absecon Lighthouse, now surrounded by apartment buildings.
The best source of the past is local historian Allen ‘Boo’ Pergament, who runs a very detailed ‘museum’ out of his home. Contact the Atlantic City Convention and Visitor Authority to see how you can arrange a visit. You can see some of his exhibits, along with 1950s pizzerias and antique shops, in our Monopoly Travel video.
Hatfields & McCoys: Kentucky & West Virginia
The Hatfields and McCoys are back again, after the success of the three-part miniseries on the History channel this year. The legendary bad blood between the West Viriginian Hatfields and Kentucky McCoys spun out of control after the Civil War, and didn’t go away for decades. The rivalry ultimately inspired the ’70s TV game show Family Feud, and descendants of both families appeared on it (with a pig as part of the prize).
The best starting place is in Pikeville, Kentucky. Several McCoys (including Randall, Bill Paxton’s character) are buried at Dils Cemetery in town, and Chirico’s on Main St, a popular Italian restaurant, occupies the home Randolph McCoy built after Hatfields burnt his Tug River home and killed two of his kids. A plaque marks where Ellison Mounts (Noel Fisher on the show) was hanged in 1890 for participating in a murder of a McCoy, now in front of the University of Pikeville’s Science building.
The Hatfields’ main turf was across the state line in Logan County, West Virginia. The Hatfields Cemetery in Sarah Ann is a national historic site and it’s where Kevin Costner’s character Devil Anse is buried – a life-sized marble statue marks the site up a steep walk in the woods.
Also in this area is the Hatfield-McCoy Trails, a 500-mile network of ATV and dirt bike trails in southern West Virginia. If you’ve never tried it, West Virginia ATV Tours in Beckley offers tours for first-timers, and the trails host the Hatfield-McCoy National Trailfest in October.
Downton Abbey: Highclere Castle, England
The origins of American fascination with British accents and customs are as mysterious and debated as that circle of rocks at Stonehenge. Unsurprisingly, Downton Abbey – a tale of changing times from both sides of the class line in a rural English castle – has swept both Britain and the US.
The show’s setting, supposedly Yorkshire, actually takes place in and out of Highclere Castle in Hampshire, which has been in the Carnavaron family since 1679 (though mostly rebuilt in the mid 1800s). You can tour it own your own (admission to the castle, gardens and a special Egyptian exhibit is a reasonable 16 pounds).
Many visitors, however, are going on thematic Downton Abbey tours. For example, Zicasso offers personalized luxury tours of stiff-upper-lip England, including Highclere Castle, Bampton (where Oxfordshire village scenes were filmed), Cambridge and Oxford. At $4500 a pop, it tips more to the aristocrats than the servants.