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North Carolina's Hunger Games

See sites from the movie and have your own outdoor adventure in the Tarheel State.
by Erin Z. Bass

The Hunger Games” movie opened over the weekend, earning $153 million at the box office and setting an opening record for Lions Gate. Movie goers, and especially those who read Suzanne Collins’ 2008 novel, thought they were watching the fictional world of Panem, but what they were really seeing was scenery from the western part of North Carolina.

The movie was shot on locations and soundstages, from DuPont State Recreational Forest to uptown Charlotte and the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Craggy Pinnacle Trail. Even those viewers who may not have been impressed with the movie adaptation or the depiction of the actual games can’t deny the scenery in the movie is breathtaking. From expanses of green hills to President Snow’s rose garden, the movie certainly takes the book’s scenic descriptions to the next level.

“When the movie was filmed in various locations around the state last year, the phenomenon was still growing but with the movie premiering March 23, the worldwide spotlight is now on North Carolina where the state’s forests, mill towns and stunning architecture provide a backdrop for a movie franchise that could rival the first Twilight’s opening day grosse of $35.7 million (U.S.).” – The Toronto Star

North Carolina tourism officials have been preparing for the movie’s opening and were ready to go last week with online “Hunger Games”-related attractions, tours and itineraries. The visitnc.com website has “Hunger Games” fan tours, a four-day itinerary and list of 12 sites to experience scenes from the movie.

“Reading the book, we realized that North Carolina offers visitors a rich, authentic experience,” says Assistant Secretary for Tourism, Marketing and Global Branding Lynn Minges. “You can hike in our national and state forests and relate to the sense of harmony that Katniss, the heroine, found in the woods. We have about 15 zipline canopy tours that will take you through the trees like Rue, the girl Katniss befriends.”

In Dupont State Recreational Forest, fans can search for the pond where Katniss finds Peeta camouflaged into the rocks. Henry River Mill Village in Hildebrand stands in for the Seam and Mellark family bakery, with the Heritage Museum being a good spot to find out more about the area. Charlotte, North Carolina’s largest city, serves as the Capitol, with its stylish residents and unlucky tributes presented at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center‘s Knight Theater. Private warehouses in uptown Shelby accommodated The Reaping, the Hob and other District 12 sites, while the North Fork Reservoir on the Craggy Pinnacle Trail above Asheville stars as the lake beside the Cornucopia.

Canopy tours are another way to catch the sites while soaring through the trees. Josh Hutcherson, who plays Peeta, tried out Navitat in Barnardsville with his then-girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens. “And take the Training Center before the Games,” adds Minges. “We train people in wilderness survival at Nantahala Outdoor Center and the U.S. National Whitewater Center. And Katniss’ mentor buys whiskey on the black market — it’s moonshine, so we’ll let people know about our legal distilleries. And when the Nature Research Center opens in Raleigh next month, people can go there and ask the researchers how far-fetched the novel’s mutant wolves really are.”

Looking for a complete “Hunter Games” experience? Hunger Games Fan Tours is offering day trips on select dates in May, July and August, in addition to adventure weekends April through September. The state’s own four-day “Hunger Games” itinerary loops from Charlotte to Asheville and back, with film locations, star hangouts, training options and other related sites along the way.

Most likely inspired by its Appalachian filming locations and produced by T. Bone Burnett, “The Hunger Games” soundtrack includes several Southerners, from Alabama’s The Secret Sisters to Taylor Swift, The Carolina Chocolate Drops and The Civil Wars, interviewed about making music for the film below.

Photo credits: Katniss with bow and arrow taken from www.thehungergamesmovie.com and credited to Murray Close; all other images courtesy of VisitNC.com.

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