HUNGER FAME; North Carolina's for movie buffs.
WHEN you think of film sets for hit movies, North Carolina doesn't spring to mind.
But the western half of the state is a major pull for producers because of the thick, green forests and the cascading waterfalls of the Appalachian Mountains.
The Hunger Games is the most recent blockbuster to inspire movie crews and draw film fans to visit the area's stupendous scenery.
The story follows teenager Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who volunteers to compete in a televised battle to the death in place of her younger sister. Watching the film on the plane, I couldn't wait to check out the locations on the ground.
Archery But some had better exploited the benefits of the film's success than others. The DuPont State Forest is one place that has grabbed the opportunity handed to it.
Fans can go on walking tours of the waterfalls featured in the film as well as try adventure weekends that include building fires, camouflage challenges and archery (from PS30-PS240pp, at hungergamesfantours.com).
Travel The nearby town of Brevard is a good place to stay and has a mix of breweries, galleries and live music for adults, while kids will real love OP Taylor's, described as "the coolest toy shop on the planet".
Other Hunger Games locations were infuriatingly underdeveloped. I took a trip to the abandoned Henry River Mill Village in Hildebran, which was used as Katniss's slum home in the film.
While it was fascinating to see how little had been done to make the area look like an impoverished coal-mining district, fans could only pose by Katniss's house - and that was about it.
There was no entry fee, no guides, and no gift shop. Once you have taken your photo, there's not much reason to stick around.
Even more poorly organised was the tour of the location where Katniss was chosen for the battle. These were filmed in Shelby, a former cotton mill town.
The tour effectively consisted of being let into a locked car park on an industrial estate where a set had once stood but been ripped down.
This was pushing the definition of a Hunger Games location and my interest seriously waned - though if you are a massive fan of the movie, it is probably just about worth going, if only to steal some of the fake coal left behind (uptownshelby.org).
The Lab bar in Asheville, North Carolina's self-styled cultural hub, was a favourite hang-out for the cast. Super-cool, it brews a dozen of its own beers and does great food.
We were invited to a Hunger Games-themed dinner.
Blockbuster Would we all rush into the middle to grab our knives and forks before fighting to the death when only one of us would eat? Alas, it was merely a sedate - if tasty - five-course dinner, with each dish accompanied by a different beer. Ho hum, I reckon I'd have won, too.
Apart from The Hunger Games, North Carolina tourism still draws on the 1992 blockbuster The Last of the Mohicans, which was filmed at Chimney Rock.
And who can forget that moment in 1987 when Patrick Swayze lifted Jennifer Grey out of Lake Lure in Dirty Dancing and set teenage girls' hearts racing? Jen Dir heaA(ch pla Lufio Although I found Chimney Rock (chimneyrockpark.com) to be a place of immense beauty, and Lake Lure stunning, if man-made, the film links did nothing for a 29-yearold man like me.
What I did enjoy was visiting the new US National Whitewater Centre outside Charlotte where we got soaked rafting all morning (an AllSport day pass costs about PS30 at usnwc.org).
w(PS You will get drenched so remember to take a pair of old shoes and a change of clothes. Sadly, I rem and didn't and now have a pair of unwearable red Adidas Gazelles. But, boy, it was fun.
And an even bigger buzz was to be had at the Navitat Canopy Adventures in the lower Appalachians, where you are strapped into a winch, driven to the top of a mountain and released.
You then zoom back down via 10 zip-lines attached to trees that stretch hundreds of feet above and across valleys. Exhilarating isn't the word (PS55 for adults, PS50 for kids, at navitat.com/asheville).
And if you ever get bored of the countryside and fancy a day out in the city, try Charlotte.
Segway A Segway tour of the city ranges from PS40-45 (charlottenctours.com) and will take you past locations where hit TV shows such as Homeland are filmed, as well as quaint old houses in the so-called Fourth Ward, in the shadows of the high-rise banking towers of the financial district.
So as well as being a fan of The Hunger Games, after spending four days white-water rafting and ziplining around some of the most stunning countryside in the world, I'm a fan of North Carolina, too. FACTFILE: America As You Like It offers a seven-night package from PS1,050pp including return flights direct from Gatwick to Charlotte on US Airways, car hire, staying at the Hampton Inn Phillips Place in Charlotte, Hotel Indigo in Asheville, Lake Lure Inn and Spa, and Hampton Inn Brevard. Visit americaasyoulikeit.com for more details.
TIPS heaA(ch pla Lufi (pla||COOL off by riding Sliding Rock near Brevard - a natural water slide down a 60ft rock face with a 7ft plunge pool at the bottom. Freezing cold - but fun!
HAVE lunch at Lunch at Rocky's Soda Shop and general store in Brevard - a real American diner.
PSEAT dinner at The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar in Charlotte. The burger and sushi combo sounds weird, but it's surprisingly tasty. PSrem and and
VIEW TO DIE FOR: Tom, above. Below, Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss and Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne in The Hunger Games
GLORIOUS: DuPont State Forest
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|Publication:||The People (London, England)|
|Date:||Oct 28, 2012|
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