A post-apocalyptic tale of survival amid a zombie outbreak is the latest Sunday night hit from HBO — and Alberta, Canada, couldn’t be happier.
In the show, which is based on a hit video game, main characters Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) trek west from a Boston quarantine zone on a quest that could decide the fate of humanity. They battle monsters (zombie and human) as they journey to Kansas City, Jackson, Wyo., and Colorado, with past scenes also set in Austin and Jakarta, Indonesia. In reality, the cast and crew moved between more than 180 locations in Alberta over the course of about a year, from big-city downtown centers to old-west villages to charming ski towns to national parks.
Much of the show, set 20 years after a deadly fungus outbreak, is gritty, and many settings teem with fast-moving undead. But despite the bleak material, a lot of the scenery is breathtaking. Snow-capped mountains, lush forests and abandoned malls have rarely looked as good — or as menacing.
Whatever the context, Travel Alberta is maintaining a list and map of locations featured each week, pointing out filming spots and offering suggestions on sites to see nearby. Eventually, the organization will put together a handful of itineraries for people who want to visit for a few days or longer and fit in as much “Last of Us” sightseeing as they can.
While Alberta boasts high-profile destinations such as Banff and Jasper national parks, Tannis Gaffney, Travel Alberta’s chief marketing officer, said the show is letting destinations shine that might not otherwise get international attention.
“That’s been, I think, what we’ve been so excited about,” she said. “When visitors come, that there’s dispersion and that they’re moving around the province and maybe checking out these hidden gems that wouldn’t necessarily be a hot spot.”
Jackson, Wyo., is perhaps the most attractive destination in “The Last of Us” universe, with its mountainous background, twinkly lights overhead, functioning communal society and even a working movie theater.
The town of Canmore is Jackson’s stand-in, and appears to be every bit as charming as the show’s setting. Pascal, one of the show’s stars, raved about the destination in an interview with tech news site MobileSyrup.
“Every inch of Canmore was just this magical little town … with really great fudge,” he said.
Bruce Marpole, communications manager for Tourism Canmore Kananaskis, said in an email that the organization has been featuring scenes from the show on social media, and has seen media coverage of the destination.
“We know Canmore is on people’s radar and there is interest in coming to see where it all happened,” he said in an email. “As you may know, film locations can be a huge driver for visitation, so we are really excited for folks to come discover everything that makes this place so special. But no zombies please.”
A small town about two hours south of Calgary, Fort Macleod offers a historic Main Street that is ready for its close-up. Travel Alberta says parts of “Brokeback Mountain,” “Interstellar” and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” were also shot there.
For “The Last of Us,” Fort Macleod largely appeared in the first episode as 2003-era downtown Austin as the number of infected people mushroomed across the city — and globe.
The tourism bureau says visitors to the area can go about 20 minutes west to see one of the province’s six UNESCO World Heritage sites, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, which was used by Indigenous hunters for millennia.
The city has appeared throughout the show, with downtown Calgary providing the setting for the Boston quarantine zone in the first episode. In the second, the Fourth Avenue Flyover provides a route for a trio to get to the Massachusetts State House — which was a government building in Edmonton. Travel Alberta said the overpass was shut down for filming in October of 2021.
When the heroes fight the zombies known as clickers in Episode 3 inside a Boston museum, the building is the Canadian Bank of Commerce, according to historic preservation group Heritage Calgary.
The Shannon Terrace pedestrian bridge in Fish Creek Provincial Park, Canada’s second-largest urban park, is highlighted in the acclaimed Episode 3.
Heritage Park Historical Village, a “living history museum,” hosts a memorable meeting inside the Wainwright Hotel in Episode 6. Dominic Terry, the park’s strategic communications manager, said the village is closed, but Sunday brunch at the hotel has seen an increase in groups wanting to book that space.
“There are people that are actually saying we want to book the saloon,” Terry said.
The park is planning a scavenger hunt, which will include filming spots for “The Last of Us” and other past productions, once it reopens for the season.
About an hour outside Calgary is Sheep River Falls, which appeared with the words “10 miles west of Boston” — and drew widespread mockery for its un-Boston-area appearance, including from author Stephen King.
Another filming location an hour outside Calgary: Willow Lane Barn near the town of Olds. Typically a family-owned wedding venue, the site appears in Episode 6.
Rickee Holgerson, part of the family that owns the barn, said past brides emailed after recognizing the setting on the show. She’s hoping the exposure will lead to future business.
“I’m sure there are some brides out there who would love to get married in the barn that Pedro Pascal was in,” she said.
The province’s capital city was featured in Episode 2, especially the downtown area and the Alberta Legislature Building, which stood in for the roughed-up Massachusetts State House.
“Don’t worry, it doesn’t usually look so battered,” Travel Alberta says on its guide to the show’s sites. The tourism organization suggests visiting the building’s grounds or taking a guided tour.
Waterton Lakes National Park
Travel Alberta calls this park, which was featured in the dramatic Episode 8, “one of Alberta’s most underrated destinations” and “small but mighty.”
Visitors can find an international peace park, a dark sky preserve and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The tourism group promises tranquility in the winter — though the episode itself was far from calm.
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