For many of us, June 24th, 2010 was just another Thursday. Twilight fans, on the other hand, were soiling their pants with excitement as Eclipse, the third installment in the Twilight saga, made its premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The biggest thing among teens since breakfast cereal, the book series and the film franchise it spawned have become a cultural phenomenon in the past two years (you may have seen “Team Jacob” or “Team Edward” bumper stickers littering cars everywhere) and has grossed a total of $1.4 billion worldwide.
On a smaller scale, the rural town of Forks, Washington (the setting of the saga, which author Stephenie Meyer chose after doing an Internet search of the rainiest U.S. cities) has experienced an influx of tourism since the Twilight craze began. Like many small towns, Forks was no exception to the economic crisis: Businesses shut down, unemployment loomed over locals and structures were falling apart. Twilight tourism gave the town the financial lift it needed, and now the obsession with these fictional characters is going to extremes. (A quick note: No actual filming was done in Forks, but instead in other various areas of Washington, Oregon and Canada.)
Many local businesses have capitalized on the Twilight visitors, which number up to 100 per day. Sully’s Drive-in, a local fast-food joint, has a special “Bella Burger” for $2.85. Both The Pacific Inn and The Dew Drop Inn have “romantic” black-and-red, Twilight-themed suites. Even Olympic Cellars, a local vineyard, has a limited edition “Sparkling Twilight” syrah. See www.forkswa.com/twilight for more information on these and other Twilight venues and specials.
Becky Ohlsen, author of Lonely Planet’s Washington, Oregon & Pacific Northwest Travel Guide, knows a thing or two about the places true Twilight fans will want to visit, which she deems the “Eclipse Immersion Experience.” We caught up with Ohlsen for more details.
Kate Ritter (MM): How popular has Forks, Washington become as a tourist destination since the Twilight saga?
Becky Ohlsen (BO): The number of visitors has gone up hugely in the wake of the books and films. According to the Forks Chamber of Commerce, some 70,000 visitors came through in 2009, a 400 percent increase from the previous year, which itself set the record for visits to the town.
MM: How has the attention affected the town of Forks? Both positively and negatively?
BO: Forks was a lumber town and not doing particularly well in the recession; it’s economically a lot healthier now. But it’s also changed a lot, from sleepy, nothing-happening-here town to buzzy tourist mecca. I’ve heard rumors of occasional grumpy comments being made by locals, but overall the town has embraced the Twilight phenomenon. The restaurants all have Twilight-themed items on the menu, there’s an annual “Bella’s Birthday” party, several companies offer Twilight tours and the town has enthusiastically signposted key sites from the series, like Bella’s house, the Cullens’ house and the hospital where Dr. Cullen (Peter Facinelli) works.
MM: Tell us about your immersion experience. Why should fans follow your guide?
BO: I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for over 15 years and absolutely love it here – I even love the rain! So even if I didn’t write for Lonely Planet, I’d enjoy showing off the area to visitors. For Lonely Planet’s Washington, Oregon & Pacific Northwest Travel Guide and Seattle City Guide, I intensely researched the area to make sure the books included everything visitors want to see and that people have the best time they possibly can while visiting. I’d encourage Twilight fans to learn more about the area’s many other charms!
MM: What are some of your favorite spots in the area that are must-visit locations for Twilight fans?
BO: I highly recommend the Hoh Rainforest near Forks, and the beaches of La Push. Both are so atmospheric and such potent examples of the Pacific Northwest’s natural beauty—it’s like walking right into the movie!
Becky Ohlsen has been writing travel guides for Lonely Planet for several years, covering mainly the Pacific Northwest and parts of Scandinavia. She loves heavy rain and gloomy weather, but is pretty sure she’s not a vampire. For more information about the Pacific Northwest, visit http://www.lonelyplanet.com/usa/pacific-northwest.