We're only a few episodes into the first season of HBO's "Westworld" but it's already captured the intrigue of TV buffs and fan conspiracy theorists alike (Is Bernard an android? Maybe.) The idea of a Wild West theme park town populated by breathtakingly realistic androids that guests can do whatever they want to provides a great framework for looking at all kinds of morality issues... and there are a ton of ways things in Westworld can (and do) go very wrong, which makes for great TV.
It's cool that they juxtapose the sleek, futuristic labs where the androids are made and tested with the 19th century boomtown in the park, but, of course, we had to know where they filmed those sweeping desert vistas. We hunted down some of the filming locations for Sweetwater, and then we took the liberty to suggest a few places where you can go to (sort of) get a taste for Westworld, even though it's not a real park... yet.
WESTWORLD FILMING LOCATIONS
Arches National Park has some incredibly stunning red rock formations and canyons, so it's no wonder filming takes place just outside the park. A lot of the scenes of visitors coming into the park (on the train) are filmed on roads right outside the boundaries of Arches.
For those epic canyon shots, head to Dead Horse Point State Park, which is also near Moab, Utah... but keep your eyes peeled for the Man in Black. This is where he scalped a Native American in search of clues to the entrance to the mysterious Maze.
If you were wondering where they film the scenes that take place in Sweetwater, the answer is Melody Ranch. It's a privately-owned 22-acre movie backlot set, so you can't really visit (without some kind of special permission, at least) but you can rest easy knowing that Melody Ranch has a storied history with Western films: The Lone Ranger, Wyatt Earp, Gunsmoke, Hopalong Cassidy, Annie Oakley, The Cisco Kid, Deadwood, the Magnificent Seven, and more were filmed here
ANNA'S PICKS FOR EXPERIENCING WESTWORLD IRL
Even though Westworld is fictional, there are some places around the country that you can visit where you can get pretty darn close to living out your cowboy-android fantasies. Without further ado, here are my suggestions for getting the best Westworld experience in the present.
A lot of the action takes place in the fictional Westworld town of Sweetwater. It's the kind of place that isn't quite a ghost town, but you can tell that if it had been around during the 1800s, it probably would eventually turn into one. For a more Westworld-like experience, head to a living ghost town like Calico. Like Sweetwater, the town has been restored to look more like it did during the 1800s, with costumed interpreters, attractions, shops, and more. Just keep in mind... those are real people, not androids. Be nice.
Those shots of Delores and Teddy riding around the sweeping desert on their horses are pretty envy-inducing. If you're inspired to saddle up and ride off into the sunset, book an excursion with MH Cowboy. They offer day tours in the Moab region, where a lot of the show is filmed. Even if you're a beginner, they'll have you riding like a pro by the end of your trip. They can even teach you to rope and lasso cattle, if you wanna go above and beyond and get some skills that you can put to use when (if?) Westworld ever opens IRL.
So, I would say that 1880 Cowboy Town is almost the closest thing we have to Westworld in real life right now... and it kinda shows just how far we have to come before we get a theme park that's remotely like it. 1880 Cowboy Town is a ghost town that's been filled with animatronic mannequins, and it's every bit as horrifying as it sounds.
Here, you can step into the past... the 1960s, that is. The animatronic citizens of 1880 Cowboy Town haven't seen a lot of updating since they were put in around then. Visit the town's saloon, gallows, opera house, gold mine, boot hill cemetery, and fort and meet all of the robotic townspeople (provided they're in working condition... allegedly they only get fixed once a year).
All in all, there are about 50 attractions that (should) come to "life" with the push of a button, or, in some cases, when you trigger the hidden floor plate, so tread lightly. There's a dentist, a doctor (and a patient having his leg sawed off : / ), a Native American chief, a miner, and more. You'll even get to hear Abe Lincoln give a speech! (Ignore the fact that Abe was dead by 1880, and that he never visited South Dakota.) Sure, the place is dusty and run down, and the history is maybe a little questionable, but it's one of the few remaining roadside attractions from a different era. And besides, aren't you a tiny bit curious to see this modern day ghost town replica of a ghost town?
If you're more into the sci-fi aspects of Westworld and not really the Wild West stuff, you should make your way to the Robot Hall of Fame in Pittsburgh. From Lt. Cmdr. Data and WALL-E to the Roomba, all of the best robots are here. Someday, maybe one of Bernard's creations will find itself honored in these hallowed halls.
Just a Civil War beard enthusiast, writer at Roadtrippers, and aspiring astronaut reaching for the stars.