So you want to go on the ultimate fandom vacation. Forget crowded conventions or hyped-up roller coasters based on movie franchises. When you're on shore leave, you actually want to go where Starfleet captains, dinosaur seekers, galactic rebels, and final girls actually get away.
Destinations that exist in fiction are obviously going to be more mind-blowing than anything the real world can re-create with visual effects and animatronics. Can you imagine actually touching the scaly skin of a reptile that last breathed during the Cretaceous period? Venture the other way into the far future, and the pleasure planets of the Star Trek universe could possibly make you forget there is such a place as Earth. Even that Star Wars attraction that recruits you to run around as Rebel forces saving the galaxy is nothing compared to the luxury that oozes from the skyscrapers and casinos of Cloud City.
Of course, most of these fantastical places are hardly as they seem. You might have just kicked back on your beach chair when what you think is a cabana boy but is actually a Ferengi wanting to do shady business approaches. Summer camp can go from making out in the closet to realizing the blood on the floor is not some corn syrup prank. If you want to take a thrill ride into the Old West, you have to watch out for any rogue androids aiming a rifle at you.
Travel across galaxies, through other realms and time to these eight sci-fi, fantasy, and horror escapes that you might not ever want to leave — or won't be able to.
Risa (Star Trek: TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT)
Why Risa is one of the few planets Captain Picard can remember the name of probably has something to do with the Federation designating it as a pleasure planet. Even its government is called the Hedony. Only 90 light years away from our solar system, Risa is kind of like the Bahamas of Federation space (if Caribbean sunsets had two moons).
Someone managed to take what was once a jungle flooded by rain and shaken by earthquakes and turn it into an alien paradise of sprawling beaches, crystalline waters, bioluminescent flora, and resort hotels where even a Starfleet captain can wear a silver Speedo without shocking the crew too much. Just watch out for Ferengi in Hawaiian shirts and make sure you wake up with both kidneys.
Cloud City (Star Wars)
While a gas mining colony somewhere in a galaxy far, far away probably doesn't sound too enticing compared to pleasure planets and dinosaur parks, the top 50 levels of this entirely man-made, 392-floor city are basically Vegas on steroids. Space casinos are the happening hangouts and gambling is pretty much the unofficial pastime. Whether or not any of those casinos are run by the extraterrestrial mafia otherwise known as the Ivax Syndicate is your call. If you'd rather not go broke the moment you touch down, hover over the city in a cloud car. But you'd better win big at Sabacc — and not lose your starship in the process — because a night in one of Cloud City's most luxurious resorts could cost you up to 5,000 Imperial credits.
Yubaba's bathhouse (Spirited Away)
The most magical all-inclusive spa in the Spirit Realm can't be reached by car, though you might need a shapeshifter to guide you. Unnaturally blue skies and a gushing waterfall make for an enchanting view if you can get over the shapeless guy in the Noh mask stalking you. Tubs can accommodate anyone no matter how many arms, legs or tentacles they have, and soothing herbal water flows from the taps.
This place is always swarming with creatures, so you probably need to make reservations for a bath and one of the dining rooms. If all this opulence is too posh for your wallet, the witch Yubaba is always hiring extra hands (and you get to hang out with soot sprites). You might even spot a celebrity — Totoro comes here to unwind.
Camp Crystal Lake (Friday the 13th)
It seems like the perfect time warp back to '80s summer camp memories — so long as you stay in the dark about what happened here.
Glittering waters surrounded by cool, shady forest make Camp Crystal Lake the perfect place to toast s'mores and tell ghost stories that may or may not actually be true. Never mind whether some kid really drowned in that lake in 1957. Nobody wants such an idyllic view ruined by things that go bump in the night, especially when you're finally old enough to be a counselor with the keys to your own cabin and the authority to tell all those kids what they aren't allowed to do and where they are forbidden to go after lights out. Except there are places even you shouldn't go after lights out. No wonder they call it Camp Blood.
The Amusement Park Planet (Star Trek: TOS)
Kirk and everybody else wants to spend shore leave here because this could quite possibly be the only planet in the universe that actually turns your fantasies three-dimensional with artificial forests, flowers, mountains, lakes, and anything else you can imagine. That's how Kirk, McCoy, and even Spock end up with humanoid showgirls draped all over them. Of course, it had to be created by aliens that use micro-antennae to read your mind and program your wildest desires. They have an entire underground complex for all that. Is this a proto-Westworld? It could be, since it's all fun and games until the eerily intelligent supercomputer that runs the place gets offended at being used to let Starfleet officers play out their fantasies.
Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park)
If you're looking for an exotic locale with tropical weather and lush flora, Isla Nublar is your vacation destination, so long as you don't mind the fauna. On this island, there are species that only existed as fossils until dino DNA was extracted from a mosquito and... you know the rest.
Most of the herbivores really don't mind a Jeep or a Ford Explorer cruising through the trails for a sightseeing experience that takes you back over 65 million years. That sounds breathtaking until the water in your glass starts to ripple suspiciously, and before you know it the island's token T-Rex is chasing a human appetizer or five. The monster Instagram potential of this place is probably not worth literally losing your head over.
Jurassic World (Jurassic World)
Jurassic Park, upgraded.
In Jurassic World, you can safely view even the fiercest carnivores from behind glass panels that will keep you from being an extra midday snack. You can watch a Sea World-esque show when it's feeding time for the resident Mosasaurus, which leaps up majestically like a prehistoric Shamu to snap up an entire shark carcass. The Gyrospheres that roll you through fields of free-roaming Triceratops and Gallimimus even boast Jimmy Fallon (or, rather, his voice) as your guide.
Dr. Henry Wu dreamed up the most ferocious predator ever just for this reincarnation of Jurassic Park. It's fantastic, as long as you can put aside the questionable ethics of merging raptor and T-Rex genes with a menagerie of other creatures just for entertainment value.
Escapism doesn't get any further away from reality than this, though it may bring you uncomfortably close to an entirely new reality. Ditch your VR headset, throw on some cowboy duds, and step into a version of the Old West that's so real you'll think you actually are wandering around in a post-Civil-War-era saloon. That is until you remember you're being served that glass of whiskey by a startlingly humanoid robot.
Except some of these robots are sentient. Whether or not this enhances the experience or suddenly makes your cubicle look like a real enticing place depends on whether you know who you are. The only thing to remember before this immersive fantasy (or is it?) sucks you in? Violent delights have violent ends.