Are you a movie-loving family looking for an exciting and educational travel destination? Then the setting of the popular book series Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief may be just what you’re looking for. The thrilling adventure story takes place in real-life locations that have been used as film sets, providing a fun and interactive way to explore the world of Greek mythology.
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Where Is Percy Jackson and the Lighting Thief set?
The Lightning Thief journey begins in New York City, but the beginning differs between the book and the film. In the film, the opening scene shows Poseidon rising from the ocean onto the Coney Island Boardwalk and meeting with Zeus at the top of the Empire State Building.
While in the next scene, Percy rises from a pool at his New York boarding school before heading home to a city apartment.
In both, we see Percy beginning to learn about his true identity while on a field trip with his class at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This iconic museum has been featured in numerous films, and it’s also the setting for another popular children’s book, From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
Other than Coney Island and New York City street scenes, most of the film’s sets were staged at studios or at a variety of locations in British Columbia. Here are the real-world settings of some of the major film scenes:
- Camp Half-Blood was filmed in Golden Ears Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada.
- The First Pearl – Aunty Em’s Garden Gnome Emporium, the lair of Medusa, is in Leeds Point, New Jersey. But it was most likely filmed on set in British Columbia.
- The Second Pearl – Filming did occur at the Parthenon Replica at Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee.
- The Third Pearl – The exterior of the Lotus Casino in Las Vegas was actually filmed at the Westin Bayshore Hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia. However, some of it was filmed on the Las Vegas Strip and in front of the Fremont Street Experience.
- Hollywood Sign – Filmed in Los Angeles, California.
The world of monsters and superpowers found in Rick Riordan’s immensely popular The Lightning Thief has kids gobbling up the 5-book series. Why not take advantage of the interest to sneak in a little learning too?
1) Download the Percy Jackson & The Olympians Art Adventure for a colorful lesson plan exploring Greek Mythology at the Met. (The free booklet is worth checking out even if you can’t visit NYC.)
AT THE MET: Start your tour where the story begins–in the Greek and Roman Art collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Using the map and book quotes mentioned in the Met’s Art Adventure, kids are asked to seek out the characters that Percy encounters on his quest. Along the way, they learn about Greek history, culture, and mythology shown in the details of the terracotta urns, metalworks, and marble sculptures.
Since you’re already at the Met, consider passing through two other exhibits that kids love: the Temple of Dendur and Egyptian mummies; and the Arms and Armor collection. Both are featured in Met Museum Family Guides.
Sweeten the Lightning Thief Lesson Plan
Since Percy’s mom worked in a candy store, a Lightning Thief NYC Tour would not be complete without a stop at the biggest and best candy store in the world, Dylan’s Candy Bar. I recommend stocking up at the candy store before heading to the Empire State Building, so as to sweeten the trials of waiting in what are often some of the longest lines in the city. (For a complete list of our favorite Manhattan sweets, check out 15 Irresistible New York City Treats.)
Travel Tip – Dylan’s is 20 blocks(approx. 1 mile) from the Met, but that can seem like an unbearably long walk with little kids or in frigid weather. Consider catching a cab from the lineup on the Met steps. Near Dylan’s, you can get on the subway at 59th and Lexington to travel to the 34th Street/Penn Station stop near the Empire State Building.
The Lightning Thief at the Empire State Building
Unlike Percy Jackson, you might not gain access to Mount Olympus from the Empire State Building’s 600th floor. But when the wind blows, the real-life 102nd Floor Observatory is exciting enough. And the photo-worthy view of the Manhattan skyline can’t be beat.
Travel Tip – Climbing to Mount Olympus (or even just the top of the Empire State Building) can wake a mighty appetite. Fortunately, the Empire State Building sits right around the corner from Koreatown, home to several amazing Korean restaurants where kids (and their adults) delight in cooking over table-top hibachi fires.