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Bucket List Adventure: ‘Walking Dead’ with Atlanta Movie Tours

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There are zombies on the streets of Atlanta – and they’re ready to do a little show-and-tell with anyone brave enough to sign on for a Big Zombie Tour, Part I or Part II (or both).

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Follow them inside the Goat Farm to see where the Vatos held camp. Join them at the CDC where you just may get a lesson in how to shuffle like the undead. Zombie wannabes can even test their strength at the Zombie Arena.

Developed by Atlanta Movie Tours – a Hollywood-happy company founded by uber movie and TV buffs Carrie Sagel Burns and Patti Davis – the zombie tours are among the two-year-old company’s lineup of “Hollywood backlot” adventures in Atlanta.

Call it the Hollywood of the South. Hundreds and hundreds of movies and TV shows have been filmed in Georgia and more are on the way. In 2013 alone, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, a whopping 142 feature films and television projects were produced here. Many of these shows – like “The Walking Dead” and “Zombieland” – are set in the Atlanta area.

“Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “The Blind Side,” “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” “The Change-Up,” “Kalifornia,” “Driving Miss Daisy”: They all show off Atlanta in a supporting role. Horror, drama, comedy – you name it – the tours take you to filming sites where pivotal scenes were shot from these movies and others, including Tyler Perry’s “Good Deeds” and “Witness Protection” and a sports smorgasbord including “Trouble with the Curve,” “Remember the Titans” and “We Are Marshall.”

For the zombie-centric tours, actors who worked as extras on the sets of “The Walking Dead” and “Zombieland” share behind-the-scenes scoop, fun film facts and special effects trivia as they take visitors right into the belly of the beast: the hospital where sheriff Rick begins his quest to lead a group of zombie apocalypse survivors; the Esco Feed Mill – the site of a shoot-out with the Governor and where Daryl shoots Merle after he turns; and the super creepy Oaks Motor Inn, where Michonne is tied to a post while Merle tries to hotwire a car.

In addition to the Big Zombie Tours, Part I and II, Atlanta Movie Tours offers an Atlanta Film Sites Tour and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind Tour. This newest offering, a fitting addition for 2014 – the 75th anniversary of the filming of “Gone With the Wind” – spotlights the Atlanta Mitchell knew and loved and wrote about.

The tour is led by “Margaret Mitchell” herself: Sally Smith, a one-woman tour de force, fully embodies the famed Pulitzer Prize-winning author. In fact, as you stroll with her through the grounds of Oakland Cemetery (Mitchell’s final resting place), you’ll hear folks call out, “Hello, Margaret!” and “How are you today, Miss Mitchell?” Ever-gracious, Miss Mitchell will wave a gloved hand and yoohoo back.

She’ll also point out fellow residents of Oakland, including the woman who had her booted from the Junior League for scandalizing the Old Guard with her Apache dance. Other locales visited on this tour include The Margaret Mitchell House where she wrote her masterpiece – a novel that continues to rank among the most popular books ever published – and the library that holds her old Remington typewriter and library card.

“To walk in the footsteps of Margaret Mitchell and to be at the House – in the very place where she wrote the book and spent untold hours writing, dreaming, creating – is beyond magical and awe-inspiring,” said Jan Galyen of Woodstock, Ga. “To visit Oakland, with ‘Margaret’ as the guide, and to visit the graves of Margaret, her husband and many of her family members, as well as so many individuals that were a part of her life, brings so much of her life into reality and stirs my imagination.”

On each Atlanta Movie Tours adventure, guests roll along in luxury 30-passenger vans, watching film clips of movie locales en route to the sites they then get to see “in action.” The guides – all experienced actors who have appeared on the sets of not only the zombie movies but many others filmed in the Atlanta area – give a peek into the Hollywood mystique you likely won’t experience anywhere else.

In fact, one of the tidbits revealed on a recent tour was what the zombies of “The Walking Dead” are actually munching in those gruesome scenes showing them gnawing on the arm or leg of one of their legions of victims. (Clue: It is related to a Southern culinary fave and one could say it tastes like chicken.)

Adventure guide to don’t-miss moments

·Standing in front of Margaret Mitchell’s tombstone inside the Victorianesque and beautifully landscaped Oakland Cemetery – while chatting with “Margaret Mitchell” – is surreal to say the least. Sally Smith gives a pitch-perfect portrayal of the Gone With the Wind author who died on Aug. 16, 1949, at age 49, making it a uniquely fascinating and moving experience.

·Learning how to walk like a zombie from actors who played zombie extras in “The Walking Dead” and “Zombieland.” Tip: Put down the Frankenstein arms! There’s an art to looking like a “walker” – and you’ll find out what it is on the Big Zombie Tour, Part I and Part II.

·Making the poignant three-finger salute made famous in the Hunger Games books and movies while standing before the wall seen in “Hunger Games – Catching Fire,” the second movie in this wildly popular franchise. Written on the wall? “The odds are never in your favor,” seen by Katniss and Peeta on their so-called victory tour.

·Visiting “District 12” and finding stray pieces of coal from when the film crew covered the grounds for shooting scenes for “Hunger Games – Catching Fire.” It makes a nice remembrance of your time with Atlanta Movie Tours.

Adventure gear to take along

Think of your Atlanta Movie Tours adventure as visiting the Hollywood of the South and go for the glam with a pair of oversized sunglasses in satin leopard tortoise. Designed by Hobie® Polarized, these high-performance polarized sunglasses are named “AVA” ($69.99, www.HobiePolarized.com), evoking images of Golden Era of Hollywood bombshell Ava Gardner.

Featuring a blend of grey and smoke for a tint that adds both mystery and sex appeal, the AVA is the perfect accessory for any diva, whether heading out for a day at the beach, a ride along a windswept coast or a tour of Hollywood’s backlot in Atlanta.

Hobie® Grey lenses provide natural color perception for a soothing visual experience, so you can remain calm even while seeing locations where some of the scarier scenes from “The Walking Dead” were filmed. Hobie® Polarized also has the oversized Hollywood profile in HARPER and CAMILLA designs. All retail for under $100.

If You Go

Atlanta Movie Tours, www.AtlantaMovieTours.com, currently offers four tours: Big Zombie Tour, Part I; Big Zombie Tour, Part II; Atlanta Film Sites Tour; and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind Tour. Tours are approximately three hours long and cost $65 per person. Vouchers for Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind Tour will also gain tour participants entry to the Road To Tara Museum in Jonesboro and the Marietta Gone With The Wind Museum, as well as re-entry to Atlanta’s Margaret Mitchell House at no extra charge (a $44.95 value).

Wear comfy shoes for the walking portions of the tours and bring a camera – with so many movies and shows filming in Atlanta, you never know who you may run into on your adventure. Visit the website to book your tickets.

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