The location: The Camping Trip.

Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. A forested/wilderness area.


Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. Somewhere near Miami, perhaps on an island offshore.


Q. When did we see it on the show?

    A. In Episode 7 (of Season 4), "Slack Tide".

    Dexter signs up young Cody (Rita's son) for "The Young Sailors Club", figuring it will give the kid something fun to do (while freeing up some time in Dexter's crowded schedule for his dark hobby).

    But it doesn't work out that way.

    Rita informs Dexter that he is expected to participate in Cody's outings, and that, in fact, they have a sail and camp-out coming up soon, which Dexter will have to be part of.

    We first see Dexter and the "Young Sailors" out on his boat (the Slice of Life), off the Florida coast, and then they camp out in a forested area, where Dexter joins Elliott and the kids around the campfire, telling scary stories.

    (Dexter's attempt to participate here, by telling a campfire story based on the Trinity Killer, gets a little too scary, and Elliott has to cut things short before the kids are traumatized.)

    In the middle of the night, once everyone's asleep, Dexter slips away and takes his boat back to the city, where he kills the fashion photographer (and, as it turns out, the wrong man), before returning to the campsite to cook morning breakfast for Cody.


Q. What is it actually in real life?

    A. A city park.


Q. Where can I find it in real life?

    A. This camping scene was filmed in an unlikely spot.

    My first guess would have been somewhere like the South Coast Botanic Garden (used in the same episode), or perhaps El Dorado Park. But that view of the Long Beach shoreline in the background revealed the actual location.

    The filmed it at the Queen Mary Events Park (recently renamed the Harry Bridges Memorial Park), a relatively small (4 acre) stretch of green lawn right next to the Queen Mary - the historic cruise ship, which is permanently docked off Long Beach as a tourist attraction.

    The park's official address is 1126 Queens Highway, in Long Beach, CA.

    You'll find the park right at the water's edge, right in front of the big ship. The park's best feature may be its fantastic view of the downtown Long Beach skyline seen across the blue bay, a panoramic view second only, perhaps, to the view from the decks of Queen herself (but without the high admission fee they charge to board the ship).

    What about the "forest"?  There is no forest, of course, at the Events park.  The park is basically just a large grass lawn with a sprinkling of trees, like most city parks. Near the center of the park, there's a pair of Canary Island pine trees, and it appears that they built their fake forest around them, basically just trucking in a lot of palm trees, palm fronds and other tropical foliage to assemble an impromptu wilderness on the park lawn. (The Dexter film crews always seem to have a truck full of trees plants in tow, given their need to make each location look as much like Florida as possible.)

    The Queen Mary Events Park isn't easy to reach, though.

    Basically, you take the Long Beach (710) Freeway south to its end, then follow the signs to the Queen Mary. But the streets near the Queen tend to be one-way and it's difficult to get from one side to the other.

    Heading towards the Queen, you're in the southbound lanes of Queens Highway.  But the park is only reachable from the northbound lanes, and the two sides are separated by an impassable divider, so you can't simply U-turn.

    In order to reach the park, I found I had to actually enter the Queen Mary's paid parking lot (taking a ticket at the entrance), then immediately circle around and exit the lot (they charge you after the first few minutes, so don't dawdle), and that put me on the right side of the road that leads to the park, a few hundred yards away (on the right hand side). I found an easy parking spot at the curb outside the park. (Do yourself a favor and study a map before you leave home.)


    Above is a screenshot from the show, as Dexter looks out from the camping grounds.

    And below is a matching shot I took from the Queen Mary Events Park, in Nov. 2009.

    (I was using a wider lens, and was closer to the shore, so the foreground objects - the trees & lamps - appear relatively larger.)


    And below is what you would see if you turned and looked to the right -
    The Queen Mary and the former Spruce Goose dome.



    Here is an aerial photo. And here is a map link.



Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?

    A.  This was a fairly easy one. That view of downtown Long Beach in the background made it obvious that it was across the bay from downtown. The only question was just exactly where. It was then just a matter of triangulating several key landmarks (such as Parker's Lighthouse, the Riviera, and several downtown high-rises) to determine the exact spot - which was clearly the Queen Mary Events Park.

    Then I went there in person to make sure. I walked across the park until I was able to recreate the identical alignment of those landmarks, and shot matching photos (seen above) to prove it.




    But one small mystery remains.  Where the hell is that small pier, where Dexter docks his boat?

    According to the screencaps from the show, that pier should definitely be on the water at the Events park.  But it isn't. When I walked to the spot where the pier should be - there was no pier there.  And aerial photos seem to confirm that there never has been one.

    The top photo is a blow-up of a shot I took while standing in the park, cropped to show a matching view.

    You will note that it perfectly matches the view in the photo below (taken from the show).


    But look what happens when we pull back and look at the rest of that photo I shot (below)... No pier!


    There are small, similar piers not far away, to both sides of the park. But if you walk to them, the background view of cityscape shifts and no longer aligns properly (to match the view of Dexter in his boat at the pier, with the city behind him).

    I'm still not sure how they did it.  I suppose they could have used green-screen to superimpose the cityscape behind him (when he was at another pier), but why bother when there are piers nearby with very similar (but not exact) views? They might have built a small pier and then removed it after the shoot, but that also seems costly and unlikely.

    So the minor mystery remains.  If anyone knows exactly how they managed this shot, let me know via email (to Dexter-at-seeing-stars.com )




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