Where Was Gilmore Girls Filmed? Is Stars Hollow a Real Place?
If you're here, you probably already know all about Stars Hollow and its most popular residents, Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. But where was Gilmore Girls filmed? Is Stars Hollow a real place?
Where Was Gilmore Girls Filmed?
Backstory for those who aren't aware: Gilmore Girls is a popular television show that originally aired on the WB network from 2000 to 2007. The show’s creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, left after season six, but then went on to crush the dreams of Gilmore Girls fans the world over with the much-anticipated and much-maligned Netflix revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
The show stars Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore, Alexis Bledel as Rory Gilmore, Kelly Bishop as Emily Gilmore, Edward Herrman as Richard Gilmore, Melissa McCarthy as Sookie St. James, and Scott Patterson as grumpy Luke’s Diner owner Luke Danes.
The show is set in the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, but it was actually largely filmed in California.
It's true! Despite looking an awful lot like a quaint New England town, Stars Hollow is not a real place, and Gilmore Girls wasn't filmed in Connecticut.
One of the main filming locations for Gilmore Girls was the Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, California. The show's set was built on the studio's lot, and many of the exterior shots of Stars Hollow were filmed on the studio's backlot. Visitors to the Warner Brothers Studios can take a tour of the lot and see the set for themselves. (It's true! I've been there!)
In addition to the Warner Brothers Studios, Gilmore Girls was also filmed on location in a number of other places. The pilot episode of Gilmore Girls was shot in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada, suburb of Unionville.
But the theme song looked so legitimately New England, you might say! Well, there is a reason for that. The visuals in the theme song feature footage of South Royalton, Vermont, but filming for the show itself never occurred there otherwise.
Other locations used for filming included UCLA, where Rory and Lorelai took a road trip to Harvard, and Pomona College, when the Gilmores toured Yale.
You might notice that a lot of the show takes place in or makes references to Hartford, Connecticut, but the show’s creator never actually shows us what that looks like. This was a clever way to avoid having to create the set of Hartford or travel to a location for filming. The characters mention Hartford but never actually travel there.
How about the real-life setting for Chilton, Rory’s private school? The Chilton exterior scenes were filmed at Greystone Park and Mansion in California. Greystone is owned by the city of Beverly Hills and dates back to the 1920s.
Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Gilmore Girls
A lot of the things you see on-screen when you watch Gilmore Girls (or any show, for that matter) are actually not what they seem. For instance, most of the trees and bushes you see in Stars Hollow are actually fake. If you take the Warner Brothers Studio backlot tour, you can tell that the leaves and flowers are artificial.
To be honest, after seeing it in person, I can kind of notice the fake trees on-screen, too. If you don't want to ruin your impression of the show, maybe don't take a behind-the-scenes tour!
Remember the iconic "I smell snow" scene? What Lorelai was actually smelling was a whole lot of potato flakes being tossed onto the Burbank lot by the crew.
Did you ever wonder why you never saw the back of Lorelai's house? That's actually because the house used as Sookie's is situated on the back of the Gilmore's classic Victorian home.
Taking the Warner Brothers Studio Backlot Tour in Burbank, California
If you're a fan of Gilmore Girls and want to see where the show was filmed, you can visit the Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank and take a tour of the lot. It's a fabulous experience that I would 100% recommend.
You'll start your tour in a museum-like space featuring information and artifacts from Warner Brothers' properties through the years. fans of the show can get a behind-the-scenes look at where the show was made and see the sets for themselves.
Once your group is called, you’ll get to take a tour of both the backlot via a tram car and on foot. Our tour guide asked us what shows we were fans of and catered the tour to those responses. As a result, we got to stop at the Gilmore house and I got my picture taken outside!
We also went inside Lane Kim’s house, and I stood right at the bottom of the stairs where she so often exchanged tense words with her mother, the indomitable Mrs. Kim. We also saw Stars Hollow High School and the Stars Hollow Church. Miss Patty’s dance studio was very recognizable on the tour, as was the town gazebo.
Part of the tour involves going onto a sound stage, and you also are brought through the props department to see the massive collection of props used through the years on the many projects filmed at the Warner Brothers studio. They also let you see some iconic artifacts and take you through a fascinating museum. We got to check out several Batmobiles, which made my husband very happy.
What Else Was Filmed at the Warner Bros. Studio?
There have been so, so many television shows and movies filmed on the Warner Brothers backlot. You’ve probably seen the high school and the gazebo in other shows, like:
The Sex Lives of College Girls
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Pretty Little Liars
The Big Bang Theory
You’ll notice parts of the Stars Hollow set in shows like these. Other parts of the show were filmed on sound stages. If you take the Warner Bros. studio tour, you may get to check out the sound stages that are in use for other tv shows. We got to go on the set of Lucifer during our tour of the Warner Brothers studio.
We had to be very quiet when driving around near the sound stages, though, because they were actively filming for the Big Bang Theory during our visit! That on its own was actually really exciting.
Seeing the sound stages was pretty neat, but it did sort of ruin the magic of interior like the Dragonfly Inn, the Independence inn, and more. Knowing, for instance, that there is no top to the stairway at Lorelai’s inn, and learning how Melissa McCarthy’s character just lives in the back of Lauren Graham’s house, does shatter the illusion of Stars Hollow just a bit.
Is Stars Hollow Based on a Real Place?
Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has said that a visit to the Mayflower Inn in Washington Depot, Connecticut inspired Stars Hollow for her. It’s no wonder, as Washington Depot is home to many of the quaint features you’ll see in Stars Hollow, like a town square and a beautiful white church, complete with a steeple.
Still, the real Stars Hollow is missing something from the Hollywood version: the Hollywood hills. If you look closely during most any outdoor scene on the show, you can see the rolling hills of Los Angeles in the background. This is particularly noticeable when Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel are walking near Doose’s Market, Luke’s Diner, or some of the other businesses with small-town charm that the Gilmore Girls tend to frequent.
I’m not sure if this was every confirmed by Amy Sherman-Palladino, but I also suspect some inspiration for the show came from the town of Perkins Cove, Maine. There are a few references to Barnacle Billy’s on the show; this is a staple in Perkins Cove and anyone who has vacationed there likely knows and loves it. Furthermore, there is actually a bed and breakfast called The Dragonfly on the walk from Ogunquit (off Route 1) to Perkins Cove, if you take the town-side (not via the Marginal Way).
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