I have a confession to make: I have a Trekky-level obsession with Gilmore Girls and the fictional town of Stars Hollow. I’ve watched every episode countless times – even the much-hated season 7. I got into Gilmore Girls around 2005 and have been been an avid fan of the show since. Needless to say I was beyond thrilled when news broke about the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix. However, that’s still months away and in the mean time I’ve been getting my fix by watching reruns – and visiting Unionville, Ontario where the pilot episode was filmed.
Stars Hollow, CT AKA Unionville, Ontario – Background
A huge draw of Gilmore Girls is the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. The town, and pretty much the entire series, was inspired by a visit Amy Sherman-Palladino took to Washington Depot, CT. The pilot episode was filmed in Unionville, a historic town which was subsequently recreated on the Warner Bros lot.
The opening scene of the Gilmore Girls pilot episode takes place on Unionville’s Main Street, where Lorelei crosses the street to Luke’s Diner for the first time and begs him for coffee – kicking off one of one of the most underrated tv shows in history. Now if you’re a serious Gilmore Girls fan, Unionville has probably been on your list of places to visit. I Googled the town and it’s just as picturesque as Stars Hollow, with not one but two gazebos, a pond incredibly named Toogood Pond in Toogood Park, loads of adorable little shops occupying Main Street, and enough charming old buildings to give you flashbacks of Stars Hollow.
My Visit to Stars Hollow AKA Unionville, Ontario – How It Happened
A month ago I was in Toronto, under some not-so-great circumstances. Sight-seeing or doing anything fun for that matter wasn’t on my agenda. At one point I mentioned to my parents that I’d like to come back at a later time and check out Unionville. My dad brought it up in front of my cousins and they insisted I tell them the name of the town, which I refused. I just thought it was in poor taste to ask people to take me sight-seeing while they were mourning the death of a loved one.
A few days later, following the funeral in Toronto, my cousins and I piled into a car and hit up a Tim Horton’s drive-through. “So what was the name of that town you wanted to visit?” my cousin asked. We sparred over the fact that I wouldn’t tell him, until I finally relented after insisting that we wouldn’t go: “Unionville.” “Oh that’s like 15 minutes away from here. This is the perfect time to go.” The timing was perfect: By the time we got there, it had gotten dark, which made the snow on the ground glow and the entire town look straight out of a storybook.
On our way towards Main Street, we even passed a series of houses that looked similar to those occupied by the residents of Stars Hollow. This house we drove past bore a striking resemblance to Lorelai Gilmore’s House on the show…
Searching for Luke’s Diner and the Town Gazebo
Our goal was to find the town gazebo and the building where Luke’s Diner was filmed. So I pulled out my phone to look up their locations: The building standing in for Luke’s Diner was on 156 Main Street, while the gazebo was further down the street.
My cousin pulled over in the parking lot of what looked like a church but turned out to be a TV and Stereo store (oddly enough, there was an actual church two blocks down, which looked exactly like this one). We began walking towards Main Street and that’s when the 7 degree weather (below 13 Celsius) hit me and I began losing feeling in my hands and toes. We passed a cute little dress boutique called Paris Fashions and, to my disappointment, this quaint little shop that turned out to be a Spanx store. What is a Spanx store doing in Stars Hollow?!?! Talk about ruining the facade.
When we couldn’t find any buildings resembling Luke’s Diner, we walked into the Old Firehall Confectionery and decided to ask for help.
I felt a little stupid, pulling out my phone and showing the very nice cashier the building I was looking for. She said we’d passed it and told me it was two or three buildings down. We followed her instructions and ended up at the Tucci Armadio Ladies Boutique, which looked similar to Luke’s Diner. Later, I found out I got it wrong once again – the Paris Fashions Dress boutique next door was actually the filming location of Luke’s Diner, not Tucci Armadio.
We walked around a bit more and passed yet another corporate place – Starbucks! That would not fly with Taylor Doose. Or Lorelai. But Then again, Luke’s Diner isn’t around anymore so where else is a girl supposed to get her coffee fix? (Sorry if this is all a little too inside baseball – you really need to watch the show to know what I’m talking about).
There was even a small home decor place called Isla Home that could have been a stand-in for Kim’s Antiques in fictional Stars Hollow.
Snow in Stars Hollow AKA Unionville, Ontario
As we were passing what I later realized was Luke’s Diner, the most Gilmore of moments happened: It started snowing. And not only that, the snow sparkled with what appeared to be flecks of glitter. On Gilmore Girls, Lorelei had an obsession with snow – she considered it a magical time and that every great thing that ever happened to her, happened while it snowed. So having sparkling snow falling as we were making our way down the street where the pilot episode of Gilmore Girls was filmed (and just past the character’s favorite hangout spot) couldn’t have been more perfect.
I took a lot of photos of cute little shops that resembled buildings around fictional Stars Hollow. Then my cousin found the town gazebo – oddly, there are two and they are pretty much across the street from each another.
By this point, my hands and feet were frozen. My face felt like it had been injected with a Housewives dose of botox. I was wearing a knee-length dress with tights and a coat – I’m not used to wearing gloves, so I left those in the car and man did I regret it at that moment. I could barely hold my phone to take photos anymore, so I stood across the street and snapped a picture of the gazebo. “Do you want us to take a photo of you in front of it?” My cousin’s wife asked. But I literally couldn’t stand out there anymore (let alone cross the street), so I decided this snap was sufficient.
We headed back to the car and even though I was wearing 4-inch heels, I ran as best as I could. I grew up in Germany where it snowed every winter, but I have never experienced weather this cold before (at least not without proper attire). We all hopped in the car, blasted the heater, and waited for our limbs to thaw before driving back home.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Stars Hollow AKA Unionville, Ontario
I loved our short but sweet visit to Unionville, Ontario. As a huge Gilmore Girls fan obsessed with the fictional town of Stars Hollow, seeing a town that so greatly resembled it (and the location where the show’s first episode was filmed) was awesome. The fact that we visited while it was snowing may have been a negative because of the cold, but it also strengthened the town’s resemblance to Stars Hollow and embodied the way it was idealized in the show. If you’re a Gilmore Girls fan and want to relive the magic of the show and its fictional setting in Stars Hollow, a visit to Unionville is definitely in order.
Have you been to Unionville, Ontario or any of the other locations that inspired the show Gilmore Girls?
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