Real Life Towns
Photo by Corbin Mathias on Unsplash

There are a ton of reasons we’ve been obsessed with “Gilmore Girls” for more than 20 years now: its quirky characters, surprisingly great life lessons, and rapid-fire dialogue. But perhaps the best part of the entire show is Stars Hollow, the fictional Connecticut small town where the Gilmores (and a wide array of colorful townspeople) live. Stars Hollow is basically its own character; its quirks (Taylor Doose), history (the gazebo), and longstanding businesses (Luke’s) form the backbone of what makes “Gilmore Girls” so unique.

According to “Gilmore” lore, Stars Hollow was founded by early colonial settlers and even played a roundabout part in a battle in the Revolutionary War. It’s as proud of its small-town charm as it is its centuries of history. And although some of the antics seem too silly to be real, there are actually plenty of small towns across America that are as historical, charming, and occasionally over-the-top as Stars Hollow. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the “Gilmore” experience, add these real-life small towns to your bucket list.

1 Stillwater, MN

Located on the St. Croix River and the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin, Stillwater is a quaint riverfront town with a historic downtown district. The river is home to authentic paddle-wheel riverboats, while the town’s Main Street is full of boutiques and independent restaurants.

2 Zionsville, IN

The historic homes in Zionsville look like they were transplanted straight from Stars Hollow, with cheery colors and old-fashioned details. Independent stores line the streets downtown, and the town hosts enough festivals and seasonal events to make even Taylor Doose proud!

3 Ligonier, PA

Settled as far back as the 1760s, the borough of Ligonier is the epitome of a small New England town. The area was the site of a battle from the French and Indian War, and the tiny town (with an official population under 2,000) holds an annual three-day festival, Fort Ligonier Days, every October. And if the town festivals and war history weren’t enough, how about that gazebo?

4 Washington, CT

It doesn’t get any more Stars Hollow than this. Located halfway between Hartford and New Haven, Washington is reportedly the actual inspiration for “Gilmore Girls” after creator Amy Sherman-Palladino spent the night at a local inn. The town is packed with colonial-era buildings and cute shops. Plus, there’s even an indie movie theater in a red barn — although there’s no Kirk in sight.

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5 Sykesville, MD

Sykesville (population just over 4,000) combines old-school charm with amazing food and fun events. Its “All American Main Street” is full of technicolor buildings, and it hosts food festivals such as the Chili and Beer Festival every year (although we’re not sure how Taylor would feel about that one).

6 Camden, ME

With waterfront views and a bright, sunny harbor, Camden is the kind of town that looks like it was made for television. Its downtown area is full of colorful small shops and lined with lights and foliage, making it a perfectly warm and welcoming place to be. It even has a centrally located diner and cafe (no word on whether the owner prefers flannel shirts and backward caps).

7 Traverse City, MI

With views of Lake Michigan, a beautiful downtown filled with indie businesses, and nearby vineyards, what’s not to like about Traverse City? It’s a little bigger than Stars Hollow, but every bit as unique and charming.

8 Mackinac Island, MI

A popular tourism spot, this small island in Lake Huron is centered on an 18th-century fort. The island’s history is a big part of its appeal, but so is its old-fashioned vibe, art museums, and gorgeous lake views.

9 Friday Harbor, WA

New England doesn’t have a monopoly on quaint and charming small towns! With a population of almost 3,000, Friday Harbor is a place that relies heavily on its tourism industry, as people flock to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington every year. Friday Harbor allows visitors to stroll through the town and visit its small shops and independent restaurants, as well as a historical museum and inns that Lorelai Gilmore would be proud of.

10 Sturbridge, MA

Located in central Massachusetts, Sturbridge is the perfect picture of a historic New England small town. For “Gilmore Girls” fans who have always wanted to see a Revolutionary War reenactment in real life, Sturbridge won’t disappoint, with an annual Redcoats and Rebels reenactment in Old Sturbridge Village, a full-time living-history museum.


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