Feeling bored in my apartment this weekend, I decided I needed to take a trip and find someplace new to spend a day. In trying to think of where to go, I came up with the idea of searching for the real Stars Hollow, CT. Stars Hollow is the fictional town that played host to the Gilmore Girls, a television show which I embarrassingly admit I used to watch. On the show its portrayed a quaint little town with lots of quirky characters and it kind of shaped my expectations of Connecticut when I moved up here. I did a quick search on the Wikipedia and discovered that show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino based Stars Hollow on the real-life town of Washington Depot, CT. And less than an hour away, it seemed perfect for a quick weekend pilgrimage.
Its wrong to compare Stars Hallow to Washington Depot simply based on their appearance. Stars Hollow is actually a Warner Bros. backlot set that was built decades earlier for films like The Music Man. So it was not meant to look like Washington Depot. Still when I arrived in the town center there were all the familiar elements: a town hall, churches, small businesses, and a central lawn. One iconic piece that did appear to be missing was a gazzebo. In comparison to the Warners’ orderly “Midwestern town” set, Washington Depot has a slightly more rambling feel set on the side of a hill. The buildings were also smaller than their television counterparts – none of the businesses were built more than a story high. Washington Depot also seems much more remote than Stars Hollow. Although it was only 20 miles away, I drove almost an hour through rural areas on winding roads to get there.
When I originally hatched my plan, I thought I would go through the town with my videocamera asking to locals about the show and whether they thought their town could be Stars Hollow. I realized that would be pretty annoying though, so instead I decided I would just try to take in as much as I could on my own. I started out with lunch at a local cafe called Marty’s. Not quite a Luke’s diner, this was more of an upscale cafe with a lot of interior design going on. There were bookshelves, dining room tables, and I ate my turkey club in a armchair at a coffee table. The food was pretty good though and the people were very friendly. Afterwards I took a walk around the shopping area and there were plenty of Stars Hollow staples: a bookstore, a antique furniture shop, a post office, a small market, and a hardware supply store. I stopped in at a gift shop called Fancy That! in search of the perfect Mother’s Day gift (still looking). After seeing most of the local fair and getting lost driving around a few times, I decided to head back.
I think the biggest thing difference that struck me about Washington Depot was it seemed higher class than Stars Hollow. I could not envision a teenage mother like Loralai Gilmore fitting in here easily and eventually owning a home. Most of the homes looked quite large and expensive and the stores were a little pricier. I did see an inn that may have been the model for the Dragonfly on the show, but it looked a little fancier than the TV bed and breakfast. Rory would not have had to gone far for a prep school education, there was a boarding school called The Gunnery right in the center of town. A couple students from there were actually getting some coffee when I was at Marty’s. Washington Depot definitely makes a model small town with just about everything you would really need and none of the excess of suburbia.
I’m not sure how I would make out in a place like Washington Depot. If I thought Bristol was boring, I imagine I would feel even more shut in in Washington Depot. If you’re looking to get away from it all though, its a very nice area. Still it was a fun to explore a little part of the state I knew nothing about and be able to tell people about it.