3 Gilmore Girls road trip itineraries for Connecticut, Canada & California
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Gilmore Girls Road Trips
My first visit to the town that inspired Stars Hollow (and the entire show of Gilmore Girls!!!) in 2019 was supposed to be just a quick visit to see the tiny town and say we’d been.
But then I discovered there are four (plus!) towns to visit in Connecticut.
Then I found a perfect town in Canada that I thought looked exactly like Stars Hollow.
Then I found out they actually filmed the first episode of Gilmore Girls in Canada (whaaaaaaat?!?).
Then I found a whole list of filming locations in California, where the rest of the show was filmed.
Obviously the only response was to plan a Gilmore Girls road trip to all of the above locations.
So, here are 3 road trip itineraries:
So grab your coffee, your books, and your best Lorelai outfit, and let’s hit the road!
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we officially begin, let’s just cover a few quick FAQ’s:
Where was Gilmore Girls filmed?
The first episode of Gilmore Girls was filmed in Unionville, Ontario.
I’ve also read that some scenes from episode one were filmed in Collinsville, CT, but I can’t find any more information on that.
After that, the show moved to the Warner Bros. Studio Lot, where the majority of the scenes were filmed. But it was also filmed on location at various places throughout California (Yes, California, not Connecticut. Thus the leaves on the trees in the middle of February…).
What town inspired Stars Hollow?
The official answer to this question is Washington Depot, Connecticut. It is claimed that Amy Sherman-Palladino used pieces of multiple small towns around the area (like the gazebo in New Milford), but it was actually in Washington that the idea for the show was born. And though it is not everything that Stars Hollow has led us to believe in, it is the original inspiration.
She was also staying at the Mayflower Inn in Washington at the time, the inspiration behind the Independence Inn.
Where is the original Luke’s Diner?
The location used for Luke’s Diner in the pilot episode is Gratie Medical Spa on Main Street Unionville, Ontario.
Road Trip #1: Connecticut
Connecticut is the origin of Gilmore Girls. Every aspect of the show just drips with New England small town charm. From Revolutionary War history to plenty of local antique shops, Connecticut embodies everything that is “Stars Hollow” about Stars Hollow (except maybe Kirk…).
There are four “main” Stars Hollow towns to visit in Connecticut:
It is said that these are the four main influences of Stars Hollow. However, you will find small town charm all over the state, so our road trip is not confined to just these four. Feel free to add on any cute small towns that you like (Mystic has one of my top 5 favorite donut shops!).
Psst: If you’re looking for places to eat (or more reasons to road trip) throughout Connecticut, check out the Connecticut Pizza Trail! Lorelai and Rory would definitely approve!
Fly into Hartford, CT, and rent a car at the airport.
From Hartford, we will drive 40 minutes to New Haven, CT, our home for the night.
If you live close enough to drive, then start today by driving to New Haven.
Have dinner at one of the places Lorelai and Rory probably “Lorelaied” on their first day at Yale!
What airport to fly into for Hartford:
Bradley International Airport is the main airport in Hartford, CT.
You can also fly into JFK or LGA in New York, which will be just under a 2 hr. drive from New Haven.
You can also fly into BOS in Boston, which is an hour and a half drive to Hartford. Boston is one of my favorite cities to visit (plus, you can add a stop at Harvard)!
Where to stay in New Haven:
Where to eat:
Louis’ Lunch (home of the original burger!)
Spend the morning exploring New Haven. Visit Yale (maybe drop in a class and start a lively debate?), peruse local bookstores (not to mention the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale), or (my personal favorite, and definitely a Lorelei thing to do) explore the PEZ Visitor Center!
Have lunch in New Haven, or hold out for a late lunch at Dottie’s Diner, a 45 min. drive from New Haven on our way to New Milford. They have some of the best donuts in Connecticut, plus they’ve got that small town diner vibe.
(If you need more time in New Haven, you can spend the whole day here, and then just drive the hour to New Milford in the evening).
Drive just over an hour from New Haven to New Milford (or about 25 min. from Dottie’s Diner). New Milford will be our home for the next two nights.
Take a walk through Lover’s Leap State Park (note: if you’re from out of state, you have to pay $10-$15 on your smart phone for parking at CT State Parks), catch the afternoon movie at Bank Street Theater (note: they only show movies on Tuesdays, Saturdays & Sundays), or drive around in search of all the pieces of the barn quilt trail.
Where to stay in New Milford:
Start your day off with a coffee in downtown New Milford, and take a seat in the iconic gazebo while you enjoy your coffee (or maybe a pumpkin latte!). Then take some time to walk around and explore all the cute shops downtown.
After you’ve finished exploring New Milford, drive 20 min. to Kent.
You can park anywhere along the main street in Kent, or in one of the plazas behind Main St. There are public bathrooms available at the little visitor center behind the train tracks.
Walk around downtown Kent for a while. Stop in a local antique store, bookstore, or the pharmacy that looks like a giant red barn. If you’re lucky, the library might be having a book sale!
A little further up the road, check out Kent Falls State Park for a while (note: if you’re from out of state, you have to pay $10-$15 on your smart phone for parking at CT State Parks).
Head back to New Milford for the night and maybe catch the evening show at the Bank Street Theater. Check out another local restaurant for dinner, or find a lot of favorite chains just a few minutes from the town green.
Where to eat:
Pack up the car and head 20 minutes up the road to the Mayflower Inn & Spa for breakfast. If it’s nice out, amble around their beautiful gardens for a while before heading into the bustling metropolis of Washington Depot (just kidding… it’s the tiniest of all!).
Browse around the bookstore, take a peek at the few other stores in town, maybe pop in the hardware store… Then be sure to stop in the super cute grocery store to pick up some snacks, or if the weather is good, some picnic food for lunch!
Take a walk to the Henry David Thoreau Footbridge in Hidden Valley Preserve and/or head to Mount Tom State Park for your picnic lunch, both just a few minutes from Washington (note: if you’re from out of state, you have to pay $10-$15 on your smart phone for parking at CT State Parks).
We’ve made it to Litchfield, the last of the four towns and our home for the night. I personally think of the four, this is the least like Stars Hollow, but it is still a charming Revolutionary era town to visit.
Check out the (free) Tapping Reeve Law School and read love letters to Aaron Burr’s sister, explore the thriving downtown, have a snack (or that picnic lunch) on the ginormous town green, or head out to Thorncrest Farms for some delicious (but expensive!) chocolate.
Have dinner at The Village Restaurant (not to be confused with the Villager!) in downtown Litchfield.
Where to stay in Litchfield:
Have a light breakfast in Litchfield before heading out. Drive half an hour to Luke’s Donut Shop for second breakfast (their donuts aren’t the best, BUT they ARE Luke’s, and they are CHEAP!).
Drive another half hour from Luke’s back to Hartford, where we will spend our last day.
Visit Old Wethersfield, a small town suburb of Hartford with plenty of Stars Hollow Charm. Have lunch at a local restaurant in the village.
The rest of the afternoon is free to explore Hartford. Visit the Mark Twain House (where Palladino was visiting when she invented Gilmore Girls!) or one of the other museums, take a cruise down the river, or visit the Connecticut State Capitol.
Where to stay in Hartford:
Fly home (or drive home!) from Hartford.
Or add on a trip to Boston or NYC.
Aaaannd… if you do go to the Boston area, you have to check out my cousin’s escape room, Upside Down Escape Games. Because seriously. It’s the best escape room I’ve ever been to!
Check out this article for more information on visiting the Gilmore Girls towns in Connecticut, including when to go, more places to stay, and other things to do nearby.
Road Trip #2: Canada
Our second Gilmore Girls road trip will take us through Ontario, Canada. There is not as much Stars Hollow to see here as in Connecticut, but I promise, it does not disappoint!
I have been to a lot of cute small towns, but none of them quite encompass that Stars Hollow magic like Unionville, Ontario. It literally is Stars Hollow (No, really. They filmed episode one here).
Unionville is my favorite Stars Hollow town I have ever been to. It was definitely worth the six hour drive there and back in one day (because why pay for hotels when you can just coffee, coffee, coffee?).
Even better, it’s not far from Niagara Falls, and another Stars Hollow wannabe: Niagara on the Lake.
Where to eat:
Here is a list of some of the best restaurants in Markham.
It is time for your first view of Unionville! Unionville is a magical place, that will instantly transport you to Stars Hollow.
First stop: coffee, coffee, coffee. Get some coffee, and head over to the picture perfect gazebo to enjoy it. Take some time to just relax and drink in the slow-moving charm of small town life.
And now it’s time to explore. There is so much to see and do up and down Main Street Unionville!
You cannot park on Main Street, but you can drive down it. There is parking available behind most of the shops on Main Street, or in front of the Unionville Train Station.
There are public bathrooms available on the outside of the Crosby Community Centre.
Have lunch at one of the many restaurants available on Main Street.
Explore more Unionville (it’s just one street… how long can it take?)!
Paint some ceramics at Crock A Doodle, visit an art gallery, check out one of the spas (the original Luke’s is now a spa), go shopping, walk around and take pictures of the beautiful houses so you’re hungry enough to buy pie, ice cream, and candy.
Once we have completely exhausted everything that Unionville has to offer, head back to the hotel to relax and unwind. If you’re still in need of some activities to burn off all your energy (coffee, coffee, coffee!), there is plenty around Markham to do.
And after dinner, you can check out a show at the Flato Markham Theater.
Where to eat:
After breakfast, drive 1 hr. 45 min. to our next stop, Niagara on the Lake. This is known to most as the prettiest town in Canada. To me it’s known as Stars Hollow on steroids.
There is SO much to do here.Where do we even start??
How about we start at Queen’s Royal Park, with its amazing view of the Niagara River/Lake Ontario and Old Fort Niagara across the water. It’s peaceful, there’s a gazebo to chill in, and it will probably be less crowded in the morning than in the afternoon. This is also a good place to start because they have free public bathrooms!
There is ample parking all around Niagara on the Lake. You can park at the park, or on one of the side streets, and easily walk everywhere. Parking is paid, and there are meters where you can pay with cash or card (US or Canadian money). Or we can probably park at our hotel for the night, and walk to everywhere from there.
After relaxing at the park, walk on over to Queen Street and find somewhere delicious smelling to eat lunch.
Explore absolutely everywhere NOTL has to offer. Ride in the horse & carriages, visit the Apothecary, shop for Christmas ornaments, eat ice cream, taste test olive oil (seriously), visit a winery, or check out the historic Fort George.
And that’s just the beginning. Don’t forget to make a stop at the local book store and candy shoppe.
After dinner, catch a show at the Shaw Theatre.
Where to stay in Niagara on the Lake:
After a delicious breakfast at our inn, we’re off to somewhere that has nothing to do with Gilmore Girls, but is a world famous natural wonder: Niagara Falls.
It’s about a half hour drive to get from NOTL to Niagara Falls, Ontario.
You can visit Niagara Falls anytime of year, but some attractions will not be open all year long.
Have lunch at one of the restaurants with a bird’s eye view of the falls!
If the season is right, try the Hornblower (the Canadian version of the Maid of the Mist), or walk out next to the falls on Journey Behind the Falls (open all year). If an adrenaline rush is your thing, try a jet boat tour or ziplining over the falls! Or splurge on a helicopter ride above Niagara Falls.
You can walk across the Rainbow Bridge to the American side of the falls, so you get a chance to experience both sides. Be sure to stick around after dark to see the falls lit up.
Read about everything you need to know for visiting (both sides!) of Niagara Falls.
Where to stay in Niagara Falls:
Where to eat:
Skylon Tower Restaurant (expensive)
One of your favorite chain restaurants at the Tower Hotel
(I was hoping to go to the IHOP here—some of my favorite, reasonably priced food, with a good view! However, after reading all the reviews, I’ve decided against it, as apparently, even though it is IHOP, it is priced for the view. In otherwords, outrageously high…)
Tim Hortons. Because you can’t come to Canada and not go to Tim Hortons.
Other Clifton Hill restaurants
Head back to Toronto to fly out, or stay another day or two and explore the city. Lorelai and Rory would love the shopping scene in Toronto!
If you have time, stop to see the painted houses at Grimsby Beach on your way back to Toronto.
Check out this article for more information on visiting the Gilmore Girls towns in Canada.
Road Trip #3: California
I have not been to California yet (someday…). So I have no pretty pictures or personal experience to share. But I have a perfect Gilmore Girls road trip itinerary planned out just for you to steal (and for me to live vicariously through you)!
Fly into Los Angeles International Airport.
Pick up a rental car at the airport.
Because driving in LA is… Well, it’s driving in LA.
That being said, having a car is going to be the easiest way to get around to everywhere in the LA area we are going to visit, and is essential if we want to add on a trip to the small Stars Hollow-esque village of Arryo Grande.
But we do have several options for transportation. We can get to most places by public transportation, or we can get an uber (I don’t know why I keep saying “we,” like we’re going together or something…!)
Anyway, here are the LA transportation options:
Airport shuttles/bus/taxi/public transporation
What I would do personally is use public transportation or Uber in LA, and then pick up a rental car at the end of my time in the city, to get to other places in California.
You could also get a rental car, so you have it if you need it, but use the public transportation instead if the place is easy to get to.
Here are two articles with advice about getting around LA:
Now that we have our car (or have decided to get a shuttle), head to the hotel, which will be our home base for most of the trip. Then just relax, hang out at the pool or go out and explore all the fun things to do near the hotel.
Where to stay in LA:
Where to eat:
This will depend on where you choose to stay. I’m just going to leave you with this guide of where to eat and drink in LA.
Additionally, here is a guide to visiting Los Angeles written by locals, including where to stay, things to do, how to get around and more.
First stop on our California Gilmore Girls road trip: The Warner Bros. Studio Tour! This is the studio where Gilmore Girls was actually filmed! If you ever wanted to visit the real life Stars Hollow, this is it. The actual Luke’s. And the actual gazebo.
This is still a working studio, so in addition to seeing iconic sets from your favorite shows, you might see a crew working on an actual film set. The tour is partly guided, and partly at your own pace.
Information on getting to the studio tour by public transportation.
Spend the afternoon in Griffith Park, just a few minutes from the studio tour, and also the filming location of “Haden’s Nut House” in Gilmore Girls season 2 (if you don’t remember it, don’t worry. I didn’t either. Apparently it’s a stop on Lorelai and Rory’s spontaneous road trip to Harvard).
I was picturing Griffith Park as a small green space with a playground, some benches, and picnic tables. But this is LA. So I guess they don’t do small.
Griffith Park is one of the largest parks in the US, and is also home to the LA Zoo, the Hollywood sign, Griffith observatory, a Greek style amphitheater, and so much more! You will have no problem filling up the afternoon here.
Information on getting to Griffith Park by public transportation.
For dinner, pack a picnic and watch the sun set in the park, or head over to the Burbank Town Center mall, often frequented by Lorelai and Rory during the show. You too can create a take-out smorgasbord from every fast food joint in the food court!
Information on gettting to the mall by public transportation.
Where to eat:
Today starts off with a visit to Yale. Also known as… the University of Southern California. Obviously.
Outdoor scenes from Yale on the show were mostly shot at USC (bonus: USC also stood in for Harvard in Legally Blonde. So you can hit up Yale AND Harvard at the same time!).
There is plenty to see and do here. Check out the library and the bookstore, explore the art installations, catch a sports game (not a very Gilmore thing to do…), see a show, or head over to Exposition Park across the street.
Exposition Park is home to the science center and a bunch of other museums. Because remember that “park” in LA means amphitheaters, museums, and world famous tourist attractions.
Have lunch (and do some shopping) in the USC Village. Because clearly what every college student needs is to live in an outlet mall…
Information on getting to USC by public transportation.
After USC, we’ll head over to Greystone Mansion for the filming location of another school: Chilton.
Unfortunately, the inside of the mansion is only open for special events, but you can visit the park outside of the mansion for free (free parking too!). Grab a book from the Rory reading list and curl up somewhere in view of the imposing “Chilton” (maybe find yourself a nice “study tree”) for a relaxing afternoon away from the madness of LA.
Greystone Mansion is tricky to get to by public transportation. You can take a bus to the Sunset/Alta bus stop on Sunset Blvd. and then it’s about a 12-15 min. walk from there. Or you can hire a ride sharing service.
Tonight we have an optional night out on the town at the Ebell Theater. The Ebell is where the debutante ball was filmed. Much like the Greystone Mansion, the Ebell isn’t actually open to the public. You can, however, attend a show in the theater, which is a pretty fun alternative.
If you do plan to attend a show, you will have to plan your vacation around the date of the show, as there are only a few every month. Check out their event calendar for upcoming show dates (If they don’t have a show on, you can always go to the famous Disney Concert Hall instead).
Where to eat:
As if touring the Warner Bros. studios wasn’t enough, today we are going to visit a whole park that once belonged to a film studio! Malibu Creek State Park was once owned by 20th Century Fox, and used as a backdrop for countless films and TV shows, including MASH, and… Gilmore Girls!
Well, the Gilmore Girls revival, that is.
This is the park where Lorelei goes to do “Wild.” If you’re not a hiker, fear not. There are a variety of hikes for people of every skill level, from easy to strenuous.
There is also kayaking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and more. If you would like to go on a guided hike of the park and learn more of its Hollywood history, these are offered some weekends at 10 am. Check their website for specific dates.
It is not possible to get to Malibu Creek State Park by public transportation. You will need a rental car, or hire a rideshare service.
This is potentially the part of the trip I am most looking forward to: The Venice Beach Boardwalk. Also known as the place Jess spent hours browsing a bookstore in a black leather jacket on a hot Californian summer day. Oh Jess…
Relax on the beach, explore the boardwalk (maybe find some inferno hot dogs), and if you’re lucky, spot a film crew at work.
Stay for dinner and watch the sun set on the beach. Does life get any better?
Where to eat:
Dehydrated meatballs and boxed wine at the trail head (jk, jk…)
Picnic at Malibu Creek
We will definitely need a car for this day, because we are going to take a 3 hr. road trip up the coast to explore Arroyo Grande Village. The village is part of the larger city of Arroyo Grande, though the city itself is still pretty small (then again, everything is small compared to LA).
This charming little village is just like Stars Hollow: swinging footbridge, gazebo, antique shops, tons of festivals, and…wait for it… free-roaming chickens!
Stay at The Agrarian Hotel, right in the heart of Arroyo Grande Village. There are tons of local restaurants to choose from in the village for lunch, dinner, and dessert. Or, if you’re looking for a little inspiration, here are 13 foods to try in the San Luis Obispo County.
Where to stay in Arroyo Grande:
Where to eat:
& so many more cafes in the village!
From here, there is so much more to explore! You could keep driving north, and head to Yosemite National Park or San Francisco. Or you could head back to LA to visit Disneyland (or one of the million other things to do there!). Or just relax at the beach.
Either way, you’ve hit up all the best Gilmore Girls spots, so you’re now free to chase after other fandom locations, or head to LAX and catch a flight back home.
You are now equipped with three different Gilmore Girls road trip itineraries for your next vacation(s)!
Have you been to any of these Gilmore Girls places? Let us know what you thought in the comments below!
Have any other suggestions of Gilmore Girls places to visit? Be sure to share those too in the comments below.
Planning a Gilmore Girls road trip?
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