A guide to visiting the real life Gilmore Girls towns in Canada (NOT Connecticut!)
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Year visited: 2022
Time of year: October
Gilmore Girls Towns in Canada
As a fan of Gilmore Girls, I am always on the lookout for towns that feel like the real life Stars Hollow. You might think I’d find these towns in Connecticut (I’ve been there too!), but the two I am about to show you are actually in Canada!
The two Canadian towns that you should visit for Stars Hollow vibes are:
Niagara on the Lake
Why these two?
Well keep reading and find out!!
You might also like: Real Life Stars Hollow(s) in Connecticut
Niagara on the Lake
I first heard of Niagara on the Lake, a small town just a few minutes from Niagara Falls (to which I have been MANY times) from a travel blogger from ENGLAND no less.
Yes, I had to have someone from England fly across the Atlantic to inform me this charming small town (famed as the prettiest town in Canada) just a couple hours away from me even existed.
But when I saw their photos, I immediately thought of Stars Hollow, and I knew I had to come visit! The picture that really convinced me this was Stars Hollow in the flesh was the one of “Taylor’s Ice Cream.” When I saw that, I knew I had to come.
Unfortunately, it was 2020…
So after patiently waiting 2 years, I visited Niagara on the Lake in October 2022! Unfortunately, Taylor’s Ice Cream did not survive the pandemic, but there are plenty of other charming ice cream shops, candy shoppes (with 2 p’s!), and other places to visit.
(If you want to read their blog about Niagara on the Lake, and see the charming photos that convinced me to visit, click here!)
How is Niagara on the Lake like Stars Hollow?
My actual impression of Niagara on the Lake is “Stars Hollow on steroids.”
It is an absolutely adorable town, packed with people and shops and energy. It has everything Stars Hollow should have, and then some. It doesn’t quite have that sleepy, small town feeling, as it is absolutely buzzing with tourists and locals. But it is definitely worth a visit.
Old fashioned candy shoppe (with 2 p’s)? Check.
Quirky museums and history tours? Check.
Local bookshop with a system so outdated you have to patiently wait while the sales lady writes down your credit card number on a paper receipt while you find other books to add to your haul? Check.
Here are the things that make NOTL like Stars Hollow, and worth visiting:
Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe
Although Taylor’s Ice Cream went out of business, you can still get your “old-fashioned shoppe” vibe from Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe. Inside the adorable facade you will find all sorts of candy, from Harry Potter every flavor beans, to homemade taffy, to those chocolate gold coins that Jason scoured our entire town for to hand out as favors at our hobbit birthday party (Yes, we threw a party for Bilbo & Frodo Baggins. *cough* Nerds!).
Niagara on the Lake Bookshop
Found in an old house on a side street just off the main avenue, this is definitely a Stars Hollow-esque bookstore. With a selection of books curated by the owner, some old, some new, it is the perfect place to spend all the money you (should be) earning by helping catalog the books for your summer job.
Yes, I even got a handwritten copy of my receipt, because that’s how small town and charming this book shop is.
Local Grocery Store
If you need to pick up some fresh veggies or some corn starch (in case you have very important thickening needs…) you can stop at the Independent grocery store right on the main street. It may not have a Mayflower made out of cranberry sauce cans (I mean, it is Canada…), but it’s still a cute, small store to shop in, right in town!
Horse & Carriage rides
One of my favorite episodes is when Rory & Jess ride in the horse drawn sleigh together (sorry Dean…). Maybe some handsome young punk will jump in your carriage as you set off too… Either way, a carriage ride is a perfectly Lorelei way to see the town (even if it is a bit more in Emily’s price range).
Cute Downtown Shops
There really is no end to the cuteness of downtown NOTL. Local bakeries, a pizza shop (wonder if they’ve ever attempted the world’s largest pizza?), a store (a surprisingly large store!) dedicated to all things Christmas, plenty of fun fall decorations and of course, the local apothecary.
Here are some views of downtown:
Beautiful Old Houses
No Stars Hollow town is complete without beautiful old fashioned houses, preferably surrounded by excessive decorations and a lot of fall leaves. There are plenty of beautiful houses to see in the streets surrounding the main thoroughfare, some of which even house inns and B&Bs for you to stay in!
Here are some more photos for you to peruse:
There is no shortage of cozy inns to stay at in Niagara on the Lake. My personal pick is for the Weatherpine Inn. It’s slightly out of the main town, just like The Dragonfly, and comes with free breakfast!
Plus it has the cute name thing going for it.
The only problem I have with Niagara on the Lake is that their gazebo is not in the town. That throws off the whole Stars Hollow vibe a little bit.
Nevertheless, they do have a gazebo, and it is perfectly picturesque in its spot at Queen’s Royal Park along the Niagara River. The views are stunning, and it is easily walkable from the downtown area.
Where is Niagara on the Lake?
Niagara on the Lake is about a half hour drive north of Niagara Falls, Ontario. It is just across the river from Old Fort Niagara in New York State.
It is very easy to visit as a day trip from Niagara Falls, or maybe spend the night here in NOTL and day trip from here to Niagara Falls!
When to visit Niagara on the Lake:
You can visit Niagara on the Lake anytime of year, but the the best time of year to visit is definitely the fall. The last week of September or the beginning of October is the best time to visit, although do be aware that the town will be crowded during the summer and fall months.
Where to park in Niagara on the Lake:
There is plenty of parking in Niagara on the Lake all along the streets. Find any side street off of Queen Street (the main thoroughfare) and pick a spot.
You can also park at Queen’s Royal Park, which is just a few minutes walk from the main town.
All parking is metered. You can pay in US coins, Canadian coins, or with a credit card.
Where to go to the bathroom in Niagara on the Lake:
There are free public restrooms (washrooms, as they say in Canada) at Queen’s Royal Park and behind the courthouse downtown.
Where to get free Wi-Fi in Niagara on the Lake:
This is for the ones day tripping from the US who have no overseas data! If you’re using your phone for directions, you will have to get on Wi-Fi in Canada to get directions back to the US. Of course, if you’re staying overnight in town, you can get Wi-Fi from your hotel, but if you’re just passing through for the day and need to get back to the US, you can get free Wi-Fi from the Independent Grocery Store on Queen Street.
Where to stay in Niagara on the Lake:
If you are planning to get the full “Gilmore Girls” experience and stay in an inn in Niagara on the Lake, there are plenty to choose from. Here are some suggestions:
If you thought Niagara on the Lake was a perfect replica of Stars Hollow, just wait for this one. Because this one literally is the original Stars Hollow.
You may or may not be aware that season 1, episode 1 of Gilmore Girls was not filmed at the Warner Bros. studio lot. It was, in fact, filmed in Canada. In Unionville, Ontario to be exact.
When I found out that I could actually drive to the town where they filmed the first episode of Gilmore Girls, I was so excited!
How is Unionville like Stars Hollow?
Unionville is technically a suburb of Toronto, so while the main street may feel like a small town, it is completely surrounded by a large city.
However, when you turn onto Main Street, Unionville, you’ve stepped into Stars Hollow (well… minus the Canadian flags everywhere).
I’ve been to a lot of “Stars Hollows,” but Unionville is by far the best one (I suppose that’s why they chose it to film the pilot)!
Here are the things that make Unionville like Stars Hollow, and worth visiting:
This is the most important thing (in my opinion) to see when visiting Unionville. The original Luke’s.
No, it is not a coffee shop…it’s actually a medical spa (whatever that means!). But still. The outside of it is the original Luke’s!
Where is Luke’s Diner in Unionville, Ontario?
This is an important question, because being quite the opposite of a diner, it can be difficult to locate. In fact, the first blog I read about this had the wrong location (although she noted the correct location in a later blog post).
Thank goodness for Google earth, so I could literally scroll through Main Street until I found the correct facade: the current proprietor is Gratie Medical Spa (this is a fairly new business. Until recently it was With Beauty Spa).
It is not Tucci Armadio. This shop is right next to the actual Luke’s. You can tell the right one based on the shape of the windows. The building had been in need of a makeover, and it looks like the new owners did just that, even restoring the original design at the top of the windows!
Tucci Armadio is the shop right next to “Luke’s Diner.” We get a good view of this when we see Lorelei cross the street in the opening scene, so it is one of the most recognizable Stars Hollow buildings.
While it’s not the white steeple church we see in Connecticut, this church (one of two very similar looking on Main Street) is literally the very first moment of Gilmore Girls we ever see!
The church seen in the opening shot is just down the street, on the same side as Tucci Armadio and Gratie Medical Spa.
I give Unionville more points for their gazebo, because it is actually in town! In fact, they have two (well, technically 1 bandstand and 1 gazebo).
The most gazebo-y gazebo is right next to the photogenic Unionville Planing Mill. Head up the stairs to the second level to get a good shot across the town with the gazebo.
Then across the street is a little park with the band stand, where you might come across a local concert to enjoy on a summer evening.
Unionville has no lack of OG Gilmore Girls material to offer, including the originial Miss Patty’s!
The Unionville Train Station was the site used to film Miss Patty’s School of Dance in episode one. And just as I was about to get a picture from the front with the iconic large sliding door, a truck pulled up and parked RIGHT in front of the door (all the while staring me down, like, “Oh, did you want to take a picture of that? That’s too bad!” …True story).
Cute Downtown Shops
There is also no lack of cute downtown shops to explore in Unionville. From pottery painting classes, to designer dresses, Indian food to local dentist offices, Unionville screams small town charm.
Old Firehall Confectionary
One of the most unique facades in downtown is the Old Firehall Confectionary. My original expectations were for this to be the “Weston’s Bakery” of Unionville, thus I got a red velvet cupcake (to split with Michel).
But after visiting I would peg it more as the Taylor’s Old Fashioned Soda Shoppe. They have an ice cream counter, homemade (old fashioned) candy, and a hot chocolate bar. It definitely is a shop Taylor would appreciate in Stars Hollow.
Old Firehall Confectionary does not accept cash. You can only pay with card.
They did not have any indoor seating. Being 70 degrees out in October! (rare), I enjoyed sitting outside.
Cute Street Names
Another thing Unionville has going for it are the cute street names. They’ve definitely got that part of Stars Hollow charm down.
Beautiful Old Houses
Like NOTL, Unionville also has plenty of beautiful old houses, that look just like they belong in Stars Hollow (especially with all the beautiful fall leaves around them!).
Here are some photos for you to peruse:
Where is Unionville?
Although it is a small town, it’s more of a small neighborhood in a big city. Unionville is in the neighborhood of Markham, which is a suburb of Toronto.
It is about a half hour drive from downtown Toronto, and an hour and a half drive from Niagara Falls.
When is the best time to visit Unionville?
Just like Niagara on the Lake, the best time of year to visit Unionville is in the fall. I visited the first week of October, and the fall leaves were absolutely perfect! It is a beautiful time of year for this area, and the fall colors really enhance the Gilmore Girls Stars Hollow vibe that Unionville has going for it.
Where to park in Unionville:
Unionville has plenty of FREE parking available!
There is no parking on the main street (you can drive down Main Street though) to keep it more pedestrian friendly. But there are lots of places to park on the side streets and behind the shops. Here are a couple good options:
Park here beside the train station (right in front of Miss Patty’s!).
Drive to Ln. Way to find lots of parking behind the Main Street shops.
Where to go to the bathroom in Unionville:
There are free public washrooms on the side of the Crosby Memorial Community Centre.
Where to stay in Unionville:
Unfortunately there are no hotels right in Unionville, ON. You can stay very close though, in Markham. Or you could stay in Toronto and enjoy the city life.
You could also stay in nearby Niagara on the Lake and just day trip to Unionville. Here are a few suggestions of nearby hotels:
Tips for Driving in Canada
If you’re coming on a road trip to Canada from the US, here are some helpful tips for driving to/in Canada:
Crossing the Border
You do need a passport to get into Canada from the US.
You do not need a visa, or any other documents (if you are a US citizen).
If you are from the states of: New York, Vermont, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota or Washington, you can use an enhanced driver’s license instead of a passport.
Bridge tolls can be paid in US or Canadian dollars.
Go to the bathroom before you get in line to cross the border! Waits at the border are on average about 15 min. to get through customs.
Driving in Canada
All tolls are electronic. You will be billed by mail for any tolls you owe from driving in Canada.
Speed limits are listed in kilometers per hour, as opposed to miles per hour. Most US cars will have a smaller speedometer for kilometers below the speedometer for miles per hour. Common speeds are (roughly):
40 kph —> 25 mph
60 kph —> 40 mph
80 kph —> 50 mph
100 kph —> 60 mph
If you are using your phone for directions, the directions will continue as long as you started them while you were connected to Wi-Fi or data, even if you lost your data connection once you cross the border to Canada.
Thanks for reading about the real life Stars Hollow towns in Canada! I hope you find this information helpful!
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