Washington Depot, CT vs. Stars Hollow

The actual town that inspired the Gilmore Girls

Washington, CT (aka Washington Depot, CT) is cited to be the main inspiration for Stars Hollow, so naturally, I had to check it out. Amy-Sherman Palladino, the creator of Gilmore Girls, talks about the genesis of Stars Hollow in an interview for The A.V. Club: “I went on vacation to Connecticut, because I wanted to see Mark Twain’s house. I stayed at an inn, and it was very charming, in a tiny town, and everybody seemed to know each other, and there was a pumpkin patch across the street.”

“I went on vacation to Connecticut, because I wanted to see Mark Twain’s house. I stayed at an inn, and it was very charming, in a tiny town, and everybody seemed to know each other, and there was a pumpkin patch across the street.”

– Amy-Sherman Palladino, creator of Gilmore Girls

Local Pharmacy, Washington Depot, CT

Local Pharmacy, Washington Depot, CT

So, according to Amy-Sherman Palladino, Washington seems like the perfect place to find Stars Hollow, right? Wrong! After doing some research on forums, I learned from other travelers and local residents that Washington Depot is nothing like Stars Hollow. And after visiting the town myself, I wonder if Amy-Sherman Palladino was actually referring to the general surrounding area of Litchfield County, and perhaps Washington was the only town name she could remember because she was staying there, at the Mayflower Inn. At any rate, I can now confirm to all Gilmore Girls fans and future travelers – if you seek to find a town like Stars Hollow, you will not find it in Washington, CT. According to The Gilmore Girls Companion book, New England resident, Edward Herrmann (Richard on Gilmore Girls) says: “Washington Depot is nothing like Stars Hollow; it is a weekend haven for New Yorkers.”

“Washington Depot is nothing like Stars Hollow; it is a weekend haven for New Yorkers.”

– Edward Herrmann, actor who plays Richard on Gilmore Girls

Where’s “Luke’s Diner?”

Amy-Sherman Palladino mentioned visiting a diner in her interview for The A.V. Club: “I went to a diner, and people kept getting up to get their own coffee. No one was there to be waited on. It seemed like a fun environment to put [the characters] in.” For starters, while most towns will have a square or main street with several businesses, the “village” of Washington Depot is tiny – almost non-existent – and mainly consists of a grocery store and pharmacy. Where is this elusive diner Amy-Sherman Palladino speaks of in Washington, CT? It’s more likely she was referring to a diner in a more charming nearby town, like Kent, CT.

We saw a “Dean” stocking groceries!

After feeling a bit underwhelmed by the town depot, we decided to go inside the local grocery store, Washington Food Market. We bought a couple of sodas – or as Dean would say, “pop” – and that’s when we spotted a boy who couldn’t be any older than 16, stocking drinks at the refrigerated section of the market. After stalking the aisles looking for a Taylor Doose, we paid for our drinks and left. Sadly, that was the highlight of our Gilmore Girls/Stars Hollow scavenger hunt in the Depot.

An extravagent version of “The Independence Inn”

After prowling around town (which took all of 10 minutes) we drove to The Mayflower Grace for lunch – the inn that Amy-Sherman Palladino says inspired The Independence Inn. It’s a beautiful establishment, and judging from the exterior and the fact that it also has a restaurant, I could definitely see Lorelai and Sookie working there. However, the similarities stop there. When I think of The Independence Inn, I picture a warm, friendly, and homey yet elegant environment. The Mayflower Grace Inn – with its absolutely gorgeous and lavish interiors – somehow felt cold, stuffy and pretentious. Don’t get me wrong, the staff was very nice and professional, but I could tell even they wanted to loosen their collars a little bit. Foodwise, lunch at The Tap Room was okay – the bread on my lobster roll tasted stale, but the actual filling was really delicious. Same goes for the $24 angus burger.

Aside from the food, the environment was quite lovely…we sat in a cozy corner with a fireplace on one side and a window on the other. It started snowing during lunch, so I decided to step out to their enclosed patio and film the flurry (see the video here). It was kind of magical. I had a Lorelai Gilmore moment. So, with all that said, I would still recommend you visit The Mayflower Grace. Just keep in mind what Edward Herrmann (who plays Richard Gilmore) has to say about the place, according to The Gilmore Girls Companion book: [The Mayflower Grace] is so fake they have resorted to those awful cutesy bronze statues in the lobby. A pile of ye olde luggage sits right next to the check-in desk.” Rest assured, I believe The Mayflower Grace has since been renovated – no replica luggage or cheesy statues were in the lobby when I was there in December 2014 – it’s definitely had a more tasteful update since Edward Herrmann visited.

WWTBFCD aka What would The Barefoot Contessa do?

If you’re looking for an inn that more closely resembles the look and spirit of “The Independence Inn” or “The Dragonfly Inn”, check out my blog entries for Old Lyme and Stonington, CT.

Other Similarities to Stars Hollow

  1. Cute local grocery store, Washington Food Market – similar to Doose’s market.
  2. Town festivals & events, such as “Holiday at the Depot” during Christmastime…though we weren’t able to attend, it looked like a small, yet charming town event.
  3. Inns – The Mayflower Grace, while a bit fancier compared to The Independence and Dragonfly Inn, appears to offer a luxurious New England Inn experience.

Major Differences from Stars Hollow

  1. No gazebo.
  2. No town green or square.
  3. Lack of cute shops, restaurants and other businesses in the Depot area.
  4. Sleepy town, not many locals milling around the Depot running their errands and such.

About my quest – see my video footage of The Mayflower Grace and other towns that look like Stars Hollow!

I’ve been obsessed with the quirky town of Stars Hollow for years now, and did some research online to see which towns resembled it the most. I scoured blogs, articles and forums, taking notes from real Connecticut residents and other Gilmore Girls fans, who were also on a similar quest. Then, I narrowed down a comprehensive list of the top towns to visit on my journey to finding a real-life version of Stars Hollow. See the video of my journey below!

37 comments

  1. Michelle says:

    So disappointed to hear this. I was planning on surprising my teenage daughter with a roadtrip to Washington Depot this summer. Maybe we’ll have to hit up Harvard instead. I hope Suzie is still there taking summer classes.

  2. Cuges says:

    We live near a town, Safety Harbor, FL. Every time we go walk around I say it feels like stars hollow. Diner with locals, small locally owned bakery and restaurants, a handful of cute shops, a grassy town square with a gazebo, lots of local festivals and holidays, even local artist randomly on corners singing or playing guitar some Friday nights! Closes to Star Hollow I have ever found.

  3. Emily Stone says:

    This is so far from CT, but you should look up Cedarburg, WI. I moved there 2 years ago & the first thing I said upon visiting was, “this is Stars Hollow!”

    The town has many historical landmarks and architecture, a bustling community, & MANY festivals. There are even 2 quaint Inns on the town’s main street, which is much like the town square (diner included!).

    The main street is filled with quaint small businesses and there are always people out and about.

    We have four major festivals a year and tons of other smaller events, which draw in visitors from all over the state.

    It’s truly Stars Hollow! Look it up :)

    • dmurph3440 says:

      I was also going to suggest Cedarburg! It is my favorite little town to visit and the whole time, I keep telling my husband,” this is just like Stars Hollow!”

  4. tm says:

    Of course it is not going to be exactly the same!! You are missing the point….it is not a real town! This person visited in 2014, there was a small diner not walking distance but in Washington that locals went to, there is a green, also known as Washington Green a church a little deli/diner with it’s own post office attached. There are two private schools in town, a middle school and a high school, thus the feel of Stars Hollow. I watched this show for many years and knew it was based on a CT town, but not knowing it was Washington. There are many things about Washington not in the Gilmore Girls. Like any movie there are things that are taken from other towns. I want to make clear Washington is not a weekenders town….we work here, raise children here……definitely not a weekenders town!

  5. Carrie says:

    We’ve been to Washington Depot for the same reason and can’t agree more with this article! If you’re looking for a town with a Stars Hollow feel my suggestion is Woodstock, VT. There’s a beautiful inn, shops, town green with gazebo, covered bridge, town meeting board with meeting times, restaurant (not really a diner) but it’s a great feel with locals walking around. It’s the closest we’ve ever found to Stars Hollow.

    • Glenn says:

      Do they have town events and decorate for the different seasons? We are looking to move to a small New England town and that is the type of town we are looking for, very similar to Stars Hollow. I would really like to live in a town that decorates and has community events throughout the year.

  6. Donna Dykema says:

    I would like to add MANY areas of PA have charming towns like Amish Country the Lancaster areas of Strasburg, Intercourse (yes, I know), Bird in Hand and a town called Jim Thorpe. Other areas include the little towns in the Pocono Mtns. I’ve lived all over the country and PA has the best quaintness. Oh yes, add Lititz to the list near Lancaster!!

    • S. F says:

      We went white water rafting in Jim Thorpe, PA in the late 80’s. I have never seen so many hillbillies in my life. People sitting on their front porches outside of their row houses staring at “us outsiders” …it was a real “Deliverance” feeling. I hope it is different now but I never cared to return there. It was plain scary.

  7. Molli says:

    Hi, I am from Washington Connecticut and also a huge Gilmore Girls fan, ever since I was a kid. You can’t see the similarities because you aren’t from the area. The essence of Washington inspired the show. It’s got the small town charm, with the historical background, but as far as looks go, I’m sure the writer was inspired by Washington’s neighboring town New Milford. If you aren’t from the area you may be confused as to where each town stops and starts, causing her to call it Washington, but Bank Street, in New Milford looks very very similar to Stars Hallow. A small diner, coffee shop, small movie theater, fancy Italian restaurants etc. The show also does this is Hartford, if you walk into Hartford looking for Emily Gilmore’s house than you might be quite shocked. Hartford is actually very urban and ghetto, and frankly dangerous. But any real nutmegger can tell you that in the show they are really referencing West Hartford, a small town next to hartford full of mansions and private schools. The point is, if a local showed you around you would have been able to see it more, than on your own.

    • Amy says:

      This is very informative, it’s so nice to hear from a local! I think others who are reading this blog will find it very helpful for their next visit. Thank you so much, Molli!

      • Jos. A. Mustich says:

        I live in Washington, CT, and the neighbor town of Mew Milford has all the components of Stars Hollow that are lacking in Washington. To have the GGFF here is just flim flam, IMO. Namaste..

    • Allie Polesel says:

      Ummmmmmm wow this is so incorrect about Hartford. You clearly have not been where the mansions are in Hartford. Anything past Woodland street is “Urban” – Scarborough Mansions, for instance. The Elizabeth Park area? That area by University of Hartford? It’s the “west end” of Hartford, but it’s not West Hartford. Incredible. West Hartford’s population is 63K and Stars Hollows population is supposed to be like 10K, so it’s not a small town. I’m from Avon. I pass through both towns on a daily basis and can attest that Hartford, like any city has its gorgeous properties as well as its projects. I suggest visiting Collinsville, CT, Litchfield Center, New Hartford Center, New Milford, Guilford Center as well as many others

  8. Diana Giddens says:

    There is a small mountain town in California. Idyllwild, that would be like stars hollow. Has a
    move theater, small town grocery store, lots of gift stores, friendly squirrels, friendly locals, a
    Small musical collage that hosts drama and instrumental performances throughout the summer.
    Idyllwild is a Mecca for backpackers, campers and people who live there year round. They also
    Get snow…..visit it sometime you will ♥️It. Diana

  9. Sara says:

    When we moved to Maine last year I had Stars Hollow in mind when looking for a town to settle in. There are several here that would fit the bill, and we chose Bath. Wonderful people, fun & quirky town events, a gazebo in library park, & bonus park on the waterfront, small local grocer & cute downtown shops (voted #8 main street in the US on USA Today). There are several locally owned restaurants & a coffee shop (none just like Lukes, but still great). There are at least 5 B&B’s that I know of, we know a couple of the owners & they are fabulous (if coming to Bath definitely check with the Benjamin Packard house, Amy & Mark are THE BEST!). I felt a little silly that I was mentally comparing potential new home towns to a fictional tv show town, but we cannot be happier with where we ended up so I suppose it wasn’t too silly after all.

  10. Joan says:

    Consider Riverton Ct in the, northwest hills. We have the Old Riverton Inn, a General store, a Grange Hall, an autumn fair and a Christmas Festival. Stockbridge MA and the Red Lion Inn could also be a candidate.

  11. Frank says:

    They DID mention Beacon falls in the series…altho there’s nothing there remotely close to a stars hollow..it would have to be within a relatively close driving distance from Yale..I always thought something akin to woodbridge/bethany..but there is no downtown..and that the gilmore’s would have to be somewhere wealthy and elite, like West Hartford..

  12. tom says:

    I Currently am living in Humboldt county, in a little town Called Arcata. Its relatively small. and every family member or friend who visits says its like Stars Hollow. Cute little restaurants and cafes and coffee shops all over. Several bookstores, vintage clothes and antique shops and many other little shops. A cute local grocery store called wild-berries. The town is structured around a plaza, the plaza is surrounded by historic Victorian and art deco buildings. The architecture is a mix of colonial revival, a bit of gothic, victorian, spanish and arts an crafts. There is a monthly art walk, and many other little events, like an oyster festival and kinetic sculpture race. and every saturday a farmers market on the plaza.

  13. Dana says:

    I live here in Connecticut, in Litchfield actually (Litchfield is nothing like how they describe it in GG by the way). In my opinion, if you were to combine Litchfield, Thomaston, and Kent, you would get something very close to Stars Hallow! The center of Thomaston is just like the one in Stars Hallow. It has a gazebo, a diner, a church, a hardware store, and a small grocery store all in the same town square less than a minute from each other! Litchfield has the small town homey feel (including a beautiful inn) and the “historical” aspect of Stars Hallow. Kent is very similar to Litchfield but more youthful and pretty busy for a small town.

    • Sarah says:

      Agreed. I’ve lived in Kent and Washington Depot (& my parents live in New Preston) and Stars Hollow reminds me of “home”…the towns kind of blend together, with wonderful, kind, helpful and polite folks. I am in Ohio now, and miss that special area so much.

  14. Tom says:

    I completely agree 100% stars hollow would be a mix of litchfield green, and thomaston- I can see how canton center can be a combo in there too, but throughout the series I was initially convinced that stars hollow was Thomaston before researching anything. 30 minutes from Hartford, down the road from Woodbury etc… It’s practically the same place

  15. Nicole says:

    I am surprised that no one has mentioned Wallingford Ct. For starters, stars hollow literally has the same zipcode. We have the prestigous prep school Choate. We have a gazebo on our town green that’s pretty identical to the show. If you go up center street there is a locally owned diner. At the time the show aired it was actually under a different name and much similar to the laid back atomosphere of Luke’s. If you go up to main street there is an ice cream and candy Shoppe along with various antique stores. Also… A fairly large old style inn is on Main. We hold town meetings and have had the same mayor FOREVER, although I think it may be someone new now, not sure. We are 20ish minnutes from New Haven and about 30 mins from Hartford. We have numerous functions all year long… Carnivals, concerts on the green.. You name it. oh and we have pretty much an identical clock in front of town hall that they use on the set. To see this you must visit this particular area, as Wallingford has grown and there is a large section of route 5 that is completely developed with chain stores. I really can’t believe people do not recognize this… Btw we are like 10 minutes from beacon falls and Woodbury is not too far either.

  16. Kellyanne says:

    Check out Woodbury CT! WE have the green, the gazebo, we are mentioned constantly on the show and we have “Dotties Diner” the original location was set up similar to Luke’s but it still has vibes of Luke’s!

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