This post has been updated in June 2019 to reflect places that have since closed. New information is in bold.
Wilmington aka Wilmywood and Hollywood of the East: A small town in North Carolina that superstar celebrities visit every year to film television shows and films. I have to admit, the reason I chose to visit Wilmington initially was because it was once Tree Hill and Capeside (Dawson’s Creek). So when in town I had to do a Hollywood Locations Walk with Haunted Wilmington Tours. You know I am so glad I did, too.
Spiel Stevenberg was my guide for the day. I picked a great day too as no one else turned up so I had my own private tour – win! Spiel learned straight away what I was here to see. He said a lot of Australian girls actually come over and participate in his tours, all wanting a glimpse of Tree Hill.
Let me begin by saying I loved this tour. Spiel was engaging, entertaining and so passionate. He had several photo albums in his bag, which were full with clippings and photos concerning Wilmywood. He is able to share stories and show you places you never would have noticed. All with an enthusiasm a lot of tour operators lack. So here is a glimpse of what I saw on my tour.
The table where Naley (Nathan and Haley) from One Tree Hill began when Nathan opened up a box of Cracker Jack’s and put the bracelet inside on Haley’s wrist, saying “don’t say I never gave you anything.” The bench is located near the visitor information kiosk on the Riverwalk.
Old City Market
After Dawson’s Creek wrapped the studio sold different props at an auction,
including this sign, which is now displayed at the Old City Market entrance. Enter on Water Street and walk to the back. On the left wall you will find signatures from Joshua Jackson, Henry Winkler and the like. I was in the same spot earlier in the day and never noticed. The shop that displayed this sign is no longer open so the sign has been removed. You can still go inside and see the signatures. 119 S Water Street
Spiel had me guessing the Australian actors who had filmed in Wilmington and let’s just say I sucked. I had forgotten Anthony LaPaglia, one of our most successful yet underrated exports, was in Empire Records. The building where this was filmed is still standing. It’s now Rebellion, a restaurant, and a tree now sits right in front of it. 15 S Front Street
We’re the Millers
Yeah, Wilmington was transformed into Denver, Colorado for this movie. We saw the alley where Kenny ran over to ‘save Casey,’ the building they lived in and the coffee shops he frequents. I re-watched the movie after learning this and kept exclaiming, “I’ve been there!” “I know that café!” And so on. The above building served as Jennifer Anniston’s workplace. 28 S Front Street
Blue Post Billiards
So this literal hole-in-the-wall establishment has been used in Tammy with Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon and We’re The Millers as the strip joint where Jennifer Aniston worked.
There was also a TV crew working on a set there when we walked passed for the new show, Secret and Lies (based off the Australian show of the same name). It stars Ryan Phillippe and Juliette Lewis so I was excited to return the following day to stalk some celebrities, but the set was gone by that evening, so I guess they decided to film another scene the following day. Drats!
It was also used as a location in multiple episodes of Good Behavior. It’s a membership bar so you’ll need to purchase a card to drink there. 15 S Water Street
Iron Man 3
Another big blockbuster filmed here. Although I am yet to watch it, I was told that a big showdown happened between Robert Downey Jr. and his enemy at the State Port. Spiel had the clipping to prove it.
Used on both One Tree Hill and Dawson’s Creek, this restaurant houses memorabilia including signed photos of actors as well as the actual boat used on Dawson’s Creek. Hell’s Kitchen was a college bar where the gang hung out in Boston. It was also used as a health foods store in season 1. It was purchased in 2003 and turned into a real restaurant. 118 Princess Street
Alley from A Walk to Remember
Fans of the Nicholas Sparks tearjerker will recognize a number of landmarks from A Walk to Remember in Wilmington. It’s where good girl Jamie discloses her diagnosis to bad boy and new boyfriend Landon. It’s located next to the Old City Market.
The Reel Cafe
The Reel Cafe wasn’t featured in Wilmington television shows or movies, but it has movie memorabilia inside like posters signed by the cast of Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill. There are also drinks named after all of the projects filmed here. 100 S Front Street
You always save the best for last. Karen’s Café is empty these days as there is actually another café opened across the street (remember in the last season, coffee wars?) But nonetheless, this is it, the store that went from coffee to clothes to coffee. It now sits vacant. Grace St
You may be wondering about the River Court, which was actually used in every episode except one (the black and white noir episode if you were wondering). It was demolished a few years ago but you can still look across the River Walk to where it was. Supposedly fans could buy a piece of the court off the internet. Of course.
Touring Wilmington’s Filming Locations
The walking tour costs $13 and lasts for 90 minutes. It is excellent value for money when compared to similar tours elsewhere and Spiel is an absolute delight. Tours leave from the Black Cat Shoppe (8 Market Street), which sells Wilmington filmed items like t-shirts for One Tree Hill and was used as the Capeside CD Shop on Dawson’s Creek. I highly recommend it if you have any interest in the film and television industries.
About the Author: Hayley Simpson is an uncoordinated introvert who doesn’t let her social awkwardness stand in the way of her travel dreams. She left her home in Australia to live the expat life in Vancouver , Canada 18 months ago. Be inspired to escape your comfort zone through her blog, Hayley on Holiday.
The author received a complimentary Hollywood Locations Walk tour thanks to Wilmington and Beaches. All photos property of the author.
Looking for a place to stay on your trip to Wilmington? Graystone Inn was used extensively on Dawson’s Creek as well as The Longest Ride. ARRIVE Wilmington is located on the former site of The Wilmingtonian, a hotel that was popular with actors and film crews.