Photo by Noelle and Mike /Flickr CC BY-NC-ND
To fans of the Gilmore Girls, it may be hard to believe that Rory and Lorelei’s hometown of Stars Hollow doesn’t exist out there somewhere, gazebo and all. In reality, it’s a pastiche of friendly towns scattered around New England. But that doesn’t mean you can only get the Gilmore Girls feels in one of the states that make up New England; there are Stars Hollow-esque towns all over the U.S.
And while you might not be able to get a cup of coffee at the real Luke’s Diner, we promise you can find coffee and charming yet clever baristas elsewhere.
If you’re prepping for the Gilmore Girls revival or have already finished it and are going through withdrawal, consider visiting one of these small towns full of cozy cafes, picturesque homes and witty banter.
New Hope, Pennsylvania
For being such a small town, Pennsylvania’s New Hope offers quite a variety of activities and dining options. Situated just an hour and a half outside of New York and an hour from Philadelphia, New Hope has long been a favorite weekend getaway spot for city dwellers. A cutesy hodgepodge of old homes with stone façades, narrow streets and cobblestone alleys, and locally run (and sourced) restaurants in Peddler’s Village, the town is large on warmth. Some of the best fare can be found at Blue Moose Restaurant and Cafe, a hip brunch and lunch eatery that serves up the area’s fluffiest omelets and most flavorful sandwiches. For the quintessential weekend stay, book a room at the Inn at Bowman’s Hill, a historic home with a white-washed stone exterior that’s constantly awarded with AAA Diamond and Forbes Best Hotel ratings. The innkeeper, an Englishmen, greets every guest with a smile and a story, and you’ll often find him playing music Friday and Saturday nights in the neighboring Bowman’s Tavern. The town is home to an abundance of locally owned boutiques and handicraft stores, like Black Eyed Susan, a Restoration Hardware-esque home and design store located on York Street that boasts over 10,000 square feet of beautiful furniture and home décor. Cockamanie’s, which sits on New Hope’s Main Street, sells some of the area’s best antiques and handmade lamps.
Friday Harbor, Washington
This darling little island town located in the San Juan Islands of Washington is just a float plane away from the busy city of Seattle. There are just 2,200 people living on Friday Harbor year-round, but it’s hardly sleepy. During the summer and fall seasons, many people head to the island eager to catch a glimpse of an orca on a whale-watching tour or to wander through the lavender farms picking scents to take home. The other months are busy for the locals, with festivals, a marine biology facility, and beautiful views of the mountains and water that shift through the seasons. For a stay that offers a sweeping view of the harbor (and one of the best areas to watch the sunset), stay at the Friday Harbor House, which sits on a cliff overlooking the swaying boats in the harbor. For a coffee shop experience that rivals even Luke’s, grab an omelet and a cup of Seattle’s best coffee at the Crow’s Nest Coffee Shoppe, which lives on Spring Street. No matter the day, your breakfast at Crow’s Nest Coffee Shoppe will come with the sounds of locals laughing and telling stories about their families or the morning’s catch. For chic shops that offer clothes with that iconic Northwestern flair, head to Be Chic Boutique on First Street or Girlfriends Consignment on Nichols, which offers gently used vintage duds (including the occasional high-end designer dress or blouse).
The gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg has long been a haven for mountain bikers and campers, thanks to the direct access to the park’s rolling hills and staggering cliffs. Locals who are lucky enough to live in the charming town don’t just love it for its park access or sweeping views; they love the small, quirky feel of the town, which is home to a main street dotted with local shops and family-run eateries (like the infamous, very Luke’s-like Log Cabin Pancake House—a corny but surprisingly delicious eatery serving up stacks made from cornmeal, banana and more). The population, which sits at just a little over 4,000-year-round residents, celebrates their outdoorsy nature with a lush outdoor farmers market on Glades Road every fall (which operates from Aug. 1 to Oct. 8), the Fantasy of Lights holiday parade (which kicks off every December) and the Smoky Mountain Tales and Tunes celebration, which brings local songwriters and storytellers to the streets every summer dressed in garb from the 1800s.
Surrounded by the rolling slopes and sprawling vineyards of Texas Hill Country and situated an hour and a half outside of Austin, Fredericksburg provides the perfect respite to the sometimes overly quirky and bustling big city. This colorful borough has an interesting vibe itself, thanks to its rich German ancestry (and historic buildings, which look like they are modeled after Bavarian homes) and an offbeat blend of booming shops. Fredericksburg is home to the Magic Mile, the main shopping street that touts over 150 shops including antique retailer Way Back When; the 1950s inspired candy emporium Lone Star Candy Bar; and James Avery, an impressive jewelry store with a vast collection of sterling silver, to name a few. Plus, the town is home to an ever-growing art scene, with local musicians, storytellers and painters hosting pop-ups and performing all throughout the main drag. Right outside Fredericksburg you’ll find over 20 wineries on Wine Road 290 producing some of the best wines in Texas, including the award-winning Grape Creek Vineyards, Becker Vineyards and Pedernales Cellars. Plus, there are plenty of cozy B&Bs to stay in, like The Sunday Haus Cottages, which are perfectly situated right next to one of the city’s best restaurants, Farm Haus Bistro.
Photo by Scott Legato/Getty
Traverse City, Michigan
Flanked by the turquoise waters of Lake Superior and one of Michigan’s lushest farms, Traverse City (pictured at top) has long been a weekend getaway for nearby residents during the warm summer months. Despite the cold winters, people never seem to waver; instead they rally around the area’s outdoor pursuits and into the relatively quaint town’s booming restaurants, local wineries and downtown shops. Even though the area flaunts some of Michigan’s prettiest beaches, they’re really only the second best attraction for most residents, thanks to a wealth of local wineries, brewpubs and craft breweries, as well as fantastic eateries and award winning food festivals and competitions. In summer, people flock into town for the Cherry Festival, which kicks off with a cherry parade, live music, pancake breakfasts, pies, bike rides, fireworks and innovative recipes from restaurants and residents featuring the tart local cherries. If grapes are more your thing, do a wine tour along the Traverse City Wine Trail and hit up favorites like Chateau Chantal, Brys Estate Vineyard and Peninsula Cellars. Thanks to a huge influence from world renowned chef Mario Batali, who has a summer home here, there’s also been a surge in quality restaurants, like the farm-to-table The Cooks’ House, Poppycock’s and the European bistro-inspired Amical. For a stay at a place that’s similar to Lorelai’s Dragonfly Inn, book a room at the Oviatt House, which operates in a historic home built in the 1900s. For something a bit more opulent, stay in the five-star rated Wellington Inn, which is also housed in an old mansion from 1905.
Set in the rolling hills of Northern Virginia and surrounded by horse farms and lush vineyards, Middleburg, Virginia is as picturesque as it is historical. Known as Chinn’s Crossroads, thanks to the town’s strategic location midway on the Winchester-Alexandria route (what is now U.S. 50), the area is also home to many Civil War sites. History aside, the biggest allure is the town’s cobblestone main street. Here, you’ll find coffee houses, like Middleburg Common Grounds where the baristas remember your name and order; whimsical boutiques, like the equestrian inspired Country Classics or the eye-popping Crème de la Crème textile shop; and lovely inns, like the brand new Salamander Resort and Spa, set on 340 acres of lush countryside. Despite a large influx of people coming down for equestrian pursuits and wine tasting, the town only has a population of 751 full-time residents living in its National Historic Registry-labeled buildings.
Surrounded by astonishing natural beauty from nearly every angle, Haines, Alaska is equal parts outdoor splendor and small-town appeal. Surrounded by the lush Chicot and Chilkat State Parks and sitting just 20 miles from Skagway, the city is often overlooked by cruise ships and tourists, which helps preserve its authentic and eccentric vibes. The 2,000 fulltime residents are artistic, innovative and passionate, and a walk down the main street will prove that thanks to multiple art galleries—like Alaska Rods, a mishmash of homemade fudge and Indian-inspired carvings, or the Catotti & Goldberg Art Studio, home to beautiful oil and watercolor paintings of the Alaskan wilderness. More than just shops, the town also has a surprising gastronomy and libation scene. Haines is home to one of Alaska’s best microbreweries, Haines Brewing Company, and the award-winning Port Chilcoot Distillery. The town’s inspiring collection of local restaurants includes The Fireweed, a mouthwatering Italian joint serving homemade pastas and pizzas; The Commander’s Room, located in the small, creaky Hotel Halsinglad (a former commander’s home back when the town was a military base); and The Rusty Compass Coffee House, a local hangout for breakfast and lunch. The city does boom in size during tourist season, but the largest influx of population comes in December when over 3,500 bald eagles soar into the Chilkat River Valley and around town.
Bar Harbor, Maine
A town that’s long had a reputation for being a summer resort area or a stop off on the way to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor (which sits on Maine’s scenic coastline) is actually one of Maine’s best kept secrets. A haven for lobster fishermen, the town’s main street is flanked with restaurants that serve some of the state’s freshest and most delicious lobster (make sure to sample the mouthwatering lobster roll from the Travelin Lobster pop up). More than just a seafood hub, however, Bar Harbor is also a haven for quirky art galleries like A Little Mad on Cottage Street; antique shops like local favorite Hulls Cove Tool Barn; and independent stores like Sherman’s Maine Books & Stationery, which are all run by residents. The waterfront is where you’ll find familiar faces picnicking, reading and sunbathing in the summer, as well as 38 outdoor sculptures. To hear local musicians and mingle with the full-time residents, visit during the town’s annual music festival, which takes place every June. For a relaxed stay in a timeless New England style B&B, look no further than the Coach Stop Inn, which has just six guest rooms and a decadent three-course breakfast.
Claire Gallam is a seasoned writer and photographer with a passion for food and travel. She has spent time in more than 40 countries and hundreds of cities.