Flickr/ James Willamor

Wilmington, North Carolina: The Charming Coastal Town Known as 'Hollywood East'

Over the years, the charming town of Wilmington along the coast of North Carolina has become a filming hub. It has become one of the most popular locations in the country for TV shows to represent small-town life in the South.  

That's partially due to the fact that Wilmington is home to EUE Screen Gems Studios, the largest TV production studio in the country outside of California. Since the studio was founded in the early '80s, the small town has earned itself the nickname "Hollywood East" due to the number of movies and shows that have been filmed there. Along with Atlanta, Georgia, Wilmington is the Eastern hub for film and fans still flock to Wilmington to see some of their favorite shows film locations. 

One of the most popular shows to take place in Wilmington was the WB/CW teen drama, One Tree Hill, which was set in the fictional town of Tree Hill in North Carolina for nine seasons. It was also the backdrop for the late '90s teen drama Dawson's Creek, which helped launch the careers of its stars James van der Beek, Michelle Williams, Katie Holmes and Joshua Jackson. But most recently, it represented Bluebell, Alabama in the Leila Gerstein series Hart of Dixie, which aired on the CW from 2011 to 2015. The series was also available for streaming on Netflix up until December 2020.

Hart of Dixie starred Rachel Bilson as a New York doctor Zoe Hart, who moves to Alabama to work at her late father's family practice. She finds herself in a love triangle with local bad boy Wade Kinsella and lawyer George Tucker, who is engaged to the blonde Southern belle Lemon Breeland. The town of Bluebell is about a picturesque as it gets, with only one bar in town — the Rammer Jammer — and plenty of local traditions and festivals led by Mayor Lavon Hayes. 

The heartwarming TV series ran for four seasons and co-starred Jaime King and Scott Porter from Friday Night Lights.


Where's the Real Bluebell Alabama?

Yes, it's true. Sadly for Hart of Dixie fans, there is no real Bluebell, Alabama, with its endless parades and quirky town traditions, such as Planksgiving, the Sweetie Pie Dance and Turtle Derby. The good news is there are plenty of small towns in Alabama and the surrounding area that are equally as charming. On the show, Bluebell is located about 30 miles from Mobile, Ala., 10 miles from the cute town of Daphne, Ala. and five miles from the small town of Fairhope, Ala., which is sure to give you some serious Bluebell vibes. The location of Bluebell is said to be where the real life town of Point Clear, Alabama is located.

And luckily, Wilmington, N.C., where portions of the show were filmed, is an absolutely gorgeous port city featuring a vibrant riverfront and Riverwalk. With its laidback vibe, you'll feel like you're hanging out at the Rammer Jammer with Wade and Zoe.

Here are a few of the filming locations from the beloved show that you can still see today.

1. Zoe's practice with Dr. Brick Breeland

One of the key plots of the show is Zoe discovering that her real father ran a medical practice with Dr. Breeland in small-town Alabama. Tim Matheson is charming opposite Bilson as the grumpy but loveable Dr. Breeland, who reluctantly takes the New Yorker under his wing. 

Address: 308 S. 2nd St, Wilmington NC

2. Medical School Graduation

In the pilot episode, Zoe unknowingly meets her father who offers her a position at his practice in Bluebell. He comes to her medical school graduation, which was filmed outside of Hoggard Hall at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Address: 601 S. College Rd, Wilmington N.C.

3. The Mayor's Plantation

One of the main locations on the show is Levon Hayes' plantation. Zoe spends plenty of time hanging out there because she lives in a small house on the property. She regularly comes to the big house to have breakfast with Hayes (Cress Williams) and his girlfriend (in later seasons) Annabeth Nass (Kaitlyn Black). One of Zoe's love interests, Wade (Wilson Bethel), also lives on the property. Oh, and they all share the space with the mayor's pet alligator, Burt Reynolds. 

Address: 2609 Shandy Ln, Wilmington N.C.

4. The Dixie Stop

Along with the gazebo in the town square (the same one used in Stars Hollow on Gilmore Girls), the local convenience store The Dixie Stop is a regular hot spot for characters to visit and get up to date on the local gossip. 

Address: 26 South 2nd Street Wilmington N.C.

This post was originally published on Oct. 2, 2020

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