Its a Wonderful Life Town
A man crosses the street in the village of Seneca Falls, N.Y., Friday, Dec. 8, 2006. Seneca Falls has many similiarities to Bedford Falls depicted in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life".(AP Photo/David Duprey)

Love 'It's A Wonderful Life'? Visit the New York Town That's Known as the Real Bedford Falls


If there's a holiday movie that is the definition of what the season is all about, it would be It's a Wonderful Life. The Christmas classic film was inspired by the short story, The Greatest Gift, by Philip Van Doren Stern which was published a few years before the story was brought to the big screen by filmmaker Frank Capra. At the time of its release, it was considered a flop at the box office. But over the years it has become a special part of the Christmas season. 

The 1946 film follows the character George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart. Bailey has given up on life and decides to commit suicide on Christmas Eve, thinking that everyone would be better off without him. He gets the greatest gift he could ever receive with an intervention by his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody. Clarence shows George what the town of Bedford Falls would be like if he had not been born. You'll laugh, you'll cry. You fall in love with George and Mary Bailey's love story. It truly is a perfect film, which is why it's become a seasonal staple for so many families around the world.

Seneca Falls, New York is believed to be the town that inspired director Frank Capra's Bedford Falls. Also a mill town, there are many similarities between the town and the fictional town of the film. Apparently, at the time Capra visited Seneca Falls in 1945 during location scouting, there was a local businessman by the name of Norman Gould. He owned the business, Gould Pumps, and was one of the richest men in town. There are a lot of similarities between him and the character Mr. Potter from the film.


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This little New York town has embraced its connection to the classic Christmas movie. It's even known as "The Real Bedford Falls." Every year during the second weekend of December, the It's a Wonderful Life Festival celebrates the film in conjunction with the holiday season. There are a ton of activities to keep you busy all weekend. A beautiful Christmas tree, film trivia, a screening, meet and greets for signed autographs with some of the cast members, and more. This year, due to COVID the event will be virtual. Check here for more info! 

A vehicle passes over the steel truss bridge in Seneca Falls, N.Y., Friday, Dec. 8, 2006. Seneca Falls has many similarities to Bedford Falls depicted in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life". (AP Photo/David Duprey)

The It's a Wonderful Life Museum is a local attraction in the small town in the old Seneca Theater. Personal collections of many of the films cast members are on display including Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu Bailey, as well as items from Carol Coombs (Janie Bailey) and Jimmy Hawkins (Tommy Bailey).  It's been open since 2010, educating guests on the town's connection to the film as well as stories about the film. Karolyn Grimes even shows up for personal appearances at the museum as well as during the festival.

But Seneca Falls has more to offer its visitors than just trivia from the holiday classic. It was also the location of the 1848 First Women's Rights Convention. You can stop by the Women's Rights National Historical Park where it all happened and learn about the importance of that day and what it meant for the voice of women.


The Finger Lakes Wine Trails also offer over 70 wineries to visit. If you've never been to upstate New York, it has some of the most beautiful scenery you could ever dream of with its stunning trees and sparkling lakes.

This article was originally published on December 9, 2019.

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