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Connecticut's Reality vs TV's Gilmore Girls

By Allison McClain


Gilmore Girls' fictional Stars Hollow takes place in the real Connecticut. But there are some things the show misrepresents about the state.

It can be entertaining to compare fictional television settings to the real ones they might be inspired by. Gilmore Girls fans can't get enough of the show's New England charm. Some devotees even travel to Connecticut for a festival celebrating the show.


Stars Hollow is a fictional place, but it has roots in real Connecticut towns. Gilmore Girls also makes use of the real cities of New Haven and Hartford. Those who live or have lived in New England know that some aspects of the show perfectly capture Connecticut, while others aren't quite right.


10 Right: Small-Town Appearance


Stars Hollow nails the appearance of a picturesque small town. The close-knit community is run by lively personalities like Taylor Doose, Luke Danes, Ms. Patty, Kirk, Gypsy, and after a few seasons, inn owners Lorelai and Sookie.


The town green is a total New England trademark, signifying a place for residents to gather and observe festivals, holidays, and/or protests. With the gazebo acting as a focal point, the charm wraps around the green and extends into the local businesses fans wish were real.


9 Way Off: Casual Interactions At Every Turn


On Gilmore Girls, Stars Hollow people keep no secrets and reveal plenty. They are intricately woven into each other's lives, being neighborly and kind even when they're listening to the latest gossip. Some New Englanders are more buttoned-up than that— both literally and figuratively.


There are lovely people in the Northeast, but some of them are more reserved than those shown on Gilmore Girls. While they relish the town parades and traditions, some townspeople keep a bit more to themselves.


8 Right: Prominence Of Prep School


Connecticut has a number of good public school districts, but private preparatory academies like Chilton are also a commonality. There are co-ed and single-gender options, and a high number of private schools require uniforms, with some encouraging students to board.


Surrounded by Ivy League universities, students at prep schools feel the pressure to test well, earn good grades, and secure their options for college. It helps that their campuses are just as stunning as Chilton, with some offering sprawling green fields which are blanketed with snow during a good winter.


7 Way Off: Small Understanding Of The State


In the world of Gilmore Girls, Connecticut feels like a small state. There are only a few towns characters can bounce back and forth from, and Rory is the most well-traveled of any character since she has her mother in one town, her grandparents in a second, and her studies in a third once she begins college at Yale.


Additional cities are occasionally mentioned, but they don't figure into central plot details very often. In reality, Connecticut is a lot bigger than it looks on the map. The state has shoreline towns along the Long Island Sound, another stretch of towns lining New York state, other cities just a train ride from New York City, still others nearing Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and then everything in the middle of the state.


6 Right: Distance From New Haven To Hartford


In the geography of Gilmore Girls, Rory can get to Hartford in about half an hour whether she travels there from New Haven or from Stars Hollow. This isn't quite accurate on the New Haven side. There is almost always traffic getting on the highway, and Connecticut drivers are all over the place.


The difference from New Haven or Hartford to Stars Hollow is less of an issue since the hometown is made-up, but the towns Stars Hollow is based on, Washington and Washington Depot, are actually about an hour away from both Hartford and New Haven.


5 Way Off: Idea That New Haven Is A Dump


With Rory's interest in Yale, Lorelai doesn't hold back on her opinions of the school's city, New Haven. She likens the city to a coffee pot before it is cleaned. There is a stark contrast between parts of the city of New Haven and the jurisdiction of official Yale property. That said, there is some true beauty to be found in the town's many neighborhoods. Students can walk across town and climb up East Rock, a mountain and park that captures the changing seasons perfectly. West Rock is nice, too. Visitors will find all manner of local eateries and fine dining downtown just steps from Yale's campus.


4 Right: Fall Foliage


Gilmore Girls was filmed on the WB lot, but fall foliage makes the town square look like a real place. Viewers might notice a little too much green as the winter months approach, but the show does well to work in additional fall colors with the town's signature autumn decorations scattered about.


The burgundy trees are easiest to spot along the sidewalk by the main shops. Thanks to creative placement and lots of pumpkins, the series is strongly associated with beautiful New England leaves falling from the trees.


3 Way Off: Idea That Hartford Is A Palace


The show paints Hartford, Connecticut as the center of wealth and elitism. While there are some expensive homes there as well as a booming insurance industry à la Richard Gilmore, much of Hartford is far from palatial. West Hartford is more of a shopping destination and has quite a few properties similar to Richard and Emily's.


Hartford is still a great city with some really cool people, historic churches, and tourist attractions like the Mark Twain House and Harriett Beecher Stowe Center. It is also exciting to visit the Connecticut State Capitol, right in the heart of downtown.


2 Right: Little Corners Of Yale


Once Rory starts college, there are a lot of close-up shots of her experiencing life at Yale. Some of these are quite convincing. Rory is in Branford College; this is a dormitory system set up for the undergraduates. There are fourteen residential colleges on campus. Like Rory's, each college is designed for its residents to live, eat, and study in community. The dining hall looks much like those found in the various colleges of the real university. Some of the graduate schools, like the Law School, also have their own dining halls filled with mahogany furnishings and distinguished-looking sconces.


1 Way Off: Yale's Main Campus


While some of the Yale scenery on Gilmore Girls is evocative of the school, the shots of the main downtown campus are less than realistic. When Richard and Emily take Rory and Lorelai there for a tour, the family walks on a wide sidewalk for several minutes. The Sterling Memorial Library does feature a similar sidewalk, but the way the walk is framed in Gilmore Girls is way off.


Surrounding buildings don't look quite right. In season four's "Ted Koppel's Big Night Out," Richard and Emily are all decked out for the big Yale vs. Harvard football game. However, the hype of the game doesn't take place on Yale's main campus. It happens a couple miles away at the Yale Bowl every other year, alternating with Harvard's stadium. The tailgating is nothing like the fancy Gilmores' navy blue table cloths and gourmet grilling. It's actually quite rowdy thanks to those wild undergrads.

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