A guide to filming locations in Wilmington, NC: The Hollywood of the East


Eat your heart out, LA.

Few might expect a cozy little beach town like Wilmington, NC to be the East Coast's answer to Hollywood, but once you take a look at all the filming that goes on there, it starts to make sense. Wilmington is the perfect place to film anything that is set in a small, coastal town-- whether that means a peaceful Southern village ripped right from the pages of a Nicholas Sparks adaptation or a quaint little community with some really dark, hidden secrets dreamed up by David Lynch, Wilmington makes the perfect backdrop. Plus, according to Wilmington Visitor's Bureau PR Director Connie Nelson, the gorgeous weather, beautiful old architecture, award-winning riverfront and awesome dining and shopping don't hurt! Here are a few favorite movie and TV show filming locations that have been filmed in and around town!

A Walk to Remember: Wilmington provided the perfect backdrop for the small-town setting of this Nicholas Sparks-authored favorite. I won't give too much away for anyone who hasn't seen it, but those who have might want to stop by Jamie Sullivan's House, plan your dream Southern-chic wedding at Orton Plantation, and take a stroll through Old Smithville Burying Ground

Blue Velvet: Now for something completely different! Wilmington plays the part of the sleepy village of Lumbertown in this nightmare-inducing David Lynch film. "Arlene's Restaurant" was actually an office building at the time, but it's now Flying Pi Kitchen so you can actually eat there the way Jeffrey does with Sandy. You can also check out Sandy's High School, and if you so choose, you can also visit the Deep River Apartments, where Dorothy lived. But seriously, watch out for Frank and the Yellow Man.

Dawson's Creek: Fans of this teen drama (Pacey and Joey forever) will recognize the Riverwalk from the background of multiple episodes, Joey's Wall, which Pacey gives to Dawson's childhood friend, and Alderman Hall on UNC Wilmington's campus as Capeside HighElijah's Restaurant was the filming location for Pacey's restaurant in the finale, and the pier at Wrightsville Beach is the one featured in the opening credits ("I don't wanna wait...for our lives to be oooover...")

Eastbound & Down: You can cruise past Dustin & Cassie's House, see if any autograph signings are happening at Schaeffer BMW, owned by the notorious Ashley Schaeffer (aka Will Ferrell in a weird, blond wig). Other scenes were shot at Jungle Rapids and Jellybeans Family Skate Center...because no one knows how to have fun quite like Kenny Powers.

Empire Records: Fans of the movie might want to cruise past Corey Mason's House, but the main attraction here is the building that served as Empire Records. It actually looks totally different in person, since they built around it for the movie, but it's definitely worth visiting. Damn the man, save the Empire!

One Tree Hill: Sadly, the river court near the Battleship North Carolina was torn up, but you can still check out the park and the ship. You can also still visit Karen & Lucas's House, Karen's Cafe (which isn't actually a cafe, but it's still standing!) and Cape Fear Community College, which served as the location for Tree Hill High, which is definitely not big enough to handle Lucas and Nathan's massive egos, drama, and daddy issues.

Safe Haven: Grab your dreamboat of a neighbor and head on a family fishing trip to Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, head a little south of Wilmington to visit the filming location for the general store in town, Fishy Fishy Cafe, and the restaurant where Katie worked, Old American Fish Company. There's also the Oak Island Golf Club, where Alex plays a round.

Weekend at Bernie's: Or grab your old dead boss and head to check out filming locations for this kitschy cult classic. Old Baldy Lighthouse makes an appearance, and the pier at Wrightsville Beach is where they try to get on the boat with Bernie's body. The mansion was built at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area specifically for the movie, and had to be demolished after filming wrapped. Booooo.

Did we miss your favorite Wilmington, NC movie/TV location? Let us know in the comments below, and follow us on Facebook for more pop culture geekery!

Header via Wilmington Hilton

Places explored in this article:

This was originally written for Roadtrippers, a great resource for anyone interested in travel.
Want more articles by Anna Hider? Find them here!