A Fantasy Tour of Fake Cities We Wish Were Real


Many films, TV shows, and books are set in real places, from Edith Wharton’s New York to Drew Carey’s Cleveland. Others take place in generic cities (Metropolis) or fake places you’d never want to visit (Sin City). But, reading Juliet Lapidos’s thoughtful analysis of Leslie Knope’s politics on Parks and Recreation at Slate, it occurred to us that there are a whole lot of fictional towns we’d love to visit — including Pawnee. Our top ten are after the jump.

Pawnee, Indiana

Here’s how much Pawnee, IN wants to be a real city: It has its own, adorably lo-fi website that comes up before the real city of Pawnee, OK when you Google “Pawnee.” Sure, it is supposedly the epicenter of America’s obesity crisis. But it’s also home to a wonderful yearly Harvest Festival, a handful of hilarious bars, and the hardest-working person in government, one Leslie Knope. From Tom Haverford’s grating poseurism to April Ludgate’s dead-eyed apathy to Ron Swanson’s rugged libertarianism, Pawnee’s parks department boasts a delightful assortment of entertaining personalities. If you can judge a city by its government employees, then who wouldn’t want to spend a day (if not a lifetime) in the real Pawnee?

Emerald City

The capital city of Oz is a stunning, green place made of glass and jewels, where horses change color to fit figures of speech. It’s emerged as the name for everything from a Teena Marie record to the Green Zone in Baghdad to a John Vanderslice album about the War on Terror. And if it doesn’t impress you as that most coveted of all destinations, the place at the end of the yellow brick road, remember this: You have to pass through a field of poppies to get there.

Dillon, Texas

There was a time when Dillon, Texas was a real town — but its post office opened in 1903 and closed in 1906, so it’s certainly not the place we fell in love with over five seasons of Friday Night Lights. The diverse town certainly wasn’t perfect, and its conservative, football-oriented local politics were sometimes downright maddening. And yet, it was home to some of our favorite characters, from the wholesome Taylor family to Dillon’s many disadvantaged strivers (Matt Saracen, Tyra Colette, Vince Howard) to the screw-ups we couldn’t stop rooting for (okay, maybe it also helped that Tim Riggins was so attractive). With a few infuriating exceptions, Dillon was full of honest people facing real challenges. Plus, for a small, West Texas place, it sure had its share of fun hang-out spots: the Alamo Freeze, Buddy’s Bar, Ray’s Bar-B-Q (which is a real restaurant in Austin), that strip club where Mindy works…

Shermer, Illinois

If you don’t watch John Hughes movies binge-style like some of us, it’s easy to forget that many of his teen masterpieces take place in the same town. Weird Science, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and more are all set in the Chicago suburb of Shermer, a fictionalized version of Hughes’ hometown, Northbrook, IL. Although it’s pretty much the typical ’80s town, any place that houses Ferris Bueller, Andie Walsh, and John Bender is somewhere we would want to visit. (Unfortunately, Jay and Silent Bob tried and failed to do just that in Dogma.)

Shermer T-shirt via.


Yes, this one is obvious. But The Simpsons‘ Springfield — which isn’t supposed to represent any of the many real Springfields across the US — is the most vividly painted, character-packed town in television history. It has its own favorite bars, convenience stores, power plant, evil rich guy, and stable of TV and film stars. Everyone from the most devout Christian to the most pathetic drunk has a place in Springfield. In many ways, the town is a microcosm of this country — so if you love America, you’ll love Springfield, too (despite all the flaws inherent in both).

Stars Hollow, Connecticut

Gilmore Girls‘ Stars Hollow is the essential, charming New England town. Dating back to the late 18th century, the place is full of big, beautiful, old houses, quaint inns, classy shops, antique stores, and diners. Stars Hollow was inspired by writer Amy Sherman-Palladino’s visit to tiny Washington Depot, CT, which she fell in love with and was inspired to recreate on TV.

Avonlea, Prince Edward Island

For a while in junior high, there were two kinds of girls: the ones who were obsessed with Anne of Green Gables and the ones who weren’t. We may have fell into the latter category, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t appreciate the beauty of Anne’s Prince Edward Island village. A vacation to the sleepy, slow-paced, farm-and-fishing town where everyone knows everyone else would undoubtedly do our weary, city heart good.

Orbit City

Set in 2062, a century after it debuted, The Jetsons takes place in Orbit City, where our protagonist George and his family live in among the clouds and use flying cars to get around. We love the show’s retro-futurist aesthetic, and we wouldn’t mind having robotic servants or machines that instantly cook and do our hair for us, either.


One of the longest-running mysteries in comics is where exactly the fictional town of Riverdale is located. Home to the high schoolers of Archie Comics since 1942, hints point to it being somewhere in the South — perhaps Mississippi or Missouri. But it doesn’t really matter where Riverdale is, because it’s really supposed to be Everytown, USA. And while the comic has spanned nearly seven decades, in our minds, Archie and his friends will always live in the wholesome ’50s. Hence our nostalgic love for Pop Tate’s Chocklit Shoppe, Riverdale Mall, and the gang’s beloved beach.

Clatterford St. Mary, England

The theme song to Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French’s Absolutely Fabulous follow-up is a cover of the Kinks’ “The Village Green Preservation Society” — and that tells you just about all you need to know about town where Clatterford (known as Jam & Jerusalem in the UK) is set. Rather than focusing a central character, the sitcom follows a large ensemble cast representing the wide range of eccentric, rural types in Clatterford St. Mary, from Saunders’ rich, celebrity mum to Joanna Lumley’s senile, bigoted crone. If life in the English countryside is this entertaining, sign us up.