Last week IFC announced that Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein would be releasing Portlandia: A Guide for Visitors this November. It’s the perfect idea for a show in which the town itself is such an important character; a more perfect vision of Portland, with a cool mayor, 100% employment, and hipster customs that seem more like local law – especially bicycle rights. And this guidebook might be our chance to find out where Ronald D. Moore of Battlestar Galactica fame lives so that we can visit him ourselves. Inspired by the news, we’ve been thinking about some other fictional TV towns that we wouldn’t mind visiting, even those without a decent Feminist Bookstore. Leave any of your favorites that we missed in the comments!
Pawnee, Indiana – Parks & Recreation
Home of the second most dysfunctional town government — beaten only by Bell, California — Pawnee already has its own guidebook. Eagleton native Leslie Knope’s Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America tells the story of this wonderful, small city, its small horse (RIP), and many other attractions. Knope tells visitors not just what to do but where to stay (the Four Seasons Hotel is highly recommended), what to eat (waffles and coffee served waffle-style), and even where not to sit in the diner (near the heater).
St. Olaf, Minnesota – The Golden Girls
Located just down the road from Garrison Keillor’s beloved Lake Wobegon is the town of St. Olaf (not to be confused with the St. Olaf Township in Minnesota). Before she retired to Florida, it was also the home of Rose Nylund. It would be worth stopping by for any of their local festivals such as the Day of the Princess Pig, the Festival of the Dancing Sturgeons, and the Day of the Wheat, or even for the butter churning competition. St. Olaf also boasts a statue of Rose’s friend Blanche Deveraux, as well as its own version of Monopoly called Gugenspitzer, and has a vivid local slang thanks to its Norwegian heritage:
Twin Peaks, Washington – Twin Peaks
A very different part of the Pacific Northwest compared to Portlandia, with its mill, truck stop diner, and mysterious supernatural presence, though there is one key, handsome similarity between the two. The Visitor’s Guide to Twin Peaks makes clear that the town is much smaller than the TV show would suggest — the population is actually just 5,120. Twin Peaks’ residents aren’t very worldly, considering that they continued to believe a stout middle-aged woman was actually a Japanese businessman for far too long.* Still, it’s worth visiting for its pie, coffee, and an extremely intense bar band.
*Actress Piper Laurie writes in her memoir that several of her castmates actually believed that she was a Japanese actor. She also reveals that she lost her virginity to fellow actor and future President Ronald Reagan. Try and get that picture out of your head.
Cicely, Alaska – Northern Exposure
Founded by Cicely and Roslyn – first described as “just good friends” but later revealed to be a lesbian couple – this remote Alaskan village offers everything you could want in life. A local watering hole called the Brick, its own radio station (run by an ex-con), the Christmas Raven Pageant, and natural wonders like the Northern Lights. The one thing you can’t get is a bagel with cream cheese, a culinary combination that has yet to be discovered there. Fans of Northern Exposure still gather for Moosefest every other year in Roslyn, Washington, the real-life town where Cicely’s exteriors were shot.
Sunnydale, California – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Other than being located on top of a Hellmouth, Sunnydale seemed like a perfectly nice place to live — though it does have more cemeteries than a town of its size normally would require. Located near Santa Barbara, the area was once populated by Indians, and then briefly by Spanish monks, before the founding of the town in the 19th century by Richard Wilkins, who offered the townspeople’s lives to the local demons in exchange for his own immortality, making Sunnydale the second-most corrupt town in California history (the first, as you’ll recall, is Bell). Unfortunately, it can no longer be visited as it sank into the earth.
Neptune, California – Veronica Mars
The coastal city of Neptune, just a short drive from Tijuana, seems like a place you’d much rather visit than call home. If you’re from there, as Veronica Mars explains, “either your parents are millionaires, or your parents work for millionaires.” The wealthy “09ers” (so-called because of their exclusive 90909 zip code) control the town, but seem to make some questionable political decisions, such as electing a mayor/county supervisor who was secretly a pedophile. (If it’s any consolation, he was eventually murdered.) But if you’re just there for a visit then the required sights include the Neptune Grand Hotel, Neptune Boardwalk, Hearst College (don’t worry, they finally have that serial rapist problem under control), and the relatively safe strip clubs Les Girls and the Body Shop. Just be sure to avoid Neptune High, where principals having affairs with students seems to be a recurring problem. It may not be located above a Hellmouth, but Neptune has enough problems that you’d think it would be.
Stars Hollow, Connecticut – Gilmore Girls
Just a half hour from Hartford, Stars Hollow represents the best that suburban Connecticut has to offer. No, no, that’s a compliment, really! Not only does it have a local bakery, antique shop, and a barbershop, but it also supports two independent bookstores (nothing says “fictional” like “supports multiple indie bookstores”), as well as Stars Hollow Video. Home to one of the Revolutionary War’s strangest battles, in which a dozen rebels waited for an attack by Redcoats who never showed up, Stars Hollow boasts the infamous historical landmark Third Street, also known as “Sores and Boils Alley,” where colonists came for boil-lancing and where a small leper colony existed. I think we might have found the explanation for why those Redcoats never showed up.
Quahog, Rhode Island – Family Guy
Similar to Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow, Quahog represents Anywhere, Rhode Island. Given how small Rhode Island is, there are only so many anywheres that it could represent. However, it’s fair to say that no other town claims to have been co-founded by a magical clam. Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane says that Quahog is based on Cranston, but its skyline resembles that of Providence, and its Buddy Cianci Junior High School is named after Providence’s longtime mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr. (who was serving out a prison sentence when the episode “Fast Times at Buddy Cianci Jr. High” aired). Notable Quahog institutions worth visiting include Jim’s Tattoo Parlor (though be warned Jim can only draw Kermit the Frog), Ed’s Motel (“As Seen on America’s Most Wanted“), the Quahog Art Museum, and the Drunken Clam.
Pangaea – Dinosaurs
The Sinclair family may have lived about 60,000,000 years earlier than the rest of these characters, but their home has a lot in common with its TV counterparts – especially Springfield. They have their own football league, bars, and >Funniest Home Videos. Unfortunately, there’s not much chance of visiting the world of Pangaea; not only was it split apart to form the continents, it was also decimated thanks to dinosaur corporations destroying its environment. (For a show starring animatronic dinosaurs, things turned awfully preachy.) Perhaps that’s for the best, though, since most humans – cavemen at the time – were put in zoos.
Springfield, ?? – The Simpsons
The quintessential fictional town (and “World’s Fattest Town” according to Duff Book of World Records), Springfield exemplifies suburban America. Founded in the late 18th century by Jebediah Springfield after he and fellow Marylanders misinterpreted the Bible, Springfield’s reputation has only gotten worse since. (And as it turns out, Jebediah Springield was in fact pirate and George Washington nemesis Hans Sprungfeld.) Local attractions include the giant magnifying glass, the escalator to nowhere, Springfield Gorge, the Murderhorn, Springfield Knowledgeum and… well, more attractions than most towns of just 30,000 people would be able to support. While it may have problems, such as that raging tirefire (burning since 1966) and a brief moment when it was stuck under a dome, it’s at the very least a lot better than its rival, Shelbyville, despite the lack of a working Monorail.