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#DawsonsSpeakTravel: 36 Hours in Wilmington


We asked, you delivered: 50+ iTunes reviews later, and we set off for Wilmington – home of fictional Capeside, the setting for this show that’s brought you and us together.

Wilmington is serene, lined with sandy shores and filled with signs of history (much of it, a new experience for the two of us who grew up in California and spent the better part of our careers up in New York). We knew we wouldn’t have enough time to hit all of the filming locations and recommended spots we received over the past month, but we did our best to pack in as much as we could in the 36 hours we were there.

With our Airbnb booked, a rental car secured, and one short flight later, we found ourselves in Wilmington (despite Traci coming off of an unexpected cold, but that didn't stop us!).

Our first stop after a good night's sleep was Bitty & Beau's Coffee (4949 New Centre Drive, Wilmington, NC 28403), which Traci admits she picked purely because it was on the way to our first Dawson's Creek-related destination. But we ended up loving it – not just because the coffee and biscuits (omg, the biscuits) were great, but the story behind the shop is lovely. Bitty & Beau's began in a smaller location in 2016 and was run by 19 employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). As they've grown and expanded (there's a second location in Charleston, South Carolina, and another one to come soon in Savannah, Georgia!), they've remained committed to creating a path for people with IDD to become valued, accepted, and included. If you're in Wilmington (or Charleston!), do stop by and support them!

With coffee in hand, we headed to the University of North Carolina Wilmington (601 S College Rd, Wilmington, NC 28403) – more specifically, Alderman Hall, which was used as the exterior for Capeside High. The campus was quiet for a Saturday morning (we were there before 9AM), so we parked and snapped some photos in front of the building and on the bench outside of it that's dedicated to Dawson's Creek.



Walking around the grassy areas around Alderman Hall, we recognized a lot of the backdrop from season 2 when Dawson filmed his movie. We also didn't get a parking ticket, which was an accomplishment for two people who went to a university that liked to hand out parking tickets like candy at Halloween.

Once it was past 9AM, we jumped in the car and headed down the road to Airlie Gardens (300 Airlie Rd, Wilmington, NC 28403), home to "The Ruins" seen frequently throughout seasons 1 and 2.  It's a $9/person entry fee and Airlie is a beautiful botanical garden that's easily walkable with plenty to see (the Bottle Chapel! A butterfly house! The Airlie Oak that dates back to 1545!) before you hit Pergola Garden (aka The Ruins).



We'll admit: the humidity started getting to us, so after 30-40 minutes at Airlie Gardens, we jumped back in the car and decided to head for the Leery house (6424 Head Road, Wilmington, NC 28409).

Because we did our internet research, we knew who was living in the house and had messaged with them a bit leading up to our trip. When we arrived at 6424 Head Road (after missing a fork in the road and having to turn back), we knocked on the front door and Leigh greeted us with, "Sorry, Dawson's not home right now!" He told us to head to the back, breathe in the crisp Wilmington air, and to take as many photos as we liked.

And boy, did we.




Leigh eventually joined us and helped us take a few photos with the house in the background. We never realized, while watching the show, that what the Leerys use for their front door is actually the back of the house! But it probably made more sense for filming to set it up that way since the actual front of the house doesn't have enough space for entire camera crews.

We sat on the porch (where a "Leery" sign still hangs!) and chatted with Leigh about Dawson's Creek, our podcast, and stories of filming. It turns out the house has belonged to his brother's girlfriend's family for ages, so Leigh was able to point to some spots where significant things happened or where there was a funny story to tell related to the production.

We also talked about his and his brother's band, and about their Dawson's Creek-related song/music video:


(We're sure we'll gush more about this part of our trip on our 3x23/season finale podcast episode!)

After the visit, we drove down Airlie Road, where many scenes were filmed along here, including the first big Pacey/Joey kiss in season 3, to Dockside Restaurant (1308 Airlie Rd Wilmington, NC 28403)...home of The Icehouse! Or, at least, The Icehouse as it was seen starting in season 2. The original Icehouse location was in downtown Wilmington, but the production stopped filming there after the first season.

To be honest, the food was average. Traci had a delicious crab cake sandwich, Charles had an OK burger. We think it evened out.


We then tried to drive to Crystal Pier over in Wrightsville Beach (S Lumina Ave, Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480), where some of the early opening credits were shot, but parking was nuts and we gave up after circling the area for 15 minutes.

So we drove down to the Fort Fisher Ferry Terminal (2422 Fort Fisher Blvd S, Kure Beach, NC 28449) to line up to drive our car onto the ferry that would take us to Southport. If you recall season 1's "Road Trip," Jen's ex Billy comes to town and convinces Dawson and Pacey to go on a road trip to Rhode Island. But to get away from Capeside, they start on a ferry, where they encounter some bullies, who they get back at by ruining their car.

We're happy to report we didn't run into anything like that and had a pleasant Billy-free journey.


The cost for one car onto the ferry was $5, and it was a 35-minute ride over to Southport. Once in Southport, we drove over to Franklin Square Park (130 E West St, Southport, NC 28461) to search for "Pacey's anchor," another iconic shot from early opening credits.


Between the park and the swings along Bay St., it's easy to see Kevin Williamson taking the group around to shoot b-roll for their opening title sequence. (If you remember the Entertainment Weekly/People TV reunion special, he talks about it!)

At this point, Traci was completely melting in the humidity. The next photo is not a great one because of that.

But off we traipsed to find the "True Love" dock, and we found it (next to Potter's Seafood Market, along with lots of surfers, cars, and children eating ice cream) and then moved on:


Back in the car and with the AC on full blast, we began the trip back up toward Wilmington, when we were suddenly hit by rain that passed almost as quickly as it began. As the rain slowed, we took a detour to Battleship Park (191-199 USS North Carolina Rd, Wilmington, NC 28401), where the winter fair was set up in season 2 during "Psychic Friends" and, we're told, where Capefest took place.


We didn't get out of the car because visiting the battleship wasn't on our list, but it was a nice little tourist-y moment as the rain stopped, and off to Downtown Wilmington we went...

We passed Thalian Hall (310 Chestnut St, Wilmington, NC 28401), aka The Rialto, but didn't go in as there were back-to-back performances happening inside that day. Instead, we parked nearby and then walked to the downtown area, stopping first to refuel with coffee before wandering the familiar-looking streets.


As it's been discussed online, Joey's wall is no longer visible as the outdoor seating area for the City Limits Saloon has covered it up. We did stand on the corner (it's across from the Reel Cafe, which is at 100 S Front St, Wilmington, NC 28401) and look at it, and we could see some of the wall.



Downtown Wilmington is charming and cute, with lots of shops to pop in and out of and a gorgeous riverfront that Dawson's Creek fans will recognize right away (a few places, Traci couldn't tell Charles when they show up in the show and in what context, such as Hell's Kitchen at 118 Princess St, Wilmington, NC 28401, which Traci is told still looks exactly the same inside as it did on the show and has Joey's rowboat...but between the World Cup crowd and the Saturday night crowd, we opted out...).

(Again, we're probably discussing a lot more in-depth about this on our 3x23/season finale episode, so be sure to check that out!)


We eventually made our way down to Elijah's (2 Ann St, Wilmington, NC 28401), which Charles won't see on Dawson's Creek for awhile...


At this point it was nearing 7PM and we were exhausted, so we drove down Dawson St. toward a Rite Aid, picked up some ice cream, and headed back to the Airbnb to watch the season 3 finale. The next morning, we made another stop at Bitty & Beau's before heading back to Wrightsville Beach, where we were able to find parking and take a walk down to Crystal Pier...


It was too crowded to even attempt recreating the opening theme. Sorry.

We drove back to the downtown area after that and had lunch at the Reel Cafe, where we spotted a Dawson's Creek poster signed by the cast (also, there's a signed One Tree Hill poster).

But the poster was high up and the glare coming in from the front window was bad, so this is the best photo you're gonna get of it:


And then it was back to the airport to go our separate ways!

We had so much fun in Wilmington, and loved sharing the journey on social media, so if you didn't get a chance, go check out our Instagram Stories from the trip (they're saved as a Highlight on our profile). Thanks to everyone who sent us links and recommendations for places to visit on this trip! Here are a few resources we used while planning, if you're ever on the way to Wilmington yourself and need some guides...

We know there's still a ton of places to see (that Charles can be more excited about once he knows why we're seeing them!), so maybe we'll make another trip when we hit 100 reviews...

Comments

  1. This looks SO fun! I want to come next time ;)

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  2. Ah-mazing! I didn't think I'd be so emotional seeing the sites but I am lol I live in NC but hours and hours away from Wilmington and I've been there once when I was 11 in 2004 so the cast was gone and honestly I didn't think about the show when while I was there but these pictures have inspired me to go check it out maybe in the Fall or next year. Is Grams' house still there? Love the fact that "Pacey's anchor" is still there! Anyway, thanks so much for sharing your experience there with us. I would love to go to the spot where they filmed a lot of the scenes where there's a bridge in the distance. It's the spot where Pacey confronts Dawson in Show Me Love, Joey and Jack have their chat in Anti Prom etc etc... no idea where that is located though lol Anyway, looks like you two had a blast and I'm also excited that Charles has FINALLY seen the s3 Finale True Love while in Wilmington... too cool! I am so looking forward to the s3 Finale podcast ep.

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  3. This is great, I'm so glad you guys had a good trip!

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  4. Not to be an ass bag but why is there only 3 comments here? 4 if ya count this message but this is mainly a mini complaining post. lol Charles and Traci were cool enough to share their Wilmington experience with us plus pictures and on 3 of us comment on it? I find that kind of weird, not gonna lie.

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing pictures form your trip! I went to Wilmington in high school for a mission trip and loved it! Your photos make me want to go back so badly! Reading this and seeing pictures is lovely, but I can't wait to hear all about this on the podcast. :)

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    1. Also, I'm interested to hear about Charles' reactions, since not all of the locations you saw were familiar to him.

      I love that you guys watched True Love in Wilmington, that had to be such a cool experience! :)

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    2. Could you imagine watching True Love in Wilmington. I'd have to go and recreate Dawson's epic cry face after that ep teeheehee It's just so funny and then how he dramatically collapses into a sobbing heap lmao I mean I get being a teenager can have it's dramatic moments but dude, he was just so over the top and the fact that that wasn't scripted and it was the Beek adding that to his performance makes it even funnier. Anyway, the fact that Charles and Traci went down to where True Love was at, made me tear up when I saw the pictures. I'm such a dork LOL

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    3. That is so awesome that the epic cry face wasn't scripted LOL

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    4. LOL I know! Poor Beek... he was just in the moment I guess but that face will follow him for life. It's cool he has a sense of humor about it though

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  6. Matalin BloomfieldJuly 1, 2018 at 9:44 PM

    You are both so wonderful! I live in Wilmington and am delighted to see that you guys had a good trip. I knew the humidity would be a little annoying... the weather here is ridiculous! Hope you had fun nevertheless. Your podcast is my fav. Keep up the excellent work you two!

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    1. Thanks Matalin! Maybe on our 100-review trip, we'll host a meet up :)

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  7. So cute! I'm almost caught up to where you are in loading the podcasts! My grandparents used to live in Wilmington, so I went there a ton. I was probably even there during the filming, but didn't get super into the Creek until 2005.

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