Have you ever wondered what the real location behind your favorite TV show looks like? Is it a fabricated set or a hidden gem waiting to be discovered? Well, lucky for you, there are times when the filming location is real and open for visitors to explore. Cue Covington, Georgia, the Hollywood of the South. This charming town has been the backdrop for many beloved TV shows and movies, including Remember the Titans, The Dukes of Hazzard, Footloose (2011 version), and of course, The Vampire Diaries.
Covington: A Slice of Hollywood in the South
Covington’s appeal to filmmakers lies in its historical roots and preserved southern charm. Established in 1821, the town is adorned with stunning historic homes, buildings, and a delightful town square that you’ve likely seen on The Vampire Diaries.
When my sister-in-law mentioned visiting Covington to explore the filming locations, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity. Though I didn’t witness girls dressed in Southern finery for a Founder’s Day Parade, the experience allowed me to reimagine some of my favorite moments from the show. Trust me, even for a casual fan, there’s plenty to do and see.
Tour Options in Mystic Falls
If you’re planning a visit to Mystic Falls, there are two ways to explore the town:
1. The Vampire Stalkers Tour
This is the official tour recommended by the cast themselves. For $55 per person, you’ll get to visit exclusive areas like the Lockwood Mansion and the newly added Legacies locations. The tour guides are Covington locals who have been there since day one of the series’ filming. They share cool facts, have insider knowledge, and sometimes even encounter cast members during the tour!
The Vampire Stalkers Tour is undoubtedly popular throughout the year, so expect to be surrounded by passionate fans and their reluctant partners. But if you want an all-inclusive experience, this is the tour for you.
2. A Free Self-Guided Tour
For those who prefer to explore at their own pace and avoid the fan frenzy, a self-guided tour is the way to go. My sister-in-law and I embarked on this adventure, allowing us to enjoy the peace and quiet of our own car. Though it doesn’t grant exclusive access to any homes, you can still catch a glimpse of many of the locations covered in the paid tour.
Now, let’s dive into the highlights of this mystical journey!
Start your tour by parking at Town Square. As you circle around, take in the historic shops and restaurants lining the square, including the iconic Mystic Falls clocktower, also known as the Covington Courthouse. After parking, take a leisurely stroll around the square, perhaps relaxing on one of the benches or learning about the town’s history from a historic plaque.
While exploring, keep an eye out for flagstones along the sidewalks bearing the names of Vampire Diaries cast members. Ian Somerhalder’s flagstone, in particular, is tucked away in this area. Don’t forget to snap a picture of the clocktower, a true symbol of Mystic Falls.
Vampire Stalkers Museum
Even if you’re not taking the official tour, make sure to pay a visit to the Vampire Stalkers Museum. This treasure trove of memorabilia and souvenirs showcases not only items from The Vampire Diaries but also from The Originals and Legacies. Signed posters, cast autographs, and outfits from the show are just a few of the displays you’ll find here.
The Mystic Grill
As you continue around the square, you’ll come across the Mystic Grill. Although it’s not the actual Mystic Grill from the series, this inspired establishment has welcomed many cast members. Inside, you’ll discover signed photos of various actors, from The Vampire Diaries to Stranger Things. The restaurant itself is located in a beautifully rustic building with decorative ceiling tiles, exposed brick, and hardwood floors. And the food? Absolutely fantastic! Make sure to savor the Smoked Chicken Sandwich or the T.K. Adams Turkey Melt for a truly memorable experience.
After your meal, head towards “the alley.” This is the spot that fans will recognize as where unfortunate extras often meet their doom. Now, it’s been transformed with benches and a painted sign that reads, “Welcome to Mystic Falls” and “Stop by for a bite.” Don’t forget to explore the gift shop and museum located nearby. Here, you’ll find an array of Vampire Diaries-themed items, from t-shirts and mugs to themed Christmas ornaments. The back room also showcases iconic outfits worn by the cast.
Elayne and Caroline’s Houses
Take a short drive east from Covington Square, and you’ll stumble upon the neighboring houses of Elayne and Caroline. The Gilbert house, with its sweeping front porch and imposing pillars, is easily recognizable. The Forbes house, adorned with brick and white accents, exudes the cozy charm seen on the show. Remember to respect the residents’ privacy as these are actual homes now.
Around the corner from Elayne and Caroline’s houses, you’ll find the gates to the Lockwood Mansion. While the actual estate is set back from the street, you can still catch a glimpse of its grandeur. Imagine the glamorous parties and balls that once took place within these walls.
Mystic Falls Cemetery
Next on the tour is a visit to the Southview Cemetery, the backdrop of many nerve-wracking scenes in the show. As you explore, you’ll recognize rows of old gravestones that feature in some episodes. Although the TV set designers added a few extras for dramatic effect, the cemetery offers interesting views from different angles, allowing you to reimagine specific moments from The Vampire Diaries. Please note that the cemetery is still in active use, so be mindful of visitors paying their respects to loved ones.
Old Salvatore Mansion
Your final stop is the breathtaking estate that served as the original Salvatore mansion. The towering white building, reminiscent of Twelve Oaks from Gone with the Wind, will leave you in awe. While the mansion, also known as the Twelve Oaks Bed and Breakfast, offers luxurious themed suites for guests, remember to admire it from the street if you’re not staying there. No trespassing, of course!
The Adventure Concludes
Congratulations! You’ve completed your self-guided tour of Mystic Falls. If you’re feeling extra dedicated, consider swinging by the Salvatore Boarding House location in Atlanta. Alternatively, for fans of The Originals, take a 20-minute drive to Conyers, GA, to explore the show’s filming locations.
This excursion typically takes around three hours, including a delightful lunch at the Mystic Grill. As you journey through Mystic Falls, don’t forget to appreciate Covington for what it truly is—a historic town with charming shops, restaurants, and authentic southern charm.
Thank you for joining me on this real-life adventure through Mystic Falls. If you enjoyed this article, please comment and share it with fellow fans. For more exciting weekly adventures and travel tips, subscribe to the Mandala Traveler. Happy travels!