When I heard there would be a “One Tree Hill” convention in the charming city of Wilmington in the US, I knew there would never be a better time for me to experience all the filming locations of my favourite TV show than during the summer of 2015. So I bought myself a General Admission ticket for Saturday, 8th of August, and somehow convinced myself to book a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a whole new continent I’d never been to before.
For those of you who have watched this show, you need no further explanations as to just how much of an impact it has had on fans from all around the world. They finished filming in Wilmington three years ago now but that hasn’t stopped the fan-base from growing exponentially. Next year there are already five “One Tree Hill” Conventions planned – two in Wilmington, one in Paris, one in Geneva and one in Montreal. London is also hoping to jump on the conventions train!
My mum was my travel companion for this trip and it was an amazing experience to share with her. When we arrived in Wilmington she was so excited for me even though she had never seen a single episode of OTH. We spent one week in this beautiful port city on the Cape Fear river and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been happier. Everywhere we’d go there would be some kind of building or monument or street that would remind me of a certain episode or character from the show. Most of the time I knew where to find these locations, as I had come prepared with a map of all the main filming sights, but sometimes I would recognise a place from the show just when I least expected to. I had always seen the locations such as the cafe/fashion boutique corner at Front and Grace Streets, the iconic 6th Street Bridge from the opening credits and the glorious Riverwalk on my digital screen and now I was right there experiencing it all first-hand! I’m so glad that the show’s creator, Mark Schwahn, filmed all around Wilmington as well as in the closed sets at EUE Screen Gems Studios, because that gives Wilmington a huge advantage as far as the tourism industry is concerned. Fans of Dawson’s Creek also come from far and wide to see where Joey Potter and the gang filmed in the fictional town of Capeside.
We lived in the historic downtown area with a balcony overlooking the beautiful river. There were many filming sights within walking distance, for instance the former Rivercourt sight was seen from our window and many interior scenes were filmed in actual diners/shops very close to our hotel. My mum and I managed to travel on foot and by bus (with a bus arriving only once per hour at best!!) to all the main characters’ actual homes where the show filmed. Summer in Wilmington was extremely hot and very humid and when fans rolled up in their comfortable, air-conditioned cars you can imagine our reaction! Nonetheless, we did manage to see almost all the sights on my list, which is a brilliant achievement without any transportation of our own!
“Dawson’s Creek” filmed at Hell’s Kitchen
Then came the day that I’d been eagerly awaiting for four months. The EyeCon “Return to Tree Hill 2” Convention got underway with photo ops, then Q&A panels, autographs sessions, followed by banquets and parties. We were all seated in a freezing cold hall with awful acoustics where we could barely understand what the MC, Joshua Reid-Davis, was saying!
I met Paul Johansson first up for my photo op. He played resident evil Dan Scott in the show but he was so funny and nice in real life. He put his arm around me and we posed for the cameras. There wasn’t much time to speak to the stars during the photo ops as we were being hurried by staff at every turn. Then came my photoshoot with Chad Michael Murray (who played Lucas Scott) and Bethany Joy Lenz (who played Haley James Scott) and they were just so sweet and adorable. I stood in between them and the moment felt so surreal! Lastly, I simply had to meet my favourite actress Hilarie Burton (who played Peyton Sawyer) who really does give the best hugs ever! Her character was the one I related to the most and meeting Hilarie was just one of the best moments in my life. She was just a beautiful soul.
When I spoke to Chad and Hilarie while getting their autographs I was feeling so starstruck but they were so genuine and so down-to-earth that the conversation just flowed naturally. He was very excited to learn that I came all the way from Australia to be there with them that weekend that he gave me a hug (eeeek!) and Hilarie also gave me a hug when I presented my gift to her. All in all, it was probably the best day of my life.
Wilmington certainly turned on the charm and everything from the horse-drawn carriage rides to the beautiful river boat cruises made this peaceful town shine bright in my eyes. The locals were so friendly and warm. One example of this was when we first arrived from the airport to the city centre it began to pour with rain so one local man offered to give us his umbrella while we figured out how to enter our hotel! Everything from the boutique shops on Market Street to the hidden and quaint shops of the Cotton Exchange made our stay so special. I am filled with so much joy just thinking about how far I travelled for something that to many may seem a little extreme, flying from Melbourne to Wilmington (via Los Angeles and later NYC and Toronto) to meet a few “stars”, but for me those moments are the ones that I will look back on and truly know that I lived my fullest life. Those encounters with the stars are absolute gold to me.
Don’t forget, my “Tree Hill is Home” collection of postcards and wall art inspired by the show are still available.
You can purchase them here: