Stars Hollow may be a fictional town created for Gilmore Girls, but not at Christmas, it’s not. For a brief, beautiful window while the rest of its shows are on holiday hiatus, Warner Bros. Studios returns its small town backlot to the glorious, idiosyncratic home of Lorelai and Rory and all the beautiful weirdos populating the tiny Connecticut hamlet.
This is not the first year Warner Bros. has put on “Holidays Made Here,” running from Dec. 22-Jan. 1 (closed on Dec. 25), but it’s the first year I’ve ever been able to go. Sorry, family, for showing up a day late so I could attend.
The event features many moments of holiday-adjacent entertainment from intellectual properties either filmed on the Warner Bros. lot or distributed by the studio. In the Friends area, there are abundant clips of the Holiday Armadillo, and in the costume galleries, Dolly Parton’s angel costume from her 2020 movie Christmas on the Square, along with costumes from movies like Jack Frost, are on display.
But the biggest draw of Holidays Made Here—judging by the hundreds upon hundreds of Gilmore-bedecked fans I saw—is Stars Hollow. Gilmore Girls filmed on the lot for seven seasons (eight seasons if you count the 2016 reboot A Year in the Life), and the small town lot that served as rural Connecticut is a regular stop on the backlot tour, even 15 years after the end of the series’ original run. These days, the area is dressed as whatever show was shot there most recently, series like Pretty Little Liars or Young Sheldon. So while I have technically stood on Lorelai and Rory’s front porch and on the steps of Luke’s Diner, I haven’t really been to them, until now.
I wanted to browse the wares at Kim’s Antiques, to marvel at the low prices at Doose’s Market, and stand in the gazebo and say, “I smell snow.” But more than anything, I wanted a literal taste of life in Stars Hollow.
I once spent a whole week trying to eat like Lorelai and Rory, consuming more frozen pizza and Mallomars than one person should eat in months, so I was prepared for this holiday-themed excursion. Warner Bros. promised coffee and Pop-Tarts, but I couldn’t help but wonder which other iconic Stars Hollow foods there might be. Would someone be manning a grill turning out Santa burgers like Luke made for Lorelai when she was uninvited from the annual Gilmore Christmas dinner? I could only hope I’d be able to say, as Lorelai did when Luke served up a burger covered in a ketchup hat and a cream cheese beard, “No one has ever made me something quite this disgusting before.”
It turns out there were more foods than I could possibly eat.
Stars Hollow is, true to Warner Bros.’ promise, a winter wonderland. The town square is full of snow-people, including the girls’ iconic Bjork snow(o)man, and the gazebo is bedecked in garlands and toy soldiers. Stores like Stars Hollow Books (a Chilton-themed store) and Stars Hollow Mercantile, decorated with the Miss Patty’s sign and the family portraits that once hung in Emily and Richard’s home, sell everything from shirts saying “No cell phones” to backpacks printed with an illustrated map of the town.
But the first thing I noticed, if I’m being honest, was the Luke’s Diner coffee pop-ups. There are several throughout the event, selling coffee and hot chocolate, along with Pop-Tarts, Twinkies (Rory’s favorite, the sign notes), holiday doughnuts, and, be still my heart, Emily Gilmore’s Famous Apple Tarts.
It was after noon and I hadn’t eaten anything yet that day, so before I could have any of that, I needed to eat lunch. Although actor Scott Patterson, who played Luke, was stationed outside his eponymous diner, the restaurant wasn’t open. What was open, though, in an absolutely masterful move by Warner Bros., was Al’s Pancake World. While the Gilmores talk about Al’s all the time—and order takeout from his many international dinners like Chinese and Mexican nights—the restaurant is never seen on the show, and Al is never introduced as a character.
So walking into Al’s Pancake World, with its kitschy Chinese restaurant decor and its pancakes on the windows, was an absolute delight. I did what any respectable Gilmore would do: ordered enough food for four people. Egg rolls with spicy Thai chili dipping sauce ($9), chicken tenders ($15), a mac and cheese bowl ($12), and a cheeseburger ($15). I also could have had pizza, potstickers, or veggie burgers if only I had more hands.
I took lunch outside to the alley, between Al’s and the Stars Hollow Gazette, where a speakeasy alley bar from the “Spring” episode of A Year in the Life is set up. It was all pretty good; I was surprised at how delicious the mac and cheese was, and I did some serious damage to the tater tots that came with my burger. It wasn’t as delicious as the burger at Luke’s looks, but still, I was eating in Stars Hollow, and I had no complaints.
After lunch, my friend and I walked around, taking pictures at the gazebo and the Stars Hollow sign, and shopped at the pop-up store in Lorelai and Rory’s house, while some stars from the show like Luke’s sous chef Cesar (Aris Alvarado) and Rory’s Chilton friend Madeline (Shelly Cole) took pictures with fans in honor of the opening day.
Then it was time for coffee and dessert. I got a cup of coffee ($3.25), two Pop-Tarts ($2.95 each), and, of course, an apple tart ($7.95). You read that right: One single Pop-Tart at this event costs more than an entire box of them at the grocery store.
To understand how I ended up paying an 850% markup for a toaster pastry, you need to understand two things.
One, Los Angeles is expensive. Take what you think something costs when it’s overpriced, then double it, and you’ll understand what it’s like to be in LA. The ticket for the Holidays Made Here studio tour costs $69, and while the Stars Hollow event is included throughout its run, everything you order to eat or drink is a la carte.
The second reason: There are people who would pay anything, anything at all, to feel like they live in Stars Hollow. I am one of them. So when I saw that I had a choice of strawberry, blueberry, or brown sugar Pop-Tarts for $2.95 each, not per pack, I said, “I’ll take two.” (Strawberry and blueberry; brown sugar is for amateurs.)
The soundtrack of the event was particularly well-curated: the “La La” song by Sam Philips, which plays at the end of every episode, came through the speakers, as well as other iconic songs from the show, like “There She Goes” by the La’s, which was in the first episode, “Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star, and “Reflecting Light” by Sam Phillips, which plays during Luke and Lorelai’s wedding montage.
I sat outside the Dragonfly Inn, overlooking the town square, and drank my coffee, ate my dessert, and took it all in. It was worth every penny.