I’ve been known to be accused of loving every single movie and television show I ever watch. While that’s not (entirely) true, I can’t help but exude pure passion and excitment when it comes to film. I fall in love with the characters and I’m very helplessly drawn into the power of the stories. This was especially true of Mark Schwahn’s series One Tree Hill, which over the years has become my favorite television show.
I started watching the show when I was in my early teens, and for 9 seasons One Tree Hill was my television staple. The characters were utterly engaging, the music was new and inspiring to me and the cliffhangers I blame for my habitual nail-biting, still today. Growing up in North Carolina, the setting hit home as the story was set in the fictional Tree Hill, North Carolina, actually Wilmington, where the entire series was filmed.
My sister moved to Wilmington in August of last year for school, so my other sister and I visit as frequently as we can. All three of us huge One Tree Hill fans, we’ve spent many rainy weekends touring the spots freckled all over Wilmington where the series was filmed. Downtown Wilmington, one of my favorite places in the world, is home to various places the One Tree Hill characters would frequent, so much so that walking the streets of it feels like I’m really walking in Tree Hill.
The view from the corner of Grace and Front is one frequently seen by the One Tree Hill characters. Karen’s Cafe, which later becomes Brooke Davis’ Clothes Over Bros, is a little to the left.
Currently vacant, the building used as Karen’s Cafe and Clothes Over Bros still stands on Grace Street overlooking Tree Hill’s typically puddled sidewalks. Peering into the window, it’s easy to visualize the cafe and the clothing store in their full glory.
Venturing up a block to walk along the river front, it’s easy to view various spots that made it into the series countless times. Where season one’s burning boat ceremony took place, where Quinn and Jamie went treasure-hunting, where Haley James first tutored Nathan Scott and where the cast’s favorite basketball court used to stand.
Directly across the river, it’s easy to spot the area where the River Court stood. While it’s since been torn down, the low-hanging fence and the bushy trees that used to shade Lucas and Nathan Scott’s therapeutic dribbling sessions are recognizable.
The Black Cat Shoppe and the Dixie Grill are two signs worth seeking when wandering around downtown Wilmington. While the Black Cat Shoppe is now a quirky magic and gift shop that carries various One Tree Hill apparel and autographed photos of the cast, it used to be home to Tree Hill’s local record store. From convincing Chris Keller to play Tric to searching for the perfect song to confiding in Max, the lovable store owner, the record store was a place where Peyton Sawyer found herself quite often.
The Dixie Grill did not appear until later in the series, but was a place for meditation and friendly conversation for friends Samantha Walker and Jack Daniels. As they stacked their coffee creamers and talked of finding foster parents, the pair became inseparable in their special booth at the Dixie Grill.
Perhaps the most nostalgic spot in downtown Wilmington for One Tree Hill fans would be the building used as Tree Hill High. Home to some of the best and worst events in the lives of the core characters, the building and its courtyard is full of memories. Haley and Nathan’s excitement as Haley goes into labor during her Valedictorian speech. Lucas and Peyton’s fateful afternoon in the library during the school shooting. Brooke taking a private moment to celebrate her new life as Student Body President.
Last but not least, a One Tree Hill staple is the bridge seen in the opening credits of the show. Lucas running across in his beloved Keith Scott Motors sweatshirt dribbling his basketball represents the show in its entirety. Be sure to take a drive over the 6th Street bridge as you’re exiting the area and driving away from Tree Hill, North Carolina.