Go Under the Dome at These Real-Life Film Locations

CBSGo Under the Dome at These Real-Life Film Locations

Under the Dome, in its third season on CBS, is filmed in towns on the North Carolina coast

Spoiler alert: While guiding you to several locations where this TV show is filmed, this trip idea also discusses plot lines and scenes from the series.

Fans of the popular CBS television show Under The Dome are familiar with Chester’s Mill, the rural town that’s covered by a mysterious dome. In real life, there’s no invisible dome to keep you from visiting Burgaw, Wilmington and Southport, the North Carolina town and cities that provide the settings to the places you see on the show, based on a Stephen King novel.

Entering its third season in 2015, Under The Dome has been filmed in North Carolina since the beginning, so there are several locations for you to explore, from restaurants and stores to a town square and the largest film studio lot outside of California.

3-Day Itinerary

Day 1: Get acquainted with Chester’s Mill in downtown Burgaw.

Day 2: Go behind the scenes of Chester’s Mill and spend a night on the town like a cast member.

Day 3: Walk in Big Jim’s footsteps in Southport.

Day 1: Burgaw

When the dome descends on Chester’s Mill, the residents gather in the town square, and that’s where your Under the Dome location scouting trip begins. In Burgaw, the Pender County Courthouse Square stands in for the Chester’s Mill town center. This picturesque spot is easily recognized as Stephen King’s fictional town, and as you walk along Courthouse Square, pay a visit to Brown Dog Coffee Company.

Look around and you’ll find several other familiar locations. Storefronts, like those of Burgaw Antiqueplace, Harrell’s Department Store and more, serve as the backdrop to many scenes on the show. One of the key locations from the first season, the diner, is found here, but don’t expect to walk in and order a burger and fries – the diner’s interior is shot on a soundstage in Wilmington, and you’ll see that tomorrow.

If all of this talk of burgers and fries has made you hungry, stop by Alley Cats Breakfast & Lunch Café for a bite. Once you’ve eaten, turn your gaze skyward and find the Burgaw water tower. It should look familiar: It’s the Chester’s Mill water tower and was digitally copied and inserted into many scenes and stills from the show.

Now it’s time to drive to Wilmington, and you’ll want to take the rural US Highway 117 and NC Highway 133. Look out for film locations as you head south. You’ll pass many a field, farmhouse and barn from the show. Lucky for the folks who live here, they don’t live under the dome full time, just when the film crews arrive.

In Wilmington, check into your downtown digs – the Hilton Wilmington Riverside or Courtyard Wilmington Downtown will put you close to the action. Tonight, grab drinks and dinner at two spots frequented by actress Rachelle LeFevre (Julia Shumway): manna, where the cocktails are expertly made, and Rx, where she cured her “fear of Southern cuisine.”

Day 2: Wilmington

Wake up early to visit the Riverfront Farmers’ Market, where more than one Under the Dome star has been spotted. Now for more insider info on Wilmington as a film town - hit the Hollywood Location Walk. On this 90-minute walking tour of downtown, a guide steeped in film history will take you around to spots seen in Under the Dome and other well-known productions such as Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill and Blue Velvet.

It’s now approaching lunchtime, so grab something quick at I Love NY Pizza or The Basics, all places frequented by Under the Dome cast and crew.

Spend the afternoon exploring on your own. Walk to the 300 block of North Front Street and you’ll see a few spots where – spoiler alert – some characters visit once they escape to the other side of the dome.

Hop in the car and head to Halyburton Park, where Barbie led several townsfolk on a chase through the woods. Next, swing by Greenfield Grind Park, where the dome fell. Nearby, you might recognize a playground and picnic area from the show.

Tonight, dine at Catch, where Chef Keith Rhodes has served several cast members from Under the Dome, Iron Man 3 and just about every production that rolls through town.

Day 3: Southport

On the last day of your location scout, you’re headed to Southport, where many of Chester’s Mill’s most iconic venues can be found. But first, you have to stop by Carolina Beach’s Britt’s Donut Shop, a place Dean Norris, (a.k.a. Big Jim Rennie), has visited on more than one occasion.

When you’ve had your fill of donuts, continue south to the Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry Landing. Relax on the ride over, but be ready to see your first location as soon as you hit the mainland as the Southport ferry landing appeared in the fourth episode.

Head to the north end of Howe Street for your next site: Big Jim’s Auto Sales. In reality it’s Southport Motorcars, but the signature red roof gives it away every time.

While you’re following in Big Jim’s footsteps, you might as well take a peek at his house. Follow Howe Street to the Waterfront Park, a location you’ll also recognize from the show, and get ready to walk a little. Right across the street is Big Jim’s house. Get a good look and snap a selfie or two, but don’t go poking around for the bunker: it’s a set piece only used for filming, and the good folks who live in Big Jim’s house while he isn’t there aren’t looking to host an impromptu picnic or location tour.

Walk East Bay Street along the water, soaking in the view, then head to West Bay Street where you’ll find the iconic radio station, WYSB. In real life it’s the Pilot Tower, home to the River Pilots who help cargo ships navigate the shoals and currents of the waters here, but it’s easily recognizable.

Just a few steps away, at the foot of Lord Street, you’ll see a beach access leading to a tiny patch of sand. It was here that Maxine found Agatha’s body washed up on shore in episode 11.

Since you’re here, and if you’re getting hungry, grab lunch at Yacht Basin Provision Company, a waterside eatery specializing in steamed shrimp, fish sandwiches and burgers.

Walk off lunch by exploring downtown a little more. You’ll find several locations along Howe Street near the river and along Moore Street, but it’s on Nash Street, just one block back, that you’ll find a pair of recognizable venues. The first is the Southport Post Office, a place where several Chester’s Mill residents listened to Big Jim’s radio address. The other is across the street at the Trinity United Methodist Church. A few blocks further down Nash Street you’ll run into The Old Smithville Burying Grounds, a cemetery dating back to the 1700s and one that’s appeared on Under the Dome several times.

Enjoy all the area has to offer by mixing and matching activities and events to your particular interest. Be sure to check days and hours of operation for each venue.

Jason Frye is the author of two North Carolina guidebooks and lives and writes in Wilmington.

Places in This Trip Idea

Select a pin to see details about a location.

Request your Travel Guide

Download or order FREE guides and maps

Discover Project Project 543

Explore unique spots across North Carolina