Is Capeside From 'Dawson's Creek' a Real Place?

More importantly: Can you really visit The Icehouse?

dawson's creek capeside
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Dawson's Creek is having a bit of a resurgence since Netflix added all six seasons of unfettered teen angst onto its platform in November. And while the theme song may be different than you remember (depending on the last format in which you watched the show), the rest of the gang's all here: the Dawson-Joey-Pacey love triangle; the tumultuous arrival of Jen Lindley; Jack's TV-history-making coming out story; and, of course, the show's idyllic setting of Capeside, Massachusetts.

Capeside is the site of almost every major moment on Dawson's Creek, from first jobs to first loves to first heartbreaks, and everything in between. Clearly, there's something special in the water in Capeside, so it's completely understandable that any Dawson's Creek fan prone to wishful thinking would dream of moving there to find their very own Pacey Witter. Fortunately, many of Capeside's most memorable landmarks do actually exist in one form or another—with the slight caveat that they're not actually located in Capeside. Here's everything you need to know about your favorite coastal Massachusetts town.

Is Capeside a real place?

Hate to break it to you, but the reason Capeside's most iconic sites aren't actually in Capeside is because Capeside doesn't exist outside the world of the early 2000s' teen drama. That means there's no Icehouse, no Capeside High, and no Joey's Wall. But if it's any consolation, Massachusetts does exist, as does Cape Cod, so you could certainly travel there to channel your inner Gran and/or perfect your impression of Dawson's classic crying face by heading there.

Another perfectly viable option is to travel to Dawson Creek, a small city in British Columbia, Canada, named after the river that runs through it. Just don't call it Dawson's Creek when you go—according to some particularly prickly tweets from locals around the time of the show's 20th anniversary, they seem to be less than thrilled about being completely overshadowed by a turn-of-the-millennium WB show. Can't imagine why!

Where was Dawson's Creek filmed?

The show was filmed quite a ways down the Atlantic coast from Cape Cod, in and around Wilmington, North Carolina. And though the name of the town and of the show's many filming locations within Wilmington may be different from how they appear in Dawson's Creek, plenty of them are still recognizable enough to comprise a nostalgia-filled DIY walking tour of the show's most iconic locales. Dawson's beloved Rialto Theater, for example, is the historic Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts, while most Capeside High moments were actually shot on the grounds of the University of North Carolina. You can even eat at the replacement Icehouse restaurant Pacey opens in the series finale: Those scenes were filmed at Elijah's Restaurant on the Wilmington Riverwalk, according to the city's tourism site.

As disappointing as it may be to learn about Capeside's fictional status, it should help to learn that the stars of Dawson's Creek absolutely loved filming in North Carolina. During a group interview with Entertainment Weekly in honor of the 20th anniversary, the cast and crew shared that they spent all of their free time basically doing exactly what their characters would do in Capeside. "We'd spend every weekend on this little island called Masonboro, and we'd go jet skiing and waterskiing and have barbecues. We'd get together for family dinners. We'd go to the movies and go bowling like normal people. Katie [Holmes] was good with karaoke," Mary-Margaret Humes, who played Dawson's mother on the show, said.

Julie Plec, a writer for the show, added, "This group was like the mayors of Wilmington. They could walk into restaurants and close down bars. It wasn't about going to L.A. to the clubs and doing the Hollywood scene. It was about living in a small town and getting to know their community and having a really good time." 

Where did the idea for Capeside come from?

Interestingly, Dawson's Creek was actually originally going to be set in North Carolina, where show creator Kevin Williamson grew up. But studio execs suggested it be relocated to Boston, Williamson told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018. Williamson compromised by creating Capeside, a coastal city that is ostensibly located in Massachusetts, but that looks suspiciously like North Carolina. I believe that's what we call a win-win.

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Andrea Park

Andrea Park is a Chicago-based writer and reporter with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the extended Kardashian-Jenner kingdom, early 2000s rom-coms and celebrity book club selections. She graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2017 and has also written for W, Brides, Glamour, Women's Health, People and more.