Confessions of a Hallmark Christmas Movie Fanatic
My name is Alan.
I’m a Hallmark Christmas Movie fanatic.
It’s true, I admit it, as winter approaches I wait anxiously for the Christmas movie season to begin. I dvr every new one as it airs. I watch reruns of the ones from previous years. I’ve seen countless numbers of them multiple times.
Is there counseling available for this sort of thing?
They say the first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem. I refuse to admit I have a problem. Absolutely I’m a die-hard fanatic, but no, never, will I admit that’s a problem.
Exhibit A as proof to this addiction I offer my December pilgrimage to the Vancouver, Canada, area. An area that easily lays claim as the mecca of Hallmark Christmas Movie film making.
For any die-hard Hallmark fan wanting to see where the movies are made, this is the place. It’s a fair bet more of the movies have been filmed here than anywhere else.
You might ask why someone would venture north to Canada in December instead of a nice, cozy, warm month like July. The answer is simple, I wanted to see the locations as they might appear in the movies, at Christmas time.
Finding where the movies have been filmed isn’t as easy as you might think. If you Google “XYZ filming location” the majority of time the results will tell you what city or area, but they don’t give you the specific location in that city or area.
A little sleuthing is required. My way of doing it is to try to catch a store sign or some other identifying feature in the background of a movie.
That, for instance, is how I located the Billy Miner Ale House in Maple Ridge, about 25 miles east of Vancouver. Billy Miner has a distinctive stained glass window above its front entrance, with the Billy Miner name, that you can make out if you look closely enough in the movies.
That also led me to a second location, the pizza café in Maple Ridge. I noticed the numbers of a street address above a red building’s door in the most recent movie which included Billy Miner. I used those numbers, not knowing what street it was on, to then do a Google search in Maple Ridge.
That search, maybe not so coincidentally, led me to the building just a few steps down the street, also part of Billy Miner.
Quick sidenote, I just have to say I’d make this trip again in a heartbeat and now, after returning home, and having more familiarity with the area, I’m finding more and more movie locations I missed. It’s been a lot of fun watching movies and recognizing places from my trip.
Who knows? I may be making a return trip in a year or two.
On my personal list of locations I just had to visit, Billy Miner was second, the honor of the top spot belonged to Burnaby Village.
Force a Hallmark Christmas Movie fanatic to choose just one place to visit, to see where the magic is made, they have to choose Burnaby Village.
If the Vancouver area is the site of more movies than any other area, Burnaby Village may just lay claim to being the one single location of more movies than any other.
That includes the iconic Christmas in Evergreen series.
Walking into the village truly feels like walking into one of the Evergreen movies. It’s all there, the gazebo, the Kris Kringle Kitchen, Daisy’s Country Store, all of it. Of course, neither the kitchen nor Daisy’s are named that in real life, though the kitchen is indeed a working bakery and the general store is a general store.
Burnaby Village Museum, as it’s properly called, is a recreated historical village nine miles east of Vancouver. I've posted separately about it here.
There are no vehicles driving down the street as you see in the movies. These streets are strictly pedestrian only. You also won’t find the magical snow globe from the Evergreen series or, for that matter, any real signs the movies were filmed there.
Even so, I didn’t even realize how much it felt like being in the movies, and just how much of a fanatic I am, until I walked into the general store and involuntarily let out a small gasp, it was exactly like it appears in Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa, the second of the three movies in the series. I expected to see Jill Wagner, the lead actress, walking out from behind the cash register at any moment.
Of course, there’s more than a little Hollywood movie trickery involved in the filming. The church the young boy runs to with the magic key that will unlock the bells is there, but it’s a small, one-story, structure without a belfry or the bells, so the interior scene is shot elsewhere.
Similarly, the bridge where Kevin learns from Lisa that she and Oliver are just good friends and not a couple, is the bridge you walk across to enter the main village area when first arriving. But, it crosses a small stream, there are no big ice skating ponds anywhere in sight.
Here’s just some of the movies the village has appeared in:
Of course, all four of the Evergreen movies:
Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa
Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy
Christmas in Evergreen: Bells are Ringing
I’m sorry, I know I’ve seen other movies that should be on the list but I’m just not remembering them now. I will continue to update all of these locations as I spot new ones.
Second sidenote, here’s a couple, very non-Christmas related productions, also shot at the village:
Supernatural – the television series
IT – yes, the Stephen King horror movie
As I searched around I found a lot of non-Hallmark movies shot at these same locations.
Billy Miner Ale House
Number two on my must-see Hallmark Christmas Movies filming locations list was the aforementioned Billy Miner because, well, it’s a pub!
The pub appeared just this season in A Fabled Holiday. You can also see the red exterior of the nearby pizza place I mentioned earlier.
Others have been filmed there as well but, again, I’m going to have to start searching back into the dark recesses of my memory to pull those up.
Non-Hallmark movies in which you’ll get a view of Billy Miner are Christmas is You (GAF) and Mechanics of Love (UpTV) with Tyler Hynes, a Hallmark regular. As well as Netflix’s Love Hard.
Clayburn Village Store
The third must-see stop on my list was the Clayburn Village Store near Abbotsford, roughly 45 miles south and west of Vancouver. This was the last stop on my pilgrimage, hitting it on my way back across the Canada/US border.
If you ever hear about a movie being shot in Abbotsford there’s a good chance you’ll see the store in it. There’s even an autographed photo of Candace Cameron Bure hanging behind the counter.
An old general store, it’s a great place to visit, even if it had nothing to do with the movies. It’s a throwback to a different time, filled with every kind of candy you can imagine.
One section especially grabbed my attention, to the right and clear in the back, filled with European food items. There was a fig pudding that definitely made the trip back with me to Darling Daughter’s for Christmas.
Some of the Christmas Movies filmed there include:
The Holiday Sitter – just this season
Christmas Time is Here - GAF
Hallmark fans will also recognize it from the non-Christmas movies, All of My Heart, and sequels, All of My Heart: Inn Love, and All of My Heart: The Wedding, starring Lacey Chabert, Brennan Elliott and the late Ed Asner.
Vancouver and so many of its surrounding communities are picture-perfect postcard kinds of places. Fort Langley is definitely near the top of that list. More than 30 Hallmark movies have been shot there in the last 15 years.
It’s a beautiful little village with shops, restaurants and this great historic community hall dating back to the 1930s.
A Christmas market was happening in the hall while I was there with all sorts of crafts, foods and more. By the way, while I’m on the subject, I bought quite possibly the best cookie I’ve ever eaten there. This thing was over an inch thick but still managed to be cooked all the way through and still moist in the middle. It comes from YVR Cookie. (I receive nothing for this endorsement, fyi.)
Back to the community hall. I was surprised I hadn’t heard of any Christmas movies being shot there. The exterior alone would make for some great angles.
Well, come to find out, the hall was one of the locations for this season’s Five More Minutes: Moments Like These. That movie also filmed at several other Fort Langley locations including Fort Pub & Grill and Saba Café.
Wait! Wait! Believe it or not, I'm watching A Kindhearted Christmas on GAC as I create this post and, literally, the community hall just showed up in the movie as I was putting its photo into this post.
The community hall was also part of Hallmark's A Very Merry Bridesmaid.
The fire station appeared this season in Three Wisemen and a Baby and previously in The Nine Lives of Christmas and its sequel, The Nine Kittens of Christmas.
The Village Antiques Mall appeared in A Cookie Cutter Christmas, among others. You can spot it by the red sleigh sitting out front.
The Fort Langley train station was used in Debbie Macomber’s Trading Christmas. Fans of the Riverdale television series might also recognize it.
Bob’s Bar n’ Grill serves as the location of Kelly Pickler’s family’s restaurant, the Mistletoe Diner, in The Mistletoe Secret, part of which was also in Burnaby Village, and A Christmas Miracle for Daisy on GAF. The place is a lot bigger than it looks from the outside and the food is good.
I hadn’t planned to travel to Squamish, it’s 40 miles or better straight north of Vancouver, but I ended up there anyway.
Both Christmas Cookies and The Christmas Train were filmed there at the Railway Museum of British Columbia. Unfortunately, except for some special events, it’s closed this time of the year so I could only look through the fence.
Don’t get Langley confused with Fort Langley, they are two different communities. Langley is six miles southwest of Fort Langley, 30 miles southeast of Vancouver.
The Hilltop Diner Café has been in a lot of movies including at least two Hallmark Christmas Movies, Home for Christmas Day and Debbie Macomber’s Dashing Through the Snow. It's also prominent in the non-Christmas Hallmark movie, Appetite for Love.
You can check out some of the other movies it’s appeared in on their website.
I learned the diner is a very popular spot. I arrived shortly before 11 a.m., thinking I would have a late breakfast, early lunch kind of thing, and the waiting line had already formed out the door, so I took a couple of outside photos and moved on.
Walking into downtown Langley is walking into the past, in all the best ways. It was just like the towns those of us of a certain age grew up in before the big box stores and Wally Worlds took over.
Locally-owned stores lined the streets, I saw three barber shops within two blocks of each other, and cars filled the parking spaces in the middle of the day.
Marry Me At Christmas was filmed in part at Everything But the Groom Bridal located right on downtown’s main street.
If you watched this season’s Christmas at the Golden Dragon you saw Vancouver’s Chinatown.
The movie is set in San Francisco’s Chinatown and those shots with the cable cars are definitely from there, but much of it was filmed in Vancouver.
I hate to say it but feel it would be wrong not to let you know I would not go out of my way to visit Chinatown in Vancouver. The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is a lovely place, but the overall area Chinatown area is a bit rundown.
If you have extra time on your trip, it’s worth a visit but if you’re choosing between this and something else, I’d probably go with the something else.
I’m guessing only fellow Hallmark Christmas Movies addicts have waded through this entire post, and that’s ok.
As I mentioned, I will work to add movie titles to the above locations as I learn of them. If you know of any, let me know.
Oh, and, if you need Exhibit B attesting to my Hallmark Christmas Movie addiction, I’ve already bought my tickets and booked my hotel for a summer ChristmasCon, a three-day event featuring some of the actors and actresses seen in the movies. Stay tuned!
**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address, alansheaven.com, or a link back to this page.