Fall In Love With Mystic Falls: The Real Town Behind The Vampire Diaries

Fall In Love With Mystic Falls: The Real Town Behind The Vampire Diaries

Covington, Georgia, is the perfect small town for an autumn day trip, especially if you’re a fan of the hit CW show, The Vampire Diaries.

Covington is a small town nestled in the northwest region of Georgia, just a four-hour drive from Tallahassee, Florida. Don’t be fooled by the southern charm, though: vampires are lurking around every corner! Covington, Georgia is a major film location for the CW show, The Vampire Diaries. My roommates and I have talked about driving to Covington for over a year but we’ve never made the time to go. Finally, I took a day trip with some friends to visit “Mystic Falls” and enjoy the fall Georgia weather, and I’m so glad I did!

The Covington town square is home to the most beloved and well-known Vampire Diaries location – the clock tower! The beautiful red brick tower overlooks a small courtyard with several maple leaf trees and benches, giving a cozy fall feel. Across the street from the clock tower is another well-known Vampire Diaries hangout, the Mystic Grill. The Mystic Grill is mentioned in almost every episode and is a functioning restaurant. The inside of the grill doesn’t look like the show, but the outside is straight from the screen. 

The food at the Mystic Grill is to die for! Every meal is cooked fresh and nothing is frozen. The staff is kind, welcoming, and helpful and the atmosphere is warm and lush. It’s a little on the pricier side (at least for my college-student budget), but it’s worth it. If you go, make sure to ask for a rooftop table. The roof has an amazing view of the clock tower and the entire square. It’s a perfect picture spot! Once you arrive at Covington Square, I recommend going to the grill and adding your name to the list right away. Because of Vampire Diaries, it’s a very popular place and our wait was two-plus hours. Another key tip: make sure to eat at the Mystic Grill before going to the Vampire Diaries gift shop. Bring your dinner receipt and you can get 10% off! 

Underneath the Mystic Grill lies The Alley Gift Shop and Mystic Museum. The gift shop offers cool souvenirs and fandom products. There are candles based on different Vampire Diaries characters, Mystic Grill staff shirts (like the one Matt Donovan wears in the show!), and even daylight rings (rings for vampires – a true TVD fan knows). I recommend finding a t-shirt from a small business online because The Alley’s selection wasn’t great and wasn’t cheap. They also sell vervain and other little trinkets for die-hard fans, like samples of “the cure” or vampire blood. When checking out, you can ask to purchase a blood bag. Seriously! Complete your Vampire Diaries experience by drinking from a blood bag and taking a picture in front of the clock tower. Don’t worry, it’s just Kool-Aid. 

The back room of The Alley serves as a Mystic Museum where many costumes and props from The Vampire Diaries are on display. Most of them are even signed by the cast. My favorite item was Stefan’s old football jersey that was signed by Paul Wesley. 

The rest of the square is home to cute boutiques, stores, restaurants, and coffee shops, fulfilling the small-town charm. My favorite shops were The Soap Box and Scoops. The Soap Box is a bathing goods store with natural and handmade soaps, scrubs, and bath bombs. I’m a sucker for good-smelling, good-quality soaps at a fair price, so you know I got my mom and me some! They also sell cute car freshies in their signature scents. The Soap Box has an entire section dedicated to the vampire fandom which includes “blood” body wash, a “blood” bath bomb, and vampire candles. You can find their website here.

Scoops is a local ice-cream parlor with fun flavors and other sweet treats. They have a variety of old-school candy, fudge, chocolate-covered snacks, and caramel apples (my favorite). The store was decorated in bright colors and lively Halloween decorations, making it look like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. My roommate said it best, “You know it’s a great place when you see dads walk out of it with full bags of candy.”

The Vampire Diaries isn’t the only show filmed in Covington. Famous films and shows such as Remember the TitansSweet Magnolias, and In the Heat of the Night were also filmed there. Similar to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, Covington has its very own Walk of Stars. On sidewalks around the town are the names of famous actors and actresses that starred in movies or shows filmed in Covington. My friends and I found Nina Dobrev’s and Paul Wesley’s, two stars in Vampire Diaries

Elena Gilbert’s house (the main character from Vampire Diaries) is a short walk from the town square. It is now a private residence, so please respect the owner’s privacy, but you can still walk past her house and pretend you’re living the Vampire Diaries’ dream. A few houses down is Caroline Forbes’s house, and a street over is the Lockwood Mansion! I advise parking at the square and walking to the houses so you can take your time. 

Covington, Georgia is an amazing spot for a fall day trip, but I strongly recommend planning something else on your itinerary. It is a must-see for any die-hard Vampire Diaries fan, but it doesn’t take up your entire day. My friends and I decided to drive to Truett’s Luau, a Hawaiian-themed Chick-Fil-A about an hour east of Covington. It was such a fun and festive take on the Chick-Fil-A I’m used to! Truett’s Luau offers a tropical setting and unique menu items, like sweet-potato waffle fries, chicken or fish tacos, island chicken nuggets, and bubble tea. 

Visiting “Mystic Falls” is one of my favorite college trips so far. I’m so grateful for the laughter shared and the memories made! Not only was Covington enjoyable, but the drive up from Florida to Georgia was beautiful. Seeing the leaves change and begin to fall as we drove north put me in a festive fall mood. Walking around the film locations, sipping from a blood bag, and taking pictures in front of the famous clocktower was a mystical adventure. If you’re a Vampire Diaries fan, or just want a fun fall-themed trip, visit Covington, Georgia! You’re bound to have a fang-tastic time. 

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Completely Captivating: Vacationing in North Captiva Island, FL

Completely Captivating: Vacationing in North Captiva Island, FL

Looking for a vacation destination that is stylishly off-the-grid but not entirely separate from civilization? North Captiva Island is the perfect place. 

In late July I had the opportunity to travel to North Captiva Island, FL, with some amazing friends. This wasn’t my first visit and I can surely write that it won’t be my last. I previously visited the island six years ago and was in desperate need of a North Captiva Island reset.

My vacation started with a short and peaceful ferry ride across the Pine Island Sound. One of the unique things about North Captiva Island is the lack of cars. Golf carts are the main method of transportation on the island dirt roads. It almost felt like a tribute to The Villages, a retirement community next to my hometown where many of the residents drive golf carts instead of cars.

Riding around on a six-seater golf cart is not only fun (or maybe dangerous – depends on who is driving!) time, but it is also a special way to see the tropical foliage, blooming hibiscus flowers, and brightly painted vacation houses. Keep an eye out for gopher tortoises as they cross the road. The houses are almost as vibrant as the island itself. Each one has a splash of tropical color and a catchy name. We stayed in a blue house named Manatee Manor. Having been inside several of the houses, I can safely say they are quirky and inviting – one of them even had an old elevator!

The sunset on a boat ride through Pine Island Sound.

We saw over eight manatees on our trip. If you aren’t familiar with manatees, they are sweet and gentle ocean mammals that frequent Florida’s coastline. You can often find them lingering around marinas in search of fresh water. On the last day of our trip, we saw dolphins, sea urchins, and starfish.

If you are planning to vacation in North Captiva, I strongly recommend bringing your own boat (or renting one). One of our favorite things to do was to go island hopping. We rode the pontoon boat (a luxurious, relaxed boat style) to Cabbage Key, Cayo Costa, Captiva Island, and Boca Grande. One day, we grabbed lunch at the historic Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant, which offers quaint island charm. As a Floridian, I would classify the restaurant as a tourist trap. The prices are a little higher than a normal bar and grille, but it was a cute stop nonetheless. Cayo Costa is a remote barrier island with lush greenery and an abundance of wildlife including shorebirds, gopher tortoises, raccoons, bobcats, and even feral pigs. I recommend anchoring on Cayo Costa’s shore and lounging beachside or floating on a tube in the pristine blue waters.  This is also a perfect place to search for seashells.

If you don’t have a boat, don’t worry. North Captiva Island has plenty of beautiful beaches! Manatee Manor was a beachfront property, allowing us private beach access, but there are multiple public beaches around the four-mile-long island. Bring a chair, an umbrella, a book, and you’re set!

Captiva Island, not to be confused with North Captiva Island, is only a short boat ride away. It is home to several island restaurants, shops, and bars – some with live music. I strongly recommend having dinner at the Bubble Room, which is a bizarre and enchanting three-story restaurant. The Bubble Room is based on Old Hollywood, Christmas, and everything fantastical. The food and drinks there are amazing! If you’re claustrophobic, I suggest walking through the restaurant before committing to dine there. The rooms and seating are very tight, but each one has its own unique and dazzling theme. The Bubble Room is a must-see!

Em’s Adventure: Making new friends in beautiful places. North Captiva Island is the perfect place to unplug and focus on what is most important: family and friends. The most beautiful thing about vacation is that no matter where you go, the memories made and the laughter shared among friends and family is what you will remember most. I am so grateful for the wonderful people I stayed with and the new friends I made. It was an amazing trip that I will never forget!

Welcome to Adventures With Em!

Welcome to Adventures With Em!

Hi, I’m Emilee Bryce Perdue. I am a daughter, a writer, and a friend. Like any sane person, I love dogs and the show Friends and coffee. I prefer sunrises over sunset and I use too many exclamation points in my emails. I can’t decide whether I can live without ketchup or peanut butter, so please don’t force me to make that decision. Little Women is both my favorite book and movie (it goes unsaid that I am referencing the 2019 Greta Gerwig adaption). I am earning two bachelor’s degrees not because I am overly studious, but because I am overly indecisive.

One of my favorite things to do is ask my friends (and sometimes strangers) very random, very specific questions. I find it helps me get a good idea of who they are. To properly introduce myself to you, I am going to ask myself eight very random, very specific questions.

  1. What is the best place you have ever visited? I believe that each destination I travel to makes its mark on me in some way. I hold each of my travels dear to my heart, but I think the best place I have visited (so far) is Exuma, Bahamas. I went to the island during a spring break trip in high school and I fell in love with it. Exuma had the prettiest waters and the kindest people. Exuma isn’t a tourist resort style island; it is a lush and authentic tropical fairytale. A close second to Exuma would be Chinatown in New York City. Very different but thrilling just the same! I mean, I watched a man light a fake Louis Vuitton bag on fire – and it didn’t burn. I can’t tell you why. I still think about it. Where else can I get this quality of entertainment?
  2. Who is your favorite person? My mom! Annie P is the best person on this planet. She’s my best friend. I tell her anything and everything. She is the most supportive, honest, and caring person I know. She exudes strength and showers me with love every day. Not to say we don’t have our fights, like every mother and daughter, but we always laugh it off and make up within the hour. People have told us we remind them of Lorelai and Rory from Gilmore Girls.
  3. If you could witness one moment in history, what would it be? When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace for standing up for their beliefs. I would give anything to see them not burn, much to everyone else’s disbelief. And to see God in the fire with them? That is such a testament to Christianity! This was my favorite story while I was growing up in church. Even when I read it now, as an adult, I still get chills.
  4. What is your favorite thing about you? I like my nose. I can balance pencils on it.
  5. What is your go-to movie theater snack? When I was twelve years old, my dad taught me how to achieve the perfect movie-theater snack: order Milk Duds and heavily buttered popcorn, place a handful of popcorn and a Milk Dud in your mouth, and voila! The Milk Dud melts and all you taste is chocolate-y, caramel-y, butter-y goodness. Good for the soul, maybe not so much for the body.
  6. If you could only go to one more concert for the rest of your life, who would you see? Kenny Chesney! I have an incredibly odd obsession with the country singer. It’s okay, I can admit that it is a weird and unhealthy obsession. I have seen him in concert twice now and his energy never gets old. “When the Sun Goes Down” was the first song I ever knew by heart. During the hardest time of my life, the only music I had with me was Kenny Chesney’s CD Greatest Hits II. Kenny and I really bonded.
  7. What was your best birthday? It’s a tie between my tenth birthday and my twenty-first birthday. Very different birthdays. For my eighth birthday, my mom hosted a pool party with all of my friends. We had water guns and a cannon-ball contest and a slip-n-slide. It was eight-year-old heaven. Some close family friends bought me my first diving tank (hot pink, of course) and my mom made a life-sized beach ball cake. It was amazing. For my twenty-first, we threw three separate parties (or at least it felt like it!). On the night of my birthday my best friends threw me a surprise picnic at Cascades Park, in Tallahassee, Florida. It was straight from Pinterest. They even blindfolded me on the drive over (now that wasn’t especially enjoyable, but the selfie we took was worth the confusion.). I had never experienced so many people wanting to truly celebrate me and show their love for me. I’m so grateful for them.  
  8. What is the last life-changing book you read? Ah, life-changing? For an avid reader like me, it’s hard to pin down the last life-changing book I read. Some novels that have stuck around my subconscious lately are Daisy Jones and the Six (Taylor Jenkins Reid), People We Meet on Vacation (Emily Henry), Circe (Madeline Miller), Normal People (Sally Rooney), Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng), and Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens). But if I had to choose one, I would say The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green has refreshed my outlook on life. Green writes several essays – or reviews – on humanity. He starts with random, pointless facts that will rattle in my brain forever and turns them into poetic and heartfelt lessons, all in a way only Green could manage. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who feels like the world has turned into a dark and ugly place, especially in the past two years. This book doesn’t change that, but it does make the good things shine a little brighter.

I understand that this “Introduction to Me” article might have been one of the most chaotic things you have ever read.  If you liked it despite the chaos, good. If you didn’t, even better. I think these little facts about people give a better look at the bigger picture of who they are, as if these seemingly meaningless questions are little pieces in the mosaic that is me.

And the best thing is this: if you ask me these same questions in a couple of months, in a year, in a decade, the answers will most likely change. People are constantly changing, constantly reacting to their lives, and constantly shaping themselves to match what they have learned. It’s beautiful. It’s multifaceted, it’s freeing, and it’s beautiful.

I’m writing this as a somewhat fresh twenty-one-year-old. I have more freckles this summer than I did the last. I have read more books and spent more hours scrolling on Tik-Tok. I’ve lost friends in the past year but I have also gained some of the highest caliber. I have sipped the most delicious coffee and seen the most beautiful rainbows. I’ve laughed more than I ever have, and I have cried more, too.

I feel more myself today than I ever have.

And I hope that when I revisit this article, I can say the same.

I can’t wait to share my adventures, both big and small, with you all. Thank you for taking a chance on Adventures With Em. Let’s go see more of the world, together!