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5 Small Towns That Feel Like You're in "The Notebook"

Visiting these destinations is like stepping into the tear-jerking Nicholas Sparks romance classic.

It's not a stretch to say that The Notebook became an instant classic when it was released in theaters 20 years ago. The tearjerker adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel captivated audiences, thanks in no small part to performances by then-rising stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as fated lovers Noah and Allie. But for as memorable as the story may be, the beautiful filming locations used for the film—which is set in 1940s North Carolina—undoubtedly boosted the on-screen romance. Fortunately, there are plenty of places those looking to live some of the movie's magic can visit where it will seem like they've stepped into the story. Read on for the small towns that will make you feel like you're in The Notebook.

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Montpelier, Vermont

The skyline of Montpelier, Vermont

Vermont is a state filled with plenty of natural beauty and rustic charm, making it an ideal setting for a romantic getaway. And if you're specifically looking for a place with some of the historic charm seen in The Notebook, Montpelier might be the perfect destination for you.

"While it's a state capital, it is the smallest one in the country and has a quiet, small-town feel," says Becca Siegel of Half Half Travel.

She adds that one major draw is that the downtown consists of several streets that are walkable in about 35 minutes, where you'll find gift boutiques, restaurants, historic buildings—and, of course, the state of Vermont's Capitol Building.

"While other state capital cities feel bustling and maybe overwhelming, Montpelier feels like a cozy little place with a slow pace of life and friendly people throughout," Siegel says.

New Bern, North Carolina

New Bern, North Carolina from above

Longtime fans of The Notebook likely know that Charleston, South Carolina, was used for most of the movie's outdoor scenes. However, Sparks actually set the story in New Bern, North Carolina, making it a bucket list destination for anyone looking to literally step into the romance, says Bethany McCarter, travel writer and founder of The Travel Fam.

"Nestled along the picturesque shores of the Neuse River, New Bern exudes the quintessential charm found in everyone's favorite romantic novel adaptation," she tells Best Life. "Stroll down the tree-lined streets, where historic architecture whispers tales of bygone eras. And as the sun sets, the waters beckon, mirroring the romance of Noah and Allie's boat rides."

Visitors can also explore Tryon Palace, the former home of the state's British governors and colonial administrative headquarters dating back to the 18th century.

"In New Bern, every cobblestone pathway and sun-kissed riverbank echoes the tender romance as Nicholas Sparks originally imagined it," McCarter says.

RELATED: The 6 Cutest Small Towns on the East Coast.

Frenchtown, New Jersey

The main street of Frenchtown, New Jersey

If you're based in the Northeast, Siegel says you can still find a bit of the historic charm without traveling too far.

"Quite a ways from the crowds of New York City and on the other side of New Jersey is Frenchtown, a Delaware River settlement that has turned into a dot on the map for visitors to the Delaware Water Gap region," she tells Best Life.

According to Siegel, walking around Frenchtown is like stepping back in time, with a main street that's full of historic buildings, boutique shops, and cozy restaurants. But there's also a unique way for visitors to get into the area's nature.

"When you're done exploring the town, go tubing in the Delaware [River]!" she suggests. "This is an activity I've done in the summer with friends, and it's kind of like a real-life lazy river experience."

Jekyll Island, Georgia

Fishing Pier from Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia.

In addition to historic towns, the ocean also factors into the aesthetic of the movie's setting. This makes one particular coastal destination a good fit for anyone looking to relax while they experience their own version of The Notebook's most memorable scenes.

"Jekyll Island, Georgia, is the perfect romantic haven for couples who want to recreate the quintessential southern charm of The Notebook," says McCarter. "The historic Jekyll Island Club Resort is the epitome of Southern opulence. And Driftwood Beach, hailed as the most romantic beach in the South, is perfect for recreating Allie and Noah's ocean date."

She says that adventurous couples can also rent bikes and explore the island's winding pathways and hidden nooks.

"Altogether, Jekyll Island's blend of historic grandeur, natural beauty, and quiet leisure will magically transport you and your partner to the romantically timeless setting of the movie," McCarter adds.

RELATED: The 12 Most Romantic Cities in the U.S. You Should Visit With Your Partner.

Shipshewana, Indiana

shipshewana indiana auction
Landon Troyer / Shutterstock

One of the essential elements that makes The Notebook such a memorable film is that its setting feels almost as intimate as the love story between Noah and Allie. And according to Pam Howard of Our Adventure Is Everywhere, one bustling small town in Indiana can help bring that to life.

"If you like a dose of delicious food, unique attractions, and a slower pace of life, then Shipshewana should be on your bucket list," says Howard. "With one of the largest Amish populations in the country, Shipshewana and its surrounding county are full of beautifully crafted goods and unbelievable home-style cooking."

Visitors can shop downtown Shipshewana, indulge in homemade fudge or pretzels, and even catch a live show at one of the town's two theaters. And perhaps most importantly, accommodations will likely help enhance the experience even more.

"You won't find chain hotels here, but you will find several lovely inns with roaring fireplaces in the winter and plenty of wholesome outdoor activities in the summer," she says. "It makes for a friendly, relaxing weekend getaway where you'll come away with a true appreciation for Midwest hospitality."

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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