It started out as a crazy idea that I hatched at home in Virginia about four months ago; meet up for a trip to Senoia (pronounced Se-NOY by locals), Georgia with my friend Shelby, who lives about three hours south of there, in southern Georgia. She’s the one who got me to start watching The Walking Dead last year in the first place, and she’s one of the few people who I know in “real life” who understand my level of devotion to the show. Basically, I wanted to do all the touristy Walking Dead stuff we could find.
For me, the trip would mean an hour and a half flight into Atlanta followed by less than an hour drive. When I proposed the idea to Shelby, I was almost surprised when she agreed. It seemed too good to be true! At each step of the planning process, I expected something to go wrong. To my amazement, nothing did, and now that I’m already back from our five-day adventure, it almost doesn’t seem real… except that I have about 900 pictures to prove that it was! When it came to planning the trip, luckily for me one of my fellow Undead Walking writers, Tracey Phillipps, happened to post an article on this exact topic (click here to read it) just a month before my trip. Talk about perfect timing!
DAY 1: Those Who Arrive… Explore!
Shelby and I, along with our friend John, who binge watched TWD around the same time I did last fall, and who had driven up from Jacksonville to join us for the first few days of the trip, met at our hotel in the nearby town of Griffin. From what I’ve read, there are at least two Bed and Breakfasts in Senoia, but of course, they were pricier than the chain hotels that are found in nearby towns like Griffin and Peachtree City. While we would have loved to stay in Senoia itself, we decided that spending less on the hotel would leave us more money to spend on all things Walking Dead, and the twenty-minute drive was an acceptable compromise. As soon as we were all together, we headed for Senoia.
Shelby had been there a few times before, but John and I hadn’t. It was exciting just rounding the corner at the bottom of the hill where Broad Street becomes Main Street, which is the street that goes through the two block section of town that is instantly recognizable as Woodbury on the show. It was completely surreal, and I had trouble shaking the feeling that any minute The Governor would appear. Never mind that he was dead. Or, you know, a fictional character.
After parking at the bottom of the hill and snapping some pictures of the street and the sign that welcomed us to Senoia, we walked through a small grassy area and crossed the train tracks to Gin Road, where we were suddenly standing right in front of the Alexandria set. The burnt out watchtower is outside those metal walls that surround Alexandria, though it’s inside the area that is closed to tourists. Still, you can see it pretty well from the road, which is at a slightly higher elevation than the set, and if you have a decent zoom, you can get a pretty good picture of the tower and the truck that was sitting in front of it.
They have security sitting at the driveway along with the same signs that are posted at intervals all along Gin Road. Over the course of our stay, we walked along that road many times to look at as much of Alexandria as is visible, which is mainly the tops of the backs of some of the townhouses as well as a few large detached houses inside the walls, and the side of a small church outside the walls (no, it wasn’t Gabriel’s church, we were later told).
At the end of that block of Gin Road, at the corner of the set, there’s another gate in the metal wall, this one slightly closer to the road. There was almost always a security guard sitting at the driveway when the gate was open, but even when there wasn’t, the one at the far end didn’t hesitate to make their way down there if someone was doing something they shouldn’t. It was hard to see much inside Alexandria from that end except the street itself, because the houses were set back enough that you wouldn’t have seen them unless you’d been able to get right up to the open gate, which we could not.
Interestingly, how close you could get or how long you could stop seemed to depend on which security guard was working at the time. One told us we couldn’t stop at all along the road but didn’t seem to care where we took pictures from as long as we stayed on the road and kept walking, one told us we could only take pictures from the far side of the road but didn’t care whether we stopped or not, and so on. Whatever rules we were given, that’s what we did.
The one thing that the security guards agreed on was that everyone had to stay on the road, and off of the grass on either side, which had more than a few No Trespassing signs posted. On the side of the road closer to the set, the reason for this was obvious. Our guess about why they were posted on the other side of the road, only separated from Main Street by a small patch of grass cut in half by train tracks that are no longer in use, was that Norfolk Southern didn’t want to be responsible for people getting hurt as they crossed the railroad tracks.
After walking by numerous times myself, and watching the parade of others doing the same, I can only imagine that it must be really strange, and at times inconvenient, for the people who live inside the walls of Alexandria. That’s right, people do live in some of those houses! Imagine living in a development where not only is there a steady stream of random people constantly walking by and trying to get a look into your house, but you also have to use a particular entrance and exit from the development, depending on what’s going on, including the Walking Dead filming schedules. For example, we heard a rumor that they were going to be filming on the Alexandria set at 5:00 am on the last day we were in town (sadly, that was a little too early for us). While I’m sure there are other nuisances that come with living on a film set, I can’t help but wish I could buy one of those houses myself. Just imagine being able to say that you live on the set of The Walking Dead!
Besides “The Wall” that you see on the show, another wall had been partially constructed further out toward the road. Shelby said that it hadn’t been there when she had last been in Senoia earlier this year. We’re apparently going to be seeing a lot of the Alexandria set in season six, because according to the security guards and others tourists that we talked to during our stay, they’ve been filming quite a bit on the Alexandria set so far this season.
During our many passes down Gin Road, as well as from a nearby bench from which we could see the gate, over the course of our trip we saw various vehicles going in and out of the gate (which is not, we were told, the main gate where Rick and the others go in and out on the show), as well as things being worked on and adjusted on the Watchtower side of the wall. We didn’t see any of the cast coming or going from Alexandria, but I never did get tired of watching even the mundane looking activity down there. Like everything else in Senoia for me, just being there was exciting.
The Walking Dead Store
After seeing Alexandria, we walked up the hill and pretty much directly into The Walking Dead Store. I was already so excited by what little we had seen so far, I was pretty sure my head was going to explode. I tried to take in the whole store at once, pausing by a large cardboard cut-out of Daryl Dixon just long enough to take a picture with him.
After walking the store once, we headed down the stairs at the back to a small Walking Dead museum. The room was filled with props, memorabilia as well as spots on the walls that had been autographed by the cast, and small areas made to look like something out of the show (a jail cell, for example). It was hard to know where to look first. As I usually do, I took pictures of pretty much all of it.
Just beyond the doors of the museum is The Walking Dead Café. We peeked in quickly, but didn’t go all the way in just then. As much as I love coffee, I was too excited to stop for it, and my friends were ready to move on to see other things. We headed back through the store and outside. I hadn’t bought anything yet, but we were going to be there for four more days and I knew we’d be back.
It was closer to dinner time than lunch time when we finally realized that in our excitement, we hadn’t taken time to eat. Shelby had recommended the BBQ sandwich (more specifically, she said that after the last time she’d had it, she had dreamed about it) at KatieLou’s Café, so that’s where we went. I can attest to the fact that it was a very good sandwich, though I can’t say I dreamed about it afterwards. I was still in disbelief that we were really in Senoia at all!
Griffin (*possible season 6 spoilers!*)
After we took another lap (and more pictures) around Main Street in Senoia, our next stop of the day was downtown Griffin, which is about twenty minutes from Senoia. It was getting later in the afternoon, but we had heard that The Walking Dead had permits to shut down streets there for filming from 7:00 am that morning through 10:00 pm the following day. Knowing that there are plenty of night scenes on TWD, we figured that it was entirely possible that we might see something worth seeing.
Downtown Griffin is much bigger than downtown Senoia, but it’s still not what I’d call big. Our information said that the area around the Sixth Street Bridge was what was closed, and when we got there, that was confirmed by several things. We first saw signs for “Road Work,” except that once again, a security guard patrolled the blocked off area. We could see a few trucks on the bridge ahead of us past the barricade, and what looked like it could be a boom microphone, but nothing appeared to be happening.
We walked around the corner to see if there was a better view from a side street and found huge colored tipped cables, the kind you’d use to plug in your TV except much, much bigger, snaking along the sidewalk and around corner in the direction we were walking. Another side street leading towards the bridge was blocked off, so we kept walking past it. When we found the ends of the cables, they weren’t plugged into anything, so we guessed that everything was prepped for the next day.
What clinched it for us was, at the third blocked off street we came to, there was a sign in a roped off parking lot that said “Emergency No Parking: Film Production.” Even though they weren’t doing anything just then, it was exciting to know that we were definitely in the right place. From that street, we could see the bridge a few blocks away, with a pick up truck parked along the edge and what looked like some sort of metal contraption sticking up off of it. Clearly, they were ready for something. We agreed to come back the next day.
Before leaving the downtown area, we happened to stop at a liquor store that we’d found by chance using the GPS on my phone. As John went inside and Shelby and I sat in the car, we noticed that parked in the parking lot just beside the store were several trailers. We couldn’t help but wonder if we’d found “Base Camp” for the following day’s filming (we had), so I snapped a picture just in case, and we were on our way again.
Next: Day 2