I planned my vacation to look like my favorite Hallmark movies
For Kate Black, her dream vacation isn’t lounging on a tropical beach or exploring a chic European capital. It’s more like … a Hallmark holiday movie.
“I’m obsessed with Hallmark everything,” said the New Brunswick, NJ-based 30-year-old, who spoke to The Post wearing a Hallmark Christmas sweater. “I always joke with my husband — but he knows I’m serious — about taking Hallmark-style getaways.”
Fans of the cable channel’s simple, heartwarming stories are seeking out the kind of quaint locales that might serve as the setting for a Christmas movie. For a growing number of devotees, it’s not enough to watch characters enjoy snuggly sleigh rides and shop at old-fashioned holiday markets, both of which are fixtures of Hallmark’s endless supply of Yuletide-themed programming. Instead, they want to experience the over-the-top seasonal splendor for themselves.
Black said that this time of year, she watches about three Hallmark movies a week, and often lets the channel buzz in the background. But last winter, she told her husband, Ben, that she was ready to take her relationship with the brand one step further.
They settled on a trip to Boothbay, Maine, for its resemblance to places she’d seen in Hallmark movies. When she scrolled through pictures of the cute, coastal town, she knew: “I was like, ‘Wow, this is like my dream Hallmark vacation.’” With its botanical garden and seasonal “North Pole Express” train ride, it didn’t disappoint. Nor did a side trip to nearby Freeport: “They had live reindeer!” Black said of the winter wonderland.
Olivia Castle’s favorite movies include Hallmark’s “Christmas Town” and “Christmas Cookies,” both of which always get her into the holiday spirit. “Sometimes they can be a little cheesy, but I think that’s what gives them their charm,” said the 26-year-old, who is based in Albany.
Most Hallmark movies are filmed in snowy Canada, and that’s what drew Castle to Quebec City last winter. There, she and boyfriend Willber hit the German Christmas markets, a Nordic spa, and went on the famous toboggan sleigh that overlooks the historic hotel Château Frontenac and the St. Lawrence river. “It was so romantic,” said Castle. “While we were walking through Old Quebec it started snowing, exactly like something in a Hallmark movie.”
For Joan Cummings, last year’s Hallmark-inspired vacation to Salzburg, Austria, fulfilled a lifelong fantasy for her: The 36-year-old and her husband took an unforgettable village sleigh ride, complete with horses wearing bells on their harnesses that “jingled the entire way,” said the Minneapolis native, who works in marketing.
The best part? “The driver who picked us up for our sleigh ride was named Leopold, which is the name of the prince in the Hallmark movie ‘A Royal Christmas,’” said Cummings.
But for one fan, a brief trip wasn’t going to be enough to fulfill her desire for quaint surroundings.
Four years ago, Leah Spellman picked up and moved from Florida to Alexandria, Va. “I chose to live there because of that Hallmark-like feel,” Spellman said.
She’s charmed by the city’s King Street and its sweet traditions, including the Scottish Christmas Walk parade, where Santa plays the bagpipes. “Small-town parades and events are a signature of Hallmark movies,” said Spellman.
Beyond just the settings and set pieces, Hallmark’s heroines have also inspired her.
Spellman — who worked for Alexandria’s tourism board before relocating again this June, to Columbus, Ohio, for a university job — said she loves the idea of the big-city career gal who trades it all in for a simpler life, and saw plenty of that in her former town. “So many of the independent boutiques are owned by women, many who left successful careers to pursue their passion.”