Alexandria. Oceanside. The Sanctuary. Hilltop. These are all iconic settings from a show that has firmly etched itself in television history: The Walking Dead (TWD). And now I can say I have been, in person, to all of these places. And I highly recommend the experience.
Spoiler Alert! Due to one of the locations I mention visiting, there is a major spoiler from season 7 in this article.
How I Found Out About the Tour
While Facebook does have many, many pitfalls, it does come in handy when the algorithm actually shows me something useful.
There before my eyes on my FB was an announcement from TWD show’s official page: studio tours starting soon in Senoia, Georgia. Senoia is a small town south of Atlanta where they film The Walking Dead, and I am about 90 miles away from there.
Immediately, I texted the biggest fan I know – my dad. His lifelong goal has been to attend the Zombie School, and when he had emergency open-heart surgery a few years ago, I feel like his anticipation for the mid-season premiere is what motivated him to keep on keeping on.
Me: Did you know about this?
Me: Should we go?
Dad (after five minutes): I just booked the tickets!
Details About the Tour
Now, there are other tours out there that claim to be The Walking Dead tours. I have not been on them, and I am sure you can have a good time, but this tour is the officially sanctioned TWD tour, and you get to go to the film studio and be on the actual sets.
Official website: The Walking Dead Studio Tour
Ticket Cost: Adults – $65, Children – $45
Arriving at the Studio
After driving from north Georgia through Atlanta in the rain, a small yard sign guided us to take our turn towards the studio. Did we miss the entrance the first time? Yes, of course.
Going into this tour, I didn’t have any expectations. I have followed the show over many years and am a true fan, though not as hardcore as my dad. A few years ago, we even attended Walker Stalker Con together. I hoped that this tour would be fun for us as fans, but even if it wasn’t, at least we were having quality father/daughter time.
So we drove down this ordinary two-lane road, past ordinary neighborhoods. The GPS counted us down, your destination is in 500 feet, your destination is in 250 feet, you have arrived.
At the dead end of the road was the studio, with a small security booth gatekeeping all who came and all who went, the perimeter surrounded by thick forest. At this moment, it sunk in that this is the same booth the actors go through every day on their way to work! Andrew Lincoln! Norman Reedus! Danai Gurira! I got goosebumps.
We were ushered to the right of the booth, definitely not important enough to go through the booth, and parked in a gravel parking lot. There was one traditional porta potty, and then one of those nice air conditioned trailers with multiple potties and running water available for the tour goers.
Starting the Tour
We went over to check-in, and received our tour badges, which made me feel like I had a backstage pass, which essentially we did. With badge in hand, and the huge studio building only a few hundred yards away, I knew that this was no gimmick. This tour was going to be the real deal.
We boarded our tour bus. It was a small, air-conditioned bus, and I would say there was about 12-14 people on the bus. It was comfortable and not cramped.
Mike was our tour guide, and he was awesome! He had so much charisma, and he actually works on TWD as an extra, so he was able to provide us with interesting behind-the-scenes anecdotes about certain scenes and actors.
He informed us that we would be allowed to take pictures at some locations, but not all. The reason for this is since the show is still in production, they didn’t want any accidental spoilers to get out. Everyone was very respectful of this throughout the tour.
One of the best things about Mike was that he did not rush us at all through any of the sets. Even though there was a tour bus in front of us, and a tour bus behind us, he provided us with ample time to fully soak in what we we were seeing.
Right on schedule, Mike closed the door to the bus, and we were off on our two-hour immersive experience.
Seeing The Walking Dead Sets
Throughout the whole tour, there are artifacts from the show lying around the studio lot, such as cars used in famous scenes, or a stack of incinerated motorcycles. You never know what you’ll see next.
This first stop set the tone for how immersive this tour was going to be. We walked through the container and to the edge of the center of the Heaps. While they are large in real life, the coolest part of this set was seeing all of the real objects that they used to create the effect of the trash heaps.
In order to achieve the effect of trash heaps, they made hills with Georgia red clay, and then started piling the trash on. It created an astounding effect in real life, and an even more amazing effect on camera.
I could see how you could easily get lost in this world as an actor.
The Walker-Infested Pond
The Glenn and Abraham Memorial Site
I think at this stop, we all got a little misty-eyed. This is probably one of the most iconic moments of the whole series, and it devastated fans even though most of us knew it was coming.
I am not going to go into details of the scene, but I remember the first time I watched it, with my hands over my face, peeking through my fingers. My heart raced, and I was on a brink of a panic attack.
This location is literally in the middle of the woods. There is no car noise, there really are animals out there. On the night they filmed this, the actors and crew must have fully felt the power and tragedy of this scene.
We weren’t able to get out at this stop, but we were able to pause for a moment and pay homage to Glenn and Abraham. RIP.
No Pictures, Just Memories
Oceanside, Hilltop, and the Sanctuary were all stops we were not allowed to take pictures at.
All three of these locations were a true testament to the skills and vision of set designers and builders.
The attention to detail in the shanties of Oceanside is mind-boggling. Even though I knew we were in the middle of Georgia, these looked as if they had spent years battered by sea air on some forgotten coast.
The Sanctuary compound was also incredible. Mike would point out pipes and rust, and then tell us to take a closer look. Things that looked like metal, brick, and cement, were all mostly plywood or plastic.
Seeing the level of artistry meticulously put into every detail of these massive sets made me see this show in a new light. It’s not just the writers or the actors that helped to create this show and make it feel real and authentic, but the talents of the whole crew. I found it so inspiring.
I think my favorite moment of the whole tour was the first time I saw Hilltop. We drove through the forest until a clearing revealed the gigantic Hilltop house. It is hard to describe the sheer magnitude of this set, but there are really crop fields surrounding the wall, the wall really looks impenetrable, though we went behind it on the tour.
I am intentionally not going into too much detail because I don’t want to give away too much and spoil surprises for people who might have the opportunity to attend in real life.
Last Stop: Alexandria
To get to Alexandria, we had to leave the studio lot and drive a few miles towards downtown Senoia. It is crazy to me that the walls of Alexandria are visible from the main drag of the town, which was also used during filming.
What’s even crazier, is that people, regular people, actually live in Alexandria! Right next to the Grimes’ house! When we went behind the steel walls of Alexandria, we couldn’t take pictures in certain directions as not to violate the privacy of the residents.
We asked Mike about some of the logistics of people living there, and he said they have certain times when they can’t turn their lights on, and they aren’t supposed to mow their lawns. He did insinuate that they do have some sort of sweet deal for these “inconveniences.” I am sure there are plenty of people who would pay good money to get to live in a fictitious but real neighborhood!
I wouldn’t call this simply a studio tour. I would call this a true fan experience. Even if you are casually interested in this show, you would have a good time.
I would rate this five Lucille bats (which is excellent in this context), and I recommend anyone who has ever enjoyed this show to visit Senoia, Georgia and experience this tour.
I have no doubt that you will gain an appreciation not just for this show, but for filmmaking in general. I do not think there are many opportunities to tour a live set, especially in this region of the country.
I can also verify that this tour is die-hard-fan endorsed (by my dad.) We were so thankful for this opportunity, and love that TWD allowed fans to have this experience.
Are you a TWD fan? Have you been on an awesome studio tour? Tell me about your experience in the comments.
Editorial Note: Edited 4/29/19 to remove that the tours will go on hiatus in March. TWD Tour is continuing tours through the show’s production! Visit the TWD Studio Tour website to learn more and stay updated.