One of the biggest hits on cable TV is The Walking Dead. This post-apocalyptic show debuted in 2010 and is based on a graphic novel series of the same name.
Filmed in and around the Atlanta area, the filming locations have become a big attraction to it’s legion of fans. People flock from around the world to see some of these locations, and hopefully even spot some of the stars.
The Walking Dead has been based at Riverwood Studios, just outside the town of Senoia, Georgia. This area is about an hour south of Atlanta. The studio features a number of soundstages and facilities. Plus due to it’s large amount of land, a lot of exterior sets have also been built on the studios property.
In 2018, for the first time ever, the studios were opened to the public for limited tours. The tours sold out quickly and have since been discontinued. I was able to do this tour in March, 2019. I had an awesome tour guide named Heather, who was a huge fan, so she really knew her stuff!
Photos were not allowed in most areas, but I will use some Google Maps photos to give an idea of the layout. Here you can see the whole property belonging to the studio. A number of large sets have been created. This allows the crew to film on a contained outdoor set without having to worry about closing public areas or dealing with outside interference.
The Soundstages and Prison
During the earlier seasons of The Walking Dead, the characters take refuge in an old prison. Instead of building a full prison set or filming on location, the production simply redressed the walls of their soundstages to look like prison walls, and then built a wall around them. Through various angles, they were able to make it look like a large prison.
The Sanctuary was also built around the soundstages of the studio. The exterior walls of the soundstages were dressed to look like old warehouses to fit the theme. The buildings around the Sanctuary appear much taller than the soundstages, as extra height was added in post-production.
In season 7, a new group of people were introduced who live in a garbage dump known as the Heaps. This area was built with using various trash piled into walls. There are shipping containers used for entrances to the area. Hidden areas in the back are open, allowing for groups of extras to enter a scene quickly.
Here is a video of Seth Gilliam giving a tour of the Heaps.
The Pond and Boathouse
Just outside the soundstages is a large pond. This was used to film two iconic 7th season episodes where Rick and Aaron find a houseboat. They venture onto the houseboat to look for supplies, but quickly find themselves surrounded by Walkers.
The boathouse is still located on the pond, with a number of Walkers floating around it. These Walkers are simply dressed mannequins who are floating on pool noodles. A pretty simple trick to create a very effective visual.
The area of Oceanside uses a number of cabins and trailers to create a camping community. A couple cabins have interiors built to use for filming, but most buildings are just bare on the inside. There is also a swimming pool in the community, which has been filled in and turned into a garden by the inhabitants.
One thing that you won’t find at Oceanside is the ocean. As the Riverwood Studios are located nowhere near the ocean, you will never see the cabins next to the ocean. Scenes featuring the beach and ocean are actually filmed at Jekyll Island, which is about a 4 hour drive from the studios.
A clearing area was used to film the dramatic scene in season 5 where Negan kills Glenn and Abraham with his baseball bat. The area was purposely not used again, until season 8. This is where Negan finds himself lost, with the realization that he is now all alone.
Throughout the series, this area was also used to film a number of other locations. Although removed now, it is where Father Gabriel’s church was located.
Perhaps the most impressive location at the studio is The Hilltop. It consists of a large mansion surrounded by a whole farming community. While it is a bit smaller in person than it appears on TV, the whole area is incredibly detailed. It would be easy to picture an entire community living and surviving here.
The Walking Dead Vehicles
Various vehicles used on The Walking Dead are stored on site, just outside the soundstages. These include a variety of cars, trucks, RVs, and police cars used throughout the series.
The town of Senoia is the closest town to the Riverwood Studios. It has become a hub for fans who wish to get close to the action. The small town look and feel of Senoia has made it a popular place for filming, and not just for The Walking Dead. Numerous other productions have used Senoia, including Fried Green Tomatoes, Footloose, Sweet Home Alabama, and Driving Miss Daisy. Senoia even has it’s own walk of fame, dedicated to the movies and shows filmed in town.
The downtown area of Senoia, along Main Street, was completely transformed into Woodbury for the The Walking Dead. Filming took place all over, and many scenes show the water tower in the background.
The corner of Main Street and Travis Street is where the entrance to Woodbury was set up. This barrier to keep Walkers out was made of metal fences and piles of tires. To minimize disruption to the town when filming was done, producers came up with a creative way to remove the barriers. They were built on the beds of tracker-trailers. This way they could just hook up the truck and pull the entire barrier away.
The Shelter House
A local house in Senoia was used for several episodes in season 4. This is where Rick and Carl take shelter from the Walkers. This house is a private residential home, so please be respectful of their home. You can find my suggested guidelines for visiting locations here.
The Pudding House
Just down the road from the Shelter House is the Pudding House. This is where they filmed the iconic scene where Carl sits on the rooftop eating a can of chocolate pudding, as Walkers try and get through the window to him.
The Train Tracks
A set of train tracks runs through Senoia, and a number of scenes have been filmed along here. The pedestrian bridge just to the east of Main Street, was used in the show as well.
The one area of Senoia that is perhaps most well known is also the area you are unable to visit. A neighbourhood in the town is the base for Alexandria, one of the main communities on the show. As Alexandria is surrounded by a large metal fence to keep Walkers out, the real life town is also surrounded by this fence. There is one road in and out, with security on guard 24/7. There are other roads but they are inaccessible due to the fence. Access is blocked to anyone but the residents, their guests, and cast and crew. It is considered one of the safest neighbourhoods in the world due to this.
Inside the walls, there are a number of free-standing houses, as well as a row of townhouses. There are also some structures built specifically for filming, including a church, a windmill, and some land for farming.
Fortunately, the Studio Tours that were offered for a brief period also included a visit to Alexandria. This was the first time fans of the show could go inside the walls and see the community. Out of respect for the residents, photography of the houses was not allowed.
If you are visiting Senoia, you can get a view of Alexandria over the fence. You can look down Main Street to get an overview. You can also walk along Gin Street, which is as close as you can get without trespassing. Due to the wall, you won’t see a lot of details. However you can get a good view of the windmill.
Non-Filming Spots to visit in Senoia
There are a few spots you will want to stop at when you visit. As tourism has increased over the years, a number of businesses now cater to TWD fans.
Nic & Norman’s
Nic & Norman’s is a restaurant, owned by the show’s star, Normal Reedus, and Special Effects master Greg Nicotero. They have a lot of delicious food and drinks, and some artwork displayed on the walls. The restaurant also hosts viewing parties when new episodes air. I highly recommend the deep fried mozzarella. It was delicious!
Senoia Coffee and Cafe
Senoia Coffee and Cafe has been featured in the show as the Woodbury Coffee Shop. It is apparently pretty common to see the shows stars here, grabbing a coffee on their way to the studio.
The Woodbury Shoppe
The Woodbury Shoppe is the official store for The Walking Dead. Here, fans will find all sorts of officially-licensed merchandise and souvenirs. This store is packed with anything you could want, from clothing to bobble heads, to replicas of Lucille. In the basement is a number of replica displays to take photos with.
In the basement is a shop belonging to Chris Twellman,, known as German Abraham. This man is a dead ringer for Michael Cudlitz, who played Abraham on the show. You can dress in costume and have your photo taken with him on a set. There is a charge for the photos, but I think his fees were quite reasonable. He also includes a digital copy.
Cutie Pies and Cakery
Cutie Pies and Cakery is located in the same building as the Woodbury Shoppe, but has it’s own entrance on Seavy Street. I was told this bakery is the exclusive baking caterer for the Riverwood Studios, and all baked foods you see on the show come from this shop. They are the ones who created Carol’s cookies, which you can buy in their shop, and they are delicious!
Georgia Tour Company
Georgia Tour Company offers walking tours of Senoia, focused on the Walking Dead locations. This unofficial tour uses guides who are fans of the show, and some have worked as extras. This excellent tour takes about 2 hours, and brings you to locations used to film various scenes around town. They carry a number of screenshots from the show to set the scene of the spots you visit.
Remember to make reservations, as these tours often fill up.
Right in the city of Atlanta, in a train yard, is the location where Terminus was filmed. This location was the setting for a number of pivotal scenes. If you are going to visit, I suggest going during the day and with a friend. The area appears abandoned, and not in the best neighbourhood.
The Jackson Street Bridge
One of the most famous locations in Atlanta is the Jackson Street Bridge. This is where the iconic photo was taken of Rick riding on horseback along an abandoned freeway towards the Atlanta skyline. You will likely find a number of fans and possibly some tour groups stopped at this location.
If you compare the view to the photo from the show, you’ll notice a number of discrepancies. The photo was digitally altered to add train tracks and more lanes.