Film and TV

Ten Hallmark Colorado Christmas Movies Not Filmed in Colorado

Lacey Chabert and Tyler Hynes in Winter in Vail, actually filmed in Vail.
Lacey Chabert and Tyler Hynes in Winter in Vail, actually filmed in Vail. YouTube
It’s beginning to look a lot like Canada...at least if you happen to be watching a Hallmark movie supposedly set in Colorado.

Granted, not all films can be like Hallmark’s 2020 Winter in Vail, which at least had the courtesy to shoot exterior scenes in the actual town of Vail, even if the crew made the rest of the movie on a soundstage in Alberta. Still, these movies with fictional Colorado settings just don't pull the geographic woolen hat over our eyes, even as they're watering from yet another heartwarming holiday story.

Here are ten seasonal Hallmark movies that are supposed to give you that cool Colorado color…without ever filming a frame in-state.
A Christmas Tree Grows in Colorado (2020)
This movie set in the fictional town of Brooklyn, Colorado, is an homage to/swiped from the classic novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. But why the Colorado setting, especially considering the very East Coast bells rung by the name Brooklyn? The story centers on Erin (Rochelle Aytes), who’s the director of community development for a quaint Colorado town far too small to support such a position, but heck, she’s in charge of municipal Christmas decorations, and she has her eye set on using the giant spruce tree currently rooted in the front yard of hunkalicious firefighter Kevin (Mark Taylor). Sparks fly, as you might imagine, although in British Columbia instead of anywhere in Colorado.
Switched for Christmas (2017)
Where, oh, where would the feel-good movie biz be without a wacky twins-trading-places story? Candace Cameron Bure, once of Full House fame and now better known for her ultra-conservative views on so-called “traditional marriage,” left Hallmark for the more conservative Great American Media, but not before starring in this production that wasn’t filmed in Colorado and wasn’t filmed in Canada, either. It was filmed in Utah, of all places, which makes it even more bizarre that the film wants to suggest that Littleton is a small town completely separate from metro Denver, and that it takes about an hour to get into the big city. Sounds like someone might need to do three seconds of Googling before they write a movie.
The Santa Stakeout (2021)
As long as we’re talking twins, we might as well talk about Tamera Mowry-Housely, who goes solo without her Sister, Sister twin Tia in this Denver-based Christmas crime mystery. Sort of. Yes, it’s Christmastime, but it’s not really Denver, and it’s not much of a mystery. It was filmed in Vancouver, and any details of the real Denver are completely missing. But you probably won't notice that if you're already going to accept the concept of Mowry-Housely being a veteran cop from Wisconsin who comes to the Mile High City only to be partnered with a young but grizzled detective who she must pretend to be married to for the sake of real police work. You know, like law enforcement does all the time, at least on Hallmark.
Christmas Tree Lane (2020)
There's a lot of demolishing being threatened in these movies, isn't there? Here's another movie filmed in Utah but supposedly set in Denver, on a street that's set for the wrecking ball in a way that would have the actual Mile High City up in political arms. It certainly wouldn't be left up to Meg, the nice lady who runs the music store (Alicia Witt) on said street — the titular Christmas Tree Lane, no less. Meg falls for a new love...who of course turns out to be working for the developers who want to tear all the nice things down. Perhaps more interesting than that oft-seen plotline is the fact that this movie was one of the first to go into production following the COVID shutdown, and invented many of the safety protocols still in use today.
Naughty & Nice (2014)
This flick sounds like a Cinemax After Dark thing, but nope. Instead, it features a cynical radio host from Los Angeles (Tilky Jones) who gets into some hot water and is "banished" to Idyllwild, Colorado, where he meets his new co-host, local "Love Doctor" Sandra Love (Haylie Duff). There's so much wrong with that sentence that we can't even. People don't get banished, not to Colorado or anywhere. There is no Idyllwild in Colorado, but there is in California, where this was actually filmed. And what does any of the above have to do with Christmas? Nothing, really. But at least Maureen McCormick (from The Brady Bunch) gets to do some delicious scene-chewing.
Welcome to Christmas (2018)
How much fake Colorado can you take? This movie will test your limits, from the fake town of Christmas, Colorado, to the fake ski resort known as "Mountain Park." The plot revolves around the choice between those two locales as the site for a new resort, and the decision to go with Mountain Park is all but made until developer Madison Lane (Jennifer Finnegan) is told to give the small town of Christmas a try. There she has an immediate fender bender and meet-cute with local sheriff Gage McBride (Eric Mabius), and they banter about site selection in Colorado while filming in Revelstoke, British Columbia.
Frozen in Love (2018)
It's an unwritten rule that women in Hallmark movies must have a super-adorable small business, unless their corporate-ness is part of the plotline. They usually have cupcake bakeries or pet shops or, as in the case of this movie, a struggling but beloved local bookstore. Rachael Leigh Cook is the bookstore owner tasked with helping better the public image of bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold hockey star Niall Matter. Also filmed in Revelstoke, BC, instead of the Denver portrayed in the film, which of course looks nothing like Denver.
Rocky Mountain Christmas (2017)
When Sarah (Lindy Booth) gets dumped by her tech-bro boyfriend, she returns to her family's ranch in Colorado...only to find that her uncle (Treat Williams) has lost the holiday spirit. But he's also allowed a famous movie star (Kristoffer Polaha) to visit the ranch to research a new acting role. What will happen? If you're guessing love and lots of Christmas decorations, you must have seen this movie before...which was filmed in Chilliwack, British Columbia.
Coyote Creek Christmas (2021)
Had enough of movies in which a quaint family business is threatened by a sinister buyer sometime around the holidays, and only the spirit of Christmas and newfound love can save the day? Too bad, because here's one more. This movie stars Janel Parrish and Ryan Paevey as the romantic leads doing their supposedly Colorado thing — but once again, this is all Canada. Go Broncos, eh?
The Christmas Contest (2021)
Our final not-Colorado Colorado movie brings back Candace Cameron Bure along with fellow Fuller House alumnus John Brotherton as arguing exes challenged to a televised match-up on Denver TV, even though live programming like this hasn't been a thing since the 1950s. But since that's the perfect era for the Hallmark brand of uncomplicated storytelling, fine. Winner gets fifty grand to give to the charity of their choice...but will the real prize be a renewed romance? Yes, of course. As sure as this was filmed in...you guessed it, Canada. Hey, Hallmark: We got a real Colorado Christmas for you right here. 
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen

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