Northern Exposure movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was Northern Exposure filmed?

About Northern Exposure

Northern Exposure casts a light on the residents of a small fictional Alaskan town. The comedy-drama aired on CBS from 1990 to 1995 and the show received 57 award nominations. John Falsey and Joshua Brand, also known for working on St. Elsewhere, created the ‘90s series.

A spoiler alert most likely isn’t required, but in case you are new to the series, we’ll throw one in. Rob Morrow stars in the series as Joel Fleischman, a freshly graduated New York City transplant who is sent to practice medicine in Anchorage. The move is out of an obligation to pay back the Alaskan city for underwriting the tab on his medical education.

Somewhere along the way, he is assigned to work in Cicely instead, which is a remote town with a population of 215 and in dire need of a physician. At the start of the series, the show focuses on Fleischman’s square-peg-in-a-round-hole experiences. Later, it became an ensemble show with the eccentric residents of Cicely getting a spotlight.

As for casting? The show’s colorful residents include Maggie O’Connell, personified by Janine Turner, a bush pilot who is Fleishman’s love interest and has a hilariously sad dating history. Her past suitors breathed their last in peculiar circumstances; from death by potato salads to freezing on glaciers.

Barry Corbin embodies Maurice Minnifield, a former astronaut and fighter pilot turned multi-millionaire businessman. He settled in Cicely in the ‘70s after concluding his military service, and he owns the town’s local radio station and newspaper. Ed Chigliak, played by Darren E. Burrows, is a half-native Alaskan who does odd jobs for Maurice.

John Cullum plays the part of Holling Vincoeur, a local bar and restaurant owner who also served as the town’s mayor at the beginning of the series. Shelly Tambo, personified by Cynthia Geary works at Vancouver's watering hole as a waitress, and the two are married.

City Locations

Rosyln, Seattle

Location Types

Buildings/Offices, Hotels/Motels, Studios, Restaurant, Retail

Location Styles

Americana/Anywhere America, Cabin, Dated/50's-60's-70's Building, Dilapidated/Neglected

Northern Exposure Locations

Set in the fictional backwoods of Cicely, the town borrows its name from one-half of the founding lesbian couple. The Alaskan town of Talkeetna, which is located about 80 miles north of Anchorage, is believed to have inspired the on-screen location.

In real life, the town of Roslyn stood in for Cicely because of its uncanny resemblance to an Alaskan locale. According to the producers, it’s the combination of geography, historical relevance, and climate that made the Washington State-based town the perfect setting for the series.

Roslyn also experiences heavy snowfalls and its weather-worn architecture mirrors what you would expect to find in a remote Alaskan village. The accessibility to the Seattle metro area, where they filmed interior scenes at sound stages, also made the town the ideal filming location for “Northern Exposure.”

Since the series premiered, Roslyn has hosted an annual Northern Exposure Festival. The movie is credited for boosting the town’s economy, given that 11 new businesses started operations once the series started filming.

In turn, the businesses created 100 new jobs and tourism also became one of the town’s sources of economy. Tourism dipped once the show concluded its run but Roslyn is still a pop culture sensation thanks to the annual Moosefest which takes place in July. With that said, here is a recap of some of the best scenes in Northern Exposure and details about where they were filmed.

Fun facts:

Adam Arkin personified a mysterious chef named Adam, and the character was modeled after his real-life persona. Embodying the recluse chef earned him a Guest Actor Emmy, and he told the Orlando Sentinel that the character’s hostility was all him. The Chicago Hope star added that he loved the guy he played because of his wealth of knowledge on just about everything. Arkin also directed an episode of the show titled Family Feud.

Series intro scene in Northern Exposure

Rosslyn Café, 201 West Pennsylvania Ave

The opening credits feature a montage showing several familiar locations around Roslyn. That includes the Village Pizza but the highlight is undoubtedly the moose passing walking around town.

The animal eventually passes by a wall bearing a vast mural of the Rosslyn Café. Somehow it brings to mind Shelly’s Tambo’s question, “We’re going to have this transitory cow fling thing right here in Cicely?”

The Washington State University provided Morty, the moose, for the show’s opening credits. Morty earned a reported $5,000 for the appearance, and the producers used bananas to lure the moose around town while filming the scene.

The learning institution housed the moose for a nutrition and behavior study, up until he passed away at the age of five in 1994. As for the Rosslyn Café mural, it’s still plastered on the wall of the building found at 201 West Pennsylvania Avenue.

Stop by the Northern Exposure location for their delectable burgers, delicious pulled pork sliders, and local beer. The restaurant also offers takeout services, and they serve breakfast all day.

Village Pizza is also worth a visit for the overall experience. Bottles of honey adorn the table alongside games like Trivial Pursuit.

Maurice storms the studio scene in Northern Exposure

Northwestern Improvement Company Store

Amongst his multiple ventures, Maurice runs KBHR 570 AM. Chris Stevens (John Corbett) works at the radio station as a disc jockey. He is a free spirit with plenty of philosophical wisdom, perhaps pondered during his stint behind bars.

Chris’s radio segments provide comments about the happenings around Cicely, and he never shies away from tackling controversial subjects. It’s the reason why Maurice fires him several times, only to rehire him again.

One of their biggest tiffs happened in the second episode of season 1 when Chris read “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman on air. Maurice storms the studio and fires Chris for suggesting that the great poet/essayist was gay.

The Northwestern Improvement Company Store (NWI) building provided the setting for the KBHR AM radio station. A peek through the glass window gives you a glance at the Northern Exposure film set.

Since then, the building housed a furniture store and various other businesses. In 2017, the Heritage Distilling Company set up a tasting room in the building.

Dr. Fleischman treats a man shot and stabbed by his wife scene in Northern Exposure

Cicely’s Gift Shop

The series finale introduces us to Dr. Fleischman as he settles into his new normal in Cicely. Marilyn Whirlwind (Elaine Miles), who is a woman of few words and Fleischman's polar opposite, is his receptionist. In one instance, he captures their differences in a single sentence saying, “I have an assistant here who thinks it's unnecessary to take names. She’d rather run my office like a delicatessen.”

We are also introduced to the town’s residents as they stream into his practice for treatment. One of the stand-out cases is when Fleischman treats a husband (Art Lafleur) whose wife stabbed and shot him.

Cicely’s Gift Shop stood in for Dr. Fleischman’s office. Formerly known as the Northwest Mining Company, the Gift Shop stocks Northern Exposure souvenirs. The interior is also decked out with portraits of the actors and photos of the Northern Exposure film set.

The original desk seen in the series, where Joel’s assistant Marilyn sat, is still found on the premises. Steve, the store manager, is equipped with a wealth of knowledge about the show which he’s happy to share.

Birthday party scene in Northern Exposure

The Brick Saloon, Roslyn, WA

In the Season 3 episode titled “A-Hunting We Will Go,” Ed hosts a belated surprise birthday party for Ruth-Anne Miller (Peg Phillips) at The Brick. It’s after she got injured and turned 75. Vincoeur, who is originally from Canada, runs the local bar/restaurant.

Vincoeur’s sentiments sum up the occasion, “What a time we had; splashed through bogs, ate like hogs, slept like logs.” He later goes into partnership with Stevens who initiates changes that drum up profits but he ends up irritating Vincouer while at it.

At 100 W Pennsylvania Avenue, you’ll find The Brick which provided the setting for the on-screen watering hole. It’s distinguishable by the neon sign at the front, and the establishment operates as a bar/restaurant.

With roots in 1889, The Brick Saloon is the oldest continuously-running bar found in Washington. The local watering hole is also a popular spot to enjoy some great local beer and delicious burgers. The Brick also regularly hosts live music events throughout the year.

Ruth-Anne pays off the debt on her store scene in Northern Exposure

Central Sundries, Roslyn

Ruth-Anne owns a local general store which is the town’s go-to shop for supplies. A resident of Cicely for three decades, she set up the business after moving to the town from Portland, Oregon.

Ed works at the store on a part-time basis, and the two share an interest in films. She is also good friends with Minnifield and they share a passion for birding. Her witty exchanges with Dr. Fleischman are equally memorable, like when she tells him, “Here’s your lingerie magazine. I was just leafing through it.”

In the fourth season titled “Revelations,” she pays off the loan on her store and Minnifield isn’t too happy about it. Ed finds himself in the middle of their fallout after Ruth-Anne starts making changes at the store.

The Central Sundries, at 101 West Pennsylvania Avenue, stood in for Ruth-Anne’s Cicely shop. It’s a convenience and liquor store located near the Village Pizza and Coal Miners’ Memorial. The Central Sundries also stocks Northern Exposure souvenirs.

Dr. Fleischman switches places with his twin brother scene in Northern Exposure

Redmond, WA

The Season 3 episode titled “Jules et Joel” is amongst the best Northern Exposure scenes. It kicks off on Halloween when Joel knocks himself unconscious while chasing down an over-age trick-or-treater.

The following day, his twin brother Jules shows up and convinces Dr. Fleischman to swap identities as they did as kids. Before agreeing to it, Fleischman tells Jules, “I’m happy with myself. I have no need to go slumming in your persona.”

While usurping the doctor, Jules pursues Maggie while Fleischman ends up behind bars. In the end, it’s revealed that the sequence of events was all a dream and Joel doesn’t even have a twin brother.

Dr. Fleischman’s house scenes, and other interior shots, were filmed at a soundstage located in Redmond, WA. Found 90 miles east of Roslyn, the location functioned as the headquarters of the Terex company known as Genie Industries before permanently closing operations.

Conclusion

If you are about to embark on a Northern Exposure filming location tour, you’ll have several pitstops to make around Roslyn and Seattle.

The Roslyn Museum recounts great tales capturing the town’s historical significance from its roots in 1886 as a coal mining locale. Occupying one square mile, acres of forest surround the town. A walk around town is highly recommended to spot other sites seen in the series.

Rooted in the 1890s, the Roslyn Theatre is another gem worth visiting. The Roslyn Theatre is housed within the Clapboard building which once functioned as the town’s mortuary. In the ‘70s, the building started operating as a movie theater and still shows films to date.

Northwest of Roslyn, Lake Elum is also featured in the series as well as Easton airport which is located 20 miles to the west of I-90. Also worth checking out is the Basecamp Books and Bites establishment. Situated next to the Roslyn Yard, it’s a part coffee shop and bookstore.