A Very Real Tour of the Fictional Town in ‘Rutherford Falls’
If you didn't have an affinity for small towns before, the past year has probably made you a fan, whether you packed up and moved to one or spent weekends escaping big-city quarantine for the joy of being surrounded by precious few other people. Small towns are loaded with charm, populated by interesting characters, and sport a kind of authenticity you just can't find in bigger places — which makes them great settings for TV shows.
Such is the case with new Peacock original comedy series Rutherford Falls (all episodes streaming April 22), which centers on the titular small town located in a nondescript part of the Northeast. The sitcom from creator Michael Schur (Parks & Recreation, The Good Place) follows two lifelong best friends, Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms), whose ancestor founded the town 400 years ago, and Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding), a member of the local Minishonka tribe, whose friendship reaches a crossroads over a town dispute.
Because we at Thrillist are all about celebrating unique local experiences, we thought we’d take you on a tour of this next great American small town. Read on for our highlights of every stop that should be on your “visit” to Rutherford Falls.
Adjacent to the Big Larry statue lies the charming, tree-lined town square, site of Rutherford Falls’ annual Founder’s Day celebration (ask the locals about Nathan’s recent speech there that tipped off a viral controversy). Grab a flavored latte from the friendly coffee cart at the base of the steps to City Hall, then find a bench to sit down and people watch.
Big Larry statue
Perhaps the first stop on your Rutherford Falls tour should be the Big Larry statue, so named for depicting town founder Lawrence Rutherford. Erected in 1638, the statue stands in the exact spot where he signed the deal with the native Minishonka tribe to incorporate Rutherford Falls. Centuries later, that spot also happens to be smack dab in the middle of a traffic intersection, so visit soon — the number of car accidents the bronze statue has caused has prompted the town mayor to call for it to be moved.
Rutherford Falls Heritage Museum
For more on the backstory of Big Larry, head to the town’s heritage museum, where you’ll most likely be given a tour by Nathan himself, who’s not only the last of the Rutherfords to live in town, but the proprietor of the museum. Peep the chair where a would-be U.S. president ate a slice of rhubarb pie when passing through town in the 1930s, enjoy a scintillating reenactment of the 1747 possum infestation, and check out the historical town charter on display next to a scale replica of Rutherford Falls. Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop before you leave to pick up a couple of “Honk if You Love Big Larry” bumper stickers as a souvenir.
Running Thunder Casino
If you feel like testing your luck while in town, Running Thunder is the place to go. The casino is owned by the local Minishonka tribe and run by Terry Tarbell (Michael Greyeyes), who has big plans for its future via his secretive "Running Lightning" initiative. Patrons can try their hand at a floor full of slot machines or saunter up to one of the table games. Even if you lose, you can feel good about the fact that the casino donates a portion of its profits back to the tribe to support language preservation, early childhood education, and the women's shelter.
Minishonka Cultural Center
The real jewel of Running Thunder Casino, though, is the Minishonka Cultural Center, tucked away steps from the cashier. The quaint gallery displays artifacts symbolic to the Minishonka, like a traditional wedding basket (when a couple gets married, each family fills it up with gifts to exchange with the other) and a hammered pot “on loan” from a private collection. Its proximity right off the casino floor means you may (literally) bump into a tipsy gambler looking for the gift shop or a place to charge their phone, but be sure to chat up Reagan, the center’s director, who will be more than happy to tell you about her goals for its expansion.
Cathy’s Fry Bread Truck
No trip is complete without tasting the local food specialities, and here that means fry bread, a classic Native American recipe in which dough is deep fried and covered with savory or sweet toppings. Cathy’s truck offers it sprinkled with powdered sugar; as the base for tacos topped with beans, ground beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and sour cream (there’s also a no-meat version); or fry bread burgers with a half-pound patty. Wash it down with a cup of their lemonade or strawberry juice.
On your way out of town, stop by Buckheart Lodge, a lakeside cabin where the town’s (male) ancestors used to drink and hash out problems (there are even paintings on the walls depicting their brawls). Take out one of the rowboats docked nearby, or peruse the lodge’s gift shop where you can pick out a customized T-shirt, hat, or coffee mug to take home to remember your visit.