Having aired for more than 20 seasons, the television show South Park has embedded itself in Colorado’s cultural history. Set in fictional South Park, Colorado, this television show was written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone – both former students of University of Colorado, Boulder. Given their Colorado background, it’s no surprise that their fictional television show often blurs the lines between made-up and real-world locations.
1. Casa Bonita
Casa Bonita is probably the most well-known real-world South Park location. It’s a family-style Mexican restaurant known for it’s sopapillas and cliff divers, both of which appear in South Park when the boys visit Casa Bonita during a birthday celebration. Casa Bonita embraces this inclusion in the television show, hiding tiny South Park characters around the premise for patrons to find. That’s no surprise – popular character Cartman loves this restaurant so much that he’s willing to convince his best friend that a world-ending apocalypse has occurred so that he can steal his spot on the party’s invite list.
Alright, this one isn’t official, but it’s important, so it’s stealing the second spot on the list. While there’s no official statement that says South Park is based on the town of Fairplay, Colorado, this is what most fans accept as truth. If you drive through Fairplay, it’s easy to see why. First, it’s located in South Park National Heritage Area, a large protected space that spans nearby plains and foothills in Park County. Fairplay also has rowed streets of multi-colored A-frame style buildings, as seen in the show. In addition to a similar style of building being present, there’s actually a “historic South Park” district that’s right in town. Plus, this tiny town is wrapped by mountains, very similar to what appears in the backdrop of South Park’s outdoor scenes.
So no, it’s not official, but Fairplay is generally considered to be the inspiration behind the town in the show. Fairplay plays it up, too, with cut-outs of characters hiding around town and a gift shop full of South Park merchandise.
3. Stark’s Pond
From time to time, the boys of South Park will often go to a place they refer to as “Stark’s Pond,” usually when they need to do something a bit nefarious. It makes multiple appearances in the show and is used for scenes where the characters simply need to escape the bustle of their small town. Believe it or not, this is a real pond found in Fairplay, Colorado – one of many reasons people assume that the show of South Park is directly based on Fairplay. It’s located a few blocks from downtown on Highway 285.
4. Cave of the Winds
Have you seen the episode featuring ManBearPig? The episode featuring Al Gore where Cartman eats a ton of fake gold while being trapped in a cave? That all goes down at Cave of the Winds, which is an outdoor recreation attraction in Colorado Springs. If you haven’t been there yet, you should check it out. There are cave tours, but there’s also a high-ropes course, a via ferrata, and a giant canyon swing, among other things.
5. Dillon Reservoir
This one isn’t officially mentioned, but if you’re familiar with the show and familiar with the Summit County area, you’ll notice that the similarities between what’s in the show and what you can visit are uncanny.
This one appears in an episode in which the boys accidentally wreck a boat, causing “the world’s largest beaver dam” to break on a reservoir resulting in the flooding of a nearby town, the fictional Beaverton. You’ll find a very, very similar set-up in Silverthorne, Colorado, with Dillon Reservoir nestled above the city. It’s roughly an hour from Fairplay, Colorado – the town most likely behind the inspiration for South Park.
6. Colfax Avenue
Referenced several times as a shady street in Denver, Colfax Avenue makes an appearance in several episodes including one where popular character Jimmy searches for love. Believe it or not, this road is a very real place, once referred to as “the longest, wickedest street in America” by Playboy Magazine. If you’re interested in reading more about it and its very interesting past, I wrote a piece for you about that and it can be found here.
7. Java Moose
Another South Park location that seems to simply go by a different name in the show, Fairplay’s Java Moose has an uncanny resemblance to Tweek’s Coffee. Next time you’re in town, stop by for a cup.
8. Cheyenne Mountain
A mountain that towers over Colorado Springs, most well-known for being home to NORAD, Cheyenne Mountain makes an appearance in an episode in which the area is being taken over by a Rosie O’Donnell/Trapper Keeper hybrid. Yep, you read that right.
9. Four Mile Historic Park
A pioneer museum that features more than 12 acres of educational features, Four Mile Historic Park unofficially makes an appearance in an episode where the boys go on a field trip to learn about Colorado’s past, only to have the educational park they’re at be taken over by criminals looking for the password to a high-tech safe. Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse when all of the adults on the premise refuse to break their pioneer-era characters, thus are unable to open the digital safe.
10. Cherry Creek, Colorado
There’s an episode where the boys manipulate wealthy kids in a scheme involving the tooth fairy. This goes down in Cherry Creek, a part of Denver.
11. Coors Field
Home to the Rockies, Coors Field is featured in two episodes of South Park – “Professor Chaos (2002) and “The Losing edge” (2005).
That’s our list! Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments.