Natalie Abrams
November 07, 2014 AT 05:00 AM EST

Move over, Hollywood, the much chillier Vancouver, Canada, has become a hot shooting spot thanks to its tax breaks and unique ability to stand in for everything from sleepy Maine towns to superhero metropolises (even if its outdoor locales prove tricky to keep secret from fans). This reporter suited up to scope out eight TV sets in four days. Here are the highlights.

Freezing with The Flash
It’s about 2 p.m. when I arrive on the set of The Flash, where the topic of every conversation seems to be how damn cold it is. (Glad it isn’t just me.) A longer-than-usual summer has taken a turn, and it’s now raining. Constantly. I’m hanging out in the Central City police precinct with a monolithic Justice League mural looming in the background when star Danielle Panabaker shares her secret to surviving frigid shoots: mini heating pads called HotShotz and an abundance of clothes. ”It’s almost comical how many layers I’ve been able to put on before I actually put on my wardrobe,” she says. After I work out on Barry Allen’s actual cosmic treadmill (he’ll be using it in coming episodes!), I grill Grant Gustin on whether Vancouver fans have taken to following him around. ”There’s never been a place or phase of my life where I’ve been recognized a lot,” he says. ”People at stoplights will say, ‘You’re the Flash!’ But I don’t really get stopped often.” Yet.

Getting shirtless with Arrow
Across the street is Arrow‘s stage studio, where Stephen Amell is up not so bright and early on a — you guessed it — rainy and cold morning. They’re in the foundry shooting a shocking reveal of a new suspect in Sara’s (Caity Lotz) murder and a nod to what’s happening back in Flash‘s Central City. So. Many. Spoilers. It’s a rare day to be in a studio rather than on location at Terminal City Iron Works, a former manufacturing plant that houses a huge array of Arrow‘s settings. ”We must’ve filmed there 40 times,” Amell says. ”It’s been Hong Kong, a greenhouse, a derelict warehouse, the exterior of Verdant, the establishing thing you see for the foundry. It’s so many different things.” Places Amell has been shirtless for $200, Alex.

Checking into Bates Motel
It’s been pretty hard to miss the Bates Motel location, with its re-creation of the infamous house on the hill an hour southeast of Vancouver, and fans pop by and camp out for hours at a time. It feels so real that showrunner Kerry Ehrin says she wants to build another replica of the house to actually live in herself, while star Vera Farmiga is content to stock up on Bates Motel-inscribed stationery. Back in her trailer, Farmiga intensely defends Norma’s questionable choices as a mother. ”I’m as protective of my character as Norma is of Norman,” she declares. Riiiight. Like any good mother, Farmiga even offers me fruit on my way out. I decline. Never trust a member of the Bates family.

Once Upon a Time it snowed and rained…again
The cast has been shooting in the ”snow” all day, and they’re feeling merry…at first. What stands in for snow in Storybrooke (otherwise known as Steveston Village, a suburb about a half hour south of Vancouver) is basically just bubbles. People slip. A lot. Josh Dallas fake-ice-skates in the road. ”Isn’t it magical?” Elizabeth Mitchell says delightedly when she walks on set as the snow machines blast the substance into the air. For the moment it is exciting, until the snow and rain mix. ”I can’t see a damn thing,” Lana Parrilla says with a laugh. ”Ginny [Goodwin] and I are getting snoap — snow soap — in our eyes.” It ends up being even less magical after several dozen takes. The fans are relentless, about 60 of them, and they stick around late into the night — some to leak photos online, others to catch a glimpse of the Frozen princesses in person. At least some people are enjoying the elements. Not me. HotShotz, please.

Halfway home on Supernatural
Farther south, the boys of Supernatural are shooting on the U.S.-Canada border and the sun is unexpectedly shining. The guys are jovial — it’s just days after they celebrated their big 200th episode — but they feel it’s only the beginning. ”This is halftime of a football game: I don’t want to talk about what’s good or bad in the first half; I have to focus on the next half and have my game face on,” Jared Padalecki says, noting that the meta-musical hour they filmed is a love letter to fans. Vancouver responds in kind by pouring rain again.

Dwight Schrute has become Backstrom
I’m psyched to be hitting my final set in Vancouver, but even more excited that it’s the Rainn Wilson-starring Fox dramedy Backstrom, ready to debut midseason. The Office alum will play the titular self-destructive, bigoted detective — in other words, another unlikable character. ”It’s very, very different from Dwight Schrute,” assures Wilson, who doesn’t feel pressure to live up to his prior role. Much like the show aims to be, the atmosphere on the set is relaxed as the cast jokes about all the serial killers on TV. ”Come on! If aliens were watching TV, they’d think half the United States was a serial killer,” Wilson says. Better move to Canada just like the rest of Hollywood.

Meanwhile, back at the bar…
So it turns out the best place for people watching is (as usual) the bar — this one at the Sutton Place Hotel’s Gerard Lounge. First sighting: Marti Noxon and Shiri Appleby discussing their new Lifetime show, Un-Real. Later that week I run into Appleby’s former Life Unexpected costars Britt Robertson (back in town shooting pickups for Tomorrowland) and Kristoffer Polaha, who’s now on Backstrom. Parrilla and her Once Upon a Time costar Sean Maguire pass through too, and Tracy Spiridakos and Elizabeth Mitchell are both in the hotel working on separate projects (though they don’t have time for a Revolution reunion). The Flash cast meets up with their boss, executive producer Andrew Kreisberg. Some actors from Bravo’s upcoming Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce grab a post-wrap party snack. I’d suggest they start shooting a reality show at the hotel, but the last thing this town needs is another show filming here.

Vancouver: A Guide
A walk through the streets of Canada’s TV capital is a real-world spin through your DVR. EW gives you the hot spots to hit.

Gerard Lounge
Sutton Place Hotel, 845 Burrard Street, Downtown
If you’re looking to find stars sipping drinks, this is a good first stop.

Stevenston Village
In the city of Richmond
This historic village 30 minutes south of the city doubles as Once Upon a Time‘s Storybrooke.

The Orpheum
601 Smithe Street, Downtown
The 1927 landmark theater appeared in multiple episodes of Battlestar Galactica and Fringe.

Neptoon Records
3561 Main Street, Mount Pleasant
The city’s oldest independent record store also has its own label.

Central Library
West Georgia Street, Downtown
Once alt-HQ on Fringe, the Moshe Safdie-designed library was used on Stargate SG-1 and Psych.

Pulpfiction Books
2422 Main Street, Mount Pleasant
The largest of the quirky bookstore’s three locations has an exceptional collection of mystery and science-fiction titles.

Terminal City Iron Works
1909 Franklin Street, East Vancouver
This former manufacturing plant has been reborn on Arrow as Queen Industrial Inc.

Bates House & Motel
272nd Street near Eighth Avenue, Aldergrove
An hour-long drive southeast of the city will take you to the very real-seeming set of Bates Motel.

John H. McDonald House
417 Fifth Street, New Westminster
Once Upon a Time‘s Regina Mills (Lana Parrilla) calls this stately suburban manor home.

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