As a kid I loved High School Musical. A lot. In elementary school I wore a Troy Bolton locket necklace from Claire's: There was nothing you could tell me to convince me we weren't going to get married someday.
Flash forward 15 years later and well … I'm definitely not married to Zac Efron, but High School Musical remains one of my favorite movie franchises of all time. Ever since seeing the movies, it's been on my bucket list to visit East High and Lava Springs Country Club in real life. No, they aren't movie sets, but actual destinations that exist in Utah.
As a mega-fan of the franchise, it seemed like a trip to Salt Lake City and St. George, Utah would be the perfect way to make my childhood dreams a reality, minus marrying Troy, of course.
Recently, I made the trip. And, in the words of Sharpay Evans, the experience was nothing short of fabulous.
How to visit East High, home of the Wildcats
Yes, the infamous East High from High School Musical actually exists: It's a regularly-operating high school in Salt Lake City. But while it's business as usual for the staff and students who call East High home, the school has also become a tourist attraction for visitors from all over.
"A few months ago, during the school day we had someone say they came all the way from Norway just to see the school," Lance Taylor, the assistant principal at East High, tells Yahoo Life. "Fans want to see the common area, the pink locker and the gym."
Mijel Tenenbaum, a self-proclaimed High School Musical enthusiast from Buenos Aires, Argentina recalls wanting to visit East High ever since she was a young girl.
"High School Musical: The Concert was my first ever concert when I was 13. I remember I memorized all the lyrics in anticipation and it remains truly such a core memory," she says. "When I visited East High on vacation, it was an actual dream come true. I couldn't believe the school actually existed and I was there. I think it shaped my love for pop music to this day."
Similar to Tenenbaum, I was a fan who wanted to see Sharpay's iconic pink locker and do the signature high jump in front of the school. When I, a 22-year-old woman, arrived, it was clear I wasn't a student at the school, but rather a fan-girl who had been waiting her whole life for this moment. At dismissal, a few students saw me sitting outside on a bench and asked, "Are you here to see Troy Bolton?"
"Not quite," I said, "but here to look at the school." According to those boys, it's not a rare occurrence to see tourists like myself snapping photos and freaking out — it's just a normal part of their school day.
While Taylor says the school doesn't offer any official High School Musical-related tours, if people come to the school between 3:15 and 4:15 p.m. they can usually get in to have a look around. Officially, a sign on the doors of the school warn that visiting hours are Monday through Friday after 3:30 p.m.
It's important to note HSM-obsessed visitors are not allowed to tour the school during regular operating hours. East High has real kids to teach, after all.
My sister and I had no trouble entering the building at the allotted time. We walked around looking for all of the spots: the cafeteria, the gymnasium, Sharpay's locker and more. To my surprise, there was no line-up of tourists waiting to snap photos. The school was uncrowded and we got all the photos our HSM super-fan hearts desired.
We had a bit of trouble finding the cafeteria and that iconic pink locker, so we asked some students and they were happy to give us directions — it wasn't their first rodeo.
There are no words to express the audible gasp that came out of my mouth when I spotted the pink locker. As a pink enthusiast down to my hair color, this definitely would have been my locker in high school. After soaking in all of Sharpay's pink fabulousness, we roamed around a bit and came across the cafeteria, the place where the song "Stick to the Status Quo" was filmed and Sharpay sang those dramatic lines: This is not what I want/ This is not what I planned.
The East High cafeteria was everything we wanted and planned for, however. After taking it all in, we headed to the gym, which was locked and closed for the day. We weren't able to see the court where "We're All in This Together" and "Get'cha Head in the Game" were filmed, but like true Wildcats, we persevered, taking plenty of pictures and videos outside the school in the commons area. My favorite shots from the day: Me doing the signature jump used in the promotional photos and the film.
In total, we spent about an hour touring East High. But there's another local high school that helped make HSM magic: The auditorium where students auditioned, rehearsed and performed in the film is actually located at Murray High School, approximately 10 minutes away from East High. I couldn't leave Salt Lake City without visiting the beloved stage, so off we went for the start of something new.
Prior to my visit, I scheduled a tour through the school and was shown the stage and Sharpay's backstage dressing room. I wasn't expecting to be able to step foot on the stage, but we were able to sing, dance and film whatever we wanted for 20 minutes. The tour guide even brought us out some of the props to take pictures with that were used in the film: The way these locations have embraced their place in HSM history is charming for sure.
How to visit Lava Springs Country Club
Salt Lake City is sure to give any HSM fan their fix of nostalgia. However, if you want to take it to the next level, you'll need to travel to St. George, Utah, about a four-hour drive from Salt Lake City. There, you'll find The Inn at Entrada, where the majority of High School Musical 2, which took place at the fictional Lava Springs Country Club, was filmed.
As the saying goes, "When in Rome …" or, in this case, Utah: I decided to spend two nights at the resort, living my best HSM life.
"We actually do not track our guests this way but I would say we still have two guests per week that come for this purpose," says Russell Clove, general manager at The Inn at Entrada. "We have had people from Mexico, the U.K. and China."
Remember the epic pool with the fountain? The golf course? The bridge? The restaurant? At The Inn at Entrada, you can actually use all of those amenities and recreate some of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history.
Although no official tours given to The Inn at Entrada guests, Clove notes upon check-in, guests can ask for a fact-sheet with tidbits pertinent to the movie.
Some of those fun facts? Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens's room numbers during their stay corresponded with their age at the time of filming, most of the country club members seen in the movie are real members of Entrada and during his stay, Efron liked to skateboard on the resort's driveway.
Chris Warren, who plays Zeek in the films, was known to order pizza a lot during his stay, and the entire cast could be found lounging by the pool when they weren't shooting.
Like the HSM cast, guests are welcome to use the pool, golf course and wellness center during their stay. I took advantage of these opportunities and sat by the pool with a gorgeous view of the red rocks, walked alongside the golf course and ate at The Grille at Entrada, the restaurant seen in the movie.
By the pool, I recreated Sharpay's "Fabulous" number. On the golf course, I spoofed Troy's emotional "Bet On It" performance. Full disclosure: the golf course recently underwent construction so it's not the same as it was when Efron sang his heart out on the green, but the HSM vibes are still there.
One night during dinner at The Grille, our server told us a supervisor at the restaurant was actually an extra in the movie. He graciously showed us around the resort, giving us peeks at the everything from the clubhouse to the shelf that held the Star Dazzle Awards in the film. He even took us to the tower where Sharpay and Ryan sat to spy on Troy and Gabriella on the golf course.
As a HSM fan, I truly felt like I'd stepped onto multiple movie sets from the franchise during my visit to Utah. I got my head in the game, felt fabulous and truly enjoyed being all in this together with fellow fans of the films. Maybe someday I'll visit again, if I can just find my old Troy Bolton locket to accessorize with.
Want lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.