Saturday, February 04, 2006

Groundhog Day - A Trip to Woodstock!

Groundhog Day is one of Bill Murray's best films, and I make it a point to watch the film each year on said holiday. This year, however, I also got the bug to do a little traveling. The signif and I were finishing up the film when I mentioned that the movie was made in Illinois. We both laughed and thought that it would be fun to check out the Tip Top diner and the town square, where a large majority of the film took place.

We looked up the directions online and took off for Woodstock, Illinois, which is located near the Illinois/Wisconsin border. Conveniently enough, Illinois Route 47 goes from nearby Mahomet, Illinois straight to Woodstock, and bypasses all the city traffic and tolls. A few cups of coffee later, and we were off.

It was about a three hour drive to Woodstock, and we were both pretty hungry by the time we reached the town square. The locations used for the major scenes of the movie are located mostly within walking distance of one another, so we parked downtown and started our tour. The overcast day let up enough to spread some sunshine on the town square for some good photo opportunities.

The Tip Top Diner seen in the film was not there, however, the Tip Top Bistro was up and running. We were seated by Linda, who happened to have the very table Bill Murray sat at in the film available as we entered. She also told us of some key parts of the script that were altered, as she had seen the script through its changes during filming.

One change was that Bill was to read one page a day in a book to help keep track of each day passed, but that was obviously axed from the final screenplay. She also informed us that McHenry County had been the home to other notable films, such as Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Dutch, and Curly Sue.

Our food was delicious. We shared a fondue appetizer, and I had a cheddar mushroom burger and sweet potato fries, while the lady had a turkey/bacon/guacamole wrap. The service was excellent and the locals in the restaurant gave us a very warm welcome. I highly recommend this place.

You probably noticed the hazard signs up in front of the Tip Top. They are placed strategically around town during the local Groundhog Day festivities to provide recognition of specific locations from the film. This particular picture has signs for both the Tip Top Diner and the spot where Bill needs to "watch that first step." They also have placed permanent plaques up at other noteworthy locations used for scenes in the film.

The Pennsylvanian Hotel in the movie is actually a place called the Opera House, an actual opera house and playhouse. The interior is beautiful, and I would like to come back and catch a show there one day.

The Jailhouse Pub, home of the bar scenes in the film, was closed for renovations, which denied me the pleasure of a sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist. We were also unable to view one of the free showings of the film at the Woostock Theatre, or participate in the dinner, dance, and bachelor auction at the local Moose Lodge later that evening. I also wanted to check out the bowling alley, however, since time was of the essence, we decided to make this trip again next year to fill in the gaps from our first foray into Woodstock.

The house which served as the bed-and-breakfast from the film is now a private residence, so we couldn't take a look around there, and the same proved true for the piano teacher's home. Strangely enough, though, I actually have met the little boy that falls out of the tree in the film; it's WCIA's own Shaun Chaiyabhat.

Woodstock has a lot of charm, and it's definitely worthy of a visit, regardless of it's ties to Hollywood. The town has taken some nice strides to preserve and develop the downtown area, and it appears to be thriving, as a result. Great restaurants, abundant local culture, and reoccurring seasonal activities make this city a highly recommended location for an inexpensive get-away.


At 9:10 AM, February 06, 2006, Blogger schreinervideo said...

Great article! I met Shaun at a party but did not know he was in the movie. He's a good guy. Actually, being at the party was like "Groundhog Day" (I was news director at WCIA for a couple of years). I escaped- but without Andie MacDowell.

At 1:24 PM, February 08, 2006, Blogger Don Gerard said...

Hold the "Curly Sue" landmarks? Feh.

Sounds like a swell day, though. I wonder why that did not make the "Weird Illinois" book?

At 1:48 PM, February 08, 2006, Anonymous Beth said...

THAT's MY HOMETOWN!!!! hahaha i can't believe you went there just cause of the movie. i saw it being filmed.

john hughes, after that, decided to film a movie called "the bee" at my friend katie's house. they renovated her barn and house and everything, but halfway through the summer they axed it.

also, during the GD filming, andi mcdowell would go over to katie's house to play with her sheep.

At 1:59 PM, February 28, 2006, Anonymous Tim said...

I worked with Shaun at WCIA before leaving there. I believe he listed at the IMDB website.


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