Disclosure: Naturally McHenry County sponsored this post. However, all opinions are my own.
Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania garners a lot of the Groundhog Day fanfare. But lovers of the 1993 cult classic Groundhog Day may be surprised to learn they’ll need to head west to step onto the set of their favorite film.
That’s because the movie Groundhog Day was actually filmed in Woodstock, Illinois. Lucky for cinephiles, the charming community has fully committed to this claim to fame. Even so, nothing could have prepared me for how delightfully this northern Illinois community embraces its quirky traditions. In fact, thousands of people make the pilgrimage to Woodstock for the festivities every year. When I visited, some even traveled internationally from countries like Spain, Japan and Ukraine to pay homage to this Bill Murray classic.
In addition to the other great things to do in McHenry County, a lot happens in Woodstock during a short amount of time over Groundhog Day. Keep an eye out for Woodstock Willy, the town’s answer to Punxsutawney Phil and quite possibly Woodstock’s biggest celebrity. Prepare to watch the film on repeat (is there any other way on Groundhog Day?), and get ready for the polka music to be pumping.
No matter where you’re coming from or how deep your allegiance is, one thing is for sure: Groundhog Day in Woodstock, Illinois is a bucket list-worthy event. Here’s everything you need to know about spending February 2 in Woodstock, where the movie Groundhog Day was filmed.
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Stay at the Cherry Tree Inn Bed & Breakfast
When Groundhog Day was filmed in 1992, this house was a private home. Today, the inn where Bill Murray stayed in the movie welcomes guests of its own as the Cherry Tree Inn Bed & Breakfast. This beautiful Victorian home draws visitors from far and wide because of its screen time in the iconic film. But regardless of the season, the Cherry Tree Inn is a truly delightful place to stay.
The five-room inn has been beautifully restored and is the perfect place to relax after a day exploring Woodstock. During my visit, I stayed in the Cherry Blossom Suite. This cozy space includes a supremely comfortable bed and wonderfully deep jetted tub. Of course, each room also has its own copy of Groundhog Day on DVD, in case you want to have your own private showing.
Owners George and Lori are amazing hosts and have truly embraced the home’s Hollywood history. You’ll find a display of memorabilia from the film in the first floor living room as well as thoughtful Groundhog Day-inspired touches throughout the home. And don’t be alarmed if Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” starts playing throughout the house. Even Alexa knows about this home’s Groundhog Day history.
After my stay, I can safely say that I wouldn’t mind waking up here over and over and over again — especially if it meant getting to enjoy Lori’s delicious breakfast every day.
Tip: If you want to stay at this iconic locale over Groundhog Day, you’ll need to plan ahead. Rooms book up for this busy time years in advance so start planning your adventure now. If you want to stay in the room with Murray’s view from the film, be sure to book the Magnolia Suite. Even if you aren’t able to spend the night, you can still see the home as the Cherry Tree Inn offers open house hours during the Groundhog Day season.
Cherry Tree Inn Bed & Breakfast, 344 Fremont Street in Woodstock, Illinois
Witness the Awakening
Before the Groundhog Day festivities can officially begin, revelers need to welcome Woodstock Willie back for another year. Locals call this fun (and quirky) event the Awakening. Especially if it’s your first Groundhog Day in Woodstock, this is a great way to get in the spirit and get your photo with Woodstock Willie.
Stage Left Cafe, 125 W. Van Buren Street in Woodstock, Illinois
Attend the Prognostication
You’ll need to set your alarm early so you don’t sleep through the main event: the Groundhog Day prognostication featuring Woodstock Willie’s weather prediction. While the official proclamation gets going around 7 a.m., locals told me that a crowd usually forms by 6:30 a.m. To get a good spot, I bundled up and headed for the town square while it was still dark out.
It was already pretty busy by the time I arrived. But I was able to find a spot with a good view of the gazebo. As the crowd waits, local bands perform polka music and there’s plenty of singing (and dancing) along to keep warm. Whether there’s six more weeks of winter or not, I promise you’ll be humming the “Pennsylvania Polka” for the rest of the day.
Once the time comes, the prognostication itself is fairly short. Woodstock Willie emerges from his stump and, after some deliberation, the mayor shares the groundhog’s proclamation with the crowd. It was a bright and sunny morning when I visited so Willie unfortunately saw his shadow and declared six more weeks of winter.
Tip: Be sure to dress for the weather as this can be a chilly event. Also, there’s not much room on the square’s sidewalks so be prepared to stand in the snow. This rechargeable hand warmer was a life-saver while we waited.
Historic Woodstock Square, Cass & Van Buren Streets in Woodstock, Illinois
Drink to World Peace
Following Woodstock Willie’s weather prediction, make a beeline to the Public House of Woodstock, located in the Old Courthouse. This is the same bar where Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell drink to world peace in the film. Now, it’s your turn to mark February 2 by toasting to world peace. For $5, you’ll get your own Groundhog Day shot glass and a miniature signature drink from the film: sweet vermouth with a twist.
Tip: This is a popular activity and a line forms down the block quickly. Fear not though: the coordinators keep the long line moving quickly. The Public House only accepts cash for this tradition so come prepared.
Public House of Woodstock, 101 N. Johnson Street in Woodstock, Illinois
Eat Breakfast at the Moose Lodge
Thaw out after the early morning celebrations with breakfast at the Woodstock Moose Lodge. This annual tradition begins immediately following the prognostication and typically sells out — so purchase your tickets ahead of time or get there early.
There’s plenty of food to go around though, plus, even more polka music in case you haven’t had your fill.
Woodstock Moose Lodge 1329, 406 Clay Street in Woodstock, Illinois
Go on a Walking Tour of Groundhog Day Filming Locations
If you’re an avid Groundhog Day fan, one of the best things about a visit to Woodstock is how well the town has preserved many of the movie’s key filming locations. Around Groundhog Day, organized walking tours of the movie’s filming sites begin at the Opera House. During my visit, the tour was led by the film’s location manager Bob Hudgins, who had some amazing stories of his time on set.
As you explore Woodstock you’ll find places like Ned’s Corner and the puddle Bill Murray steps in over and over. You can also visit recognizable buildings like the Opera House and Cherry Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast.
If you’re visiting Woodstock outside of Groundhog Day and still want to experience the sites, download your own map of filming locations and keep an eye out for engraved metal plaques marking important spots.
Snap a Photo with Woodstock Willie
Not only is Woodstock Willie the official Groundhog Day mascot, but they’re basically a local celebrity. Like, Bill Murray’s character Phil says in the movie: this tradition is “a thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat.” You’ll have countless opportunities to see this local icon during Groundhog Day so don’t miss out. Have your photo taken with Willie to remember your time in Woodstock!
Shop Locally for Souvenirs
Support Woodstock’s small businesses and take home a souvenir of your Groundhog Day celebration. After the day’s main events, wander the historic Woodstock square and pop into a few shops to take home a memento from your trip. Some of my favorite spots included:
- The Backdrop (106 Cass Street in Woodstock, IL): I was wholly unprepared for Groundhog Day revelers’ amazing hats. If you’re like me and came unprepared, you’ll find some great headwear here along with a mix of themed trinkets, T-shirts and more.
- Casting Whimsy (203 N. Madison Street in Woodstock, IL): This incredible local shop creates loose leaf tea blends with a nerdy twist. Lucky for Groundhog Day visitors, their Time Loop blend is a take on Rita’s signature order: sweet vermouth with a twist.
- Ethereal Confections (140 Cass Street in Woodstock, IL): Indulge in a sweet treat and take home a few of Ethereal’s solid chocolate groundhogs. Or, break from the theme and you’ll discover countless other sweet treats here.
- Read Between the Lynes (111 E. Van Buren Street in Woodstock, IL): This cozy indie bookstore has an amazing selection of books as well as all of your Groundhog Day merch and apparel. Stay warm with a sweatshirt or embroidered beanie. Or, pick up a custom Woodstock Groundhog Day puzzle.
Plus, a number of the McHenry Co. Craft Beverage Trail released special-edition brews for the holiday. So be sure to check out their social media for limited releases and special events.
See the Film at the Woodstock Theatre
Even if you’ve seen it before, a visit to Woodstock is the perfect time to rewatch the movie Groundhog Day. Head to Classic Cinemas Woodstock Theatre, which shows the film a handful of times during the Groundhog Day festivities.
This beautifully restored historic theater also appears in the film. At one point, Bill Murray’s character Phil goes on a date to see Heidi II in this very spot. As a nod to the film, the theater’s marquee advertises Heidi II (even though it isn’t played) during Groundhog Day.
Classic Cinemas Woodstock Theatre, 209 Main Street in Woodstock, Illinois
Visit the Groundhog Day Mural
Woodstock has even embraced its own Hollywood classic through public art. Just past the Woodstock Theatre, you’ll find a large-scale mural dedicated to Bill Murray and some of the film’s other iconic moments. Continue on down the alley for a statue of Woodstock Willie as well as a homage to some of the community’s other notable stars.
Tip: You’ll find these murals in an alley on the west side of Main Street, directly across from D.C. Cobb’s.
Go Bowling at Wayne’s Lanes
While you’re in Woodstock, stop by Wayne’s Lanes to bowl and drink at the same bar as Bill Murray. Over the years, its owners have restored this retro bowling alley to look just like it did in the film. Plus, it’s a great spot to warm up after a day of exploring in the February cold.
Wayne’s Lanes, 109 E. Church Street in Woodstock, Illinois
Dance in the Town Gazebo
Reenact one of Groundhog Day’s most romantic scenes with a waltz in the town gazebo. Woodstock leaves its holiday lights up in the town square through Groundhog Day so this is a particularly picturesque place in the evenings.
Historic Woodstock Square, Cass & Van Buren Streets in Woodstock, Illinois
Frequently Asked Questions About Groundhog Day the Movie
Where was the movie Groundhog Day filmed?
Much of the 1993 movie Groundhog Day was filmed in Woodstock, Illinois. Principal photography for the film began on March 16, 1992, and concluded 86 days later on June 10, 1992. While much of the filming took place in Woodstock, there were some scenes shot on sets in nearby Cary, Illinois as well as in Hollywood.
Why was Groundhog Day not filmed in Punxsutawney?
The film’s creators wanted to shoot in a “quintessential American town” and while the producers originally looked at Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, it became clear that it wouldn’t work well. The small, rural town was too far from necessary amenities and lacked the locations depicted in the movie’s script. So, producers explored other options and after an extensive search, they landed on Woodstock, Illinois.
Where is the house from Groundhog Day?
The house from the film Groundhog Day still exists in Woodstock, Illinois! Today the Cherry Street Inn Bed & Breakfast is located in the home where Bill Murray stayed and welcomes fans of the film from all over the world. You can find the bed and breakfast at 344 Fremont Street in Woodstock, Illinois.
Where is the diner from Groundhog Day?
In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell’s characters go to eat at the Tip Top Café over and over and over again. However, at the time, the location wasn’t even a restaurant. A little movie magic turned an empty storefront on the square into the quaint cafe. Today, you’ll find local Mexican restaurant La Placita at 108 Cass Street in Woodstock, Illinois.
Share Your Thoughts
I would love to hear from you! Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day? Would you visit Woodstock, Illinois to celebrate Groundhog Day?