“Life Moves Pretty Fast. If You Don’t Stop And Look Around Once In A While, You Could Miss It” ~A John Hughes Road Trip around Illinois 2020
Sometimes the most cleansing thing you can do for your soul is to seek adventure through the means of a road trip. Its windows rolled down, music blasting, and the GPS set to some kind of wonderful(ironically that’s another one of his films). Mine took me on trip of discovery that Friday in July, a dear friend tagging along, and it started off at the iconic house filmed for the movie “Home Alone.” Located in Winnetka, Illinois, this picturesque home found at 671 Lincoln Avenue is cozied in between so many homes and trees, that I’m betting many pass it and don’t even notice the infamous status it holds. As we drove up (You can park across the street from it, but also remember it is a PRIVATE residence) we saw several young people being dropped off at the house for something. Not wanting to upset the owners, and not wanting to get ANY of them in my pics, I waited to take a couple pics when everyone was inside. I am sure they are used to it, but still, I didn’t want to add “arrest in front of the Home Alone Home” to my trip treasures.
Wondering what else could be out there in this area, I went down the rabbit hole of John Hughes films, and getting more intrigued the deeper I got. You know, we watch these films from our teenage years and can sometimes forget the blood, sweat and tears someone put into them so we COULD have that blissful moment of joy. I scoured the interwebs looking for anything and everything John Hughes related, hungry for the nostalgia. Now, I probably could’ve made this road trip a bit less messier had I done the research at home and not on the fly, but the mood struck me and I have learned to listen to the mood. Searching for something at least in the same City, I found that “Uncle Buck” was filmed at the local New Trier West High School. This High School was also used for “Ferris Buellers Day Off” and “Sixteen Candles.”
On our way to the next stop, we crossed through Northbrook and passed “Shermer Road” which we also come back to later in the road trip. Like I said, it wasn’t an exact science on how we were doing things. “Shermer” is the fictional city that Hughes used for the city and school in his movies, and now we know where he got it from (also Northbrook was originally called “Shermerville” before changing to Northbrook). A quick stop here at the “Northbrook Court” Mall (located at 1515 Lake Cook Road) which Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith hang out in front of in another film that Hughes directed which is “Weird Science.” Hughes must’ve been a big fan of Anthony Michael Hall since he also worked with him in “The Breakfast Club” and “National Lampoons Vacation.” Hughes directed 8 films, produced 23 and wrote 51 films. He acted in three of his films- “Ferris Buellers Day Off, Class Reunion, and Breakfast Club.”
Heading into Des Plaines, IL to 9511 Harrison Street, we find another famous High School. This is where things got awkward…we were just there to get the pic, that was it. Well, it’s an IL State Police Station now, so they were turning people away due to Covid rules. I said “We just wanted a pic, we are on a John Hughes quest” and she laughed and said “of course, go ahead.” Sorry but if you are going to put police inside the infamous “BREAKFAST CLUB” High School, you just be asking for the attention. Personally all I could think of was how much the “Club” would’ve gotten a kick out of the fact that a Police Station took over their High School. All the inside school scenes were done at the Maine North High School (In the film known as “Shermer High School”), and to blow your mind even more, so was “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!!” The enormous library where the majority of the movie takes place was actually constructed inside the High School’s gymnasium for the film, the school was empty at the time of filming in 1981.
Onto to Glencoe, Illinois to find a pretty famous Church (Glencoe Union Church on 263 Park Avenue) and scene where I know myself, and many a soul, swooned over Jake Ryan. Yes, the Church and ending scene from “Sixteen Candles!!” My heart skipped a beat driving up to it, I knew the area right away. Samantha walks out, desimated by the days events, wanting to just break away from her family, her life, and there he is….. Jake Ryan, sitting against his red porsche, that grin, that hair, those eyes. Swoon, oh swoon. And there I stood, years later, mid-life but standing in the spot that I held to so many dates back in the day. It was surreal, it was beautiful, and it was everything to say I stood where Jake Ryan picked Samantha Baker up. (I’m sure that’s on an 80s Bingo card somewhere) Of course I made sure to stand where she did right outside the Church, and I just reveled in the moment with a huge grin on my face. I could see her sister all drugged up in her wedding dress trying to get out of the car, and her family watching them all come out of the Church. It. Was. Awesome.
Back to Northbrook, IL we read up on another famous icon in “Ferris Buellers Day Off” that stands tall and proud on the 1200 block of Cedar Lane. In the film, the blue water tower reads “SAVE FERRIS” and made Northbrook quite proud to have. According to dailyherald.com, the Village Leaders were looking into buying the rights of the slogan found on the Tower, but chose to opt out of it in the end. Personally, now it’s just a plain and ugly water tower- it would’ve kept it special with the slogan. BUT they did add a Memorial Bench in front of the Northbrook Library where a plaque is dedicated to John Hughes and a sign is posted in front of it all about his movies and his legend. Well, a cliff notes version at best. But what makes it special is to be able to sit on that bench in the presence of the infamous water tower and reflect on his movie career. To find the bench a bit easier, use 1201 Cedar Lane, as the address in your GPS- it’s worth the stop!
Down a ways in the same city, you will find Glenbrook North High School, 2300 Shermer Road, which he used to film “Ferris” and also “The Breakfast Club.” A popular scene many may remember, is Ferris driving up as Sloane’s father to pick Sloane up in Cameron’s car from school. We found the famous stairway, and yes, I had a moment…its cool ok? On a side note, John Hughes attended this School, hence why he used it so much and hey its also on “Shermer” Road!
We found the most fitting way to end the road trip was to see his home and to pay our respects to him. The mansion he called home with his wife, Nancy, was located at 855. E Westminster in Lake Forest, IL. I could only see it briefly from the driveway, as the new owners were home so I didn’t want to cause a scene with taking pics, so a quick shot and then a couple turns to his final resting place.
John passed away in 2009, and his beloved wife Nancy has now joined him, both laid to rest together at Lake Forest Cemetery. Located on Lake Road right on Lake Michigan, and wow, they picked a beautiful place to rest. The entrance alone to this place had a very “Heavens Gate” feel to it, majestic and oh so beautiful. Once we drove in, John is on the very left side, one of the first ones in on that side. We pulled over and walked up. The wind blowing in the trees, the stillness of the mood, I thanked him for all that he gave to the World and to myself. After a somber time, I pulled my phone out and took pics of his stone to share, and then turned on my ghost app to see if maybe he would say hello. I don’t know how much I “believe” in this app, but that day it had my attention…. As soon as I got it going the word “Press” came through. I laughed and said “Well kind of John, I am a blogger and I took a road trip today that was all about your movie locations” and within seconds I got “Square.” Which had me laughing and laughing because I knew he was calling me a “nerd” for checking out all of his stuff. I would like to think I made him chuckle, for he made me feel, smile, laugh and love through all of his amazing movies. Thank you John…. I hope to thank you one day in person. Check out more of my travels through Illinois HERE– enjoy!
“You’re still here? Its over. Go home.” ~Ferris Bueller
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Going from “What If? to “Why Not” is my life motto and I work hard at living that every day. I share everything from moving to Florida to live near Disney World to road trips across the States. I love the cool, quirky, and crazy stuff that I can find on my Adventures, and every dollar you donate helps support my efforts and hard work. Thank you to ALL who support me!