Groundhog Day Again in Woodstock, Illinois
Annual Groundhog Days festival
An aging classic-rock cover band lays into a Bob Seger tune, and the flannel-wearing folks in Woodstock's Moose Lodge No. 1329 cheer and crack open $2.50 Miller Lites. Pasta buffet aside, the annual Shake Off the Winter Blues dinner-dance feels a little familiar, and not just because the setting in this Illinois town (50 miles northwest of Chicago) could pass for a Wisconsin North Woods bar. Actor Bill Murray lit up this 94-year-old lodge when he filmed Groundhog Day's bachelor auction scene here, and since then, fans return every year for a fun night out.
Woodstock's annual Groundhog Days festival (January 26 to Feb. 2, 2014) will hold trivia contests, storytelling, a chili cook-off, free film showings of the movie--and a guided walking tour of 14 plaque-marked film sites. "Woodstock is an absolute all-American small town making the most of its movie-making legacy," says Bob Hudgins, who worked on the movie and leads the tours.
After Woodstock Willie looks for his shadow, crowds head to Pirro's Restaurant for breakfast, a moment of homespun comfort before the journey back to reality.
A cool tour
The two-hour tour of Groundhog Day's film sites draws crowds and includes lots of trivia. Guide Bob Hudgins starts at the 1890 Woodstock Opera House, which anchors the town's 19th-century square. (While he was scouting locations, director Harold Ramis looked out a window in the tower and thought Woodstock could represent Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in the movie; Bill Murray's character also tried to kill himself by leaping from this window.) Chic shops and restaurants fill the square. The tour shares stories from the six-month filming and ends at posh Royal Victorian Manor B&B, featured as The Cherry Street Inn in the movie.
If you're in the area outside of the festival dates, you can take the Groundhog Day Walking Tour on your own; just download a map from the Groundhog Days site.
Woodstock trip guide: Where to shop
Seasons by Peg At this seasonal home decor and gift shop, patrons find home-decorating eye candy and tasty sweets. The glass counter displays as many as 30 kinds of hand-dipped chocolates, turtles and toffees, plus Cobblestones gourmet foods (pictured). (815) 206-3666; seasonsbypeg.com
Designs by Maida Chicago interior-designer Maida Korte brings her HGTV style to this home-furnishings showroom. (815) 337-2046; designsbymaida.com
Green Box Boutique You'll find fair-trade, local and ecofriendly goods sold in the gallery setting on the town square; wines from nearby Salute Vineyard are $24.95 a bottle. (815) 337-7303; greenboxboutique.com
Read Between the Lynes The staff of teachers, avid readers and aspiring writers offers encyclopedic insight at this cozy bookseller. (815) 206-5967; readbetweenthelynes.com
Woodstock trip guide: Where to eat and stay
WHERE TO STAY
Royal Victorian Manor Owners Karla and Everton Martin restored the 1894 Victorian mansion (pictured) and opened it to guests in 2010. This five-guest-suite B&B exudes luxurious touches. You won't find frou-frou here, and you'll enjoy the big breakfast, served on china and crystal. From $125. (815) 308-5432; royalvictorianmanor.com
WHERE TO EAT
La Petite Creperie Located in a Victorian home, this French bistro serves savory and sweet dessert crepes and specials, all big enough to share. The sauteed chicken and goat cheese Pagnol crepe pairs well with a glass of crisp white wine. (815) 893-0765; lapetitecreperie.net
FOR MORE INFORMATION: McHenry County Convention and Visitors Bureau (888) 363-6280; visitmchenrycounty.com
(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® November/December 2011. Prices, dates and other details can change; please check specifics before making travel plans.)