Groundhog Day | 1993
There’s a brief moment of scene setting in Pittsburgh, with an aerial shot of the city wedged between the the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, as cynical TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) and his crew head off to ‘Punxsutawney, Pa’ to cover the annual Groundhog Day festival.
There is a Punxsutawney, but it’s not seen in the film. The real town is about 85 miles northeast of Pittsburgh in Jefferson County and, yes, the Groundhog Day is celebrated here on February 2nd every year.
As the sharp-eyed would notice (Woodstock Jewelers can be seen in the background of several scenes), the screen version is the town of Woodstock, about 50 miles northwest of Chicago, Illinois, which the film’s location manager Bob Hudgins had remembered from its brief appearance in Planes, Trains And Automobiles.
There’s no fear of the town’s grand ‘Pennsylvanian Hotel’ getting its reputation damaged by being described by Connors as “a fleabag”, since it’s not a hotel at all. It’s actually Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren Street.
Connors prefers to stay at the ‘Cherry Street Inn’. This B&B, however, is the real deal. The beautiful Victorian gingerbread property is the Royal Victorian Manor, 344 Fremont Street.
In town, the street corner where, every morning, Connors bumps into insurance salesman Ned Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky) is Cass Street at Benton Street on the northeast corner of Woodstock’s Town Square. There’s even a plaque on the ground marking the spot on Cass Street where Connors repeatedly steps into the puddle.
Just west on Cass Street, the ‘Tip Top Cafe’ was created for the movie and, as these things happen, following the success of the film went on to become the real Tip Top Bistro. Sadly, the restaurant didn’t quite make the film’s 20th anniversary and closed in 2012. It’s now a Mexican restaurant, Taqueria La Placita, 108 Cass Street at Main Street.
The bar where Connors whiles away his evening is the Old Courthouse, now the Old Courthouse Arts Center, 101 North Johnson Street, housing art gallery (open Thursday to Sunday) and restaurants.
Connors later drowns his sorrows with two drinking buddies in the bowling alley, at Wayne’s Lanes, 109 East Church Street, before they pile into the car for a reckless ride along the railway tracks.
Varying his routine, Connors dons fancy dress to take his date to see Heidi II at the ‘Alpine Cinema’, which is Woodstock Theatre, 209 Main Street, one of the Classic Cinemas chain, which rescues and restores picture houses in Illinois.
In a desperate attempt to break the cycle, Connors makes a suicidal plunge into the limestone quarry at North Mulford Road at Nimtz Road in Loves Park, Rockford, which is about 35 miles west of Woodstock.
As the day plays out again and again, he begins a kind of redemption, taking up piano lessons for $1000, at 348 South Madison Street (this is a private home, so the usual rules about not disturbing residents apply).
The ‘Groundhog Festival Banquet’, where Connors puts his new musical skills to good use, is held at Woodstock Moose Lodge, 406 Clay Street, at Newell Street.
‘Gobbler’s Knob’ is never really explained in the film, since the festival takes place in the town’s square. In the real world, Gobbler’s Knob is a little spot on Woodland Avenue, about a mile southeast of Punxsutawney itself, where the furry forecaster makes his annual appearance.
But of course, it’s in the southwest corner of Woodstock’s Town Square that the cinematic Phil the Groundhog makes his prediction. The good news is that you can join in the Groundhog Days Weekend at the beginning of February every year.