The John Hughes Fan Guide To The Chicago Metro Area

John Hughes had a soft spot for Chicagoland as a born-and-bred Midwesterner. Unsurprisingly, a lot of his most beloved films take place around Chicago, with several showcasing places he personally loved. Whether you recognize "The Picasso" sculpture in Daley Plaza scenes or glimpses of Lake Michigan from Lake Shore Drive, the Chicago metropolitan area is easily a co-star of Hughes' films — exactly how he wanted it.

"I'm going to do all my movies here in Chicago," Hughes once told Roger Ebert. "The Tribune referred to me as a 'former Chicagoan.' As if, to do anything, I had to leave Chicago. I never left ... This is a working city, where people go to their jobs and raise their kids and live their lives. In Hollywood, I'd be hanging around with a lot of people who don't have to pay when they go to the movies." Hughes demonstrated a Chicagoland as he saw it through many of his films.

There are filming locations all over the area that look nearly the same as they did in the Hughes cinematic universe. To the fans: Remember that many locations are private property and you should respect the folks living there. That said, here are a boatload of places straight out of the most iconic teen film era.

The McCallister house from Home Alone

During the Christmas season, it's not uncommon to see folks taking photos outside of the house in Winnetka that served as Kevin's personal paradise after being left behind in "Home Alone." Fans of the film will immediately recognize the famous building's visage. Picking the perfect house for the movie was a challenge of its own, according to director Chris Columbus. He told Entertainment Weekly that the house had to be a bit of a paradox.

"... We needed to cast a house that would work for the stunts and also a house that was visually appealing and, if this makes sense, warm and menacing at the same time," he told the outlet. "It's the kind of house if you were a kid it would be fun to be left home alone." Though the stunning Georgian-style house is not so much menacing as it is charming, the outside looks much like it did when it made a cinematic debut.

According to Fancy Pants Homes, the house is a five-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath property at 4,200 square feet. The outlet also notes that, although uncommon, many of the "Home Alone" interior scenes were shot on location instead of at a sound stage.

Samantha's house from Sixteen Candles

Molly Ringwald's coming-of-age story "Sixteen Candles" also features a Chicagoland home. Unlike some other John Hughes filming locations, this house has been sold several times since the movie was made in 1984. The grand Colonial-style home in Evanston went back on the market in 2016 for just under $1.5 million (per Forbes). According to Redfin, it sold again in June 2022 for $1.6 million.

When it was for sale in 2016, the property's listing agent Jill Blabolil told Today that she had been showing the home to potential buyers and folks who just wanted to look around. The outlet further notes that the home's inside still includes many iconic "Sixteen Candles" scenes. That includes the window ledge where Samantha gets her kiss over the birthday cake — arguably the most iconic moment from the film. Outside, the home's exterior is also as picture-perfect as when Molly Ringwald graced its presence back in the '80s.

Shermer High School from Ferris Bueller's Day Off

John Hughes once spent many days at Glenbrook North High School in his teen years. Later it would serve as Shermer High School for Ferris, Sloane, and Cameron. Not to be confused with the other Shermer High School of the Hughes universe from "The Breakfast Club." But the fact that two of Hughes' films shared a high school name wasn't a coincidence. He wanted everyone in all his movies to be connected by this fictional town of Shermer.

In 1999, Hughes confirmed to Premiere that his characters all share a universe. "Everybody, in all of my movies, is from Shermer, Illinois," he told the outlet (via Buzzfeed). "Del Griffith from 'Planes, Trains & Automobiles' lives two doors down from John Bender. Ferris Bueller knew Samantha Baker from 'Sixteen Candles.' For 15 years, I've written my Shermer stories in prose, collecting its history." Shermer is fictional, though its roots are derived from Northbrook's history when it was incorporated in 1901 as Shermerville (per Eighties Kids).

Ferris' version of Shermer High School still exists as Glenbrook. Though the exterior has grown up a bit in the decades since the film was made. Even so, you can still see what Ferris was taking a day off from if you venture out to Northbrook.

The other Shermer High School from The Breakfast Club

Given that the five detention-bound students in "The Breakfast Club" spent so much time in the school, Maine North High School should've received its own line on the marquee. Though it's no longer a school, the building is still alive and well in Des Plaines, Illinois. Maine North closed in 1981, and the library for "The Breakfast Club" was built out in the former school's gymnasium, according to The Chicagoist. Somewhat ironically, the building is now a police station. The Chicagoist also notes that several interior scenes for "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" were also shot at this location.

There is a small shrine within the building dedicated to "The Breakfast Club." The shrine commemorates the filming at the building. The exterior is mostly the same as when Hughes filmed there in 1984, even though the gymnasium-turned-library is now a warehouse.

The Save Ferris water tower

Northbrook was dedicated to their role in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." So much so that the town's water tower kept its "Save Ferris" tag for more than 30 years. While the sign may be gone, the water tower remains with a placard showcasing its place in John Hughes' Hollywood history. Before anyone knew who Ferris was, the tag appeared on the water tower, which baffled some residents, the Chicago Tribune reported. Decades later, residents want folks to remember Northbrook's place in the John Hughes cinematic universe.

Steve Gianni told the Tribune that installing a bench near the water tower allows visitors to be part of Ferris' story. "It's a little bit of a quirky tourist attraction," Gianni told the outlet. "As long as people think Hughes' films give insight into growing up in suburban America, it'll be one of the iconic stops on the pilgrimage to places in his movies."

Northbrook painted over the "Save Ferris" tag in 2020, according to The Daily Herald. Apparently, the town considered having the tag repainted on the tower along with purchasing the rights for the slogan but decided against that.

The Russells' house from Uncle Buck

In Evanston, you can find the home where Uncle Buck watched the kids in the film with his namesake. The home's exterior is easily recognized from the film and looks as it did when it was made. In 1998 the nearly 5,200 square foot, four bed, and four and a half bath home sold for $1.7 million, according to Redfin. Like many other iconic homes, its Google Street View images are obscured.

Mental Floss notes that the exteriors of "Uncle Buck" were shot on location at the house and that the whole movie was shot and released in the same year (1989). John Hughes' Chicagoland filming locations were often used for on-site shooting. The Russels' house looks much the same as it did when "Uncle Buck" was made — even down to the stunningly simple wrought iron archway at the front of the home.

The Page family house from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Over in Kenilworth, the Page's house from "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" is easily mixed up with the McCallister's from "Home Alone." The two have very similar exteriors, though the "Home Alone" house is significantly bigger than the "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" house. This house sold for $1.4 million in 2009 before going back on the market three years later for a staggering $1.799 million (per Curbed Chicago).

Like the other Chicagoland homes made famous by John Hughes, this Kenilworth property still looks as it did in the 1980s. Hooked On Houses says this home has six bedrooms and four baths at 3,500 square feet. So while it closely resembles The McCallister house from the outside, it's considerably smaller on the inside. Still, it's fun to see the same concrete stoop where Steve Martin and John Candy ended their long, chaotic journey together.

Cameron's house from Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Filmgoers may have been introduced to Cameron's stunning glass house thanks to "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," but the Highland Park home was famous in its own right before that. The Ben Rose House is considered a stunning example of modernist design and was designed by the acclaimed A James Speyer (per the Nine). According to Redfin, the house last sold in 2014 for $1 million.

The two separate box-shaped buildings were originally designed in 1953, but the all-glass garage (which was prominently featured in "Ferris") was added in 1974 (via the Nine). Rose, the home's original owner, loved sports cars and would display them in this area, just as Cameron's dad did in the film. Hopefully, no one accidentally sent one through one of the window walls like they do in the film.

The Ben Rose House underwent significant restorations in 2017, which reinvigorated the home's connection to Hughes' films (via DNA Info). "There's that cultural connection people make back to the house because of the movie, but for us, that's sort of a fringe thing," Jim Baranski, of Baranski, Hammer, Moretta & Sheehy Architects & Planners told the outlet. "It's a very valuable, important piece of midcentury architecture." Of the Hughes locations around Chicagoland, Cameron's house stands out from the rest.

Willis Tower from Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Tourists will call it Willis Tower because that's what the sign says, but Chicagoans still call it Sears Tower. Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world for decades and was featured as such in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" as part of the trio's hooky day shenanigans. Once you make your way to the 103rd floor, you can even find a sign commemorating the tower's role in the film (per Hulaland Blog).

Unlike other places on this list so far, tickets are required to get to the top of the tower. Your best bet for timesaving is to buy tickets ahead of time and go earlier in the day. The tower is a tourist hot spot in The Windy City — especially on weekends. Showing Sloane, Ferris, and Cameron peering off the tower was one way for them to get incredible views of the city while simultaneously showing off one of Chicago's claims to fame.

The Art Institute from Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Also downtown, the Art Institute of Chicago received its own cameo in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Some of the museum's most iconic artworks were featured during the montage of Sloane, Ferris, and Cameron's day off. While the Art Institute seems an odd place for teens to visit while ditching school, including it was an homage to the museum and how much John Hughes loved it, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

The outlet explains that the museum's scenes are so crucial for the trio of teens because the art allows them to look introspectively at themselves. "I think that absorption of diving into a picture is as though you have seen yourself looking back at you and you have dived in so deeply you cease to exist," Eleanor Harvey, senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, told Smithsonian Magazine. "What I tell people when they go through art museums is ... there will be a moment where you are dumbstruck in front of something and it changes your life forever."

Perhaps visiting the Art Institute could be a life-changing moment for you too. The art collection is considered one of the best in the world. You can see "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte," "American Gothic," and even "The Child's Bath," among countless other works. 

Ferris' dad's office

You'll see Ferris' dad's office building at 333 West Wacker in one of the Chicago River's architecturally diverse skyscrapers. A small part of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" to be sure, though no less a major piece of the Chicago skyline. When John Hughes shot the film two years after the building was built, the curved design by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates was considered the ultimate example of postmodern design, according to Curbed Chicago.

The building's blue-green glass exterior is meant to complement its neighbor, The Chicago River, whose hues change as the sun moves through the sky (via Architecture). "Designed for its specific site, it curves with the curve of the river bank," docent Tom Carmichael told the outlet. "The shades of green in the glass reflect the green of the water below. Its glassy wall acts as a mirror for the buildings on the opposite bank."

One of the best ways to see this incredible work of architecture is from the river itself. Several companies operate boat tours downtown. However, the Chicago Architecture Foundation's architecture tours are the best. From the water, you can really see the artistry of 333 West Wacker.

Daley Plaza from Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Packed with nearly 10,000 extras for the parade sequence in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago gets quite a bit of screen time. Not only the plaza itself but its stunning featured artwork, "The Picasso" sculpture. Chicago's unnamed sculpture by Pablo Picasso is technically untitled. However, its role as a piece of Windy City iconography is known far and wide partly because of John Hughes' "Ferris" and the car apocalypse antics of "The Blues Brothers."

As part of 2016's Ferris Fest, attendees tried to recreate Ferris' iconic parade joining scene (via WGN). The three-day-long festival brought fans together to see the various shooting locations in the area and see a screening of the beloved film. For Chicagoans, Daley Plaza is mostly a place to go in the wintertime during Christkindlmarket. During the German Christmas market, the plaza is transformed into stalls serving up schnitzel, handmade cuckoo clocks or ornaments, mulled wine, and the latest souvenir mug.

If you head to Daley Plaza and notice folks sliding down "The Picasso," don't worry too much. Kids have been using the sculpture as a slide for decades, and Chicago is no stranger to interactive art — just look at "Cloudgate" and the splash pad at Crown Fountain.

Tia's high school from Uncle Buck

New Trier Township High School, a prestigious public school, was the site of Tia's high school in the John Hughes film "Uncle Buck." Though it was not a functional school when the movie was made, according to Mentalfloss. Even if you aren't familiar with "Uncle Buck," you might recognize the school for its cameos in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Sixteen Candles" (via Mentalfloss).

Interestingly, even some other locations were filmed at New Trier. According to Eighties Kids, nearly every set for "Uncle Buck" was filmed in the high school, including the interiors of The Russell's house. Shooting "Uncle Buck" as quickly as they did was likely due in part because the school had dressing rooms, editing facilities, and even a special effects shop on the premises, so a lot of the film production could happen in the same place. Talk about two birds with one stone!