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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #111
February 03, 2010

KOTC Road Trip: Playing Hooky in Chicago

Ferris Bueller's Day Off + Chicago with the Family

We had fond memories of Matthew Broderick playing Ferris Bueller, a charismatic high-school student who turns a day playing hooky into an almighty adventure in Ferris Beuller's Day Off and were eager to introduce Ferris to our kids, despite his rascally nature. After all, Ferris fakes illness to skip school, stealing his best pal Cameron's father's Ferrari and heading downtown to Chicago with his girlfriend (and a very nervous Cameron). Although Ferris manages to fool just about everyone into thinking that he really is home sick  -- his parents touchingly bid him farewell before leaving for work, and students at school start a "save Ferris" campaign -- the Dean of Students is desperate to bring his school's most notorious truant to justice. Our memories of the film's joyous nature overshadowed the film's mature themes, and our tweens and teens loved the way Ferris periodically turns to the camera to deliver a deadpan, wise-beyond-his-years commentary on teenage life ("Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."). As parents we could take issue with the fact that Ferris never gets in trouble for his transgressions, but the truth is that once he jumps a parade float and grabs the mike to belt out "Twist and Shout," his rebel message had taken hold of our hearts.

We couldn't wait to explore the city that Ferris calls his own. You can't know Chicago until you've gazed down 1353 feet from the Sears Tower (recently renamed the Willis Tower) as the kids did in the film. Take the elevator to the Skydeck, check out the Skydeck Scavenger Hunt before descending to the real world and heading over to Millennium Park. Though the Park didn't exist in Ferris' day, you can bet he would have wreaked some havoc there. You can lunch on some Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza (see below), check out the Park Grill, smack dab in the middle of the park, or bring a picnic for a scenic meal on the lawn of the Prizker Pavilion. You're now just a block way from The Art Institute of Chicago, which has one of the world's most notable collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art--  don't miss "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grade Jatte," the George Seurat painting that captivated our trio from the movie. If you're lucky, the Cubs are in town and you can take in a day at Wrigley Field; that's where Ferris catches a foul ball. Build in 1916, Wrigley has retained it's charm over the years, and is on every baseball lover's list of the best ball parks. Friendly and convivial, you don't have to be a Cubs fan (or even a baseball fan) to enjoy an afternoon here. From the beautiful lake to the friendly crowds, you'll be glad you took the time to visit this terrific city.

Film Title: Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Directed By: John Hughes
1986, Rated PG-13, 103 minutes

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Film:

  • Why it's Worth It: We think this film is a classic. John Hughes, who died in 2009, was best when chronicling the angst-filled days of teenagers and the sweet center of this film is Ferris' efforts to help his friend Cameron feel better about a father who seems to be more focused on material things than his own son. Ferris' girlfriend Sloan completes the trio as a fetchingly devoted, yet confidently independent, girlfriend. From the achingly boring homeroom teacher, (who hasn't seen this movie and repeated the "Bueller? Bueller?" quote?) to Ferris' blindly loyal underclassmen friends, nearly every character somehow illuminates the teenage experience.
  • Red Flags:  Ferris lies to his family about being sick, and there are more than a few curse words. Best for tweens and up.
  • Further Viewing: John Hughes made two other great films about being a teenager -  The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles should be recommended viewing for any pre-teen! And younger kids will love his Home Alone series.

Our Tips for Talking with your Kids About this Film:

  • Parental Savvy: Obviously, lying about missing school and stealing a car aren't high on our list of things to do, but Ferris' antics make for great family conversation. Learn from Ferris - naturally, lying and stealing are taboo but you can also talk with the kids about how movies use fantastic scenarios (from fairy tales to super heroes) to underline the values and ideals that are important. Ferris takes a day off to appreciate life, and to help his friend feel better about a problem he's having at home. Isn't that what a good friend should do?


Spend a Weekend in Chicago

Age Recommendation: six and up

Time Allotment: At least two days!

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Adventure:

  • Where to Stay: The Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers is perfect for families, and situated right downtown. The rooms are big, suites are available and there is a kid-friendly pool, and cable TV. From the towers, you'll be able to get great views of the Chicago River. Kids under 17 stay free.
  • How to Get Around: The city's El and Metra lines are cheap, efficient and (quite frankly) fun! Check out the CTA Trip Planner website to find the best route to your destination.
  • Where to Eat: You must have a Chicago Style Hot Dog from the ballpark, if you get to Wrigley (which you should!). Topped with mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish, tomato, peppers and celery salt (BUT NEVER KETCHUP!) this simple delicacy will complete the experience of being a tourist in the city. And, don't leave the city without trying a slice of Chicago Deep Dish Pizza - we know, you had a dog for lunch! - find a nearby Giordano's and bring your appetite. These pizzas can be up to three inches thick, stuffed with cheese, sauce and whatever else you can dream up! And, try the Billy Goat Tavern for dinner. If you remember the Saturday Night Live sketch where a short order cook yells "Cheezeborger! Cheezeborger!" this is the place that inspired the comedy. Rough around the edges in a most charming way, this place is kid-friendly and has no-frills picnic table seating.
  • Travel Books: We love all city travel books (we collect them like maniacs) but think the ones geared to families are truly fabulous. Check out Frommer's Chicago with Kids.

Our Tips for Expanding this Adventure:

  • Play Hooky: Why not take one day out of the school year and whisk your child away for a surprise adventure, right in your own city? It could be as simple as a day in mom or dad's office, or a trip to an aquarium. Or, just a day at home with a special trip to the ice-cream store. It might work to perk up a kid in a tough place, or be a sweet reward for a good report card.  Your kids won't soon forget the day you helped them play hooky!

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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