Vacation movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was Vacation filmed?

1983

About Vacation

In the opening Vacation film scene (spoiler alert!), Clark Griswold makes the decision to take his wife Ellen and their children Rusty and Audrey on a cross-country trip from Chicago to the family’s all-time favorite place: Walley World. Ellen suggests flying, but Clark says driving is a better choice, so they can spend more quality time together.

He purchases a new car but is informed that it will not arrive for an additional six weeks. When he goes to cancel the order, he is informed that his trade-in vehicle has already been destroyed, and thus he must select something else on the lot. He ends up with the supremely ugly station wagon known as the “Wagon Queen Family Truckster.”

The family goes through a series of unfortunate but extremely humorous events during their journey. A stop in Coolidge Kansas to see Ellen’s cousin Catherine and her husband Eddie sees the family saddled with the cantankerous Aunt Edna and her far less than friendly dog Dinky. The Griswolds agree to take her with them as far as her son’s house in Phoenix.

In South Fork, Colorado, Clark ties Dinky to the bumper before retiring to bed. The following morning, the family departs for their next destination and is surprised to be pulled over by a police officer who notes the dog’s leash is still attached to the bumper, but the dog is not. Clark apologizes, but Aunt Edna is furious. On their way out of Colorado, Ellen loses her purse which contained all of their credit cards. Clark has no choice but to cash a cheque to finance the remainder of the trip.

Ellen and Clark have an argument, and Clark crashes the truckster in Monument Valley. Clark walks into the desert for help alone, and his family is taken to a mechanic. The mechanic takes the remainder of Clark’s money and hands over the truckster that is now only barely running, the car barely operational. Clark tries to get a hotel clerk to cash a cheque, but he refuses. Clark steals money from the cash register, leaving behind his cheque as payment.

It is discovered that Aunt Edna passed away in her sleep. She is wrapped up and tied to the top of the car for the remainder of the journey. Clark leaves her body on her son’s doorstep with a letter.

Tired of the mishaps, Ellen and the kids tell Clark they want to return to Chicago, but Clark refuses. They eventually arrive at the entrance to Walley World and are upset to find out the facility is closed for the subsequent two weeks. Clark buys a BB gun and forces the security guard to take his family on the rides at the park. A SWAT team descends to arrest Clark. Roy Walley appears and an impassioned plea from the family convinces him not to press charges. He allows the family to continue their day at the park at no expense.

City Locations

Arizona: Flagstaff, Grand Canyon National Park, Sedona; Utah: Monument Valley; Southern California: Arcadia, Glendale, Valencia; Illinois: Chicago

Location Types

American, House, NatureScapes, Hotels/Motels, Retail

Location Styles

Americana/Anywhere America, Hotel/Motel Style, Classic Car

Vacation Locations

Filmed in 1983 in various locations throughout the United States, Vacation is a comedy classic credited to the comedy enterprise National Lampoon. Directed by the well-renowned filmmaker Harold Ramis, the cast of Vacation includes such talented actors as Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Imogene Coca, Randy Quaid, and John Candy. The supermodel Christie Brinkley makes a memorable cameo in this beloved film.

A crushing box office success, Vacation earned greater than $60 million during its United States release alone. The success of the first Vacation movie led to a franchise that includes five sequels: European Vacation, Christmas Vacation, Vegas Vacation, Christmas Vacation 2, and Vacation (2015).

There are many different filming locations for Vacation, spanning several different states including Utah, Arizona, Illinois, and California. Among the most well-known spots where Vacation scenes were shot include Six Flags Magic Mountain, Grand Canyon National Park, and Monument Valley.

If you are among the Griswolds’ biggest fans, a trip to visit the filming locations for Vacation is sure to be a real treat!

Fun Fact:

The script for this film was written by legendary director of classic teen comedies John Hughes.

Clark buys a new car for their trip scene in Vacation

900 South Brand Boulevard, Glendale, California

In one of the funniest scenes in Vacation, Clark and Rusty arrive at the car lot to drop off their trade-in vehicle and pick up their new car. With the dealer accompanying them, they stroll across the parking lot toward an ugly green station wagon. They stop in front of the car, and this dialogue ensues.

Clark: Ed, this is not the car I ordered. I distinctly ordered the Antarctic Blue super sports wagon with the CB and the optional rally full pack.

Ed: You didn’t order the Metallic Pee?

Clark: Metallic Pee?? NO! Antarctic Blue! The sports wagon. This isn’t even the right model.

Ed: You know, I think you’re right. I don’t think this is the car. This is the new Wagon Queen Family Truckster. This is a d*mn fine automobile. If you want my honest opinion, this beats the h*ll out of the sports wagon, but I want to make you happy.

To get to this former Vacation film set, you can take bus lines 11, 180, 92, or 94 or take the subway routes Metrolink Antelope Valley Line, Metrolink Venture County Line, or the Pacific Surfliner.

Clark stops for directions in the ghetto scene in Vacation

Poplar Street Bridge, St. Louis, Missouri, United States

The family has been traveling for nearly a full day, and everyone is asleep in the car except Clark who sings “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” to himself in a deep, faux baritone. Ellen wakes up and notices the exit Clark is taking and says to him, “Clark, I think this is the wrong exit!” Clark responds by saying, “What’s the difference as long as we get across the river?”

In the next film segment, it is now nighttime, and Clark is lost in a ghetto. Ellen asks him what he is doing, and he tells her to relax. She notes it is very dangerous, and they are out of their depth. Clark tells Ellen that this is a part of America they rarely get to see, so this is a wonderful cultural opportunity for the kids. He tells the kids to enjoy watching the “plight” outside their windows. All of a sudden, a gunshot rings out, and Clark yells to the kids, “Roll ‘em up!”

Though the ghetto scenes were filmed on a studio backlot, you can visit the exact exit where Clark makes the wrong turn that takes them to the opportunity to view the “plight” of America in the region.

To get to the Poplar Street Bridge, travel east on Chestnut Street, making a right onto N Broadway. Just after the Taco Bell, make a left-hand turn and continue straight on Chouteau Avenue. Make a left onto S Leonor K Sullivan Boulevard, traveling to the right at the sign for Levee Road. This will take you to the bridge.

The Griswolds visit Cousins Eddie and Catherine S Leonor K Sullivan Boulevard

58463 Apple Rd. Boone, CO

Clark, Ellen, and the kids have stopped by to visit their cousins Eddie and Catherine. Eddie is at the barbecue, preparing a meal for the family to enjoy. Ellen helps by organizing the condiments and buns on the picnic table. As Eddie cooks, he asks Clark some questions, and the two share a running dialogue.

Eddie: How do you like yours, Clark?

Clark: Oh, medium rare, a little pink inside.

Eddie: No, your bun…light or dark? Mmmm, mmmm…I don’t know why they call this stuff Hamburger Helper. It does just fine by itself, huh? I like it better than Tuna Helper myself. Don’t you, Clark?

Clark: You’re the gourmet around here, Ed.

This Vacation filming location is now a private residence. You can travel here to view the exterior of the home, but it is important to remain respectful of the privacy of the homeowners. To visit this film site, travel south on N Baker Avenue, turning right onto Main Street. Make a left-hand turn onto CO-209 S then a left onto US-50 E. After 1.3 miles, make a left onto Apple Road, and you will find your destination directly to the left.

Clark crashes the family truck scene in Vacation

US Highway 160, Kayenta, AZ

This Vacation film set is located on a section of the highway that connects the two states of Arizona and Utah in a place called Monument Valley. In this scene, the family continues along their travels, seemingly lost. Clark and Ellen are arguing with Ellen insisting they are lost, and Clark equally as fervent in saying they aren’t. They pass a sign that says Road Closed.

Audrey notes that she saw some detour signs. The following conversation takes place between Clark and Audrey:

Audrey: Mom, I saw some detour signs.

Clark: I didn’t see any.

Audrey: I saw them when you and mom were trying to fold the map.

Clark: Audrey, when they close the road, they put up big signs. Like this one…AAAGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!

Clark hits the signs taking the car airborne and crashing several hundred feet ahead.

This particular former Vacation production location is now home to a Hampton Inn. To get to this former film set, public transit is available via bus line 3.

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Clark meets the beautiful girl from the Ferrari at the hotel pool scene in Vacation

Saddleback Inn, 12500 Firestone Blvd, Norwalk, California, USA

Clark and the beautiful girl from the Ferrari wander down by the pool at the hotel. His family has turned in for the night, and he and Ellen are feuding. Clark and his lady friend share this conversation:

Clark: My credo is, if you have to have a credo. You know? Go for it, pretty much. You only go around this crazy merry go round once. You know?

Ferrari girl: I agree. {She takes off her blouse to reveal her bra.}

Clark: Yeah, that’s my credo.

{Ferrari girl removes her skirt.}

You don’t have to have a credo, but for it’s where it…a penny saved, pennies from heaven. My favorite credo. You know a penny saved…{Ferrari girl throws her panties at him and jumps in the pool} thank you.

To get to this well-known hotel, take bus lines 460, 5, or 62 or board the train’s Metrolink Orange County Line.

Clark breaks into Walley World scene in Vacation

Santa Anita Park, Santa Anita Park, West Huntington Drive, Arcadia, CA, USA

In one of the best scenes in Vacation, Clark is angered to arrive at Walley World to find it closed for two weeks for repairs. He leaves the park and goes to a store to purchase a realistic-looking BB gun, intent on returning to the park. Ellen tries to talk Clark into flying home, but Clark refuses.

Security guard: Sorry, folks, park’s closed. The moose out front should have told ya.

Clark: Yes, we’re here to see Mr. Roy Walley.

Security guard: What is your name, Sir?

Clark: Clark W. Griswold.

Security guard: What’s this regarding, Mr. Grizzle?

Clark: Uh, we’re here for public museum relations or summer inspection, a personal matter.

Security guard: Ah, well, nobody, uh, nobody notified this office of ummm…anything.

Clark: Well, I’m notifying you.

Security guard: I’m afraid I’m going to need a little more than that, Sir.

Clark: Okey dokey, how’s this? {He takes the BB gun out of the bag and points it at the security guard.}

To get to the site where this iconic scene was shot, you can take bus lines 179 or 187 or board the light rail’s L Line (Gold.)

Clark meets the beautiful girl from the Ferrari at the hotel pool scene in Vacation

Saddleback Inn, 12500 Firestone Blvd, Norwalk, California

Clark and the beautiful girl from the Ferrari wander down by the pool at the hotel. His family has turned in for the night, and he and Ellen are feuding. Clark and his lady friend share this conversation.

Clark: My credo is, if you have to have a credo. You know? Go for it, pretty much. You only go around this crazy merry go round once. You know?

Ferrari girl: I agree.

She takes off her blouse to reveal her bra.

Clark: Yeah, that’s my credo.

Ferrari girl removes her skirt.

You don’t have to have a credo, but for it’s where it…a penny saved, pennies from heaven. My favorite credo. You know a penny saved… Ferrari girl throws her panties at him and jumps in the pool. Clark: Thank you.

To get to this well-known hotel, take bus lines 460, 5, or 62 or board the train’s Metrolink Orange County Line.

Conclusion

One of America’s most beloved comedies, Vacation is the first of a series of films that is cherished worldwide. The Griswolds take us on an adventure that spans the entirety of the country. From the suburbs of Chicago to the ghettos of St. Louis, the majestic mountains of Monument Valley, and even the unique charms of Six Flags Magic Mountain, Vacation takes the viewer on an unforgettable journey with a truly unforgettable family.

Consider yourself one of the Griswolds’ biggest fans? Then a trip to visit the Vacation filming locations is not to be missed!