Vision Quest movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was Vision Quest filmed?

1985

About Vision Quest

This 1985 coming of age sports film stars Matthew Modine as Louden Swain, a recently turned 18 year old who has decided this is going to be the year that he makes his mark on the world. Oh, to be young and naive again. In Louden’s world, this means becoming the best high school wrestler in the state.

The problem? The best wrestler in the state is Schute (Frank Jasper) from a neighboring school who is two weight classes below him. So, he focuses on dropping from 190 to 168 in order to fight, and beat, the best in the state. It’s also worth mentioning that Schute has never been beaten, and although Louden is top of his weight class, he’s still pretty inexperienced when it comes to the world of professional wrestling.

Get ready for some serious 80s training montages as Louden, together with his friend Kuch (Michael Schoeffling), try to complete his vision quest and bring his dream to life.

However, this all gets turned upside down when a pretty 21 year old drifter called Carla (Linda Fiorentino) rolls into Louden’s life. After her car breaks down on the way to San Francisco, she’s in need of somewhere to stay. Immediately crushing on her, Louden suggests he stays in his family’s guest room until she’s back on her feet. What could go wrong, right?

Louden obviously falls in love with her and starts to lose focus on his ultimate goals. After he spots Carla on a date with his favorite teacher, Mr. Tanneran (Harold Sylvester), Louden loses it and tries to force himself on Carla. Not a good move at all. Somehow this results in them going to see his eccentric grandfather (Roberts Blossom) and them admitting their love for each other. Yep, I don’t know how they got there either.

A couple of days later, Carla says she’s stopping him from achieving his goals and she’s going to carry on to San Francisco, but not until she cheers him on in his big wrestling match against Shute. How romantic.

City Locations

Spokane, Washington

Location Types

American, NatureScapes, House

Location Styles

Americana/Anywhere America, Schools/Colleges

Vision Quest Locations

Increasingly unusual for many films, the Vision Quest production team actually shot the movie in Spokane, where the film is set. The rainy vibes of Washington State served as the perfect backdrop for the plethora of running and training montages that Louden goes through over the course of the film.

With much of the film being centered around high school wrestling matches, the Vision Quest production team opted to use a range of local high schools and colleges in order to bring the various action sequences to life.

Even when Carla and Louden go out to visit his eccentric grandfather, it’s just a short drive outside of metro Spokane. This means that if you wanted to complete a tour of the Vision Quest filming locations, it’s pretty easy to hit them all off in a couple of days in Spokane, Washington.

Carla and Louden drive to his grandfather’s scene in Vision Quest

Bigelow Gulch Road, Orchard Prairie

After the incident following Carla and Tannaran’s date, Carla and Louden journey up to see his grandfather before Louden’s big match. Mostly to invite him to watch, but also to check in on him.

On the drive to his place, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Carla and Louden get back on speaking terms as they both apparently have super short memories. Carla immediately gets flirty saying: “You know what turns me on? Hands. Big hands”. Oh boy.

The road used to film this interaction was Bigelow Gulch Road, Orchard Prairie, Spokane, Washington. It’s out towards the northeast of Spokane city center, and is often lined with beautiful trees and wide open spaces. Considering how close to the city it is, you feel as if you’re miles and miles away from the hustle and bustle.

As it’s a remote road, you’re going to need to drive there. However, you can recreate your favorite Vision Quest moments on the way there, pretending to be Louden and Carla.

Wrestling for position scene in Vision Quest

Rogers High School

In the opening sequence of the film, we see and hear Louden outlining his plans for the year. On the first day of wrestling practice, Coach (Charles Hallahan) says how the varsity process and seeding will work for the year. Essentially to be number one, you have to challenge number one and beat them.

When asking who wants to go first, Louden raises his hand to which Coach replies, “Louden you’re already number one at 190”. This is where Louden explains his weight division cutting plan, much to the dismay of his teammates and the coach himself.

Most of the wrestling and training montages take place in the old gym of Rogers High School on Wellesley Avenue in Spokane. It’s a huge school with baseball and athletic fields, making it the ideal spot for such a sport-heavy, high school film.

As this is still a functioning school, you can’t really visit it unless you go there, there’s an event or game on, or if you’re a parent. You can, however, stand outside as the exterior shots of Louden’s school were also filmed at Rogers High School.

You can drive here, but the number 33 bus does also stop right outside the school if you don't have transport or want to be greener.

Louden goes to work scene in Vision Quest

Ridpath Hotel

Following his first bout against Kuch in the opening scene, Louden is buoyant and runs from the high school to his job as a bellboy in a local hotel. He quickly changes out of his sweats into his vibrant red jacket and goes through the kitchen past his sort of mentor and short line cook called Elmo (J.C. Quinn).

He’s a bit of a curmudgeon and puts up with Louden, but shows his affection for the kid when he actually puts on a shirt and comes to his wrestling match at the end of the film - it’s a big deal.

Louden: “I can’t believe they actually pay me to work here.”

Elmo: “Neither can I kid.”

The filming location used as a stand in for the hotel that Louden worked at was the Ridpath Hotel on Sprague Avenue in central Spokane. This has since become the Ridpath Club Apartments and they are permanent dwellings, so you can’t really go inside and have a look around unless you live there or know someone who does.

As it’s in central Spokane, there are plenty of great restaurants and bars around the area, and it’s actually just around the corner from the Spokane train station, so it’s super easy to reach if you want to take it in from the outside.

Kuch and Louden go to see Shute scene in Vision Quest

Joe Albi Stadium

After training for some time to try and make the lower weight division, Louden decides that it’s time to check out the competition - the legendary Shute. He brings Kuch along for moral support who isn’t sure about this plan, after all Shute is supposed to be a machine.

This theory is validated when we see him training by carrying a huge log on his shoulders up a load of bleachers. The guy is an absolute monster, packed with 168kg of pure muscle. Louden should be scared.

Schute: “Think you’ll make the weight?”

Louden: “I hope so”

Schute: “I hope so too”

This intimidating Vision Quest scene was filmed at the Joe Albi Stadium, which is located at 4918 W Wellesley Avenue, Spokane, Washington. It’s actually just a few blocks west of Rogers High School and used to be a stadium that was mostly used for High School sporting events.

It’s no longer in use and reports say that although it’s still standing, the turf has been pulled up and it’s just a mess of concrete. You can still see the iconic bleachers that Schute hikes up with the log through the gates though, so it’s worth the journey if you’re in the Spokane area.

Located in between the hospital and Fairmount Memorial Park, you can either drive or take the number 22 or 35 bus and walk around the back of the hospital.

The Madonna scene in Vision Quest

Bigfoot Pub & Eatery

In a scene that’s fairly early on in the movie, we see Louden in a busy bar, talking to Mr. Tanneran as he’s eating ribs. We can see that Louden really wants some but is committed to his highly dangerous weight cutting methodology.

A couple of minutes later, Carla appears and Louden introduces the two. Little does he know that they’ll be on a date in no time. Carla asks him to dance as there is a band playing, fronted by no other than Madonna. Yep, that Madonna. She was super popular and the studio wanted to take advantage of this so she plays Gambler and Crazy For You in this scene, the latter is the song that Carla and Louden dance to.

Louden: “How about that dance?”

Carla: “Sure”

This iconic bar is the Bigfoot Pub & Eatery on 9115 N Division Street, Spokane, Washington. Just off the main road heading north out of Spokane towards Town & Country, this bar is super accessible and even welcomes kids until 9 pm.

It has a generous parking lot, but if you want to enjoy a drink, both the number 22 and 27 buses stop relatively close by. Enjoy some fries, have a drink and play some ping pong - just remember to put Madonna on the jukebox.

The final fight scene in Vision Quest

Spokane Falls Community College

Here we are at the climactic final scene: Schute versus Louden in the 168kg weight division. Up until now, Louden’s weight loss induced nosebleeds have held him back, but can he hold it together long enough to make his dreams come true?

Spoiler, yes he can. After he pins Schute after six minutes, he celebrates with his teammates on the court. In true 1980s coming of age style, there’s a freeze frame of Louden celebrating with the following voice over:

“Kuch was right, it was a vision quest. But all I ever settled for was that we’re born to live and then to die and we’ve got to do it alone, each in his own way. And I guess that’s why we’ve got to love those people who deserve it like there’s no tomorrow because, when you get right down to it, there isn’t.”

So profound.

This final matchup and the scene where Tannaran shoots the basketball were both shot at Spokane Falls Community College. You can find the campus at 3410 W Fort George Wright Drive, Spokane, Washington. Located in West Spokane, much of the campus and buildings have been modernized since the movie came out in 1985, but it’s a pleasant place to wander around.

There’s a huge parking lot and it has a dedicated bus stop on the number 33 bus route.

Conclusion

All in all, if you’re looking for a typical 1980s coming of age sports film, this might be the film for you. Parts of it haven’t exactly aged well, especially the scene where Louden and Carla fight and he tries to force himself on her, and all the references to dangerous weight loss methods, but if you can see past that and love Madonna-heavy soundtracks, it might be a fun watch for you.