Explore a Chicago prison featured in movies

Joliet, United States

Experience hosted by Kelli

  1. 2 hours
  2. Hosted in English

What you'll do

Located about 45 miles outside Chicago, Old Joliet Prison has served for years as an Illinois state penitentiary and a movie set. Learn more about the prison's double histories on this two-hour (mostly) outdoor walking tour.

On the 1.25-mile guided tour, wander through the former correctional center's barbed-wire gates and imposing 19th-century fortress-style walls. While inside, experience firsthand the prison's sally ports, cellblocks, chapel, cafeteria, yard, and solitary confinement.

Finally, take a seat in the darkened gymnasium to hear about Hollywood's century-long relationship with Old Joliet Prison, including cinema's role in Illinois prison reform.

Movies and TV series you'll consider on this tour:

・Ghost Adventures (2019)
・Empire (2015-20)
・Public Enemies (2009)
・Prison Break (2005-09)
・The Blues Brothers (1980)
・White Heat (1949) and more!
Located about 45 miles outside Chicago, Old Joliet Prison has served for years as an Illinois state penitentiary and a movie set. Learn more about the prison's double histories on this two-hour (mostly) outdoor walking tour.

On the 1.25-mile guided tour, wander through the former correctional center's barbed-wire gates and imposing 19th-century fortress-style walls. While inside, experience firsthand the prison's sally ports, cellblock…

Meet your Host, Kelli

Host on Airbnb since 2019
  • 11 Reviews
  • Identity verified
Hi. I’m Kelli, a public speaker, tour guide, and educator who helps visitors and residents discover Chicago through film.

Before starting Chicago Movie Tours, I spent more than a decade as a professor of film studies. Now, I take my expertise and love of teaching beyond the traditional classroom and into real-world settings.

I hold a Ph.D. in Humanities, an M.A. in English, and a B.A. in English, with minors in history and French.
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From $45/ person

Where you'll be

Built in the Gothic architectural style, it’s easy to see why Old Joliet Prison impressed people when it opened in 1858. But within 20 years, the correctional center was filled well past capacity, leading to unsanitary and dangerous conditions. Although people continually called for its closure, the prison housed offenders until the 21st century—including fictional inmates from several movies and television shows.

Rated 5.0 out of 5 from 11 reviews.

Jane
November 2019
What a special visit! Great presentation! Hosts were excellent—knowledgeable and informative! Would’ve loved to be able to enter a cell or walk down the prison corridor, but understand that wasn’t possible due to unsafe structural conditions. I hope they are able to rehab the vandalized buildings for historical purposes and future tours.
Kaylee
November 2019
A really great blend of Atlas Obscura and the local history museum! Kelli did her research (LOVED the bit in her presentation about the movies that were actually NOT filmed there...), and the guide for the walking tour portion was super knowledgeable about the grounds and history.
Jennifer
October 2019
This was a really interesting tour. I took my kids, ages 10 and 13, and they loved it as well. The stories, fun facts, and novelty of the location kept their attention for the full two hours.
Elizabeth
October 2019
This was a fascinating look at a part of Chicago/Joliet history that I knew next to nothing about. I enjoyed learning about both the prison history and the film history.
Laurie
November 2019
Great experience. The tour was excellent. Very informative, and unique.

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    Things to know

    Cancellation policy

    Cancel up to 7 days before the Experience start time for a full refund, or within 24 hours of booking as long as the booking is made more than 48 hours before the start time.

    Guest requirements

    Up to 10 guests ages 10 and up can attend.