A Christmas Story is the classic 1983 Christmas film about young Ralphie who dreams of getting a Red Ryder BB Gun on Christmas morning.
The filming was split between two locations. The house and department store are located in Cleveland, Ohio, but the soundstage work and other filming locations were located in and around Toronto, Ontario.
A number of years ago, a couple huge fans of the movie made a documentary about the filming locations. Their film is called Roadtrip for Ralphie. While their website doesn’t appear to be up any more, the film can be ordered from Amazon here.
The school used in the film is located just outside Toronto, in St. Catharine’s, Ontario. Both interiors and exteriors were filmed at the school. During filming of exteriors, a number of antique cars were parked outside to make it appear like the 1940s.
A number of changes have happened since filming. The school is now operated as a women’s shelter, and has a security fence around it. The school yard featuring in the film has now been developed and houses fill the area.
Through some detective work, I was able to track down the location where the flag pole was set up. This is where the famous scene takes place where Flick is “triple dog dared” to stick his tongue on the pole. I was able to identify the location by matching the scene in the film with the house across the street, which is virtually unchanged from the 80s.
I actually spoke to the owners of the house that now sits on that spot. They had no idea that it was filmed where they now live. I showed them some shots from the film, and they really seemed to not care very much! Maybe this winter they will catch the film on TV and see that scene.
The Fire Truck
The fire truck that appears in that famous scene belongs to the Chippewa Volunteer Fire Fighters Association in Niagara Falls, Ontario. They have the fire truck on display in their building, but unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be open to the public. When I visited, the building was empty, but I was able to see the truck and take photos through the windows. In honour of the film, they also have a leg lamp on display in one of the windows.
If you’d like to see more footage of the fire truck, check out the Roadtrip for Ralphie documentary that I mentioned above. The filmmakers were able to go inside and view the firetruck up close.
Higbee’s Department Store
Higbee’s Department Store in downtown Cleveland was chosen because the store owners would allow the production to film inside as well. The store has closed since then, and is now a casino.
The exterior of the store was featured in several scenes in the film, and the Christmas Parade was also filmed right in front of the store, in the Public Square.
The interior of the store has been drastically changed since the modification to a casino. I walked in the lobby but didn’t continue to see the rest of the building.
A Christmas Story House
The house in Cleveland used for filming the movie was actually bought by a big fan, and turned into a tourist attraction for fans of the film. While only a few scenes were filming inside (most interiors were filmed on a soundstage in Toronto), there were lots of exterior scenes filmed. The owner also completely renovated it to make it appear as close to it did in the film.
The house exteriors have restored to appear just how they did in the film. The paint colours have been restored, and other than an iron gate, the grounds have been restored as best as possible as well.
The backyard seems a bit different than in the film. The shed was originally backing on to the back fence. The shed is now separated from the fence, and the tour guide couldn’t tell me if the shed or the fence was moved. They did, however, set up the archway with the metal sign that Ralphie was shooting his BB Gun at.
The rear of the house originally had a back door leading off the kitchen, with a few stairs down to the lawn. This is currently being changed, as a wheelchair ramp is being added to give handicap access to the house.
The interior of the house is a bit unusual. The living room and front hall have been restored to appear as they did in the film. These areas did appear in the film, at least partially. While everything is a replica, it really gives you the feeling that you are on the set of the movie. From the opposing couches to the Christmas Tree, and the bowling trophy to the Red Ryder BB Gun box hidden behind the desk. And the room wouldn’t be complete without a leg lamp sitting in the front window.
The upstairs bedroom and bathroom don’t resemble the movie sets at all, as nothing was actually filmed in these spots. The furniture arrangement is very different from what you will see in the movie. However, they have still done an excellent job of recreating these rooms with period furniture and decor. You definitely feel like you are in the right era.
One cool addition upstairs is the old phone hanging on the wall. If you pick up the phone, you can actually hear there scene where Mrs. Parker calls the Shwartz’s mother.
The kitchen also differs from the film, as those scenes were also filmed on a soundstage. Much like the upstairs, the kitchen has been recreated to resemble the set, including a cupboard under the sink where you can hide, just like Randy did.
A Christmas Story House Museum
When you visit the house, you check in across the street in the gift shop. This large gift shop features a lot of memoribilia and souvenirs from A Christmas Story. They also have some merchandise from other Christmas classics, like Home Alone, Elf, and Christmas Vacation.
From the gift shop, your tour guide will bring you across to visit the house. Once you finish in the house, you head back across the street to visit the museum. This small museum is in an old house, and is actually also seen in the movie, when Mr. Parker crosses the street to get a view of his Leg Lamp award, shining in the window.
The museum is filled with props and costumes from the film. One room also features some of the props that were rescued from the school before it was gutted. The chalkboard, coat-rack, and classroom door are all on display.
In the center of the museum is one of the BB Guns featured in the film. Apparently, 6 different guns were used in the filming, and they were specially made. The Red Ryder company did not produce any guns “with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time.”
Spending the Night in the House
A Christmas Story House actually gives you the option to spend the night in the house. At the back of the house, there is a staircase taking you to a loft located in the back of the 2nd level and the 3rd level. This area features a full kitchen, a living room (with a pull-out sofa bed), and a full bedroom and bathroom.
The living room is also stocked with a number of Christmas DVDs, including A Christmas Story. It is a really cool experience to watch the movie inside the house where it was filmed.
The best part of booking this space is that you get full access to the house. Once the tours finish for the day, you get to open a door and go in. You can run around, play, and reenact all your favourite scenes as much as you want. The tour gives you a limited time frame to explore the house, and it can be hard to take photos as there are other people in the house with you. But by booking the house overnight, you get lots of time to do all this.
When we spent the night in August 2019, we didn’t bother taking photos during the tour. We knew we would have all night to explore. Of course, there was a couple iconic photos that I just couldn’t turn down.