Cleveland is the best location in the nation where the crossroads of Hollywood and Christmas create year-round fun.
You can see Uncle Eddie’s lemon of an RV from National Lampoons Christmas Vacation and see Cindy Lou Who’s entire bedroom set from the movie How The Grinch Stole Christmas. There are even millions of dollars-worth of actual New York City Christmas window displays from years past. And everyone already knows you can explore Ralphie’s actual house and neighborhood from the movie A Christmas Story.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you enjoy Christmas and you love watching Christmas movies, Cleveland is your North Pole! Let this winter deliver a blizzard of fun at two stops. One is A Castle Noel – the world’s largest privately held collection of Christmas movie props and costumes. The other is A Christmas Story House and Museum featuring just about everything from the movie, A Christmas Story.
Start your adventure at A Christmas Story House. The movie was filmed in Cleveland but it portrays a fictional town in Indiana. Cleveland happened to have the perfect neighborhood, a house with a wraparound porch, the old downtown department store, old neighborhood school and other things that met the movie’s scouting team’s criteria to a “T”. The old Higbees building agreed to keep its Christmas look months past the end of the holiday for filming.
Brian Jones bought the house on eBay. Previously, he made leg lamps inspired by the movie. Originally, he did it as a gift to his parents. Then friends. The more he made, the more others wanted them. Since the demand for leg lamps was so strong, he felt the house would also draw interest.
The exterior of the house was remodeled back to how it looked for the movie. Since the interior shots were actually filmed on a sound stage that was bigger than the rooms in the real house, there were challenges to replicate it. Today, it’s like walking through Ralphie’s home – close enough anyway.
The initial tour is 15 minutes (starting every 30 minutes). Afterward, you are encouraged to explore on your own. Most folks go straight to the nostalgic photo ops to reenact the movie’s more memorable scenes. One of the most popular pastimes is to hide under the sink like little Randy. You can imagine the grown men trying to pull this off. And of course, whether inside or outside, posing with that leg in the window is a must.
“It is definitely the most touched leg in Cleveland,” laughed Steve Siedlecki, Executive Director of A Christmas Story House.
The house is full of interactive settings.
Across the street from the house is the museum. There, you’ll find the actual costumes, behind-the-scenes photos and memorabilia galore. You’ll even see Randy’s snow suit.
The gift shop has it all – leg lamps (It’s a major award!), decoder pens, pink bunny suits, even the official Daisy Red Ryder Range Model 1938 Air Rifle BB Gun complete with retro box from A Christmas Story.
But be careful, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”
Heck there’s even a nearby “official” Chinese restaurant. Bring your ticket stub and get 10 percent off.
One of the many memorable scenes from A Christmas Story is when Ralphie climbs Santa Claus Mountain inside a (Cleveland) department store to tell Santa what he wants for Christmas. But as we all know, Ralphie choked. Just as he began to slide down the giant slide, he stopped, looked up, and spit out his wish. Santa merely said, “You’ll shoot your eye out,” pressed his foot against Ralphie, and “assisted” his descent down Santa Claus Mountain.
Well, slide down to Medina, just south of Cleveland, and recreate that scene on a replica of Santa Claus Mountain inside A Castle Noel.
A Castle Noel is where many famous Hollywood Christmas movie stage sets, costumes and other memorabilia are collected for the public to experience first-hand.
This Christmas wish came true for collector Mark Klaus. And with a name like Klaus, he was destined for the Christmas business along with his wife, Dana.
“My dad was the living image of Clark Griswold’s character in National Lampoon’s A Christmas Vacation and my mom was a Big Band singer who would fill the house with music,” remembers Klaus.
Mark was a sculptor by trade. He sold Christmas Nativities on TV for 20 years. Somewhere along the line he began collecting Christmas movie props.
Now he claims the world’s largest privately held collection of Christmas movie props and costumes. And he’s sharing it with the public at A Castle Noel. It spans a half a block in the picturesque square of Medina’s downtown. Think visions of It’s A Wonderful Life. Inside is a 40,000 square foot wonderland.
Start your journey at The Blizzard Vortex Tunnel. This giant swirling tube is where you travel back to your childhood.
One of the most impressive visuals at A Castle Noel is the Christmas window displays straight from the iconic stores in New York City. Yes, these are the real deal – New York department store Christmas windows of the past – featuring sets of animated window displays that cost up to $2 million to make.
These were formerly decorated storefront windows at places like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales and Lord and Taylor. The Saks displays feature 10 windows from the mid-90s – stunning! It tells stories of The Nutcracker and The Magic Telescope. Bloomingdales features the 2009 shoe display and glittering colors of shoes as seen the world over by going viral on the Internet Their 2013 window display has the Three Bears reading a book.
There are more than 50 New York City Christmas windows. Each window pane is a progression in a themed story. A backstage tour is part of the normal tour. There, visitors see the restoration workshop.
A crowd favorite is the 1960’s Cleveland Higbees window display (It’s where A Christmas Story’s department scene is set).
A Castle Noel is a special place to reminisce. Whether you’re 1 or 101, smiles abound. And for the older “kids” there are thousands of toys to see from a Christmas’ past.
“Hey, I remember when my sister cut all the hair off that doll,” is a common line to hear as people marvel at toys that time forgot.
Christmas movies are a part of our culture. And now the nuts and bolts that built these Christmas classics are here for you to touch and see and smell and hear.
And it’s interactive. The Santa Claus Squeeze is the jolly ole elf’s training facility. Have you ever thought about going down a chimney by yourself. Now you can! And what’s even better is watching grandma keep up with her grandkids grinning ear to ear, laughing all the way.
Heck, Cindy Lou Who’s entire bedroom set from the movie, How The Grinch Stole Christmas is here! Imagine that.
The following are just some of the precious finds at A Castle Noel:
- The Grinch’s star from the top of the tree and Jim Carey’s motorcycle and 16 foot Grinch sleigh. There are 400 props and costumes from that movie alone.
- The actual Buddy the Elf outfit from the movie Elf starring Will Ferrell as well as the special gift that Buddy got for his father. There’s even the purple elf hockey outfit.
- The house from outer space complete with light show from the movie Deck The Halls starring Danny DeVito. See how the miniature house with 80,000 fiber optic tips is made to look real in the motion picture.
- The giant snowman for the top of the house from the movie Christmas with the Kranks starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis along with their costumes.
- The costume for the Ghost of Christmas Past and Scrooge’s night coat from the movie A Christmas Carol.
- The elf outfit from the character Patch as well as the remote control sleigh and reindeer and a short film showing how the movie Santa Claus starring Dudley Moore was made.
- They even have Uncle Eddie’s RV from National Lampoon’s A Christmas Vacation,Arnold Schwarzenegger costumes from Jingle All The Way, and a thirty foot Christmas tree with 11,000 lights.
The magic continues in a Theater that snows inside! There, a short movie plays a bunch of nostalgic clips from everyone’s favorite Christmas movies.
Guided tours last about an hour and a half. Along the Hollywood Walk of Fame visitors gaze at hundreds of vintage Christmas movie photos. There are also several train displays plus a black light 3D mini golf course with a Santa meets aliens theme.
The climax of A Castle Noel brings us full circle with A Christmas Story House. You get to ascend Santa Claus Mountain like Ralphie did in A Christmas Story movie to meet Santa for a photo and ask for what you want for Christmas and then slide down the long slide.
You can commemorate your “movie” experience with a visit to the gift shop. It’s loaded with treats to put under your Christmas tree for every Christmas movie lover in the family.
By Frank R. Satullo, The OhioTraveler