Want to spend Christmas reliving the classic holiday film ‘A Christmas Story?’ You could catch the 24-marathon of the movie on TBS or TNT on Christmas Eve. Better yet, pack your bags (and your pink bunny pajamas), head to Cleveland, Ohio, and stay overnight in the house featured in the iconic film. Here’s a peek into what it’s like after hours in the ‘A Christmas Story’ house, one of the city’s best-known cinematic landmarks.
By day, the ‘A Christmas Story’ House is a museum to movie magic, located in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. The mustard-yellow clapboard house with green trim looks like many of the modest century homes on the city’s west side, but it’s the only one selected as the Parker family home in the 1983 classic holiday film ‘A Christmas Story.’ Fans of the film come from all over the country and globe armed with every detail of the film’s plot when they wander through on a tour. They fire off its memorable lines as easily as protagonist Ralph (“Ralphie”) Parker could have shot an eye out with his Red Ryder BB gun. Some of the museum staff and docents can tell you what they were doing when the film crew came to town in the early 1980s. They may have been extras in the parade scene or perhaps they waited hours in line to see Santa Claus at Higbee’s, a now-defunct department store in downtown Cleveland.
Few people, however, can say they’ve spent the night in the museum surrounded by artifacts from the 1940s-era movie. When superfan Brian Jones bought the house overlooking Cleveland’s steel mills sight unseen in 2006, he could not have imagined people lining up around the block to visit the house, let alone pay thousands of dollars to spend the night on Christmas Eve. But once the holiday spirit strikes, the house becomes a mecca for America’s most-watched holiday movie and the calendar fills up with overnight bookings.
My family decided to pull the trigger and book an after-hours visit to the famous film location in the off-season, which starts at a much more reasonable $495 midweek between April and October. A third-floor loft with a kitchen, living room, bathroom, and one bedroom becomes our personal refuge during regular museum hours, but once the tourists leave, we have the full run of the house. We can even sleep in Ralphie’s and Randy’s bedroom surrounded by antique toys and children’s books from a bygone era—all of which can be played with.
Since my seven-year-old daughter had never seen ‘A Christmas Story’ before, I wondered what she would think about the strange artifacts throughout the Parker home. Like the many visitors before her, she is naturally drawn to the infamous leg lamp with its “soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the front window.” She gets a good laugh when she picks up the rotary-dial phone in the second-floor hallway to hear Mrs. Schwarz’s verbal assault on her son whom Ralphie wrongly accused of teaching him the F-word—the “queen-mother of dirty words.” In the bathroom, a bar of Lifebuoy soap stands by to be Ralphie’s punishment for using said F-word. I discourage Kinley from putting the soap in her mouth, given it has bite marks on it from a previous museum visitor.
The surreal experience continues as we hang out in the living room and play board games under the light of the leg lamp late that evening. The Christmas tree gleams year-round in the corner of the room with the Red Ryder BB gun propped up by the fireplace. Even though the interior shots of the Parker home were filmed on a soundstage in Canada, the home was painstakingly remodeled to closely match the set’s layout. At any moment, I expect Ralphie to bound down the stairs like a “deranged Easter bunny” wearing the pink pajamas his Aunt Clara bought him. Instead, we’re interrupted by a few of the film’s fans climbing the porch stairs and peering in the front window to get a peek. They are just as surprised as we are when they realize we were inside looking back at them. We took that interruption as our cue to head upstairs to the loft apartment and call it a night.
Several months later, when the holiday season was in full swing, we finally sat down to watch the Christmas classic together as a family. It was a joy to see our daughter’s reaction to the various scenes in the film. She shouted and pointed to the TV when she recognized the yellow clapboard house. “I remember that!” she exclaimed, then repeated the phrase over and over when she watched scenes that corresponded with artifacts in the home. Since everyone else had seen it a million times, it was great fun to experience it again with a newbie.
She may have done the A Christmas Story experience in the reverse order, but we still managed to create a new fan and ensure the holiday tradition of watching the film will continue long into the future.
Plan your movie night:
A Christmas Story House rates range from $445 to $995, but staying Christmas Eve and Day will set you back thousands more. The stay includes a free museum tour for up to 6 guests. Staying Christmas Eve and Christmas in 2021 costs $3,995, and the price goes up to $4,995 in 2022.
If the A Christmas Story House is booked, you can stay overnight in the Bumpus House next door. The Bumpus House has two more themed suites available for overnight stays in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. Fans of the movie will know the Parkers’ next-door neighbor had a roving pack of hound dogs that frequently bothered Ralphie’s dad and even barged in on Christmas Eve, gobbling up the delicious turkey Mrs. Parker had just taken out of the oven. Guests in the Bumpus House suites do not get a free tour. Rates range from $245 to $995 depending on the room, day of the week, and time of year.
For up-to-date rate information, please visit AChristmasStoryHouse.com.