Driving Destinations: Homes Featured In Christmas Movies
Did you know the home where “A Christmas Story” was filmed is open to the public year-round and available for overnight stays?
Or that Bedford Falls, the neighborhood from “It’s A Wonderful Life” occupied four acres in Encino, Calif.?
The family home plays a predominant role in most holiday movies. Some famous residences are located in major metropolitan areas (see below).
Take a detour from your holiday road trip and see a piece of cinematic history.
Across the genre, homes prove to be crucial set pieces in classic Christmas movies.
Clark Griswold painstakingly arranged 25,000 twinkle lights to his two-story clapboard house in the suburbs of Chicago in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”. Zuzu Bailey plinked away at the piano keys inside her family’s suburban dwelling in “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Kevin McAllister slid down the banister of the grand staircase to celebrate having the house to himself in “Home Alone”.
Of course, not every “house” used in movie making takes place in an actual residence. Other times, directors use footage of a home’s facade for exterior shots, while scenes supposedly inside the residence occur at a studio, rather than the home itself.
So do the homes from some of our favorite Christmas movies actually exist? And if so, where are they?
“A Christmas Story” (1983): Set in Hohman, Indiana, somewhere in the late 1930s to early ‘40s, “A Christmas Story” centers around the Parker family and protagonist Ralphie Parker’s Christmas wish for a Red Ryder BB Gun.
Though the film ostensibly takes place in Indiana, the house depicting the Parker’s residence actually rests in Cleveland. A private developer purchased the 19th Century Victorian with a covered front porch in 2004, then renovated and restored it to look exactly as it did in the movie.
The home now serves as a monument to the family comedy that’s become a cult classic. Since 1997, either TNT or TBS broadcasts the film 12 consecutive times on Christmas Day, devoting the entire day’s programming to the movie.
The Christmas Story House operates all year long and even offers overnight accommodations. A museum dedicated to the movie stands across the street from the home.
Immediately to the left of the Christmas Story House is the Bumpus House, home to the Parker’s off-camera, antagonistic neighbors and their “785 smelly hound dogs”. The Bumpus House also offers overnight accommodations.
“It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946): Hollywood movie magic is on full display when it comes to Bedford Falls, the neighborhood inhabited by George Bailey and his family. Bailey’s “drafty old house” was one of dozens created specifically for the movie on a studio lot in Encino, California. The entire community of Bedford Falls--its shops, bank and houses--spanned three city blocks before it was razed in the 1950s.
The neighborhood featured 75 structures and spread across four acres. To give the neighborhood a stately, longstanding appearance, film crews transported 20 full-grown oak trees to the community.
Filmed during a heat wave, the studio used 3,000 tons of shaved ice to make Bedford Falls look like a winter wonderland.
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989): Chevy Chase portrays the lovable yet bumbling Clark Griswold and his extended family in this classic Christmas comedy. Set in the suburbs of Chicago, the Griswold home actually sits on the backlot of a Warner Bros. Ranch facility in Burbank, California.
The home has appeared on screen multiple times over the years, including films like “American Beauty”, “Moonlight”, and “Small Soldiers” as well as television shows, including “ER”. The home reprised its role as the Griswold homestead for a series of Christmas Vacation-themed Old Navy commercials in 2012.
“Home Alone” (1990): After getting lost in the shuffle of a hectic, last-minute trip to the airport, 8-year-old Kevin McAllister (Macaulay Culkin) finds himself alone in his family’s red-brick three-story Georgian. Needing to defend the residence from a pair of opportunistic burglars, McAllister fortifies the home with a series of Rube Golderberg-esque contraptions that burn and befuddle the criminals. Unlike Bedford Falls or the Griswold home, the McAllister residence is a real home where filming took place.
The McAllister home, which also appeared in the sequel: “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”, stands at 671 Lincoln Ave., in Winnetka, Illinois, an upscale village 16 miles north of Chicago. The home sold for $1.585 million in 2012.
“Elf” (2003): Will Ferrell plays Buddy, a human accidentally transported to the North Pole and raised by Santa’s elves before venturing back to New York as an adult to meet his birth father. His biological father, played by James Caan, initially rebuffs Buddy, only to come around and finally accept his son in the film’s climax.
The bulk of filming took place in New York, with landmarks like the Empire State Building, 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Center prominently featured. Caan, who plays the role of Walter Hobbs, inhabits a townhouse at 55 Central Park West in Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Fun fact, Hobbs’ apartment building also served as the residence of Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) in the 1984 hit “Ghostbusters.”
“Miracle on 34th St.” (1947): Natalie Wood portrays a little girl who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus as her divorced mother (played by Maureen O’Hara) organizes the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from their New York townhouse.
While planning the parade, O’Hara’s Doris Walker encounters a man who claims to truly be Santa Claus. This Kris Kringle ultimately proves he’s for real and gives Wood’s Susan Walker her dream house, a Cape Cod style residence, at the end of the Christmas classic.