Where was A Christmas Story filmed?
Cleveland, Ohio; Toronto, Ontario
Mansions, Retro, Schools/Colleges
Dated/50's-60's-70's Building, Parking Lot, School
About A Christmas Story
For most people, “Home Alone” is one of the most nostalgic and beloved Christmas classics. However, long before a young Macaulay Culkin commanded our holiday viewing list, Peter Billingsley did the honors in “A Christmas Story.”
Released in 1983, the film is partially based on a handful of anecdotes that Jean Shepherd penned for the 1966 publication “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash.” The production also features elements from “Night of Golden Memories And Other Disasters,” released by Wanda Hickey in 1971.
Starring Darren McGavin (Mr. Parler), Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Parker), and Peter Billingsley (Ralphie Parker), Bob Clark directed the heartwarming movie while Shepherd lent his voice for the narrations. Set in the early ‘40s, the premise centers on 9-year-old Ralphie and the series of challenges he encounters leading up to the big holiday.
All he wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder Action Air Rifle which is naturally on the list of forbidden gifts in their household. In the days leading up to the Yuletide, Ralphie has a brush-in with the neighborhood bully, drops by the local department store for a chat with Santa Claus (Jeff Gillen), and connives his way trying to get his heart’s desire.
The movie is filled with sweetly sentimental, hysterical, and touching moments. It’s widely cited as the film that shaped the holiday genre because unlike other movies before it, ”A Christmas Story” doesn’t shy off from tackling the subject of commercialism, bad luck, and disappointments.
The film performed decently at the box office but it didn’t stick around for too long. It gained a resurgence as the years went by and soon became a holiday staple. 14 years after its release, TNT and TBS started airing annual telethons of the movie dubbed "24 Hours of A Christmas Story.”
The Library of Congress also gave it the stamp of approval in 2012 for preservation under the United States National Film Registry. The reason is that the film is aesthetically, historically, or culturally significant.
A Christmas Story Locations
Set in Homan, Indiana, Hammond, Indiana, where Shepherd grew up, inspired the fictional location. The town’s name also borrows from Hohman Avenue which is one of the major streets found in the Lake County city.
Shepherd and Clark decided to vaguely date the film to the late ‘30s or early ‘40s. There’s never a specific year mentioned but the copy of The Look magazine, where Ralphie hid the Red Ryder BB Gun ad, was the December 1937 issue. There are also other instances when 1940 comes up but the film’s year mostly remains amorphous.
The film mentions several places that were an integral part of Shepherd’s childhood, including Cleveland Street and Warren G. Harding Elementary School. There’s also a reference to Northern Indiana, Lake Michigan, and the Indianapolis 500.
With these places and time inferences in mind, Clark reportedly had locations scouts perform recces around 20 cities to find the ideal filming location for A Christmas Story. He eventually settled for Cleveland to film the movie’s exterior scenes.
Toronto, Canada also served as the setting for some of the film’s scenes. The 2008 fan-made documentary “Road Trip for Ralphie” revisits all the film’s production locations. Having been partially filmed in Canada, the film received two Genie Awards.
Clark reportedly auditioned 8,000 kids starting with Billingsley for the part of Ralphie. He thought that Billingsley was a too obvious choice, but after several auditions held far and wide, Clark ultimately offered the “Death Valley” star the role.
Ralphie spots the Red Ryder BB Gun scene in A Christmas Story
Higbee's Department Store
In one of the film’s opening scenes, we see Ralphie spot the Red Ryder BB Gun at a local department store’s Christmas display window. The narrator set the scene by saying “Highbee’s Department Stores’ corner window was traditionally a major high-water mark of the pre-Christmas season…Kids were brought in from miles around just to see the window.”
Located in Downtown Cleveland, the now-defunct Higbee's Department Store is among the reasons why Clark settled for Cleveland as the primary filming location. Most of the department stores scouting for the film weren’t willing to open up their doors to the A Christmas Story production team.
Bruce Campbell, who was Highbee’s Vice President at the time, welcomed the film crew to his premises on one condition. He reworked the script a bit for cursing, and ultimately, the department store served as the setting of several scenes in the film. In 1992, Edward J. DeBartolo, who acquired Highbee’s in 1987, sold his stake in the business, and the store rebranded as Dillard’s. It operated as Dilliard’s for a decade before later developments transformed the building into the Horseshoe Casino.
Given that Higbee’s exclusively operated in Northeast Ohio, the department store Shepherd referenced in his book as well as the film is most likely the now-defunct Goldblatt’s. The discount store was located in Downtown Hammond, just three doors away from the also defunct Cam-Lan Chinese Restaurant along Sibley Avenue.
Ralphie reads more about the Red Ryder BB Gun in a magazine scene in A Christmas Story
3159 West 11th Street, Cleveland, Ohio
Long before targeted social media ads and TV campaigns reigned, marketers relied on magazines to drum up sales for their products. It’s best displayed in the scene where Ralphie sets his eye on the Red Ryder in a publication referred to as the “Boy’s Life” in the film.
Ralphie reads out the sales text, “Yes, fellows, this two-hundred shot carbine action air rifle, just like the one I used in all my range wars, chasin’ them rustlers and bad guys can be your very own!”
The filming location of A Christmas Story is located at 3159 West 11th Street, Cleveland, Ohio. Brian Jones, who is perhaps the film’s biggest fan, dropped $150,000 on the purchase of the house in 2005. He spent another $350,000 on renovations to restore the interior and exterior to how they appeared in the movie.
The “A Christmas Story House” expanded in 2006 with the inclusion of a museum opened right next door. That’s where you’ll find archives of props and costumes used during the production of the film, including some of the Highbee’s toy displays and Randy’s (Ian Petrella) snowsuit.
Best still, you can book the residence for a festive overnight stay to recreate the holiday spirit exuded by the film. Bus #81 will get you to the iconic filming location.
Parade scene in A Christmas Story
Public Square, Cleveland, OH
The Homan Christmas Parade is one of the most iconic scenes from the film. Ralphie and his family were amongst the crowd watching the parade flow along as the sounds of jingle bells filled the air.
The narrator explained that it stirred an idea in Ralphie’s mind. “Now it is well-known that foolish men stuff themselves with pillows and other such devices, it is equally well-known that the real Santa Claus can be found at Higbee's Department Store in Hohman, Indiana.”
The public square located right outside Highbee’s made its cameo for the parade scene. Found in downtown Cleveland, the central plaza is modeled after an 18th-century New England locale, and it remains an essential element of the city’s center.
The crew filmed the parade scene at night, given that the Federal Building and Erieview Tower were glaringly visible during the day. It was the same case for the ongoing construction of the BP Tower (200 Public Square) during the production period.
If you are planning on visiting the A Christmas Story location, check out the event calendar to drop by when there’s something exciting happening at the square. The square hosts year-round events ranging from outdoor concerts to product launches and the legendary Winterfest holiday kick-off party.
The Red Line and bus 9, 19-19A-19B, 53-53A, or 3 will get you there.
Flick’s tongue freezes on a pole scene in A Christmas Story
Victoria Public School
One of the relatable and hilarious scenes in the film takes place on the school grounds during recess. After an exchange with Schwartz (R. D. Robb ), Flick (Scott Schwartz) took on the mightiest of all dares, the triple-dog-dare.
The narrator explained, “Schwartz created a slight breach of etiquette by skipping the triple dare and going right for the throat.”
Ralphie’s school was yet another landmark location used during the production process. Coupled with the Cleveland and Toronto locations, it helped create the “A Christmas Story” word.
The Ontario-based Victoria School, situated within St. Catherine’s, stood in for Warren G. Harding Elementary School. Several of the learning institution’s students also participated in the filmmaking process as extras. They shaved their hair in a ‘40s style to match up the actors and reflect the film’s time setting.
However, the freezing temperatures and snowy weather made the production process a nightmare and once the crew wrapped up the interior school scenes, they vacated to a Toronto-based sound studio. The snow eventually eased up and they managed to finish filming the exterior scenes of the school.
Victoria Public School is no longer in operation but the building that housed the learning institution remains unchanged while functioning as a women’s shelter.
Christmas tree buying scene in A Christmas Story
232 Queen St W, Ontario
The scene where Ralphie's family goes to a Christmas tree lot is another warm and fuzzy moment from the classic movie. It mirrors a Christmas tradition that most of us can relate to, as drawn out through the difficulties of settling on the perfect tree.
The narrator captured it in one sentence, “Buying the Christmas tree was always only after long and soul-searching discussions.”
It’s yet another scene from “A Christmas Story” that was filmed in Ontario, Canada. Online sleuths suggest that it must have been around 232 Queen St W which is right near where you’ll find the Toronto symbol.
Today, the locale functions as a parking lot, and the CTV studios are located right around the corner, at 299 Queen St W. Given that it’s smack in the middle of the city, you might also want to check out the Chippawa Volunteer Firefighters Association. That’s where you’ll find the vintage truck, dubbed the Chippawa Fire Truck, that responded to the scene when Flick got his tongue stuck on the pole.
Ralphie uses a dirty word scene in A Christmas Story
Cherry Street Lift Bridge, Toronto
Besides the epic visit to Highbee’s, the time when Ralphie used a curse word in his father’s presence stands as another memorable A Christmas Story scene.
Helping his old man who is fixing his car, Ralphie dropped the bowl of bolts that he was holding onto and they went flying everywhere. That’s when Ralphie exclaimed “Ohhhhh… fudge!” Needless to say, his foul mouth landed him in trouble.
The scene was filmed at the Cherry Street lift bridge which spans the Don River. Filmed against the darkness, you might not recognize the location in real life because it also suffered from corrosion damage through the years before getting restored in 2011.
Get to the A Christmas Story filming location via the 1 subway, Up train, or bus 72 or 172.
A breakdown of the iconic filming locations of A Christmas Story isn’t complete without mentioning Chop Suey Palace. After the dogs ruined the Christmas turkey, the Parker family ended up at the dining establishment.
Located at 744 Gerrard Street East in Toronto’s Chinatown, the restaurant that hosted the production team is now known as the Batifole. They must serve a mean French dish because their Google rating is pretty good.
The scene where Ralphie stands up to Scut Farkus (Zack Ward), the neighborhood bully, and gives him a proper beating was recorded at 6 4 Sears Street in Toronto. Just east of the location is where they filmed the earlier scenes when Farkus and his cronies chase Ralphie down an alley.