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By Laura DeMarco
The A Christmas Story House and Museum is not the only way fans can celebrate the film’s legacy in Cleveland. Read on for a guide to all things “A Christmas Story”– just don’t shoot your eye out.
A Christmas Story House and Museum:Open seven days a week, year-round, at 3159 West 11th St. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. Call 216-298-4919 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Tours of the house run every 30 minutes. Regular admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $6 for children (ages 7 to 12) and free for children ages 6 and under. More info: achristmasstoryhouse.com.
A Christmas Story House & Museum Gift Shop: Newly expanded to 3,500 square feet, the mega shop includes everything you could ever want to know, wear or see from ACS, including: bunny jammies, Red Ryder air rifles, Lifebuoy soap, board games, elf hats, Flick’s cap, DVDs, books, magnets and leg lamps galore. There’s even a sexy leg-lamp dress for the ladies.
Public Square: Higbee’s is long gone from downtown – along with the rest of the department stores – but the store that played such an important role on- and off-screen in the history of “A Christmas Story” has come alive again for the holidays. For the second year in a row, the Horseshoe Casino has re-created “Holidays at the Higbee,” transforming 15 ground-floor windows in the former store space into the way the Parker family would have seen them.
While you’re in the area, look up at the facade and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which remain unchanged from the way they look in the film. The Terminal Tower looks a little different itself, though. Through December, a giant leg lamp will be projected nightly on the facade – part of Forest City’s new Step into Cleveland campaign.
Fun fact: Julie Matthews, who worked as a casting director on the film, said originally they had a very hard time lining up enough extras to fill Public Square for the parade scene: “So I got the word out to the TV stations and everyone I knew, and we filled the streets. But Cleveland wasn’t used to having movies made here in those days – there’d be a lot more buzz about it now than there was then.”
Climb Santa Mountain at Castle Noel: You can’t get into Higbee’s these days, but you can relive Ralphie’s climb back up Santa Mountain to grumpy St. Nick at Medina-based Christmas super-experience Castle Noel, 260 S. Court St. Info atcastlenoel.com.
“A Chinese Christmas Dinner”: Want the full ACS experience? Top off a visit to the house and museum with a visit to Bac Asian American Bistro & Bar in Tremont, the official ACS restaurant, where you can order your very own “Chinese Turkey,” aka Peking Duck, head and all, through the end of the month – just like the Parker family. Or, just use your ticket stubs from the house and museum for 10 percent off your bill. Bac is at 2661 West 14th St., Cleveland; 216-938-8960. The original Chop Suey Palace featured in the film, by the way, was in Toronto, where filming headed after Cleveland.
Leg lamp Twitter hunt: Follow A Christmas Story House on Twitter (@acshouse) for clues on where leg lamps are hidden in the Cleveland area. Check in when you find one for a chance to win a variety of prizes.
On the big screen: See “A Christmas Story” the way it was meant to be seen, whenCleveland Cinemas hosts two special 30th anniversary screenings: 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Cedar Lee Theatre (2163 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights); and 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, at the Capitol Theatre (1390 West 65th St., Cleveland). $5.
A Christmas Story hotels: Want to stay the night downtown, or visiting from out of town? Stay at the historic Renaissance Cleveland Hotel – known as Stouffers back in 1983, when the cast and crew stayed there – and you’ll be just steps away from the decorated Higbee’s window. Rooms begin at $109; call 216-696-5600.
Or head to the burbs, where four Red Roof Inns (Independence, Willoughby, Westlake and Middleburg Heights) are offering special Christmas Story packages. The Ralphie Rate, beginning at $89.99, includes two tickets to the house and museum, 15 percent off in the ACS gift shop and a free appetizer at Bac. Call 1-800-733-7663.
Christmas in the Christmas Story House: Want to pose by the leg lamp, loll by the Christmas tree and open presents in your pink bunny jammies Christmas morning, hide under the sink like Randy and shoot BBs – but don’t shoot your eye out – in the Parkers’ back yard? You can! A Christmas Story House and Museum is holding aneBay auction for two nights (including Christmas Eve) in the house for four guests, plus your very own fra-gee-lay leg lamp, air rifle, a night at the Renaissance Cleveland and much more. The bidding, which closes Monday, Dec. 9, was close to $4,000 as of press time. Proceeds will go to the Christmas Story House Neighborhood Restoration Project.
24-hour marathon: What would Christmas Eve be without the ACS marathon? BO-ring. Turn to TBS at 8 p.m. Dec. 24 and let the fun begin.
Turn the page on “A Christmas Story Treasury”: Canadian ACS superfan Tyler Schwartz has written THE book, the definitive history of the Christmas classic. Schwartz, a Toronto native who also directed the 2009 fan film “Road Trip for Ralphie,” not only has compiled a rich, interview-filled history of the movie. His multimedia tome also includes audio from the Old Man and author Jean Shepherd, recipes from Mrs. Parker and the Chop Suey palace, a Major Award telegram, and even Ralphie’s Christmas essay – C+? $24.95, available at the ACS book store, Target, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com as well as area stores.
Movie mania: “A Christmas Story” first took off on Beta – remember that? – not the theater, so it’s only fitting there are several other DVD sequels and fan films (of varying quality, true). They include “My Summer Story” (1994), filmed in Cleveland and reuniting Jean Shepherd and Bob Clark, but with Charles Grodin as the Old Man, Mary Steenburgen as Mother and Kieran Culkin as Ralphie.
Also: “A Christmas Story 2,” a straight-to-DVD 2012 film by Brian Levant about a teenage Ralphie who only wants a 1938 Mercury convertible for Christmas; “Clarkworld,” a 2009 doc about Bob Clark that included much on ACS; and “Road Trip for Ralphie,” Tyler Schwartz’s fan film about tracking down sites in Cleveland and Canada used in the film. All are available at the ACS gift shop.
Your very own Major Award: In honor of the 30th anniversary of “A Christmas Story,” Positively Cleveland has launched a leg lamp contest. Yes, you too can win your own Major Award. To enter to win the full-sized 50-inch leg lamp, all you need to do is to take a photo of a festive Cleveland event, attraction, food or beverage – “whatever defines the holiday season for you.” Then, upload your photo to the “Win a Leg Lamp” tab on Positively Cleveland’s Facebook page or hashtag the image to #HomeinCLE on Twitter or Instagram. Entries will be accepted through Dec. 31. You may enter more than one picture. Each time a new picture is posted, your name will be entered. One winner will be selected at random to receive a 50-inch leg lamp.
“A Christmas Story” Leg Lamp fun run, Saturday, Dec. 7, Public Square: The 5K and 10K race entries are sold out, but you can still join in the fun run, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Public Square. Get a nice hot cup of Ovaltine when you cross the finish line. Really.
“A Christmas Story,” Cleveland Play House, through Sunday, Dec. 22: The Cleveland Play House reinvents one of the most popular shows in its history at PlayhouseSquare’s Allen Theatre. Expect to see footie pajamas. Plain Dealer theater critic Andrea Simakis calls it an “entirely new ‘Story,’ with a fresh cast, director and, most dramatically, a completely reimagined set designed by Robert Mark Morgan.” Tickets are $25-$72. Go to clevelandplayhouse.com or call 216-241-6000. Note: “A Christmas Story, the Musical,” at Near West Theatre through this weekend, is sold out.