‘Lights, cameras and Christmas action’ Holiday day trips inspired by Hollywood


Staff Writer

WHEELING — Memories and holiday magic are just a day trip away from the Ohio Valley, as a number of very special Christmas-themed attractions this season can be reached in only a few hours’ drive.

Christmas movies are a staple of the holiday season, so it’s not surprising a few of these attractions find their roots in Christmas cinema classics.

∫ A Christmas Story House — 3159 West 11th St., Cleveland.

The very recognizable house with the smoky old furnace seen in “A Christmas Story” can be toured from 10 a.m. until at least 5 p.m. every day of the year, and hours are extended during the holiday season.

Much of the movie was filmed within the house, and across the street is the official “A Christmas Story House Museum” — which features original props, costumes and memorabilia from the film, as well as hundreds of rare behind-the-scenes photos. Among the props and costumes are the toys from the Higbee’s window, Randy’s snowsuit, the chalkboard from Miss Shields’ classroom and the family car.

Want your very own official leg lamp, pink bunny suit or Little Orphan Annie secret decoder ring? There also is a gift shop on the grounds that sells these items.

Visitors would have to register months in advance, but the house also is available for overnight stays.

Guests have use of A Christmas Story House’s private third floor loft, as well as use of the whole house from an hour after closing until 9 a.m. the following day. The house can accommodate up to six guests per night. The loft area is equipped with a bedroom, living room, full kitchen and full bath. Sleeping arrangements include a queen bed, queen sleeper sofa and Ralphie and Randy’s twin beds.

∫ It’s a Wonderful Life Festival, Indiana, Pa.

Indiana, Pa., is known as the “Christmas tree capital of the world,” and it also happens to be the birthplace of actor James Stewart, star of the classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Each year Indiana, Pa., transforms into the real life Bedford Falls with light displays, downtown buildings awash in twinkling lights, and decorated Christmas trees.

The It’s A Wonderful Life Festival expands to six weekends this holiday season. It kicked off on Nov. 18 with a parade, an open house at the Jimmy Stewart Museum, and the official Christmas tree lighting. Santa and his reindeer also visited Indiana on opening weekend.

The festival extends until the week before Christmas.

The Jimmy Stewart Museum — located at 835 Philadelphia St. — is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday throughout the year, with extended hours before Christmas. It is closed on most holidays.

The museum is devoted to the famous actor’s film, radio, television and military career. It also features a 1930s vintage movie theater that plays the Christmas classic throughout the holiday season.

∫ Polar Express ride — Dennison, Ohio

This special holiday train to visit Santa’s workshop at the North Pole leaves from the Dennison Railroad Museum and Depot, located at 400 Center St, Dennison.

Along the route, storytellers read the Polar Express story aloud, and children are served hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies specially made by Mrs. Claus for the trip.

Passengers don’t disembark at the North Pole, but they view the workshop out the train window. Santa then boards the train with a gift for each child — a jingle bell from a reindeer harness.

The trips take place Dec. 1-3 and Dec. 8-10. Tickets for the popular event went on sale last summer and may still be available by calling 740-922-6776.

∫ Dickens Victorian Village — Cambridge, Ohio

Downtown Cambridge, Ohio, transforms itself into a Dickens Victorian Village each holiday season with help from local artists. The scenes have already been set and will be in place through Dec. 31 along Wheeling Avenue between Sixth and 11th streets.

There are more than 92 scenes of 166 lifelike figures representing classic scenes from Victorian society. The scenes are composed of life-sized and hand-made mannequins wearing authentic vintage clothing, and each has a face individually sculpted and painted by local artists. Among the characters depicted are such Dickens characters as Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim, the town crier, groups of carolers, a bucket brigade, lamplighters, school children, street peddlers and Father Christmas.

Part of the holiday celebration is a music and light show each night at the Guernsey County Courthouse. The show will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. every night through Jan. 2. The shows will be extended until 11 p.m. between Dec. 24-26, and Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

The Dickens Welcome Center and Curiosity Shoppe, at 745 Steubenville Ave., is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. The center is considered the heart of the Victorian village.

Within the center is a Victorian tea room, where a full tea will be served at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Dec. 2 and Dec. 9. Reservations are necessary and available by calling 740-421-4956 or 740-584-6933.

And for those who love the Oglebay Park Christmas displays and want to see more holiday color, there also are a number of other light shows in the region.

∫ Kennywood Lights — 4800 Kennywood Blvd., West Mifflin, Pa.

Kennywood Park transforms from a favorite amusement park to a holiday destination with its annual light show. Visitors can watch live entertainment by local choirs and listen to a celebrity reading of “The Night Before Christmas” at Kennywood Stage each evening at 7:30 p.m. This is complemented by a light show over the lagoon every half an hour.

The festival takes place from 5-9 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between Nov. 25 and Dec. 23.

∫ Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens — 1 Schenley Drive, Pittsburgh

“The Winter Flower Show and Light Garden: Days of Snow and Lights Aglow” is a holiday event at Phipps Conservatory. The outdoor lighted garden is now open in the evenings from 5-11 p.m.

∫ Overly’s Country Christmas — 116 Blue Ribbon Lane, Greensburg, Pa.

The old-fashioned Christmas celebration in lights is open through Jan. 1. It features a walk-around Christmas Village, the singing of carols around a bonfire, a model train display and sleigh rides.


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