16 Christmas Movie Locations That Exist in Real Life
Many holiday films were shot in studios or on backlots, but here are ones you can actually visit. Christmas vacation road trip, anyone?
Rockefeller Center, New York City
“Wow, that’s a big one!” Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell) says when he spies the Rockefeller Center tree for the first time, before planting a kiss on love interest Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) at the skating rink. All of New York City, though, is practically one big Christmas movie set: Besides 2003’s Elf, there is the Macy’s on 34th Street (of Miracle on 34th Street fame); plus Bloomingdale’s, the Waldorf Astoria, Central Park’s Wollman Rink, and the titular sweet shop of Serendipity. The Family Man, Scrooged, and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York were also shot at various locations around the Big Apple. Check out the best Christmas movies of all time, ranked.
A Christmas Story house
This house at 3159 West 11th Street, Cleveland, Ohio, stood in for the exterior of Ralphie Parker’s Indiana home in the 1983 cult classic A Christmas Story. When superfan Brian Jones found out it was for sale, he bought the property for $150,000 and opened it to the public in 2006. The interior of the house was redone to match the movie, complete with leg lamp proudly shining in the front window. Movie props and memorabilia are also displayed at the on-site museum. You can even stay overnight in the house, or next door at the Bumpus’ (you remember the neighbors whose dogs ate the Parkers’ Christmas turkey). Here are more things we bet you never knew about A Christmas Story.
Sometimes you just want to get away from it all for Christmas, like Amanda (Cameron Diaz) in 2006’s The Holiday. And she couldn’t have picked a more picture-perfect place to visit than this village in Surrey, southwest of London. Sadly, the cottage where Amanda stays was actually just a set built for the film, but you can visit the lovely country estate, Cornwell Manor, where she goofs off in the gardens with Jude Law (the interior shots of their lunch date were filmed elsewhere). Additional village scenes were shot in Godalming, also in Surrey. Find out Christmas traditions to steal from around the world.
The Home Alone house
Who wouldn’t want to live in this gorgeous mansion, and just what did Kevin McCallister’s parents do to be able to afford this place? The house in which Kevin gets left Home Alone in the 1990 movie actually still stands, as beautiful as ever, at 671 Lincoln Avenue in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka, Illinois. It reportedly sold in 2012 for $1.59 million, but if you do go take a look, be respectful, as it is a private home.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
The visually amazing Nutcracker and the Four Realms, based on the classic Christmas ballet and in theaters now, is a mix of real locations in London, studio sets, and CGI. But even settings created by movie magic drew inspiration from real-life: Both the Land of the Snowflakes and the Land of Sweets look exactly like the Bavarian town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber (here’s a side-by-side comparison). In addition, the palace was clearly inspired by the Russian architecture of Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral. Another Nutcracker interpretation was one of the holiday classics that originally bombed at the box office.
Selfridges department store, London
London is another great Christmas movie city and the setting for perhaps the greatest holiday tale ever, A Christmas Carol. But the film that captures modern London in all its seasonal finest is 2003’s Love Actually. With various filming locations around the city, one of the most hilarious scenes occurs at the famous department store Selfridges, where Alan Rickman tries to buy a necklace only to be delayed with the overzealous gift wrapping of salesman Rowan Atkinson. “What are you going to do next, dip it in yogurt?” he asks. Speaking of London, take a virtual tour of Buckingham Palace’s Christmas decorations.
Watching the 1994 version of Little Women has become a holiday tradition thanks to several key scenes that take place at Christmastime, including the opening sequence, which was filmed in Historic Deerfield standing in for Concord. Although most of the movie was shot in Canada, where a replica set of Orchard House was built, the Massachusetts establishing shots lend authenticity and a feel of classic Americana to the movie. You can also visit the actual Orchard House, where author Louisa May Alcott lived, set, and wrote Little Women, in the real Concord. Check out these vintage photos of Christmases past.
Starved Rock State Park, Illinois
Did one of Santa’s reindeer really fall from the sky? Eight-year-old Jessica (Rebecca Harrell) thinks so when she finds the wounded animal in the sweet 1989 film Prancer. Eventually, she’s able to send him off to reunite with St. Nick, in scenes shot over the majestic stone formations of Starved Rock State Park in Illinois. “I remember being scared because we were up so high and we were filming right at the edge of that cliff (Lovers Leap and Devil’s Nose),” Harrell said in a 2013 interview. “I got to do a lot of my own stunts. I got to jump over this crack in the rock.” Additional locations used in the movie include the town of Three Oaks, Michigan, and The Inn at the Old Republic in New Carlisle, Indiana. Read about more of the best Christmas movies for kids.
Fox Plaza Tower
Yes, Die Hard counts as a holiday movie (if an unconventional one), as it’s set on Christmas Eve. This classic 1988 action flick has Bruce Willis fighting terrorists who’ve taken over Nakatomi Tower in Los Angels—and the building actually exists in LA, although it’s real name is Fox Plaza tower. Interestingly, both the exterior and the interior of the tower were used to film the movie. Lucky fans were recently treated to an outdoor screening of Die Hard in front of the tower for the film’s 30th anniversary, and reporters were given a tour of the building’s interior filming locations.
Seneca Falls, New York
The 1946 Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life wasn’t actually filmed here (it was shot mostly on sets, with the famous swimming pool scene filmed at Beverly Hills High School, where the retractable gym floor still exists). But legend has it director Frank Capra got his inspiration for the fictional Bedford Falls from a visit to the real-life small town of Seneca Falls in upstate New York. With its classic American downtown, Victorian homes, large Italian immigrant population, and even a steel bridge from which a man rescued a woman attempting suicide, it’s hard not to see the resemblance. Seneca Falls has taken its connection to the movie and run with it, calling itself “The Real Bedford Falls,” and establishing a museum dedicated to the movie. Surviving members of the cast make regular appearances during the town’s annual holiday festival. Read about more festive events around the country to get you in the Christmas spirit.
Can you think of a better name for a Christmas movie town than Snowshill? This quaint English village in Gloucestershire was the hometown of Renée Zellweger’s lead character in Bridget Jones’s Diary. Although not strictly a Christmas movie, the year-in-the-life film is book-ended by the holidays (remember Mark Darcy’s reindeer jumper?) and Bridget returning home. You can also visit Mark’s parents’ “stately pile,” as English manor houses are called, where Darcy sports a snowman tie: The exterior is Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire. Make like Mark Darcy with the best ugly Christmas sweaters you can buy.
Madison, New Jersey
Courtesy Tina Donvito
The Family Stone, about a Christmas gathering of the title family led by Diane Keaton, appears to take place in New England—but although the Stones’ home’s exterior is located in Connecticut, the town scenes were actually filmed in the charming New Jersey suburb of Madison (also this writer’s hometown). Stars Dermot Mulroney and Claire Danes take an evening stroll among the twinkling storefronts, and even though it was March, real snow fell at just the right time to lend even more winter ambiance to the 2005 movie. Additional scenes were filmed in Madison’s Drew and Fairleigh Dickinson universities. Check out more of the best Christmas towns in every state.
Bohemian Switzerland, Czech Republic
With the wintry setting of Narnia (“always winter, never Christmas”) and an appearance by Santa Claus himself, 2005’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe can count itself among favorite holiday films that aren’t strictly about Christmas. The summer scenes were filmed in New Zealand, but the area of the Czech Republic known as Bohemian Switzerland had the honor of representing the snow-covered fantasyland. If you’re looking for Mr. Tumnus’ house, check among the cool stone formations of Tisa Walls (Tiske Skaly), a great area for hiking and rock climbing. Looking for the amazing natural rock bridge the children cross? It’s called Pravcicka Bana, and unfortunately, it’s not stable enough for everyone to walk on, but you can view it from a distance.
One of this year’s biggest Hallmark Channel holiday movies, Christmas at Graceland, was really filmed at Elvis’ legendary home in Memphis, Tennessee. The production used Graceland’s actual Christmas decorations, including the blue lights Elvis’ father installed. “Nobody ever gets to go behind those velvet ropes, so I definitely don’t take it for granted,” star Kellie Pickler said in Hallmark’s behind-the-scenes video. “To be able to film with Elvis’s piano—who gets to say they’ve done that?” See Christmas at Graceland (the real thing, not the movie) for yourself. These are the best Hallmark Christmas movies.
The Mall of America
The 1996 Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy Jingle All the Way, about a dad on the hunt for a sold-out toy on Christmas Eve, filmed scenes at Minnesota’s Mall of America. Of course—where else would you film a movie about the perils of Christmas shopping than the largest mall (by size) in the United States? Jingle along to the movie’s other locations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, including the 7th Street Mall, Mickey’s Dining Car, and Rice Park. Here are more of the Christmas battles every family wages each year.
The Santa Clause, in which Tim Allen unwittingly becomes the bearded man in the red suit, uses the pretty Oakville, outside of Toronto, to stand in for an Illinois small town. The main street through downtown figures prominently in the 1994 film, and real shops such as Swiss Interiors are still in business today. The movie also shot outside a private home at 1172 Carey Road, where Allen’s on-screen ex-wife lived, and a scene featuring swimming polar bears was filmed at the Toronto Zoo. Plus, reindeer from the zoo were actually used in the movie. Next, read on for the most magical Christmas trains in America.