Live your own Christmas movie

Ever dreamed of a Christmas like you see on screen? While we can’t guarantee Santa shenanigans or the ultimate real life rom-com, a trip to these famous Christmas movie destinations is sure to elevate your festive experience as MYLES STEDMAN explains.


The Polar Express

If only getting to the North Pole was as simple as catching a train there!
The Polar Express tells the story of a young boy whom, on Christmas Eve, sees a mysterious train stop outside his window, bound for the North Pole. He is invited aboard by its conductor, voiced by Tom Hanks, and joins several other children as they embark on a journey to visit Santa Claus, who is preparing for Christmas.

For children hoping to live out a similar dream, this may not be as impossible as it seems. Santa’s workshop, the legendary factory where Santa Claus and his elves are said to live and make the toys and presents given out at Christmas, has not yet been seen in real life, meaning there is no definite geographical location as to where it is located; however, there are a number of options.
Children in Canada send letters to Santa’s workshop at his North Pole location in the country, which has the unique postal code of “H0H 0H0”. If they want to visit the destination they sent their list to, Santa’s Village: Muskoka’s Theme Park in central Ontario provides a seasonal themed amusement park, which features a petting zoo, a splash pad, rides, and of course, visits with Santa.

Across the border in the United States, Santa’s Village in New Hampshire is located in one of the USA’s most northern states, and one of its most winterly. The Christmas-themed amusement park features more than 20 rides with Christmas or winter themes. Visitors can also visit Santa’s home, sit in his rocking chair, and have a picture taken with him.

However, arguably the best St. Nick experience is at Finland’s Santa Claus Village, an amusement park in Rovaniemi, in the country’s Lapland region. It was opened in 1985, and features Santa’s House of Snowmobiles, a museum about the history and evolution of the vehicle, and Santa Claus’ Office, located inside the main building of the Village, for visitors to take photographs and chat with Santa Claus. Visitors can also gaze at the aurora borealis, which is observed on around 150 nights a year from mid-August to early April. Children looking hard enough may even notice Santa’s reindeers in action.

The Holiday

Critics of The Holiday note the film is not exactly a “Christmas movie”, it is merely set in the holiday season, but this 2006 romantic comedy gives all lovelorn adults something to look forward to over the holiday season. Filmed in both California and England, the film concerns two women from opposite sides of the Atlantic, both hung up on ex-lovers. The two arrange a home exchange to run from their feelings over the Christmas season, but encounter more than they bargained for across the pond.

Upon viewing, it’s hard to blame either woman for skipping town. Amanda’s home is actually that of Southern California architect Wallace Neff. His beautiful, mission revival house is located in San Marino, and went up for sale a few years ago. Nearby to Pasadena, the home is located in one of the most exclusive parts of Los Angeles – maybe some day it will be turned into a rentable Airbnb?

The British scenes in the film were shot in Shere, a town in Surrey which dates back to the 11th century. Just an hour from London, the village of Shere is as form-fitting a small English getaway town as they come. It has a central cluster of old village houses, shops including a blacksmith & a trekking shop, a tea house, an art gallery, two pubs, and a Norman church. There is also a museum which opens most afternoons on weekends. The movie cottage’s exterior was constructed in a field adjacent to St James’s Church, which means for fans, it has unfortunately since disappeared; but taking inspiration from the character of the town, you’re sure to find an accommodation nearby in hopes of your own Christmas romance.

Quaint cottages abound in Shere, perfect for your own ‘The Holiday’ escape.

Miracle on 34th Street

A perennial Christmas favourite, Miracle On 34th Street focuses on the effect of a department store Santa Claus, who claims to be the real McCoy. The film was shot on-location in New York City, and serves almost as a love letter to the city itself, which lights up as magically as any other around the holiday period.

In fact, the film’s opening scene, which centres on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, was filmed live while the 1946 iteration was happening. Maureen O’Hara, who appeared in the film, described the zealous attempt as “a mad scramble” and “bitterly cold”; if you have never witnessed the Thanksgiving Day Parade yourself, you owe it to yourself to kick off the US holiday period by doing so – whether or not you’re an American.

The iconic Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Centre is a must-see in NYC.

The Christmas window displays seen in the film were originally made by much-loved, Germany-based stuffed toy company Steiff for Macy’s, which later sold the window displays to toy brand FAO Schwarz in New York City. It then sold the windows to the BMO Harris Bank of Milwaukee, where they are on display every December in the bank’s lobby on North Water Street, which is where you’ll have to travel today to see them. That said, you’ll have no problems tracking down ostentatious and pompous windows throughout the city. Some of the best are at Bergdorf Goodman on 5th Avenue, Macy’s at The Mall at Bay Plaza, and Bloomingdale’s at 59th & Lexington.

Home Alone

Home Alone centres on a boy who defends his Chicago home from burglars after his family leaves him behind on their Christmas vacation to Paris; and just like Kevin McAllister, you’ll be staying in Chicago too. In a promotion we’re hoping is repeated again this year, Airbnb in 2021 listed the McAllister family home for stays over the Christmas period.

Does this house look familiar? Take a trip to the original Home Alone house.

During their stay, guests enjoyed twinkling lights and a perfectly trimmed tree, ‘90s favourites including plenty of Chicago-style pizza & a candlelit dinner of microwavable Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, and booby traps galore – to set, of course, not to get in caught in. There was also a meet-and-greet with a real-life tarantula, and a free LEGO Home Alone set.

If you’re spending Christmas downtown and not in the suburbs, the Chicago Zoo is a well-known festive season hotspot for locals. You can also see the ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo, when the historic zoo is illuminated by more than 2.5 million lights set to music. There is also a themed pop-up bar, an adults night out, and more. Chicago also features one of the few German-style Christkindlmarkets in the United States. Located in Daley Plaza, the annual event features vendors selling glass ornaments, wooden cuckoo clocks, hand-knit gloves, hot mulled wine, and other traditional German crafts and treats.

There are also other Chicago holiday markets in Wrigleyville, a local artisan-filled Renegade Craft Fair, and the Kwanzaa Market at Africa International House. On colder days, lace up your skates and hit one of Chicago’s ice skating rinks, the pick of the bunch located at Millennium Park. Nearby to Cloud Gate, the rink offers panoramic views of downtown and Lake Michigan. The rink is open daily from November through March; we find the colder the day, the more fun.


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