FAMILY TRAVEL — by Deborah Williams Cleveland: Ideal for A Weekend Getaway with The Kids! C leveland is known for its iconic waterfront Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the famed Cleveland Orchestra, the world class Cleveland Clinic, its three major league sports teams, each with passionate fans and its own downtown stadium, and the Cuyahoga River that once actually caught fire. It has been transformed into a hip dining, entertainment and recreation area. Just three hours down the I-90 from Buffalo, Cleveland makes an ideal overnight or weekend getaway and is filled with an extensive variety of family- friendly adventures. Cleveland likes to embrace its quirkiness and nowhere is that more evident than in the city’s Tremont neighborhood where a house is attracting more than 200,000 visitors a year, with lines forming along the street especially in the busy Christmas season. What is so special about this house you ask? 16 WNY Family October 2018 It is A Christmas Story House, the façade used for the 1983 family holiday movie favorite that plays every year in households across the country. Brian Jones, the owner and creator of this tourist mecca, had loved the movie since childhood. He actually had a business reproducing the distinctive leg lamps from the film. He came up with the idea after his parents sent him one when an eye test meant the end of his dream of becoming a Navy pilot. Then fate intervened. One of his wife’s Navy friends sent her a link to the sale listing of the Christmas Story house and she forwarded it to her husband. The California native immediately bought the house for $150,000 sight unseen, not even knowing where Cleveland was. The film’s story was actually set in Indiana though the exteriors were filmed at this house. The interiors were shot on movie sets but Jones has meticulously recreated the interior as it was in the movie. Since then he has bought two houses across the street for a museum and gift shop, and the house next door that is becoming a bed and breakfast inn. It is even possible to stay overnight in the third floor of the house. December is particularly popular and people are booking several years in advance for an overnight stay. Of course, the gift shop is the perfect place to shop for movie fans. There are leg lamps, Red Ryder rifles, ornaments, Lifebuoy soap, hats, suits, T-shirts, housewares, and collectibles. Unlike most house museums, visitors can sit in the chairs, pick up the famed Red Ryder rifle that nine-year-old Ralphie Parker longed for in the movie, and even climb under the sink as Ralphie’s brother Randy did in the movie. The actual movie BB gun is on display in the museum along with more movie memorabilia. The dazzling I.M. Pei-designed Rock and Rock Hall of Fame attracts more than half a million pilgrims annually from every age range who flock here to relive the musical highlights of their lives. On this return visit for me, there was time for more exploration and enjoying the musical and video highlights of rock and roll icons. A quick search took me to the radio section where Buffalo radio legends Sandy Beach, Danny Neaverth, and Tom Shannon are featured as hall of fame inductees. They were stars of WKBW radio in its days as a rock and roll powerhouse. The more than century year old Cleveland Museum of Art is a gem among the museums and galleries. It consistently ranks as one of the best comprehensive art museums in the country and recently underwent a $350 million renovation and expansion. Best of all it is free and invites families. Come for an hour or so. Next door is the Cleveland Museum of Natural History that is known as a great place for families and children. It is also a center for world-class scientific research. Explore Sears Hall of Human Ecology, Reinberger Hall of Astronomy, Ohio Archaeology, the Wade Gallery of Gems & Jewels, Kirtland Hall of Prehistoric Life, and the Human Origins Gallery. In the Main Level, gallery highlights include Balto, the heroic Alaskan dog; Happy, the museum’s first dinosaur; Jan, the museum’s young tyrannosaur; a triceratops, and even a moon rock. Save time for the Smead Discovery Center. It is an intergenerational space designed for all ages to enjoy together. Activities and exhibits change frequently.