10 CLE Holiday Happenings

October 18, 2014
Major Holiday Happenings

Celebrate the Ho-Ho-Holidays Cleveland Style

Jiminy Christmas, it's the holidays already! Crazy, right?

And, while we're not entirely sure we're ready to take on the holiday madness, our gorgeous city is already well on its way to rolling out the festive red carpet for visiting friends and family.

You see, we've mastered the magic, splendor, beauty and all that other mushy stuff you get around the holidays through twinkling light shows, jingling musical performances, festive decor and even on-stage productions of classic holiday films.

But this is Cleveland. And, we do things our own way. Check out these 10 holiday happenings right here in CLE.  

The Polar Express

So your kids want some holiday magic? We're about to help you win the "Parent of the Year" award. From Nov. 14 - Dec. 21, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad comes to life as the classic "Polar Express." This vintage railroad traverses through a national park ridden by pajama-clad kiddos and their parents on their way to visit the North Pole. While on board the two-hour adventure, families enjoy an evening of hot cocoa, cookies, caroling, a reading of the classic story and, of course, a little chit-chat time with Santa himself. NOTE: This event is wildly popular and sells out quickly. Get tickets now!

The Cleveland Flea Holiday Showcase

Multiple choice question: Would you like to (A) spend hours upon hours at a suburban mall fighting traffic to desperately search for holiday gifts, or (B) spend an afternoon perusing one-of-a-kind gifts made with the skilled craftsmanship of an independent artist right here in Northeast Ohio? Hmm...unless you're some kind of holiday traffic enthusiast, we think the answer is pretty simple. Thankfully, the Cleveland Flea Holiday Showcase offers two weekend events (Nov. 22-23 and Dec. 13-14) featuring hundreds of indie artists and crafters.

Holidays at the Higbee

Take a step back in time at the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland. But, wait, didn't the casino just open in 2012? Well, yes. But the iconic building in which it is housed is the former home of the Higbee Department Store, which once served as a Mecca for elaborate interior and exterior holiday decorations, including classic window displays. The casino brings back many of the celebrated decorations - along with a several gorgeous window displays - during its Holidays at the Higbee event happening Nov. 21 - Jan. 1. And, heck, since you're there, you might as well play a quick hand of blackjack, right?

Deck the Hall

Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, located in the Akron area, is an estate featuring an historic 65-room Tudor Revival manor house, conservatory, lodge and 70 acres of artistically landscaped grounds and formal gardens. So when they put on a holiday event, as you might imagine, the place truly comes alive with the holiday spirit. Running Nov. 28 - Jan. 3, Deck the Hall glitters with more than 800,000 sparkling lights and includes the outdoor Ginger Bread Land for kids, elaborately decorated rooms and holiday treats. It's just one of those uniquely Cleveland holiday traditions that you simply must make your own.


Every year, the Cleveland Botanical Garden transforms into the king of holiday events here in Cleveland. Even when it's not the holidays, the Cleveland Botanical Garden's indoor glasshouses - complete with flowers, plants, wildlife and even dozens of butterflies - is truly a sight to behold. But, during the holidays, it takes on new life with brilliant Christmas trees, a huge gingerbread competition, holiday music and even a kids' train ride through the garden. It's called GLOW and it's one heck of a family-friendly hotspot Nov. 28 - Jan. 4.


Winterfest is typically known for its legendary lighting ceremony and brilliant fireworks display on Public Square during the evening of the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year, however, Winterfest will be held in the dazzling PlayhouseSquare District. And, what many don't realize is that Winterfest is a daylong downtown event that includes family-friendly Santa sightings, horse-drawn carriage rides, downtown tours and even a wine and beer festival. Click here to learn more about the event happening Nov. 29.

Downtown in December Trolley Tours

So, you've been hearing a lot about Cleveland lately, haven't you? What's all the jibber-jabber about anyway? The stretch of Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland that connects Public Square and PlayhouseSquare has undergone such an energetic revitalization over the past few years, many ex-pats are suddenly feeling the desire to move home. Board a free, red Lolly the Trolley running on Euclid Avenue any Saturday in December and get a guided tour through all the incredible development. The trolley will make stops at PlayhouseSquare, the Cleveland Visitors Center and the Horseshoe Casino.

Holiday CircleFest

What's better than free admission to many of University Circle's renowned museums, gardens, galleries, churches and schools? How about a bevy of holiday activities like live music, craft making, storytelling, a singing Santa, a massive gingerbread competition and ice skating. It's all happening in University Circle during the 21st Annual Holiday CircleFest on Dec. 7. The day concludes with the Cleveland Museum of Art's Winter Lantern Lighting happening from 5:30-6pm.

Holiday Theater & Musical Productions

From the Broadway production of Irving Berlin's White Christmas to the beloved Cleveland Orchestra Christmas Concerts, Cleveland has so many incredible holiday theater and musical productions that we needed to create an entirely separate article covering these on-stage Cleveland traditions. Okay, okay. Enough with the #humblebrag. Read more here.


"Three, two, one - HAPPY NEW YEAR!" Yep, that's what you'll be shouting at the top of your lungs during Cleveland's New Year's Eve celebration in downtown Cleveland. The wildly popular outdoor event, which was a smashing success during its inaugural year, includes live musical performances from born-and-bred Clevelanders, as well as special celebrity appearances and MCs.

Articles Search

Download the Destination Cleveland App

The Destination Cleveland app is your guide to art, culture and rock ‘n’ roll in a city that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Grit meets sophistication in a town with world-class experiences without the world-class ego. And for that, you’re welcome.

Destination Cleveland
334 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
800. 321. 1001
Check out what other travelers say
about Cleveland on TripAdvisor.