15 CLE Holiday Happenings
Celebrate the Ho-Ho-Holidays Cleveland Style
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 15 holiday happenings to celebrate the season.
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 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 multiple days to come down and get everything you need for perfect gifts. This year, the event takes place Nov. 10-12 and 17-19; Dec. 8-10 and 15-17.
I-X Center Christmas Connection
Clevelanders can kick off the holiday shopping season with more than 140 vendors in one spot at the I-X Center Christmas Connection. Visitors will find everything from home décor to ceramics to jewelry and food that someone on their shopping list will love to find in their stocking this holiday season. Families can even have breakfast with Santa in the morning, check out the Gingerbread House competition and listen to live entertainment throughout the day. The events take place Friday, Nov. 17 and Saturday, Nov. 18, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 19, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Families can join Mr. Kringle and his elite team and help them prepare for the holiday season by making toys, ornaments and other creations in his top secret toy lab. Through the Kringle’s Inventionasium interactive theatrical experience, families can explore various testing rooms like the Puppet Pattern Workshop, Grow Snow Laboratory and Toy Engineering Room. Visitors even get the chance to meet with Mr. Kringle himself and review their holiday wish list. The event takes place in Tower City Center, 230 W Huron Rd., in Downtown Cleveland on Nov. 18-19 and Nov. 24–26; please visit mrkringle.com for reservation times and December dates.
Winter Wine & Ale Fest
How about kicking off the holidays with a sip of cider? On Saturday, Nov. 18, Downtown Cleveland is having its 8th annual Winter Wine & Ale Fest to toast to the upcoming holiday season. This event is your all-in-one stop to try fresh cider, drinks from local breweries, delectable food and more. Also, in the spirit of the holidays, there is nothing like giving back to those in need. Participate in the Wine Pull and Beer toss--all proceeds go to a charity for Downtown Cleveland's homeless community. Register here.
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
On, Nov. 18-19 and Nov. 25 and 26, hop aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for the Christmas Tree Adventure and explore the Heritage Tree Farm. Travelers can take the family and pick out their perfect Christmas tree to take home and decorate with popcorn, ornaments and dazzling lights.
If you're not in the mood to tree hunt, have a chat with the second-most-important elf of the season Nov. 18-19 and Nov. 25-26 during Mr. Jingeling's Holiday Jubilee. You have the chance to join Santa’s right-hand elf, Mr. Jingeling, as he shares stories about life in the North Pole and sings classic holiday songs.
And what would a Cleveland holiday list be without your token Ugly Sweater party? But we like to kick it up a notch. Nov. 24 – Dec. 21, the CVSR hosts Ugly Sweater Holiday Train Rides. Bring out your ugliest holiday sweater for an adult-only adventure traveling through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and splurge on holiday drinks at the cash bar.
Holidays at the Higbee
Take a step back in time at the JACK Cleveland Casino. 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 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, amiright?
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. 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. 24-Dec. 31.
Larchmere Holiday Stroll at Larchmere Blvd.
With an event that is stretched for 10 blocks, the Larchmere Holiday Stroll is more than just a weekend of shopping. It is an annual holiday experience that features festive music, Cleveland cuisine and twinkling lights. Visitors can peruse shops for local goods they can’t find anywhere else and indulge in the complimentary treats and beverages served throughout the district. Larchmere Blvd. is one block north of Cleveland’s Shaker Square Neighborhood (click here for specific directions). Come experience for yourself Nov. 24-25, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; and Nov. 26, noon–5 p.m.
Wild Lights at the Akron Zoo
Just 45 minutes south of Downtown Cleveland, residents can witness the Akron Zoo lit up with thousands of lights and visit with Santa so he knows exactly what to leave under the tree this year. At Akron Zoo’s Wild Lights, each weekend showcases a different holiday theme, as well as live entertainment and ice-carvers. The fun runs from Nov. 24–26, 5–9 p.m. Please visit akronzoo.org for December dates.
Winterfest is typically known for its legendary lighting ceremony and brilliant fireworks display on Public Square during the evening of the Saturday after Thanksgiving. And, what many don't realize is that Winterfest is a day-long Downtown event that includes family-friendly Santa sightings, horse-drawn carriage rides and Downtown tours. Click here to learn more about the event, happening Nov. 25.
Snowland at Great Wolf Lodge
When the weather outside is frightful, locals can head to Great Wolf Lodge for the annual Snowland celebration. Just an hour west of Downtown Cleveland, you will love taking a break from the chilly Ohio weather while surrounded by beautifully decorated trees and a life-sized gingerbread house. You can even dine in an indoor snow shower that melts in the 84-degree water park. Dive right in Nov. 25 – Jan. 1.
Downtown in December Trolley Tours
If you're a holiday lights buff or a fan of the cult classic movie A Christmas Story, the famous red Lolly the Trolley will take you on two separate tours around Cleveland to see it all. Available on various dates throughout December, Lolly is offering the Silver Bells CLE tour as well as the A Christmas Story House tour.
Dinner + Deck The Hall
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, located in the Akron area, is an estate featuring a 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 Dec. 1, 8 and 15, 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.
Nothing 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, Dec. 2-3. The two-day event concludes with the Cleveland Museum of Art's Winter Lantern Lighting from 5:30-6 p.m.
Holiday Theater & Musical Productions
We wish you a Cleveland Christmas! Start your holiday off right by watching live performances of the famous A Christmas Story, the Singing Angels 2017 Holiday Spectacular, or listening 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.