2016 Winterfest in Public Square
Winterfest Kicks off the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
By Annie Zaleski, Image by Cody York
The local holiday season unofficially begins when the Great Lakes Brewing Company taps their annual batch of Christmas Ale (or when it starts snowing, whatever comes first). But the official start of Cleveland's holiday festivities is marked by Winterfest, which this year takes place from 1-7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26, right in the heart of Downtown.
In 2016, the event won't be in Playhouse Square, the location for the past few years. Instead, Winterfest is centered in the newly revamped Public Square, which is "the traditional location" for the festivities, says Meghan Tinker, strategic communications specialist at Downtown Cleveland Alliance.
"We really wanted to bring it there again this year because Public Square has been a big part of 2016 already," Tinker says.
Appropriately, the annual Winterfest Village in Public Square is presented by one of the city's biggest success stories: the world champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Naturally, the team (and sports partners the Gladiators and title-winning hockey team the Monsters) will have an on-site presence from 1 to 4:30 p.m.
This year's Winterfest Village also features a holiday pop-up shop from indie craft extravaganza the Cleveland Bazaar; food trucks; and a Winterfest Children's Stage featuring music, interactive activities and performances from kid-friendly theatrical group the Talespinner Children’s Theatre.
This full day of activities concludes at 6 p.m. with an hour-long holiday lighting ceremony, which features music from Spazmatics, a visit from Santa and an impressive fireworks display.
"This space—it's new; it's fresh; it's right outside of Tower City, so we have access to the RTA," Tinker says. "We have the ice skating rink that's on-site that will be open. We're excited to take advantage of all the new assets that Public Square brings."
In addition, Winterfest partner venues all over Downtown are hosting events and activities, starting in the morning and stretching into the wee hours of the night.
For example, at the Cleveland Public Library, kids of all ages can enjoy carolers and story time, as well as embark on free horse-drawn carriage rides. Tower City Center hosts three performances of the "The Toy Soldier, Fairy Godmother and Friends Holiday Show," as well as hangs with Bruce the Talking Spruce. Shoppers are also in luck: The Keep It Local Cleveland Winter Market takes place on Nov. 26 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Global Center for Health Innovation, while the 5th Street Arcades has local wares galore for sale.
Plus, Playhouse Square—and the surrounding theater district—is also getting into the holiday spirit. That afternoon, visitors can experience the Festival of Trees in the Allen Theatre; holiday shopping in the Ohio Theatre lobby; tours of Connor Palace; and kid-geared arts and crafts at the Idea Center.
Late-night revelers are also in luck: At 7 p.m., there's a lighting ceremony public after-party with cookies and cocoa in Public Square, while the Warehouse District promises its own lighting display at 9 p.m., for adults looking to unwind after a long day. (Events and activities are being added by the day; check the Downtown Cleveland Alliance's Winterfest page for updated details.)
It all adds up to a joyous kickoff to the most wonderful time of year—and an event meant to produce feelings of good cheer that linger through the end of 2016.
"We really want people to enjoy all of Downtown for the holidays," Tinker says. "We want them to come down and spend their time exploring Downtown and celebrating traditions that Downtown Cleveland is known for."
“Public Square played such an important role in Cleveland’s championship year," she adds, "and we are so excited to host the annual lighting of Downtown Cleveland in this new space."