Cleveland's holiday season kickoff returns, bigger and better than ever
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). However, the official start of Cleveland's holiday festivities is marked by Downtown Cleveland Alliance's Winterfest, which this year takes place starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 25, right in the heart of Downtown.
Like 2016, the event is centered in and around Public Square, and features free horse-drawn carriage rides; food trucks; free ice skating; and a kid-friendly village with activities and entertainment, including face painting and puppet making.
Live music is also part of the day on a main stage. Expect performances from DJ $crilla, twangy blues singer Angela Perley and seasonal indie rockers Ohio City Singers. This year, attendees can also expect a special The Year of Strokes Tribute, featuring a live performance by Peter Lawson Jones (who portrays Carl Stokes as part of DCA's Take a Hike Tours) and music from Dominick Farinacci and the Stokes Legacy Jazz Orchestra.
At 6 p.m., there will be a half-hour-long holiday tree lighting ceremony featuring a visit from Santa and an impressive fireworks display. After the latter ends at around 6:30 p.m., the main stage will feature a performance from national recording artist Amanda Jones. Concurrently, there will be a public after-party at the Tri-C Hospitality Management Center until 7:30 p.m.
Attendees will see some small changes this year. Lines for the carriage rides should be shorter, while food trucks will be located in a different place. Plus, the schedule of entertainment and activities has been optimized to make Winterfest a leisurely, all-day affair. In other words: Take the day and explore what Cleveland has to offer.
Accordingly, Winterfest partner venues all over Downtown are hosting events and activities starting in the morning and stretching into the wee hours of the night.
The full itinerary is still being put together—in fact, events and activities are being added by the day; check the Downtown Cleveland Alliance event page for updated details—although some notable festive confirmations include:
- Tower City Center this year will be the indoor location of a Winterfest holiday pop-up retail shop, in addition to hosting three performances of the "The Toy Soldier, Fairy Godmother and Friends Holiday Show," and interactions with Bruce the Talking Spruce.
- Playhouse Square—and the surrounding theater district—is also getting into the holiday spirit. For example, you can experience the Festival of Trees in the Allen Theatre, while the Ohio Theatre lobby will host a holiday pop-up shop from indie craft extravaganza the Cleveland Bazaar.
- The annual, family-friendly Winterfest Village is once again being presented by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Naturally, the team (as well as the Cleveland Gladiators and the Monsters) will have an on-site presence as well.
- Kids of all ages can enjoy activities at the Cleveland Public Library, including storytelling and a popular reindeer exhibit.
- Both the Soldiers & Sailors Monument and the Arcade will have chances for patrons to meet Santa Claus. The latter will also be hosting a Historic Euclid Ave. Take a Hike Tour.
- The Old Stone Church will feature music—including a 7 p.m. choir concert—and dish up cookies and cocoa at 5 p.m.
- The Cleveland Visitors Center (334 Euclid Ave.) will join the festivities from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Stop in and receive customized itineraries, sightseeing tour information and tips to help your family and guests explore Cleveland during the holidays.
- The larger-than-life #ThisisCLE sign and the Cleveland Mobile Tour will be set up in Public Square. Snap photos throughout the celebration and tag them with #ThisisCLE on your social networks.
It all adds up to a joyous kickoff to the most wonderful time of year—and events meant to produce feelings of good cheer that linger through the end of 2017.