October 18, 2014

Downtown Cleveland Shines From Square-to-Square

Held the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, Winterfest in downtown Cleveland embodies the holidays - twinkling lights, festive holiday trees, horse-drawn carriage rides, hot cocoa and caroling.

But, since this is Cleveland, we threw in some live music, a beer festival and a pretty massive fireworks display to keep things real.

Winterfest, an annual event known for its traditional downtown lighting ceremony and grandiose fireworks display, will be held in the PlayhouseSquare district along Euclid Avenue Nov. 29 at 6pm.

"This year, we are lighting downtown Cleveland from square-to-square - that's Public Square to PlayhouseSquare," Gina Morris, spokeswoman for Downtown Cleveland Alliance, said. "Holiday light displays will be strung throughout the trees that line Euclid Avenue both street-side and along the median."

If you can't find the event, just look for the outdoor chandelier covered in 4,200 crystals and hanging 40 feet above East 14th Street and Euclid Avenue.

"During this year's Winterfest activities, we'll have a stage with live musical performances below the GE Chandelier and our famous fireworks display above it," Morris said. "And, our large holiday tree will be now centrally located on U.S. Bank Plaza, just across the street from many of PlayhouseSquare's iconic theatres."

The move from the event's previous location on Public Square allows Cleveland to shine the spotlight on PlayhouseSquare's rather impressive $16 million makeover.

"The PlayhouseSquare neighborhood has undergone millions of dollars in new investments that have been positively transformative," Morris said. "Having Winterfest in PlayhouseSquare offers a wonderful opportunity for Clevelanders to see - first hand - what everyone's been talking about."

The lighting ceremony begins around 6pm and is immediately followed by a fireworks display. Additionally, there will be live on-stage performances.

"December in downtown Cleveland - filled with all its holiday glory - is simply a magical time of year."

Winterfest by Day

While the heart and soul of Winterfest truly occurs during the lighting ceremony in the evening, downtown comes alive during the day, too. 

Head over to Tower City Center where there'll be a number of family-friendly activities including Kris Kringle's Inventionasium. This unique 30-minute interactive tour takes kids through Santa's toy laboratory where they can test-out new toys and even create real snow. At the end, the kids can get some one-on-one time with Santa.

While in Tower City, enjoy the Toy Soldier and the Fairy Godmother Holiday Show, now in its 25th year. This 30-minute live show takes place at the grand staircase and includes special performances by Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.

And, if you're looking for a view of all of downtown, get to the Tower City Observation Deck for a dazzling 360-degree look at Cleveland atop the 42nd floor of the legendary Terminal Tower.

Or, get a street-side view of festive downtown aboard a horse-drawn carriage that can be picked up outside of the Cleveland Public Library on Euclid Avenue. Take an onboard picture because you'll still have 27 days to turn it into a holiday family card.

Winterfest After Hours: Winter Wine & Ale Festival

After Winterfest, skedaddle over to 200 Public Square where you can get your drink on at the Winter Wine & Ale Festival starting at 7pm. More than 20 local wineries and breweries come together to offer a sampling of their wintertime adult beverages. But, for real folks, get your tickets soon, as this even is a sellout every year.

Downtown in December Saturday Trolley Tours

Winterfest isn't the only time to explore all that's happening in downtown Cleveland. Downtown Cleveland Alliance is teaming up with several Cleveland businesses to offer trolley tours of Euclid Avenue every Saturday from 11:30am - 5pm.

"This is a really wonderful way to explore Euclid Avenue, experience the vast investment that has gone into this part of town and really embrace the family-friendly nature of the holidays right here in downtown Cleveland," said Morris.

Board a nostalgic, red Lolly the Trolley outside of one of three stops located at: (1) the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland,  (2) PlayhouseSquare and (3) the Cleveland Visitors Center. On board, you'll be introduced to the millions of dollars in investments that have gone into Euclid Avenue recently.

At any point, feel free to get off at one of the three stops and familiarize yourself with that portion of Euclid Avenue.

  • At PlayhouseSquare, you can get your photo with the GE Chandelier and take a stroll through the Festival of Trees inside the Allen Theatre where dozens of ornately decorated Christmas trees are displayed at no charge.
  • At the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, you can participate in promotions, view the ornate holiday window displays and check out the Holidays at the Higbee event.
  • And, at the Cleveland Visitors Center stop, you'll be connected with local experts who can guide you to your next afternoon adventure, schedule lunch reservations and introduce you to some lesser-known Cleveland attractions.

Stay up-to-date on Winterfest and Downtown in December by following along on Twitter @DowntownCLE and Facebook.

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.