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20 Holiday(ish) Events and Activities to Put on Your Calendar This Winter

’Tis the season to do something



Your Facebook page is probably inundated with event reminders and invitations, and your family has probably already booked you for a Christmas play or concert or something. That doesn't mean you couldn't use a few more events in your life, especially in late December and early January when you finally have some free time. We gathered a few of our seasonal favorites that you might have missed.

It's a Wonderful Life/Nutcracker Ballet at Cleveland Cinemas

Sure, the cable channels will be beaming out holiday movies en masse this December and we love them all. But movies are an experience best enjoyed at the theater, and there's something about making a Christmas classic an event — to really focus, to watch with others. Cleveland Cinemas is bringing back It's a Wonderful Life on Sunday, Dec. 20 and a special presentation of Bolshoi Ballet: The Nutcracker on Dec. 20 and 23. Info and tickets at

Jingle Bell Bar Crawl

Holidays? Are we right? The family and the blah blah blah and you need to drink and you've read this sentence before. Anyway, the nuts and bolts: From 8 p.m. til 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 23, you can roll your way into Christmas Eve the right way with the Jingle Bell Rock bar crawl through the Warehouse District. For $15, you get a Santa hat, drink specials, a mug and more. For tickets and info, visit

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

The lasers, the pyrotechnics, the prog-rock classics and more — TSO's annual tour is somehow bigger and badder this year than ever before and they stop by Cleveland and Quicken Loans Arena on Dec. 30th for two shows at 4 and 8 p.m.

Polar Express

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is something you should have ridden by now, but if you've been putting it off, the holiday season is the right time to buy a ticket. Through a few days before Christmas proper, the train is decked out in Christmas splendor with plenty of Santa action and charms for the little ones.

Ice Skating

Relive the glory days of your ice skating youth, take the family or hold the hand of your date, strap on the skates and do your best Olympics audition: The rink at Wade Oval is all purpose and the perfect outdoor activity that takes just a modicum of actual athleticism and coordination. Two bucks to skate, $3 for skate rentals, and the rink is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through March 6 with additional days between Christmas and New Year's.

Castle Noel

The Christmas Movie Museum down in Medina is a little known gem in Northeast Ohio, and it spreads Christmas cheer year 'round. But the holidays are a natural time to head down south to bask in the treasures from your favorite holiday classics that have made their way to Medina County including gems from Elf and Fred Claus and more. It's not just a museum, by the way. There are also exhibits and decorations and everything to put you in the holiday spirit. Visit for more info, hours and prices.

A Very Last Call Christmas

Long-running comedy group Last Call Cleveland posts up at Playhouse Square for two more shows this year — Dec. 18 and 19 at Kennedy's Theatre — to serve holiday-themed sketches, songs and videos to audiences. Tickets run $15 (or $18 on the day of the show). These guys have won "Best Local Act" from our humble magazine a few times over the years, so they must be kind of funny.

The Polar Express at OmniMax

Guests are encouraged to wear pajamas and enjoy the holiday spirit during this special presentation at 2:45 p.m. on Dec. 19, which includes refreshments and a hot cocoa bar. The folks at the Great Lakes Science Center say this may sell out, so do order tickets ahead of time ($16, or $12 for members, at 216-621-2400). The film will screen again at noon on Dec. 24, though that showing does not include the hot cocoa and pajama elements.

"Deck the Hall" at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens

Each year, the Stan Hywet estate is "illuminated inside and out with over 800,000 lights, and the historic Manor House is decorated and inspired by the theme of 'Home for the Holidays.'" New this year: The organizers have arranged an animated holiday window in the courtyard that depicts 1920s-era downtown Akron at dusk during the holidays. The event is open from 5 to 8 p.m. on select evenings through Jan. 2. Check out for the official calendar.

A Christmas Carol at the Ohio Theatre

For those of a certain age, and for anyone who took sixth-grade English, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is something of a holiday staple. Onstage, the annual rite of passage arrives in Playhouse Square each December. Take the kids. Take your grandparents. Revel in the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. The show runs through Dec. 23.

Tours of Hale Farm

Take a step back to the 19th century, when things were just a wee bit different around Northeast Ohio. At Hale Farm, the annual holiday lantern tours showcase the lifestyles and decor of a long-lost age. Tours depart every 20 minutes beginning at 5:40 p.m. on Dec. 18 to 23, but check for all the details. Tickets cost $20 for non-members, $15 for members, $12 for children.

Black Nativity at Karamu House

Langston Hughes' classic Black Nativity returns to Cleveland right as its 100th anniversary approaches. (Hughes happens to be a Karamu House alum, by the way.) It's a veritable holiday classic — one that revels joyfully in an event that changed the course of human history. Tickets are $37 (and $32 for seniors, $15 for youth). The show runs through Dec. 27.

A Soulful Christmas with Wesley Bright and the Hi-Lites

It ain't the holidays without a little bit of soul, something upbeat and groovy to contrast against the steady outpouring of Christmas radio classics. Wesley Bright and his band will take care of you. On Dec. 23, they hold down the Beachland Ballroom stage with the Monday Sound. Tickets are $13 in advance. $15 on the day of the show. Bring your dancing shoes.

Cleveland Play House Festival of Trees

The Cleveland Play House's holiday tradition involves more than 70 professionally and beautifully decorated Christmas trees, all put together and sponsored by some of the city's more respected institutions. The show is on now, and it lasts through the end of the year.

First Night Akron

For those who live, work and play closer to our pals in Summit County, First Night Akron is a long-running New Year's Eve tradition that brings together the worlds of art, music and dance —- not to mention a fine year-end fireworks show. This event is alcohol-free and terrific for families of all ages. The fun takes place at various locations around downtown Akron; check out for more information.


[UPDATE: CLE Rocks NYE has been officially canceled this year. The announcement was made after this week's paper went to the press.]

Nela Park Lighting Display

If you're in the mood to see a really extraordinary holiday lighting display, Nela Park has got you covered. The whole shebang is up now — go check it out! — and it'll stay lit until the new year. This isn't an "event," per se, but it is an experience, and it's always nice to remember the historical legacy of East Cleveland's biggest employer. Check it out at 2147 Noble Rd. through the new year.

Grog Shop Free Weekend

In a beloved annual tradition, the fine folks at the Grog Shop open their doors for a weekend of free shows to kick off each new year. This time around, the shows include Signals Midwest, Two Hand Fools, Heart and Lung (Jan. 1); New Planet Trampoline, Shale Satans, Bummed Out, Joyframe (Jan. 2); Oldboy, Aku Aku, and Mitchell Lewis (Jan. 3). Tip your bartenders well.

United We Brunch

Hey, we've gotta take a moment to share our own wintertime event, right? United We Brunch debuted last year at the Fifth Street Arcade, and we're bringing it back again — this year at the Galleria at Erieview on Jan. 30 — to cure the monthlong new year hangover you'll inevitably be nursing. $35 gets you unlimited brunch tastings from restaurants across town, and five drink tickets. Mimosas! Bloody Marys! Buy tix at

Brite Winter

A cornerstone of Cleveland's culture and entertainment in these wintry months, Brite Winter dishes up some of our city's coolest bands and artists for a day of revelry. The fest returns to its roots on the west bank of the Flats this year on Feb. 20 — around McCarthy's and the Harbor Inn, mostly. "It's going to be a gritty, fun, weird place, and that's what Brite thrives on," executive director Brian Horsburgh tells Scene. Find details at

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