November 2009 Issue
Holidays on Ice
Come to Cleveland for spectacular shows, seasonal displays and unique events.
When people think of spending a holiday in Cleveland, they usually envision themselves knee-deep in frozen precipitation. The city, after all, has a much-deserved reputation for being one of the snowiest spots in the state. But you can bet your buttered rum that there’s more to do after the temperatures drop below freezing than make snow angels and start snowball fights — Cleveland is a good time for young and old alike.
The holidays start Nov. 22 with the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring The Rockettes” at the Cleveland State University Wolstein Center (2000 Prospect Ave., 800/745-3000, csuohio.edu/wo enter).
Most residents, however, consider Winterfest the official start of the season. The free kick-off, this year scheduled for the Saturday
after Thanksgiving (Nov. 28), begins at noon with musical and dance performances at venues around Public Square, and culminates at 6 p.m. with the lighting of the square’s Christmas tree and displays, which is followed by more live music and fireworks. For a schedule of activities, call the Downtown Cleveland Alliance at 216/736-7799 or log on to cleveland.com/winterfest.
The weekend after Thanksgiving is also a popular time to see one of the city’s most famous tourist attractions: “A Christmas Story” House (3159 W. 11th St., 216/298-4919,
thechristmasstoryhouse.com), a wood-frame home in the city’s Tremont neighborhood where portions of the movie were filmed. Visitors can tour the century-old structure, which has been refurbished and furnished to look much like it did when Ralphie Parker and his fictional family occupied it. The houses across the street have been converted into a well-stocked gift shop and museum filled with props from the set.
“Last year, I purchased almost all of the costumes from the original wardrobe mistress for the movie,” says proprietor Brian Jones. “We have so many now that we have a rotating display — this year we’re going to do Ralphie’s costumes.”
Jones adds that a selection of costumes on loan from the house will also be exhibited through Jan. 15 at “Holly”wood Christmas Movieland in suburban North Olmsted (Dillard’s wing, Westfield Great Northern Mall, 4954 Great Northern Mall, 440/453-5889, christmasmovieland.com).
Fans of “A Christmas Story” will also want to check out the theatrical production of the same name at the Cleveland Play House (8500 Euclid Ave., 216/795-7000, clevelandplayhouse.com), which is making its fifth and final run Nov. 27 through Dec. 20.
Arrive early so you have time to check out the Festival of Trees, a free display of more than 50 firs, each decorated by a local company or organization, in the theater complex’s lobbies.
A longstanding tradition is the Great Lakes Theater Festival’s production of “A Christmas Carol.” The holiday classic runs Dec. 4–23 at the Ohio Theatre at PlayhouseSquare (1511 Euclid Ave., 866/546-1353, playhousesquare.org). According to marketing and public relations director Todd Krispinsky, more than half a million people have seen the troupe’s adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic over the past two decades.
“It’s been around so long that second generations are coming now,” he says. “It really has become a tradition for families.”
Seasonal shows in neighboring PlayhouseSquare theaters include the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” Dec. 10–13; the Cleveland Pops Orchestra’s “Holiday in Toyland” concert featuring holiday-film favorites on Nov. 29; and famed saxophonist Dave Koz and Friends: “A Smooth Jazz Christmas” on Dec. 4. For all tickets, call 866/546-1353 or visit playhousesquare.org.
For those who prefer a rockin’ edge to their holiday music, there’s the Trans-
Siberian Orchestra’s annual extravaganza a few blocks away at Quicken Loans Arena (1 Center Court, 800/745-3000, ticketmaster.com) Dec. 19 and 20.
Barry Gabel, senior vice president of marketing and creative services for promoter Live Nation’s Cleveland office, explains that the show involves a 60-piece orchestra and chorus.
“It combines the power of heavy-metal rock with traditional holiday music,” he says. “It looks like a Pink Floyd show with lasers, pyrotechnics and a stage beyond belief.”
But for classical-music aficionados, the most-desired ticket in town is to one of the Cleveland Orchestra’s Christmas concerts the weekends of Dec. 11–13 and Dec. 18–20 at Severance Hall (11001 Euclid Ave., 800/686-1141, clevelandorchestra.com).
“You can have lunch with Santa in the Severance Restaurant prior to the afternoon performances,” says media relations manager Jennifer Schlosser.
The orchestra’s schedule also includes two presentations of Handel’s “Messiah” Dec. 10 and 12.
Museum buffs will find the best time to visit Cleveland is Dec. 6, when major institutions in and around the cultural epicenter known as University Circle open their doors for the 16th annual Holiday CircleFest, an afternoon of family-friendly activities. Attractions run the gamut from a singing Santa and live reindeer at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (800/317-9155, cmnh.org), to a gingerbread-house competition and festive plant exhibits at the Cleveland Botanical Garden (216/721-1600, cbgarden.org), to horse-drawn carriage rides and skating on an outdoor rink at Wade Oval. The event ends at 5:30 with the Cleveland Museum of Art’s dramatic lantern procession around the oval (216/421-7340, clemusart.com). For more information about the CircleFest, call 216/791-3900 or visit universitycircle.org.
Visitors in town on a holiday will find a couple of attractions that are open. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (3900 Wildlife Way, 216/661-6500, clemetzoo.com) offers free admission on Thanksgiving. Zookeepers are on the grounds to answer questions and conduct special feedings of holiday treats to the animals — pumpkins for the grizzly bears, for example.
“It’s a good time to walk off your meal and see our animals eating theirs,” points out marketing and public relations specialist Tom Robatin.
And on Dec. 25 the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage (2929 Richmond Rd., Beachwood, 216/593-0575, maltzmuseum.org) hosts its annual “Chinese Food and a Movie Day.” The event, free with museum admission, offers diversions such as Oscar- and Caldecott Award-winning films, craft-making, kosher egg rolls and fortune cookies, and access to permanent exhibits.
Lynda A. Bender, director of education and public programs, explains that the event got its name from the punch line to the old joke, “What do Jews do on Christmas?” But she notes that its activities attract those outside the Jewish faith.
“At the end of ‘A Christmas Story,’ where does the family end up? In a Chinese restaurant!” she says with some amusement, then becomes more serious. “It’s a terrific place for blended families or people with kids under 8 who don’t want to sit in a movie theater for two hours.”