This Thanksgiving, there were many things to be thankful for. I’m lucky to have a pretty swell husband (understatement), fantastic parents and sister, friends and even in-laws (congrats Laura and Max on your engagement!). From work to home and in between, there’s not much to complain about.
And even better, I get to spend my time in Cleveland. Whether it’s Downtown, east, west or the suburbs – there’s always something to do. In fact, if I had one complaint it’s that there’s sometimes too much to choose from.
However, I consider that a very lucky problem to have. Clevelanders are blessed with a city that not just offers us a lot of unique entertainment, food, art and shopping experiences, but more importantly is small enough that most of it is accessible.
As we head into the holiday season, Cleveland is bustling with even more activity. In honor of one of my favorite carols, here are my “12 Days of Cleveland” Picks.
Holiday shopping events make it easier to take the pledge to shop local
Day 1. Shop Local Showcase: On Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, get your holiday shopping done early with Room Service’s Made in the 216 Holiday Shoppe (today-12/31), Bazaar Bizarre Cleveland’s eastside show (today and Saturday) and Downtown Cleveland’s Winterfest (Saturday).
And if you’re a procrastinator like me, Yelp Cleveland’s Shop Local Pledge has a full list of shopping events throughout December like Bazaar Bizarre’s huge westside show (12/8-12/9) and Screw Factory’s Last Minute Market (12/15).
Day 2. Circle in the City: One of the things on my Cleveland to-see list is the inside of the Cleveland Trust Rotunda. Every time I walk by it, I stare longingly wanting to get a glimpse of the murals and stunning stained-glass dome I’ve only seen in pictures. Thanks to the Downtown Cleveland Alliance and University Circle, my holiday wish has been granted with Circle in the City!
Every Wednesday between now and Dec. 12, the Ameritrust Rotunda will open from 11:30am-1pm for free cultural events sponsored by University Circle institutions. A food truck or two will be outside where you can grab lunch.
On my day off this past Wednesday, I stopped in for the first Circle in the City: a performance by Robert Cassidy, Department of Music faculty member and pianist for the Almeda Trio, The Music Settlement’s professional ensemble in residence. It was a harmonious complement to the Rotunda’s artwork and architecture whose beauty surpassed the photographs.
Circle in the City offers up beautiful sounds for the holiday as well as a rare opportunity to see the inside of the Cleveland Trust Rotunda
Day 3. Tinsel Town: If you have children, gather your family together to celebrate the holidays at PlayhouseSquare’s Tinsel Town Party (12/1). From 12-2 pm, the beautifully decorated Palace Theatre lobby will host holiday crafts, cookie decorating and of course Santa! Snacks and hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles will also be available. All proceeds benefit community engagement and education programs at PlayhouseSquare (Family Four Pack: $40; Adult: $8; Child: $14; half-price discounts for Pals Members).
Day 4. Holiday CircleFest: Ring in December at the Holiday CircleFest (12/2). From 1-5:30pm, spend your day in University Circle experiencing more than a dozen of Cleveland’s cultural treasures free of charge. Meanwhile, enjoy live music, craft making, historic displays of holiday toys, storytelling, a singing Santa, live reindeer, the city’s best gingerbread house competition, and more.
Wade Oval will also be busy with free horse-drawn carriage rides, ice carving demos, and ice-skating at the Oval’s Rink. At 5:30, the celebration concludes with The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Winter Lights Lantern Procession.
A Cleveland holiday tradition returns to PlayhouseSquare with Cleveland Orchestra and Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker (11/29-12/2)
Day 5. The Nutcracker on Stage and Screen: The incomparable pairing of the Joffrey Ballet and the Cleveland Orchestra returns to PlayhouseSquare with their annual run of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (11/29-12/2). Audiences will delight in the breathtaking costumes, magical music and spectacular dancing.
Although nothing compares to a live performance, if you can’t make it to the Cleveland production, Fathom Events will present the Russian Imperial Mariinsky Theatre’s The Nutcracker (12/3) at ten local movie theatres. Performances are at 2 and 7:30pm. Find your closest location here.
Day 6. Warehouse District Holiday Tour: Each December, hundreds of people descend onto Warehouse District for their annual Neighborhood Holiday Tour. Now in its 13th year, the popular tour (12/5) features a behind the scenes look at the Warehouse District’s beautiful residential and office buildings as well as a feast from the neighborhood’s restaurants.
This year’s tour includes stops at the Bridgeview Apartments Atrium, 425 Lakeside, the Bradley Building, the Cloak Factory, Old Stone Church, the offices of Rieth, Antonelli & Raj, plus a construction tour of the Flats East Bank Project.
Guests will then enjoy holiday treats from Barley House, Bar Louie, The Blind Pig, Blue Point Grille, Bob Golic’s Sports Bar & Grille, BRGR 9, Constantino’s Market, Charkha Exotic Indian Cuisine, Gillespie’s Map Room, Johnny’s Downtown, John Q’s Steakhouse and Taza Lebanese Grill. Proceeds from the tour benefit the Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation.
A special Santaland Diaries YP Night on 12/6 features a pre-show reception and tickets to the performance
Day 7. Santaland Diaries: PlayhouseSquare is serving up some not-so-family-friendly holiday fare when David Sedaris’ classic Santaland Diaries comes to the E14th St Theatre (11/28-12/22). Produced by Cleveland Public Theatre, Santaland Diaries recounts the hilarious (and sometimes horrible) stories of an out of work actor who takes a job as Crumpet, the Macy’s Christmas elf.
And on 12/6, join me at a special YP Night at Santaland Diaries. $30 gets you a ticket to the performance and unlimited drinks and light appetizers at a pre-show reception hosted by PlayhouseSquare Partners.
Day 8. Howard Hanna’s Chow Chow: If you’re downtown on 12/7 and looking for a good deal on lunch, stop by Howard Hanna’s Chow Chow Fundraiser. From 11am-2pm, enjoy food from Blue Point Grill, Brennan’s Catering, John Q’s Steakhouse, Mr. Chicken and Marigold Catering for only $10. Proceeds from the event’s tickets, silent auction, and bake sale will go to the Children’s Free Care Fund which supports local Children’s hospitals including UH Rainbow Babies, Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, MetroHealth and Akron Children’s Hospital.
Work off those holiday goodies at the Jingle Bell Run (12/8)
Day 9. Jingle Bell Run: Lace up your running shoes, pull on your santa hat or reindeer antlers and help raise money for the Arthritis Foundation with the Cleveland Jingle Bell Run/Walk (12/8). Jingle Bell teams and solo runners are raising money and participating in the 5K which kicks off at 9am in Legacy Village. Register to run/walk here or make a donation.
Day 10. Christmas Carols Old and New: While one of Northeast Ohio’s favorite holiday traditions returns to the Hanna Theatre with Great Lakes Theater’s A Christmas Carol, the Cleveland Play House is helming a brand new carol at the Allen. Both shows run 11/30-12/23.
Great Lakes’ adaptation of A Christmas Carol takes place in London on Christmas Eve as the Cleaveland family sits down for their annual reading of the story. Children and adults will enjoy a fresh take on Scrooge’s tale as they see it unfold through the imagination of the family’s youngest son.
Down the street at the Allen Theatre, Cleveland Play House presents the world premiere A Carol for Cleveland. Written by local playwright Eric Coble and author Les Roberts, A Carol for Cleveland is a love-letter to the city and the determination and spirit that make it unique. With my love of Les Roberts and after last year’s stunning The Game’s Afoot, you know that A Carol for Cleveland is top of my list for holiday shows.
Have you been naughty or nice this year? Who cares at Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus Dinner Party! (12/20)
Day 11. Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus: It doesn’t matter if you’ve been naughty or nice this year, Emerging Chefs has a party for every boy and girl (well, man and woman since you should find a babysitter for this holiday dinner).
At Naughty Claus (12/20), Chef Adam Lambert will make the holidays merry, bright and delicious with festive cuisine at Cleveland’s Speakeasy.
From 8pm to midnight, the NY Times-featured prohibition-era-themed lounge will play host to a 5-course meal paired with libations. If you’re not already in a holiday mood, creative courses like Snow Globe Ornaments (with oyster, Douglas fir, juniper and tonic), XXX-Mas Cookies, truffle Snowballs, Who Ham for One and Kosher Khristmas will get you in one. Plus everyone will leave with a bit of “coal” for their stockings. If only for one night, it’ll be good to be bad.
Day 12. Ale, Cookies and Ugly Sweater Party: The Cleveland Foodbank’s YP Pantry hosts its first annual Ale & Cookies party for Cleveland young professionals. Join them at Bier Markt-Bar Cento on Dec. 17, 6-9pm for some Christmas Ale and holiday cookies while helping the hungry. 15% of the group’s bar bills will go directly to the Cleveland Foodbank and donations of canned goods are always welcome. Best ugly holiday sweater wins a prize!
This list is only the tip of the gingerbread house when it comes to holiday fun in Cleveland. Share your picks in the comments below!
Disclosure: In exchange for previewing and reviewing Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus, I was offered one ticket to the event. I am also on the board of PlayhouseSquare Partners and the YP Pantry which are hosting Tinsel Town, the Santaland Diaries YP Night and Ale and Cookies.