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Laura DeMarco's Cleveland Christmas guide: holiday-themed shows, ice skating, drive-thru light festivals, and more

COVID-19 has not canceled the holidays in Northeast Ohio.

CLEVELAND — The holidays are not canceled. They’re just going to look a little different this year. Lighting displays, festivals, reindeer games, concerts, ice skating and even Scuba Claus are still coming to town — with masks, social distancing and more precautions. Read on for the 2020 WKYC safe- and-festive holiday event guide:

Winter Riverfest, Rivergate Park and Merwin’s Wharf: The Cleveland Metroparks has announced its first ever Winter RiverFest, set to transform Rivergate Park and Merwin's Wharf for the holiday season beginning November 27. The festival along the Cuyahoga River in The Flats will feature synthetic ice skating, light displays, a beer garden and fire pits, retail shop and an igloo village at Merwin’s Wharf. To allow for social distancing, rink reservations are recommended and capacity on the rink will be limited; $7 for adults, $5 for children (12 and under). Rentals, $3. The private outdoor igloos, featuring a special Winter RiverFest menu, can also be rented by visiting merwinswharf.com. Rentals start at a two-hour minimum for $50, plus a food and drink minimum.

Winterfest, Public Square and downtown: Winterfest will look different this year, but the lights will still be twinkling and fun will still be had. Instead of a one-day fest, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance has planned several events on different days to allow for social distancing. They include holiday lights shows on the square from 4 p.m. - midnight November 28 - January 3. There will also be horse-and-carriage rides until January 2; reserve advance tickets here.

Deck the Halls, Stan Hywet Hall, 714 North Portage Path: Akron’s most famous address is hosting “A Very Merry Christmas” celebration, with COVID-19 protocols in place. A limited number of guests will be able to tour the decorated mansion and festive grounds from November 27 - December 30. The Manor House features a first-floor tour (one way to ensure safety) decorated with “plenty of nostalgia.” Outside, more than 1 million lights will dazzle guests, as will animated shop windows featuring a 1920s “Christmas in downtown Akron” theme. Santa will also visit, socially-distanced, and hot gingerbread, cocoa, beer and Bavarian pretzels will be sold outside. Advance tickets only: General admission $18 - $22 ($7 - $9 kids), available here.

Wild Winter Lights, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo: The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo will once again transform into a winter wonderland with Wild Winter Lights presented by NOPEC. The all-new light display features more than one million individual lights and several themed areas, including Candyland, Enchanted Forest, Conservation Trail and Santa’s Workshop. There will again be walk-through displays, carousel rides, roaming characters, model train displays, ice carvers, live music and a dynamic 50-foot-tall tree. Advance tickets strongly encouraged; sales are limited to allow social distancing. Four-packs available. The cost for Zoo members is $18, $20 for non-members, or a four-pack for $54 for members and $60 for non-members. Children under 2 are admitted for free. Available here.

A Century of Holidays, Cleveland History Center, 10825 East Boulevard: The Cleveland History Center, is taking a trip down memory lane with a “ A Century of Celebrations.” Beginning November 27, guests of all ages can enjoy traditions past and present as they explore seasonal vignettes and nostalgic Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s decor. There’s even a Mr. Jingeling scene. Vignettes are set far apart to allow for distancing and plenty of time to capture the perfect family photo. Guests are encouraged to share their photos on social media @clestartshere, #NEOHistory. “A Century of Celebrations” runs through January 3,. The museum will be open every day between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Advanced timed entry is required. Tickets can be reserved at cletix.com. Additional information is at www.wrhs.org. General adult admission, $10, children 3 - 12, $6. The Center will be hosting an online “Ghosts of Christmas Past” tour at 6 pm. December 16; more information on their website.

Rink at Wade Oval: The Rink at Wade Oval will open for the season on Friday, December 4, with new health and safety protocols in place. Capacity will be reduced from 100 to 30, and face masks must be worn at all times. Staff at The Rink will spray rental skates with sanitizer after each use. All public areas will be continuously cleaned, and benches will be spaced to allow for social distancing. Concessions will be limited to pre-packaged items and coffee. The Rink will be open through February 15, 2021. Admission for the fun and affordable winter experience is just $2 and skate rentals are $3. Bonus: there isn’t a more beautiful view in town than the stunning buildings and grounds at University Circle. Guests of The Rink can also show their admission wristbands at The Cleveland Orchestra gift shop to receive a special discount or use the code “WadeOval” to shop online. The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Café is offering a 10% discount to guests who have timed museum tickets and plan to skate on the same day

Scuba Claus, Greater Cleveland Aquarium, 2000 Sycamore Street, Cleveland: Jolly Old St. Nick is getting back into the holiday spirit — and shark tank — at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Scuba Claus returns to the 230,000-gallon shark exhibit for Meet & Greet Days: Thursdays, December 10 and 17; Fridays, December 11 and 18 from 4:30 - 7 p.m.; and Saturdays, December 12 and 19, 8:30 - 10 a.m. Tickets (which includes full Aquarium access) are $24.95 for guests adults, $18.95 for children ages 2-12. Aquarium capacity will be limited and entry timed to ensure social distancing. Advance purchase required, which you can do here.

Glow at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, 11030 East Boulevard: The annual Glow festival will transform the Cleveland Botanical Garden into a winter wonderland inside and outside this holiday season. This year, the emphasis will be on the website, with festive displays and several evenings of outdoor entertainment, including bands, DJs and even a Krampusnacht on December 5. Inside, the celebration includes holiday displays, gingerbread houses, decorated wreaths and trees and much more. Advance tickets only, including for members. Glow opens November 21 and runs through January 3. Hours: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Wednesday; noon - 8:30 p.m. Thursday - Saturday and noon - 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission $15 per adult, $10 per child age 3 to 12 (free for children 2 and under). Tickets available at cbgarden.org or by calling 216-721-1600, ext. 110.

Magic of Lights, Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds, Berea: This drive-through holiday attraction is the perfect COVID-19 era entertainment, a mile of light displays and festive vignettes viewed safely from your car. Priced per car: $23 advance, $25 at the gate. November 25 - January 2. Available here.

Ohio City Singers, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum: Cleveland’s favorite holiday band will perform a special, socially-distance outdoor concert in front of the Rock Hall on December 5. The two-hour show starts at 5:30 and will be preceded by the lighting of a 40-foot tree on the plaza at 5 p.m. Tickets are $20 and include the tree lighting, a special messages from Inductees Darlene Love and Frankie Valli and museum admission, A portion of the proceeds go to Shoes & Hale Farm Holiday Lantern Tours, 2682 Oak Hill Road, Bath Relive a very 19th-century Christmas with a lantern-lit tour of the village and visit historic homes bustling with holiday preparations. Tours limited to 10 participants: December 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 20, 22 and 23. Call 330-666-3711 x1736. $20 adults, $12 for ages 3 - 12.

Jim Brickman Presents Comfort and Joy at Home: Playhouse Square and Jim Brickman are taking the Cleveland native’s annual Holiday show online this year. Fans can enjoy the unique virtual concert experience from the comfort of their own couch, while supporting Playhouse Square during this challenging time. Brickman will feature a mix of holiday carols and his own hit songs, including“ The Gift,” “Sending You A Little Christmas,” “Angel Eyes” and “If You Believe.” Tickets , $40 - $125, available here.

Downtown Christmas Walking Tour, toursofcleveland.com: Explore downtown decorated for the holidays and learn about Cleveland traditions such as Mr. Jingeling, the Twigbee Shop and the famous tree at Sterling-Lindner. Small group sizes, face masks required, majority outdoors. Tickets, $18 per person, available at toursofcleveland.com.

Akron Zoo Wild Lights, Akron Zoo; The Akron Zoo will light up with hundreds of thousands of holiday lights, synchronized shows, carousel rides and more November 27-29, December 4-6, 11-13, 18-23 and 26-30, from 5 - 9 p.m. Santa will even pay a visit Dec. 4 - 6, with the Grinch stopping by Dec. 18 - 20. Tickets, $9 - $13, available here.

Crocker Park Ice Rink, 186 Union Street, Westlake: Glide though the holiday season on the ice rink at Crocker Park, November 21 through December 31, 5 - 9 p.m. Fridays, noon to 9 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 pm. Sundays. Admission $8, rentals $3. The view of the giant tree down the street is spectacular. More info here.

Holidays movies at Cleveland Cinemas: Cleveland’s locally owned movie-chain is offering two cinematic classics this season. “Fiddler on the Roof” will screen at the Cedar Lee and Chagrin Cinemas at noon December 13, and 7 p.m. December 14. And it you’re missing “The Nutcracker,” don’t miss the Bolshoi Ballet version at 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday, December 19 and 7 p.m. December 20. Masks and social distancing enforced. More information can be found here.

Cleveland Foundation Rink at Public Square: Reservations are required and the capacity will be cut in half, but the festive Cleveland Foundation rink at Public Square will re-open this season, from November 28 - January 9. Reservations and more info at clevelandpublicsquare.com.

Castle Noel, 260 South Court Street, Medina: Northeast Ohio’s year-round Christmas experience is offering private group tours this holiday season (as well as public tours). Guests can Relive Ralphie's climb up Santa Mountain and explore rooms of retro holiday movie memorabilia, including millions of dollars of department-store window displays. Santa will be on site November 20. See the Castle Noel website for booking and details.

Santa’s Reindeer, Yellow Creek Trading Company, Peninsula: Santa’s Reindeer, via Springmist Farm, will visit the Bronson Church green in downtown Peninsula on December 5 from 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. At 1 p.m. Santa, Mrs. Claus, Rudolph, and the Grinch will also appear to welcome visitors (weather permitting). Masks and social distancing of six-feet required.


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