On the Town Survival Guide: Holiday Events

On the Town Survival Guide: Holiday Events

- in Things to do

‘Tis the season for lots of holiday events around town. How do you know which one(s) to choose? And how do you maximize your fun and minimize your stress while you’re there? In my latest “On the Town Survival Guide,” I try to help narrow the field.

As a family who has gotten festive all over town, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite holiday events and ranked them on a 1-10 scale on three crucial factors:

  1. Santa Saturation – My son loves the Big Guy in Red, but not all kids do and not all families celebrate with Santa. This ranking will tell you how omnipresent Mr. C. is at the event.
  2. Food Factor – Do you need to eat before you go? Is all that’s available cookies and hot chocolate (which sounds fine to me, but doesn’t a complete meal make)?
  3. Bedtime Buster – Will your kids be up past bedtime? And is it worth it?

Candy Land Has Gone Wild!

From now through January 1, visit Penitentiary Glen Reservation in the Lake Metroparks to play Candy Land on a real life scale at Candy Land Has Gone Wild! There are also special holiday events on weekends, such as campfire s’mores!

Santa Saturation: 0/10. This event is winter-themed, rather than specifically Christmas-focused.

Food Factor: 0/10. Food is not offered at the event, but the nearby Kirtland City Tavern is a good option.

Bedtime Buster: 0/10. This is a daytime event, so no impact on snooze time.


Glow at the Cleveland Botanical Garden is one of the most aptly-named holiday events in town, happening now through December 31. You can check out trees decorated by local garden clubs, creative entries in the gingerbread house contest, ride on the Garden Express train, and lots more. You can also stop by The Rink at Wade Oval for ice skating and outdoor lights.

Santa Saturation: 1/10. Santa has made appearances at Glow, but is not a standard part of the event.

Food Factor: 8/10. The Cleveland Botanical Garden Café is open during the event and offers sandwiches, salads, soups, and more.

Bedtime Buster: 0/10. While Glow is open until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays, you can absolutely attend at a time that won’t impact bedtime.


Kringle’s Inventionasium

Cleveland’s most original holiday offering has to be Kringle’s Inventionasium, a wacky, loveable twist on Santa’s workshop. You can take a complete tour or just enjoy a one-on-one visit with Mr. Kringle.

Santa Saturation: 9/10. So, if it’s named for Santa, he’s obviously a part of the action. But the private audience with Mr. Kringle really takes the pressure off and Mr. Kringle is amazing at meeting your child where they are comfortable.

Food Factor: 0/10. Food is not offered at the event, but anywhere in Tower City or on Public Square offers lunch or dinner options, such as Suzy’s Soup or ReBOL.

Bedtime Buster: 0/10. There are plenty of daytime or pre-bedtime time slots to tour or visit with Mr. Kringle. Even if you choose an after-work time to visit, the tour is only an hour.


Deck the Hall

From now through December 30, the historic Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens transforms into a winter wonderland at Deck the Hall 2017. Aside from lots of lovely lights, you can also enjoy live music, visits with Santa and Rudolph, gingerbread cookies, and unique holiday shopping.

Santa Saturation: 5/10. Santa is available for visits and lights the tree in the courtyard every night at 5:30 p.m., but there’s so much else to see that he doesn’t have to be the focus of your visit.

Food Factor: 5/10. Molly’s Café is open for snacks and light nibbles. You can also bring food onto the grounds, but not in the Manor House.

Bedtime Buster: 5/10. The event starts at 5:30 p.m., but you’ll probably be there long enough to start encroaching on bedtime.


Country Lights 

*Note: sold out for 2017, but included in case you have tickets or want to plan for 2018

The Lake Metroparks Farmpark transforms into a Winter Wonderland with Country Lights. Take a wagon ride through the farm’s extensive light displays, watch Holiday Horse displays, marvel at model train displays, play in Santa’s toy test area, decorate cookies, and even build a toy in Santa’s workshop with the help of a friendly elf.

Santa Saturation: 4/10. Santa is available for pictures and visits, but is in a room where he can’t be seen as you’re walking through.

Food Factor: 4/10. Snacks such as roasted nuts, funnel cakes, popcorn, juice, and cookies are available for purchase.

Bedtime Buster: 5/10. It depends on your workshop ticket time. The event begins at 5 p.m. and there is lots to do. If you get an early workshop time, you can probably make bedtime.


The Polar Express 

*Note: sold out for 2017, but included in case you have tickets or want to plan for 2018

All aboard as the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad transforms into The Polar Express. You’ll hear the story, sing songs, visit the North Pole, wear your jammies, and basically live out the movie.

Santa Saturation: 10/10. Santa boards the train at The North Pole and walks through each car, visiting the passengers.

Food Factor: 3/10. Your tickets includes hot chocolate and a cookie. The concession car is open with snacks and beverages for purchase. If you’re leaving out of the Rockside station, a visit to Yours Truly before you board is a great option!

Bedtime Buster: 9/10. There are a handful of matinee trains available, but to be honest, the nighttime train is where you want to be to see all the lights at The North Pole. It’s a bedtime buster that’s worth it, though!


However and wherever you celebrate, enjoy this festive season with your kids and make magical memories!

From Cleveland that I Love,


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