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Event picks for when you're done with your family


Fresh Air

Thanksgiving at the Zoo

If you're not going to help, the least you can do is get the kids out of the way of whoever is preparing today's feast. Grab your hat, coat, and as many children as possible, and take them to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (3900 Wildlife Way), where today's admission is free from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There'll be plenty going on, with zookeepers giving playful demonstrations of how they keep the animals engaged and energized. You may even get to see some of the critters getting their own Thanksgiving dinners, minus the yams and cranberry sauce. By the time you're done, your turkey should be on the table. For more information, go to clemetzoo.com or call 216-661-6500. — Anastasia Pantsios



Stroll & Shop on Larchmere

On the off chance that predawn stampedes inside suburban big-box stores aren't part of your holiday tradition, here's a civilized alternative: the annual Larchmere Holiday Stroll. Located one block north of Shaker Square, Larchmere Boulevard is home to an always-intriguing array of galleries, antique shops, gift stores, bookstores, boutiques, cafés, and restaurants. Today and tomorrow, some of the merchants, including Dancing Sheep and Loganberry Books, will sweeten the deal by offering complimentary hot cider and cookies as you browse their collections. In addition to the regular merchants, gift seekers also can explore the Bazaar Bizarre, inside the former American Crafts Gallery (13010 Larchmere Blvd.). This juried arts and crafts show features jewelry, pottery, clothing, and more, and operates today and tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Doesn't that sound nicer than a 5 a.m. race through Walmart? For more information, including directions, call 216-229-8919 or go to larchmere.com. — Elaine T. Cicora

On Stage

Santaland Diaries returns to CPT (sort of)

Cleveland Public Theatre goes uptown — or rather downtown — this year when it brings back Santaland Diaries, its holiday staple for the bah-humbuggers who think A Christmas Carol is sentimental tripe. A retelling of author David Sedaris’ tale of a sarcastic department store elf who is decidedly not catching the holiday spirit, the show has been on the CPT schedule since 2005. But this year, instead of being performed at CPT’s home at Gordon Square, the production takes place at Playhouse Square’s 14th Street Theatre (2037 E. 14th St.). Actor Doug Kusak again inhabits the elf suit, while Great Lakes Theater Festival’s Lisa Ortenzi directs. It’s part of Playhouse Square’s initiative to reach out to, and co-produce events with, other arts groups in the community. It opens at 7:30 tonight and runs through December 19. Tickets are $20 to $30. Go to playhousesquare.org or call 216-241-6000. — Pantsios

Kid Stuff

Christopher Pop-In-Kins Visits Learned Owl

He may get all the buzz, but Santa isn't the season's only jolly elf. For proof, stop by Hudson's Learned Owl Book Shop today from 4 to 6 p.m. and say "yo" to Christopher Pop-in-Kins, a cheery little storybook elf who has been entertaining children for more than 25 years. Popping into Hudson with Christopher will be his sister, Christina Maria, and his creator, author and illustrator Brian Bradway. The elfin meet & greet kicks off the annual Come Home to Hudson fest, an all-around-town event that includes carolers, the lighting of luminarias, and plenty of opportunities to sit on Santa's knee. Learned Owl is at 204 N. Main St. in Hudson. For more information, call 330-653-2252 or go to learnedowl.com. For a schedule of Come Home to Hudson events, go to merchantsofhudson.com. — Cicora



Winterfest on Public Square

Those former bastions of Christmas cheer — the downtown department stores — are long gone. But in their absence, the city of Cleveland has come up with a new reason to bring you and the family downtown: today's Winterfest, which takes place in and around Public Square starting at 3 p.m. Show up a little earlier and you'll be at the head of the line for a free horse-drawn carriage ride, leaving from 55 Public Square between 1 and 5 p.m. Winterfest Village will be open from 3 to 7 p.m. with refreshments, family-friendly activities, shopping, and music and dance performances. At 6 p.m. the tree-lighting ceremony starts, hosted by Mayor Frank Jackson, city council members, and Santa, who'll help switch on the Public Square Christmas tree and half a million decorative lights. For the finale, there's fireworks; and when they end at 7:30, you can drag the kids over to Positively Cleveland's Visitor Center to warm up and enjoy more music, refreshments, and a photo shoot with Old St. Nick. It's free. Go to downtowncleveland.com for more information. — Pantsios

Winter Wine & Ale Fest

Spirits Abound Downtown

Oh, WinterFest: You really do have something for everyone! Once we've seen the trees light up, it's time to stroll over to the atrium of 200 Public Square (the building formerly known as BP) and get a little lit ourselves at the first-ever Winter Wine & Ale Fest. Beginning at 8 p.m., nearly 20 local breweries and wineries will start pouring it on, with tastings of their most popular brands and limited seasonal releases. Suds fans, for instance, can explore offerings from Great Lakes Brewing Company, Thirsty Dog, Indigo Imp, and the Cleveland Chop House among others. For grapey types, there'll be wines from vineyards like Debonné, Ferrante, and Meier's. Just remember to send the kiddies home with Grandma; this is a 21-and-over event, and your ID will be checked at the door. Tickets are $40 and entitle you to 20 tastings, plus unlimited food pairings. To purchase, go to downtowncleveland.com. — Cicora

Cleveland Orchestra

The Planets Resound at Severance Hall

When you take the kids to Severance Hall tonight to hear Holst's The Planets, they will inevitably gaze upon the giant high-def photos that accompany the performance and ask you why the composer left out a couple. Pluto is easy: It wasn't yet discovered when the piece was written. But the absence of Earth is a little more complicated. As it happens, Earth is missing because Holst was more inclined to astrology than astronomy, and intended his composition to evoke the supposed influences of the celestial spheres upon us earthlings. Conductor Hans Graf — who led a sold-out tour of the U.K. featuring the same NASA-provided pics — leads the orchestra in an all-galactic program that opens with Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho's Asteroid 4179: Toutatis, and includes Mozart's Jupiter symphony. It's at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Severance Hall, 11001 Euclid Ave. Tickets are from $40 to $136. For details, call 216-231-1111 or go to clevelandorchestra.com. — Michael Gill

College Football

Pigskin Classic at Blind Pig

Today is the day the rivalry of rivalries kicks off: the annual gridiron showdown between Ohio State and Michigan. The Pigskin Classic — a day's worth of downtown activities — is a great way to celebrate. Start at 10 a.m. with a 5K run through our fair city; a $25 registration fee gets you a choice of an OSU or Michigan race T-shirt, as well as entrance into an outdoor tailgating party and a free Bud. Or if running isn't your thing, just hold out for the tailgating, which begins three hours before game time and concludes at kick-off; the $25 tailgating package includes a T-shirt, four beer tix (or two cocktail tix), cornhole, music, and a Bloody Mary bar. Registration begins at the Blind Pig (1228 West Sixth St.) at 9 a.m. For details, call Hermes Sports & Events at 216-623-9933 or go to hermescleveland.com/roadracing/. — Hazen


Cleveland Pops

Funny Stuff at the Palace

Think of musician Al Simmons as Canada's answer to "Weird Al" Yankovic. Starting in the '70s with a comedy rock band called Out to Lunch, he used props, costumes, and a mic with a 100-foot cord to wander into the audience, skewering deserving hits of the day like "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," and "A Boy Named Sue." Since then, he's gone on to lend his comedic skills and musical chops to orchestras: One notable performance found him playing Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" on a tuba-like, one-man band contraption he called the Simbonium. This week he appears with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, on a family holiday program. Also on the bill is Lynne Wintersteller, a Broadway singer with a name just made for holiday concerts. He'll go for the laughs. She'll sing the holiday favorites. Carl Topilow will conduct; and even Santa will put in an appearance. It's at 3 p.m. today at the Palace Theatre, 1615 Euclid Ave. Tickets are $10 to $35; to order, call 216-241-6000 or visit clevelandpops.com. — Gill

Scenic Railroad

Excursions in the Valley

Love the wintry Ohio landscape but hate lacing up those ugly snowboots? A Christmas-Time Excursion on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad may be just the ticket. Sit back, relax, and gaze out the window as the beautiful countryside rolls by, all without stepping into a snow drift or skidding on a single patch of ice. The train departs at 10 a.m. from the Rockside Road station in Independence and travels to downtown Akron, where a trolley will transport you to Lock 3 for ice skating and shopping. (Optionally, of course, you can duck into one of the local restaurants for a bit of midday refreshment.) Admittedly, this isn't the Polar Express, which sold out weeks ago. Still, kiddies will enjoy some quality time with Mr. Jingeling and Santa, who will be on board the train, and you won't have to stand in line while they do it. Christmas-Time Excursions are offered today, December 4 and 5, and December 11 and 12. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for children three to 12. For tickets and more information, call 800-468-4070 or visit cvsr.com. — Cicora



Kristine Jackson at Great Lakes

Whether you're recovering from Thanksgiving stress or gearing up for Christmas chaos, Great Lakes Brewing Company has at least a few tranquil hours on tap tonight, with its monthly Brews and Blues chill-out. The Christmas Ale will be flowing as Elyria native Kristine Jackson hits the stage with her Not Your Average Blues Band. Nothing average about singer-songwriter Jackson either; she has opened for big-time acts like Buddy Guy at the House of Blues, and local favorite Carlos Jones. Jackson's performance runs from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Great Lakes Brewing Company, 2516 Market Ave. For more information call 216-771-4404 or go to greatlakesbrewing.com. To learn more about the multi-talented Jackson, check out kjblues.com. — Hazen


Peace & Harmony

FODfest at the Beachland

Music is a universal language. So how better to promote international peace and understanding than by offering free concerts? That's apparently the thinking behind FODfest, a non-profit organization whose mission is to strengthen, empower, and educate communities through music. FOD stands for "Friends of Daniel Pearl," the journalist and musician murdered by terrorists in 2002. The fest was launched in 2005 by Todd Mack, Daniel's former bandmate, and has grown from a backyard jam to a touring event that spans the globe. Tonight's 8 p.m. show — part song-swap, part jam, and part concert — will be held in the Beachland's tavern and features Mack and other yet-to-be-announced performers spreading the musical word about brotherhood and goodwill. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the cost is nada. The Beachland is at 15711 Waterloo Rd.; for more information, call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com. For details on FODfest, check out fodfest.org. — Hazen


Natural History

Weird Beasts at the History Museum

If "mammal" makes you think of warm, fuzzy furballs, get a load of the new exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Extreme Mammals: The Biggest, Smallest and Most Amazing Mammals of All Time brings together a slew of extinct mammals, many so bizarre and outlandish that we have no common names for them. Consider Indricotherium, a rhino relative more massive than an elephant, or Ambulocetus natans, a whale that walked on legs! On view through Sunday, April 17, this traveling exhibit of fossils, models, and skeletons was organized by New York's American Museum of Natural History, with Cleveland's collaboration, and offers plenty of eye-candy for the kiddies as well as grown-up food for thought — not the least of which is the saber-toothed colony of naked mole rats that have the run of the joint by way of a network of habitat tubes. Today is the ideal weekday to visit: Museum hours extend until 10 p.m. on Wednesdays, with admission dropping to $6 for adults arriving after 5 p.m. For a full rundown of hours and ticket prices, go to cmnh.org. — Cicora

On the Cheap

Have Your Cake

and a Movie Too

A mere quarter will snag you cake and a movie tonight at the Cedar Lee, as the landmark theater in Cleveland Heights celebrates 85 years as one of the region's most notable film houses. The festivities kick off at 7 p.m. with the ceremonial cutting of the cake, followed by a twenty-five-cent screening of the Charlie Chaplin classic The Gold Rush. The circa-1925 prices also extend to popcorn and fountain drinks, which are pegged at a mere quarter all day. Just as thrilling: beer and wine will be sold for half price after 8 p.m. The Cedar Lee Theatre is at 2163 Lee Rd. in Cleveland Hts. Tickets for The Gold Rush are available at the box office and online at clevelandcinemas.com. — Cicora


Vince Vaughn's Pal Hits Hilarities

Chicago native Sebastian Maniscalco got his big break in 2007 when actor Vince Vaughn invited him to join his Wild West Comedy Tour. "I was working at the Four Seasons Hotel as a waiter when Vince called me up and said, 'I just bought a million-dollar tour bus, and we're going to tour the country. You up for it?'" Indeed he was — and afterward, he was able to lose the day job and take up comedy full time. Currently headquartered in L.A., the funny man has lots of irons in the fire these days, including an hour-long special on Comedy Central, a pilot for Showtime, and a documentary called Just Like Us, about bringing stand-up comedy to the Middle East (the film was a highlight of the Tribeca Film Festival). Now, Maniscalco is headed to Cleveland for a string of performances at Hilarities. "[Hilarities] is one of the best — if not the best — place to do stand-up in the country," he raves. "That place has everything!" He's not kidding. But he will be, Wednesday, December 1, through December 5. Hilarities is at 2035 East Fourth St. For show times and ticket information, call 216-736-4242 or go to hilarities.com. — Reed Hazen

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