25 Things to Do this Winter

Because you might as well have fun while waiting for spring

Sure, we get it. The easy thing to do around these parts when the sun sets before you leave work and a special Lake effect delivery is waiting for you before you get home is to hunker down. Why, after all, would you try braving the wind chill and overarching darkness when you could just embed yourself on the couch and pretend like it's not December?

Because it's not that bad. You know that though. We're a hardened Midwestern people, and ain't no snow or chills gonna keep us down, and bored, for months on end.

Plus, there's plenty to do, from one-off events and festivals to bucket-list items that you've been meaning to cross off for years. And with friends and family dropping back into town for the holidays and the work schedule tapering off into "holiday mode," there's arguably more time than in any other months of the year to, ya know, actually do stuff.

You might not need suggestions, but we have a feeling you might, so we rounded up 25 things we're aching to do before the snow melts for good sometime next year. Let us know what you think should be added, unless "hunker down on the couch" is your suggestion, then just keep your thoughts to yourself. You're probably from Florida anyway.

Ride the Polar Express: The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is something you should have ridden by now, but if you've been putting it off, the holiday season is the right time to buy a ticket. Through Dec. 21, the train is decked out in Christmas splendor with plenty of Santa action and charms for the little ones.

Toboggan: Okay, you've heard about the Metroparks' chalet in Strongsville, but have you actually gone? Probably not, and if you have, probably not since you were a kid. Where else — the answer is nowhere, in case you were wondering — can you shoot down a 1,000-foot ice sheet?

Ice Skating: Whether it's a romantic date, with the family, or, well, a romantic date, nothing really beats a holiday skate outside. Head on over to Wade Oval to strap on the blades and pirouette, and inevitably fall down, under the skies. All for $5 too. Which is a bargain price just for the pleasure of watching would-be Romeos trying to stay on their feet.

Glow at the Botanical Gardens: For the third year, the eastside cultural outpost bedecks the interior and exterior of the gardens in winter wonderland decorations. A hundred gingerbread houses, a train ride, and lights. Lots of lights. Get your cultural obligations out of the way while bringing Santa cheer.

Museums: Let's go back to the cultural obligations for a second. Maybe you haven't had the time or the pre-holiday bussle has your schedule booked, but the various museums around town are pining for your attention. The Cleveland Museum of Art, MOCA, the Natural History Museum — you know you've been slacking.

Brite Winter Festival: On February 21, 2015, Ohio City will once again be the venue for an outdoor and indoor music festival that pulls together a bevy of top-notch local and regional acts. Yes, it's cold outside. But, as we mentioned before, no one cares. Bundle up, grab a cup, stand by the fire, and enjoy the tunes.

A Christmas Story House: Once again on the "I know about it but have never been" theme here. Tucked away in Tremont, over on the South Side, the venerable house that looms large on TVs across the country around this time of year awaits with all its retro charm.

Polar Bear Plunges: There are a host of them throughout the winter, and we can't think of something more perfect way to tell Old Man Winter that you don't think he's that bad of a man. Most of them are for charity, which makes the goosebumps and post-dip shivers all the more worth it.

See a Holiday Classic on the Big Screen: Few times of the year inspire nostalgic screen time quite like the holidays. Maybe Die Hard is your favorite, or A Miracle on 54th Street, or maybe you're more of a National Lampoon kinda person. Ours? Elf. Cleveland Cinemas screens the Will Ferrell insta-classic on December 13 and 20. (They're also showing A Christmas Story on the 13th.) Pack some maple syrup for the popcorn.

Christmas on the Stage: We're not done being cultured around these parts. Playhouse Square packs the winter schedule with something for everyone including the Santaland Diaries from David Sedaris, A Christmas Story, the Nutcracker, and, of course, A Christmas Carol. Trust us, it's better than rewatching whatever season of The Office you're currently motoring through on Netflix.

Christmas, Orchestra Style: It's probably also been a minute since you enjoyed our world-class orchestra. Maybe you trekked down to Blossom to catch the annual cartoon shindig, but Severance Hall is a much better venue. Christmas programs run every weekend before the big day on the 25th with afternoon and evening performances.

Bowl: Yeah, this one might feel a little out of place, but what better time to enjoy recreation the way your dad did? We love Mahall's, and you should go there, but in fancy Scene world, Twin Lanes over off Chester and Dickie's Lanes on West 25th get the lion share of our dollars. (Also: If you can book the Nash in Slavic Village for a private holiday party and enjoy those historic lanes, we'd encourage you to do so immediately.)

Winter Waterland: H20 usually comes in the frozen variety on the shores of the Great Lakes, but inside the Greater Cleveland Aquarium in the flats, it's always water. Doing what they can to still stay in the spirit, the aquarium folks decided to simply put Santa underwater. Thus was born Scuba Claus, which is just one of the many excuses to enjoy the holidays with the fishes.

Dream of the Outdoors: The cavernous palace that is the I.X. Center might strike only notes of gigantic indoor ferris wheels in your mind, but a parade of exhibitions throughout the winter months give other reasons to stop by. The Cleveland Outdoor Adventure Show (January 16 - 18) and the MidAmerica Boat Show (January 15 -19) are just two ways to get out of your house while the snow is still on the ground and dream of balmy temperatures and a day on the lake.

Do Some Good: It's an annual refrain, but we'll repeat it here: Go volunteer somewhere this holiday season, and not just around Christmas. Chances are you've been blessed in some way this year. It's time to pass it on. And there are plenty of good outlets for your charitable donations and volunteer hours, and there's a perfect match waiting for your particular tastes, be they animals, cooking, teaching, mentoring, etc.

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Chuckle if you want, but chances are you're only chuckling if you haven't been to one of their mesmerizing shows. With two concerts on December 26 at the Quicken Loans Arena, celebrate the day after Christmas with some earplugs and lasers.

A Metal Tradition: The Agora plays host to Halloween for X-Mas, Mushroomhead's annual holiday tradition. It'll be loud, and it'll be colorful, and it will give you a chance to enjoy Halloween the right way, because let's face it, you got dragged to a lame costume party back in October and didn't have that much fun. Make up for that mistake at the Agora Saturday, December 27.

See the Lights at Nela Park: This will be the 90th year of festive lights at Nela Park, the historic GE spot over on the east side. More than a half million bulbs are used to put on the production in East Cleveland. On the list of best Cleveland Christmas traditions, this one's near the top, and if you haven't been, you're missing out.

Tremont for the Holidays: The weekend of December 12, 13 and 14 brings a slate of holiday-themed activities to the neighborhood. Pop-up shops, the Santa Shuffle run, a concert by the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra, and more. Check tremontbrewhaha.com for more details.

Scene's Santacon: From 2 to 7 p.m. on December 20, gather round with a bunch of people dressed in Santa gear and take a pub crawl through Ohio City. Only $10 registration, and a portion of the proceeds benefit the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. Visit clevescene.com/santacon for more info.

Tubing: So you don't have the skill for skiing, and those sledding hills, while glorious for what they are, don't really serve up enough speed or danger for you. Head out to Northeast Ohio's slope destinations at Boston Mills or Brandywine and rent some tubes with some pals. It's way safer than strapping your body to two slabs and betting on your balance. Plus, minimal physical activity required.

Chuckle Once or Twice: The holiday season is the perfect time to check out the stocked calendar of standup comedy that takes place every week around the city. No matter the neighborhood or day, chances are Ramon Rivas or another Cleveland denizen is serving up a roster of comedy. Plus, when you take your friends who are in town from the east or west coast, you'll have another reason to tell them Cleveland kicks their city's ass.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah: Enough with the seasonal music you say? Fine. Head down to Kent on February 7th and 8th for Beatlefest. The two-day celebration honors the 50th anniversary of the haircuts from England who came over to American and changed the music world. Plenty of cover bands and local acts are on the bill at various venues.

Get Nostalgic at the WRHS: No single act may call your mind to summer in the midst of winter than riding the historic Euclid Beach Park carousel, which is finally completely retooled and operational at the Western Reserve Historical Society. Two free rides come with admission price, which also gives you access to the wonders of the museum, including the exhibit on the 1964 Browns. It's a much better way to enjoy sports than once again debating about quarterbacks and draft picks.

Make a Snowman: Seriously. Making a good, or bad, snowman never failed to put a smile on a face.

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Scene Staff

Scene's award-winning newsroom oftentimes collaborates on articles and projects. Stories under this byline are group efforts.
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