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Event picks to keep you busy after the turkey

Thursday | 24

Fresh Air

Free Fun at the Zoo

Take a break from eating animals today and go see them: Admission to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is free between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., plus the fresh air and exercise will no doubt do you good. During your visit, you can see actual lions, eagles, and bears instead of the ones on the football field. And if the weather turns chilly, don't sweat it: The zoo will provide heated trams to transport you around the grounds. As an added bonus, special animal feeding and demos are on today's schedule. (Who knew that polar bears and elephants share an appetite for pumpkins?) Besides the zoo's indoor-outdoor attractions, the hot, steamy, and completely enclosed RainForest is free today as well. Find details, directions, and a full schedule of today's special activities on the website. — Matt Stafford

3900 Wildlife Way, 216-661-6500,

clemetzoo.com.

Friday | 25

Funny Stuff

A Rescue Me Regular Drops in on Hilarities

If watching your left-over gravy congeal isn't entertainment enough today, you can catch actor, comic, and noted gearhead Adam Ferrara tonight at Hilarities. A regular on FX's recently concluded Rescue Me and host of the History Channel's Top Gear, the Long Islander admits a certain sympatico with Cleveland. "I do a lot of jokes about my family and stuff. Most people can relate to that — but especially the people around here. I've always felt that the best kind of laughs are the ones from jokes that people can relate to." With Rescue Me ended and Top Gear on break, Ferrara is getting back into stand-up. Besides his family, he's also finding the funny in current events. Take Kim Kardashian's recent divorce. "People ask me, 'Can you believe she got divorced so quick?' I say, 'Of course I believe it! Even the caterer told everyone to hold onto the receipts!" Ferrara will be hitting the stage at Hilarities five times this weekend, including shows at 7:30 and 10:15 tonight. Tickets are $20 to $23 by phone or online. — Stafford

2035 East Fourth St., 216-241-7425,

pickwickandfrolic.com.

Joys of Christmas Past

Deck the Hall at Stan Hywet

You can load up on cocoa, gingerbread cookies, and fond memories tonight in Akron as Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens launches its annual Deck the Hall celebration. Besides the usual delights — Santa, seasonal music, and awesome decorations — this year's theme goes heavy on the local nostalgia. Tops among the attractions: the mechanized characters that graced the windows of the O'Neil's department store from the 1940s to the 1970s. As guideposts on your trip down Memory Lane, each room in the mansion will be decked out in the fashions, toys, and decor of a specific decade, complete with factoids on population numbers, the average cost of a car, and the average household salary. Outdoors, you're free to roam among more than 500,000 lights or make a stop at the Corbin Conservatory, where you'll find a Manor House replica made from Legos and a 16-foot Christmas tree made from poinsettias. Tonight's festivities go from 5 to 8 p.m. The celebration continues on select evenings through December 30. Admission is $17 for adults, and less for students, children, and members. Get tickets at the gate, by phone, or online. — Cicora

714 North Portage Path, Akron, 330-315-3287, stanhywet.org.

At Nighttown

Our Broadway Baby Sings the Blues

Gay Marshall wasn't always a Big Apple big shot: There was a time when the performer was content just to take classes at the Cleveland Play House and to warble Edith Piaf tunes at That Place on Bellflower. Of course, all that was before the Cleveland Heights native got tapped to play Diana Morales in A Chorus Line on Broadway, snagged the role of Grizabella in the original French production of Cats, and spent a year off Broadway in Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Along with her success, Marshall has maintained warm feelings for the folks back home. Recently in town with the touring company of La Cage aux Folles, the actress has stuck around to debut her second CD — Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night — at Nighttown. Marshall calls the album a compilation of "foot stompin', hand clappin', good times blues from the '20s and '30s." Accompanied by piano man Mike Sands, sax player Tony Koussa, Roy King on drums, Martin Block on bass, and Bruce Lehtinen on trombone, she takes the stage at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 by phone. — Cicora

12387 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-795-0550, nighttowncleveland.com.

At Progressive Field

Snow Days Return to the Ballpark

Today is Snopening Day at Progressive Field, cute-speak for the 10 a.m. launch of the second-annual Indians Snow Days. Sure, it can be a little disorienting riding a 30-mph inner tube down the former Toyota Home Run Porch toward center field, or skittering around the outfield warning track on a pair of ice skates. And just wait till you see the regulation-size hockey rink covering home plate and stretching down the first-base line. Then again, sometimes the best way to embrace Old Man Winter is to beat him at his own game, which you can do at the winterized Prog now through January 16. Depending on exactly how and when you want to spend your Snow Day, tickets and admission prices range from a $5 general admission pass to a $120 family package. Tickets are available at the box office, by phone, or on the website, where you'll also find a schedule, directions, and other important details. — Cicora

Progressive Field, 216-420-4487,

indians.com/snowdays.

Saturday | 26

Winterfest on Public Square:

Lights! Santa! Action!

It's Christmas lights, carriage rides, and food trucks today as Winterfest kicks off on Public Square. The annual celebration of the season starts at 1 p.m. with free rides inside a horse-drawn carriage; the line forms at 200 Public Square. Beginning at 2, Radio Disney will be on hand with family-friendly activities and crafts. And from 3 to 7, you can visit the vendors in Winterfest Village or queue up with a couple hundred of your closest friends to grab a nosh from six of Cleveland's gourmet food trucks. Of course, that's all just a warm-up to the main event: The 6 p.m. lighting ceremony on Public Square. That's followed by fireworks, which in turn are followed by a public party at the Tri-C Hospitality Management Center in the former May Co. department store building — where we hear Santa will be handing out the "ho-ho-hos." Besides the Public Square fun, you'll also find special events, displays, and concerts at locations throughout downtown today, including Tower City, the Arcade, the Old Stone Church, and downtown's Ritz-Carlton. It's all free and open to the public. Check out the website for a schedule, directions, maps, and more. — Elaine T. Cicora

downtownclevelandalliance.com.

Shop Till You Drop

It's Crafty Time at Musica

Crafty Mart returns to Musica today, featuring a locally made collection of giftware both wonderful and weird. According to co-founder Juniper Sage (who also co-owns Akron's indie fave Square Records), the event has been gaining momentum since its 2009 debut. "It feels like a family, because the first level of people that are involved are the artists — and that is a pretty close-knit community. Then these artists have admirers who come every year to see them and add to their collections." This time, nearly 50 vendors will be on hand, displaying wares that include fanciful pillows, beaded bracelets and belts, knitwear, ceramics, prints, jewelry, purses, photography, and metalwork. "I think Mark Weisman's blender lamps are going to be the talk of the show," adds Sage. Urban Eats and Summit Croissants will be serving up food; Ms. Julie's Kitchen will add some vegan-friendly options. Tunes will be provided by local DJ Moose Malloy. The free show runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For directions, parking, and a list of vendors, check out the website. — Logan Boggs

51 East Market St., Akron, craftymart.com.

Good Sports

Rugby, Pigs, and Buckeyes

If ever a Cleveland sports team deserved a little lovin', it would be the stalwart Cleveland Rovers. Division III members of the Ohio Rugby Union, the team of amateur athletes racked up an impressive record of eight wins and two losses this season: good enough to propel them to a spot in the Midwest Final Four. To continue funding their efforts — and probably as a fine excuse for drinking too — the Rovers are hosting their 13th annual pig roast today at their usual post-game watering hole: P.J. McIntyre's Irish Pub. A $30 ticket ($35 at the door) gets you all-you-can-eat portions of pig, pasta, chili, hot dogs, and salads, plus all you-can-drink draft beers. Also included: a raffle ticket, rugby songs, the sight of burly dudes in short shorts, and a chance to cheer on (or cuss out) the Buckeyes as they take on Michigan on the pub's big-screen TVs. Pre-register via the Rovers' website, or get tickets at the door. Either way, the fun begins at 11 a.m. — Stafford

17119 Lorain Ave., 216-941-9311,

clevelandroversrfc.com/pigroast.html.

Ohio City

A Christmas Market Returns

You drove all the way to Public Square for Winterfest. Now cross the damn river and check out Ohio City's contribution to the regional merriment. Christmas Festival — a holiday marketplace lining historic Market Avenue — begins today and continues every Saturday through December 17. Among the highlights: roasted chestnuts from Flying Fig, handmade gifts from Salty Not Sweet, tasty treats from Campbell's Popcorn Shop, photos with Santa, and sales of fresh-cut Christmas trees. Plus, today is the Ugly Holiday Sweater Contest: Grab that red Rudolph number with the light-up nose and register it at the information tent between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Today's festival hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. It's all part of a bigger bag of holiday happenings in the neighborhoods of the near West Side. Learn all about them at the website below. — Cicora

westsideyuletide.com.

Cheers!

Winter Wine & Ale Fest

Hey, Winterfest goers: Don't rush back to the 'burbs right after the fireworks. Stick around for the Winter Wine & Ale Fest. From 7 to 10 p.m., you can drink in the seasonal spirit with samples from 20 local wineries and breweries. Among the featured beer makers: Indigo Imp, Thirsty Dog, Fat Heads, and Willoughby Brewing Co. And among the gurus of grapey goodness: Debonne, Ferrante, Firelands, and Breitenbach. As ballast for all that holiday spirit, you'll find tidbits from spots like Pura Vida, Chinato, Harry Buffalo, Bar Louie, and Zoup. Plus, there will also be a silent auction featuring merch from local vendors that we're guessing would make great Christmas gifts. Your $50 admission includes unlimited food and 20 drink tix; funds raised go to the Downtown Homeless Fund that gets folks off the street and into permanent housing. It's all happening in the grand lobby of the Huntington Bank Building on Public Square. Learn more and purchase tickets on the website. — Cicora

200 Public Square,

downtownclevelandalliance.com.

Sunday | 27

The Nature of Art

Winter Razzle Dazzle in the Valley

Sometimes, the best place to discover your holiday spirit is deep in nature's bosom, where snow sparkles on the pines, eagles soar above a rushing river, and an 1850s log cabin beckons from the woods. Now stock that cozy cabin with the works of 24 local artists and craftsmen, and see if your inner Santa doesn't suddenly spring to life. You can give that scenario a spin today at Peninsula's Log Cabin Gallery, where photographer Diane Seskes throws wide the cabin doors for her annual Winter Razzle Dazzle show and sale. Among the works on display, you'll find leaded glass, turned wood, hooked rugs, woven textiles, wrought iron, functional pottery, and beach glass jewelry. Today's gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the exhibition continues on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through December 18, with special evening hours on Thursday, December 1. Check out the website for details and directions. And don't forget to watch for eagles. — Cicora

1671 Main St., Peninsula, 330-657-2670, thelogcabingallery.com.

Monday | 28

Fit for Foodies

The Prince of Pasta Pops Up at Noodlecat

Feast like a king — or at least a prince — at tonight's pop-up event at Noodlecat. On hand with the eats: Philadephia's "Prince of Pasta" Jeff Michaud. As executive chef and co-owner of Osteria and Amis restaurants in Philly, Michaud snagged a James Beard Award in 2010 as Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic. He credits his time in Italy for his inventive style. "I lived in Bergamo for about three years," he says. "All of my inspiration comes from that region." In other words, don't come around expecting spaghetti and meatballs: Michaud makes a habit of utilizing non-traditional ingredients to tempt his guests' palates. "I think being able to work with ingredients like octopus, sweetbreads, pigs' heads, etc., shows your customers that you can go outside the box.  I want my guests to be wowed. And when you do things that no one else is doing, you get that 'wow' factor." Eats for this evening's six-course extravaganza will include dishes like squash tortelli with amaretti and sage, pheasant and porcini lasagna, and squid-ink risotto with octopus "Calabrese style." The 6 p.m. dinner is a co-presentation of Noodlecat and Bricks & Mortar Pop Ups. Get it with wine pairings for $89; dinner sans wine is $65. Tickets are available on the website. — Boggs

234 Euclid Ave., 216-589-0007,

Princeofpasta.eventbrite.com.

Tuesday | 29

Street Theater

Lost and Found in Westlake

For the past 12 years, the pros at Cleveland Public Theatre have partnered with residents of Y-Haven — a transitional housing program for homeless men in recovery from addiction — to create an original play based on their life experiences. Why? To provide audiences with candid insights into societal issues and give the residents real hope for growth and change. Guided by CPT's executive artistic director Raymond Bobgan, and performed by the Y-Haven residents, this year's work is Lost and Found. The story focuses on Derek, who pushes his flawed family toward collapse when he intentionally goes missing. Their ensuing efforts to reunite illuminate issues of love, judgment, and whether it is possible to truly choose one's destiny. CPT hosted three Lost and Found performances earlier this month in their Gordon Square facilities. Now they've taken the show on the road. Tonight's 7 p.m. stop is at the United Methodist Church in Westlake; a $5 donation is suggested. For info, including additional upcoming performances, call CPT education director Chris Seibert or visit the website. — Cicora

27650 Center Ridge Rd., Westlake, 216-631-2727, cptonline.org.

Wednesday| 30

They Put the "X" in Xmas

Santaland Diaries Returns to Playhouse Square

You don't need a psych degree to appreciate Cleveland's love for The Santaland Diaries. Dark, cynical, and hilarious, author David Sedaris' essay debuted on NPR back in 1992, telling the tale of an out-of-work actor who takes a job at Macy's as Santa's most beleaguered elf. No surprise that the story of "Crumpet's" subsequent humiliation at the sticky hands of children, their parents, and his humorless employer resonates within the Rust Belt. No surprise, either, that the show has become a traditional holiday offering from the alt-leaning Cleveland Public Theatre. This year's performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at the 14th Street Theatre on Playhouse Square. Afterward, the adults-only evening continues with The Loush Sisters, whose outrageous musical selections promise to make the Yuletide, um, gay. Tonight's curtain is at 7:30; tickets are $20 to $30 by phone or online. Performances continue through December 17. — Cicora

2037 East 14th St., 216-241-6000,

playhousesquare.org.

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