Light up your leg lamps, Cleveland: The holiday season will soon be upon us. While we promise not to judge you for watching Netflix’s The Christmas Prince 18 times in as many days, we would encourage you not to do that; instead, take advantage of the robust range of holiday traditions, old and new, that Cleveland has to offer. Our holiday calendar is guaranteed to have you saying “Fudge yes!” (but you didn’t say “fudge”).
November 16-18 I-X Center So cool, so fun! Get to the I-X Center’s 700-booth holidaygasm for a head start on shopping, decorating, and, presumably, children crying at the sight of Santa Claus. Cost: Tickets start at $14
November 18 Terrestrial Brewing If you love brunch, and you love dog-watching, you’d better check out this Thanksgiving-themed brunch at one of the city’s strongest breweries; Any Thyme, Any Plate prepares the human food. Cost: $28 a plate
November 21 The Vault The folks at jazz-age-themed cocktail bar The Vault have named their Thanksgiving Eve shindig A Little Party Never Killed Nobody. Did they not read to the end of The Great Gatsby? Cost: Free admission, drinks are in the $10 range
November 21 Wild Eagle Saloon Honestly, this bar's downtown party is worth attending for the name alone: Let's Get Basted! Turkey will inevitably be served, because you definitely won’t be getting enough of that in the days ahead. Cost: Free admission
November 23 Brittany’s Record Shop Our humble suggestion for a less terrible way to spend Black Friday: Get to Brittany’s Record Shop in Slavic Village for a live DJ and a quality browsing selection for hip-hop, reggae, and soul vinyl. Cost: Bring cash for those records
November 23-24 Cleveland Public Theatre Pinch & Squeal, Cleveland’s raunchy vaudevillian duo, lead this throwback circus of acrobatics, lewd song numbers, and witty '20s-style banter. Cost: $30
Support charity with fancy drinks
November 23-December 30 The Spotted Owl For the second year running, Tremont mainstay The Spotted Owl joins the international Miracle Pop-Up bar network. Expect decor that looks like Christmas exploded, and holiday-themed cocktails that raise money for charity. Cost: Miracle cocktails will be in the $10-15 range
November 24 Public Square Fireworks in winter? You’re damn right; this is Cleveland. Airborn pyrotechnics, Santa sightings, and some of the prettiest tree lights in the city make it worth braving the cold. Cost: Free
November 28 - December 3 Of course Playhouse Square offers more than one great annual holiday tradition:A Christmas Carolfrom Great Lakes Theater or the slightly newer A Christmas Story from Cleveland Play House. Get tickets while you can! Cost: $15 and up
November 30 Wade Oval University Circle’s yearly tradition features ice carving, horse-drawn carriage rides, and, on Sunday, free admission to the area’s plentiful museums and galleries. Cost: Free admission, but bring money for skating, food, etc.
November 30-December 2 Little Italy A holiday art walk is a great excuse to roam the cobblestone streets and redbrick houses of Little Italy. Expect wine tastings, handmade jewelry, and Sinatra singing carols from every storefront. Cost: Free
December 1-2 Playhouse Square Advertised as Northeast Ohio’s largest LGBTQ performing arts group, North Coast Men’s Chorus has made a Cleveland tradition of their holiday concert. This year’s Snowbound show promises a delightful evening of Yuletide-themed song and dance. Cost: Tickets start at $10
December 1 Tremont If you’ve ever dreamed of running a 5K alongside grown people in bunny suits and leg lamp costumes (yes, it’s a thing), sign yourself up for the annual Christmas Story Run from Tower City to Tremont. Cost: $5 and up for registration
December 2 RED Space The holidays are stressful, so we’re told; let the folks from Cleveland Yoga alleviate that with a day of yoga instruction and shopping from local vendors. Cost: Free (but you need to register)
December 2 Playhouse Square The improbable success run of “Canada’s most lovable miscreants” has spanned itself into a nationally touring holiday show. Ricky, Julian, Bubbles, and Randy bring their raunchy humor to the State Theatre. Cost: $25 and up
December 7 Westin Inn Downtown The price tag on this humbly-named gala might be a little steep, but raising funds for the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland is a good reason to drop a load of cash. Bust out your black ties and cocktail dresses for this one. Cost: Starts at $99 per person
December 7 Cleveland Grays Armory Museum Advertised as “a rave before people knew raves,” Scrooge’s Night Out is an annual excuse to wander through pretty cool piece of Cleveland history while buzzed. Cost: Tickets start at $50
December 8 Hansa Brewery Criminally underrated Hansa Brewery hosts this opportunity to meet Krampus, a nightmarish sort of anti-Santa creature from Eastern European mythology. Take a picture with the monster, or pick up some Krampus gear of your own. Cost: TBD
December 12 Music Box Join local writer Laura DeMarco, author of Lost Cleveland, as she takes us on a guided tour of the city’s glory days with a holiday-centric (think Higbee’s) emphasis. Cost: Free admission, optional $20 pre-fixe meal
December 13-16 Hanna Theatre You can shell out the franchise-ified movie version if you like, but nothing compares to seeing Tchaikovsky's classic performed on stage by The Cleveland Ballet. Cost: Starts at $25
December 14-15 Screw Factory You could panic and order all your gifts last-minute on Amazon, OR you could wander the post-industrial halls of Lakewood’s Screw Factory art space and shop for gifts from local artists and makers. No shipping fees on this one. Cost: Free admission
December 15 Shooters The concept behind this Toys for Tots fundraising event is simple, but glorious: Bring a toy, and you get a shot and a beer. That’s charity the Cleveland way. Cost: Just bring a toy, son!
Bar Crawl for Charity
December 15 The Flats This day brings Cleveland two bar crawls for good causes: Ugly Sweater for Rainbow Babies & Children’s, or 12 Bars of Charity for various area charities like the Food Bank. The choice is yours. Cost: $30 for 12 Bars, TBD for Ugly Sweater
December 16 Playhouse Square You may know them as the guys who did that cute song with Kristen Bell, but the a cappella boys of Straight No Chaser have mastered the art of making Christmas songs sound like drinking songs. Join them on their One Shot Tour in the State Theatre. Cost: $30 and up
December 16 Spice Kitchen+Bar If you have to get pictures with Santa, you may as well do it at one of the best brunch spots (and overall restaurants) in the city. Cost: Spice Brunch will run you $20-30 a person without cocktails. But why would you do that?
December 22 The Agora The shiny new Agora plays host to this ninth annual, multi-stage dance party. This year’s lineup is still TBD, but past acts have include Minnesota, Wuki, and K Theory, so you can safely assume it'll be a strong showing. Cost: $19.99-29.99
December 23 The Agora Cleveland-based Bill Squire’s got some wild stories to tell, and attendees will be able to enjoy this holiday-themed comedy show inside the newly renovated Agora. Cost: Tickets start at $15
December 29 Grog Shop No better way to celebrate the week between Christmas and New Years than with a Grog Shop dance party honoring The Purple One. DJ Darrick Grant will be spinning the tunes, which'll include "hits, rarities, b-sides, and associated artists" -- so there's a decent chance you'll get to dance to "Jungle Love." Cost: $10
December 30 Quicken Loans Arena Bang your head along to an electrified Carol of the Bells with this longstanding Cleveland holiday engagement, performed by the touring group who've made Christmas a hell of a lot more metal than it was in the past. Cost: $90 and up
December 31 Nautica Queen The perks of spending New Year’s Eve on the lake: an unlimited buffet, a life DJ, and a bottle of Champagne for you and your date. Check out the buffet menu, and note that reservations are refundable until 5pm on December 21 -- so if you get a last-minute invite elsewhere, you're flexible. Cost: $89
December 31 Ushabu It turns out most kobe beef in American restaurants is bogus, and the real stuff is hard to find. The folks at hot-pot spot Ushabu offer a New Year’s opportunity for gourmands and meat lovers looking for the real deal. Cost: $175 per person
December 31 Shooters on the Water Back in the day, your mom and dad partied in The Flats; complete the Cleveland party cycle by ringing in the New Year at this area institution, which includes options for a buffet dinner and an open bar. Really, though, when is an open bar ever "optional"? Cost: Tickets start at $50 for the buffet only, $85 for the open bar, or $130 for both
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Billy Hallal is of the unpopular opinion that A Christmas Story is just okay.