Before the blizzards and icy streets hit northeast Ohio, there is a time when Clevelanders welcome and celebrate the changing of the season. Typically on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the city, organizations and businesses celebrate the lighting of Public Square with Winterfest. Scenes of this celebration have been used in the 1983 Christmas cult classic, A Christmas Story. Lighting of the square and Terminal Tower is after twilight (approximately 6:00 p.m.). However, festivities begin in the afternoon and end approximately an hour after the lighting ceremony.
Holiday concerts are held at the Old Stone Church located on the northwest corner of Public Square. Free horse-drawn hansom cab rides are provided before the lighting of the square. In recent years, live music and shows have been provided by Radio Disney and local musical groups. New in 2011, the Winterfest Village will display local art work and crafts for sale. Visitors over 21 years of age, can attend the Winter Wine and Ale Fest ($50 / person) immediately after the lighting ceremony. Admission to the Winter Wine and Ale Fest includes unlimited food provided by local restaurants and twenty tickets to taste local brews and wines. Tickets are recommended to be purchased in advance.
Although, Winterfest festivities officially end after the lighting of Public Square, several businesses remain open through the holiday season and the lights remain on typically through the New Year. Santa Clause, Holiday Express Train ($3 / person), Twigbee shopping mall for children (all gifts for children to purchase <$10), and Cleveland’s own Bruce the Talking Spruce can be found within the Terminal Tower shopping mall, Tower City. Visitors can tour the Terminal Tower Observation Deck on weekends (Sat. 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Sun 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.) until mid-December ($5 / person; children under the age of five are free). The Cleveland Indian’s Snowdays at Progressive Field ($5.00 general admission), which runs from Winterfest to the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend have ice skating ($10 to $14 / person), snow tubing ($20 to $25 / person), and warmer indoor activities. Snowdays have family ($100 to $120) and skating/tubing packages ($25 to $31 / person).
One can get to downtown all year long by the RTA trains and buses (all day pass: adults $5.00; seniors, disabled and children $2.50). All train lines, including from Hopkins International Airport, pass through or terminate at Terminal Tower. Most buses have stops near or at Public Square. Visitors can Smile and Ride for free on the green RTA trolleys, which access most downtown attractions, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on weekdays. Surface parking ($5 to $25) and street parking (typically free after 6:00 p.m.) is abundant downtown. Taxi cab rides are typically less than $15 from downtown location to downtown location. Cleveland Pedi Cabs provide free downtown transit, but tips are greatly appreciated.
All prices reflect approximate 2011 costs.