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Cleveland: Your Winter Travel Destination By Patti London
The next few months are the time when many in Northeast Ohio are searching for all-inclusive trips to Aruba and Costa Rica to escape the cold. This year we urge you to embrace the wintery wonderland and plan a staycation close to home. The operative word is “plan,” otherwise you’ll wake up in March having never left the couch by the fireplace except for work and groceries. You’ll have missed all the fun. If the great outdoors isn’t your thing, here are some warm options for your staycation: The Rockefeller Park Greenhouse is not only warm, it’s tropical. The greenhouse is an architectural beauty, located just off of MLK Blvd at the top of East 88th St. The poinsettia display is an extravagant splash of reds, yellows and pinks and is up until January 6th this year. While you’re there check out the orchids, cacti and other exotic foliage. You’ll forget you’re even in Cleveland. Hours are 10am to 4pm daily and admission and parking are free. For more holiday joy, visit the Allen Theatre at the Cleveland Play House, 1407 Euclid Avenue. More than 20 Christmas trees have been decorated in dazzling lights and ornaments by local designers. The twinkling display will be in the lobby until December 23rd, open Wed-Fri 5pm-9pm; Sat 11am-9pm; and, Sun 11am-6pm. Check for extended hours during Christmas week, clevelandplayhouse.com. The Cleveland Orchestra is presenting a series of Christmas concerts through December until its 21st Annual Cleveland Pops New Year’s Eve Celebration, this year with Melinda Doolittle bringing down Severance Hall. The series includes a Christmas Concert from the Orchestra, December 15-18; an Irish Christmas with Keith and Kristyn Getty on December 20th; and our own Jim Brickman, presenting Comfort and Joy on December 21st. Who would want to miss Christmas at Severance Hall just to be on a beach? Other mustn’t-miss traditional holiday performances include “The Nutcracker” presented by the Ohio Dance Theatre in collaboration with Verb Ballets, December 16-18 at the Stocker Arts Center’s Hoke Theatre at Lorain County Community College, in Elyria, and the Great Lakes Theater Festival production of “The Christmas Carol,” running through December 23rd at the Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square. The Cleveland Botanical Garden’s Glow at the Garden runs through December 31st, combining a wonderful indoor and outdoor experience, for those of us who want a little of both. Inside the Botanical Garden are the amazing gingerbread houses, I just can’t get enough of (see article on page 40), creatively decorated trees by the Affiliate Garden Clubs, and a town square featuring musicians and carolers. The kids can make their own gingerbread houses, priced according to size, or a craft to take home. The Treetop Shop is open for kids to do their gift shopping for the holidays while their parents browse the Garden Store. Outside, visitors will enjoy an all-new outdoor light display featuring radiant, colorful orbs and thousands of twinkling lights converting the inner gardens to a winter wonderland. After the Botanical Garden, take the family skating at the nearby Rink at Wade Oval and check out the Environment of Lights installation also displayed at Wade Oval until the end of December, in conjunction with the Winter Lights Lantern Festival at the Cleveland Museum of Art. As the winter solstice approaches we seek the reassurance of more lighting displays. The lights at the GE Lighting Center in Nela Park in East Cleveland have been a holiday tradition since 1925. Nela is the acronym for the National Electric Lamp Association which formed in 1901. The elaborate display can be viewed every evening along Noble Road, between Monticello Blvd and Euclid Ave - you can’t miss it. Lit up from early December through New Year's Day. The Cleveland World Festival is offering horse-drawn carriage rides as part of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens’ Centennial Celebration. The carriages leave from the Upper Italian Garden at 990 East Boulevard where hot chocolate and hot cider will warm riders until the journey through the beautiful gardens begins. The carriages accommodate up to five passengers and cost between $25 and $50, depending on the length of the route. A percentage of proceeds will go to the Famicos One World Theatre Camp, which takes place during the summer at Michael R. White School in Cleveland. The holiday carriage rides are offered every weekend through Sunday January 3rd, from noon until 8pm, and are part of a year of special events that celebrate the Cultural Gardens’ Centennial. There are many other opportunities to take advantage of the holiday season in Cleveland but I want to wrap up with a recommendation to visit our newly remodeled Public Square, the winter edition. Through the summer this space was incredibly vibrant, hosting City Club speakers, food trucks, a farmers market, music and yoga classes on the lawn. This winter promises to be just as cool. The Cleveland Foundation skating rink will remain open until the end of February. The cost for skating is $10, including skates, or $7 if you bring your own. Time your skate with DJ Arthur Henke’s spinning of holiday tunes on the Square, or with live caroling from the Cleveland Carolers or the Great Lakes Light Opera. Events are listed online at clevelandpublicsquare.com. Send some postcards to your friends and family this holiday season - from Cleveland!

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