Day Trippin': Holiday Fun in Cleveland

Melissa Kossler Dutton
Tobogganing at Mill Stream Run Reservation

Cleveland may not be the North Pole, but given its location 140 miles northeast of Columbus, the city tends to have more snow in December and a greater chance of a White Christmas than we do. Those factors combine to make Northeast Ohio a good spot for a seasonal day trip.

While only Mother Nature can control the weather, the area's many local attractions have created numerous opportunities for families to experience the magic of the holidays. From gingerbread houses to toboggan runs, the region has plenty of places—both indoors and out—to have some winter fun.

Here are a few ideas to explore with your family:

Carlisle Reservation

12882 Diagonal Road, LaGrange; 440-458-5121

For a unique way to experience holiday lights, head to the Carlisle Reservation. Visitors to this Lorain County Metro Parks property can stroll along a paved path, stopping to see lights and scenes depicting holiday movies and songs. A train takes guests along a second decorated trail. The activity is free, but visitors are encouraged to bring a nonperishable food item to donate. Holiday Lights operates Nov. 23 to Dec. 23.

Castle Noel

260 S. Court St., Medina; 330-721-6635

Holiday movie buffs will want to make a stop at Castle Noel, billed as America's largest year-round indoor Christmas attraction. The museum features props and costumes from classics such as “Elf,” “The Grinch,” “Jingle All the Way” and others. One of the museum's prize possessions is Eddie's RV from “National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.”

The venue also has a large vintage toy collection and holiday decorations once displayed in New York City department stores. It's a great intergenerational experience with broader appeal than the “A Christmas Story” house in Cleveland. Admission is $19.

Cleveland Botanical Garden

11030 East Blvd., Cleveland; 216-721-1600

The Cleveland Botanical Garden decks itself out for the holidays every year with a special celebration. “Glow” features an outdoor light display, gingerbread houses created by families and professionals, and a train ride. Children can check out special programming and visit the kids-only holiday shop to purchase presents for loved ones. The event runs Nov. 23 to Jan. 5. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for children ages 3-12, free for ages 2 and younger

Cleveland History Center

10825 East Blvd., Cleveland; 216-721-5722

If Christmas leaves you feeling nostalgic, a trip to the Cleveland History Center is in order. Several of the center's properties will feature seasonal events and decorations. Plastic light-up Christmas decorations created in the 1960s and '70s by the “blow-molding” process will be on display at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum. Curators will use clothing from the collection to create vignettes evoking suburban holidays. The Bingham-Hanna Mansion will feature a dining room dressed for Hanukkah, and also will offer children's crafts on weekends. Visit Nov. 23 to Jan. 6. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 3-12, free for ages 2 and younger.

Kringle's Inventionasium

Tower City Center, 230 W. Huron Road, Cleveland; 855-675-7464

Families that like to create together will want to stop at Kringle's Inventionasium, where they can help Mr. Kringle and his elite team prepare for the holiday season by making toys, ornaments and other creations in a top-secret toy lab. This interactive theatrical experience allows visitors to explore various testing areas such as the Puppet Pattern Workshop, Grow Snow Laboratory and Toy Engineering Room. The attraction operates Nov. 17 to Dec. 30. Tickets start at $18.

Mill Stream Run Reservation

16200 Valley Parkway, Strongsville; 440-526-1012

For chilly thrills, head to The Chalet in Mill Stream Run Reservation. The Cleveland Metroparks property boasts twin toboggan chutes that plunge down a 70-foot vertical drop. Riders travel along 700 feet of ice while reaching speeds of up to 50 mph.

Each chute has its own sensor that lets riders record their top speeds. The refrigerated ice chutes can operate with or without snow, in temperatures below 50 degrees. The Chalet is open Nov. 23 through March. All-day tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for children ages 11 and younger, or $6 for a single ride.

Punderson State Park

11755 Kinsman Road, Newbury; 440-564-2279

If playing in the snow appeals to your family, Punderson State Park—located about 25 miles east of Cleveland—makes a great winter destination. Visitors can sled on the park's dedicated hill, and ski or snowmobile enthusiasts who have their own equipment can enjoy designated trails in the park.

Feel like making an overnight of it? Punderson Manor Lodge often offers winter packages that include special activities and treats such as hot cocoa or s'mores. Overnight accommodations are available in the Tudor-style lodge and on-site cabins; rates start at $95.