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15 Fun Things to Do in Cleveland at Christmas With Kids

We have a whole blog post rounding up our very favorite things to do in Cleveland at Christmas. And while some of the things on that list are kid-friendly (like ice skating and going to a drive-through lights show), others really aren’t (ahem, Christmas bars).

But we know how much Clevelanders love Christmas, and we also know that Christmas is generally a family-focused holiday. So in this post we’re going to round up the best Christmas things to do in Cleveland that are also kid-friendly.

This list will overlap a little bit with our main Christmas guide, but also include some things that are really designed just for the kiddos to enjoy.

Tower City Christmas tree
Tower City at Christmas

Best Kid-Friendly Christmas Experiences in Cleveland

Note: We try to keep this post updated with the latest info throughout the holiday season. This post was last updated on November 27, 2022, and info is accurate for this Christmas as of then!

1. Enjoy family-friendly holiday kick-off events

Good for: Kids of all ages

Get into the holiday spirit during several holiday kick-off events held in various neighborhoods in the Greater Cleveland area.

Some of our favorites include:

  • WinterLandHeld every year the Saturday after Thanksgiving in and around Public Square, this kick-off event includes kid-friendly fun inside Tower City like train rides, hot cocoa, crafts, and a holiday market; crafts and entertainment at the Cleveland Public Library main branch (including a chance to meet live reindeer!); and of course the lighting of the city Christmas tree plus fireworks after dark.
  • Holiday CircleFestTaking place on December 4th, this annual celebration in University Circle includes a holiday market, ice skating, carriage rides, ice carving, and photo opportunities with Santa and Mr. Jingaling. You can also make paper lanterns at the Cleveland Museum of Art during the day, and then take part in the Winter Lights Lantern Festival after dark.
  • Light Up Lakewood – This event takes place December 3rd in Lakewood and includes a parade, ice carvings, a holiday train, tree lightings, fireworks, and more. 
  • Snow Day – This event in Gordon Square is scheduled for December 10th. It’s a daylong celebration of the arts with crafts, live music, trolley rides, and more.
Winterfest tree lighting in 2021
WinterLand tree lighting and fireworks in 2021

2. Have breakfast with Santa in Cleveland

Good for: Younger kids

What could be more exciting than having breakfast with Santa and his elves? Sip hot cocoa and take photos of Old Saint Nick with the kids while also enjoying an unforgettable and delicious breakfast or brunch. 

Luckily, there are plenty of places to have breakfast (and more) with Santa around the city. Here are some places to dine with Santa in Cleveland this year:

  1. Breakfast With Mr. Kringle: Have a delightful breakfast with Santa and friends at the Burnham Restaurant at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown.
  2. Brunch With Mrs. Claus: Who says Santa has all the fun? Join Mrs. Kringle for brunch at the Headliner Bar & Eatery at the Hotel Indigo in Downtown Cleveland. Brunch takes place on November 26th and December 3rd and 10th.
  3. Breakfast With Santa At The Cleveland Botanical Garden: Enjoy breakfast with Santa at the Cleveland Botanical Garden including breakfast, a photo op with Santa, and crafts and activities. This takes place on December 11th and 18th.
  4. Breakfast With Santa At Market: Take the kids to Market in Rocky River to have breakfast with Santa and characters this holiday season. This takes place on December 10th, 11th, 17th, and 18th.
  5. Brunch with Santa at Thorn Creek: Enjoy a festive brunch at Thorn Creek Winery in Aurora, and then take a horse drawn carriage ride! The event is happening on December 3, 2022 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Tickets start at $65 for adults and $52 for kids.

Find more info about more local Santa breakfasts here: 20+ Places to Have Breakfast With Santa in Cleveland

3. Meet Scuba Claus

Good for: Kids of all ages

Scuba Claus
Scuba Claus! (Photo credit: Greater Cleveland Aquarium)

When: Timed arrivals on December 14-16 from 5-7:30 p.m., and December 17-18 from 8:30-10 a.m.

Where: Greater Cleveland Aquarium, 2000 Sycamore Street, Cleveland

Santa travels the world to bring toys for the good girls and boys using his magic sleigh. But did you know that Santa dives, too? You can join Santa in training as he goes for a dive at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. (Don’t worry, you’ll be outside the tank!)

Participate with the family on a seek-and-find activity before meeting Santa while he’s underwater. 

Don’t worry! Santa knows these sharks and fish are on the “nice” list! 

How Much: $24.95 for ages 13+, $18.95 for children ages 2-12, and free for children under 2. Passholder adults and children are $5. Advanced timed tickets are required. More info here.

4. Invent Toys at Kringle’s Inventionasium

Good for: Younger kids

When: November 19-December 24, 2022. 

Where: Terminal Tower, 50 Public Square, Cleveland

Move over, traditional mall Santas. Kringle’s Inventionasium is a completely unique Santa experience that encourages kids to be creative in Mr. Kringle’s top secret inventing laboratory and help invent toys.

This isn’t just the usual “stand in line and take photos with Santa” routine; the Inventionasium experience can last up to an hour, and gives families the chance to be silly (pajamas or festive outfits are encouraged) and creative together. Kids’ tickets include an Invent-A-Toy Kit, and every family gets some time (and photos) with Mr. Kringle at the end.

And parents, you might like to know that this is a STEM-accredited educational experience!

How Much: Starting at $34 per guest depending on the experience for Kringle’s Inventionasium. (Classic tickets run $34-$39, while Deluxe tickets are $49-$59.) You can book here.

5. Admire the Best Holiday Light Displays

Good for: Kids of all ages

Public Square holiday lights
Public Square lights

We have a whole post all about the best Christmas lights, but here are some great places to take kids to see holiday lights around Cleveland:

  • Public Square: Public Square always has incredible light displays during the holiday season. There is a giant tree, ice rink, and thousands upon thousands of lights dangling overhead after Thanksgiving. There are even light tunnels and a light show on Terminal Tower that occurs three times per hour from 4-10 pm every night through early January. You can also check out the decorations and big Christmas tree inside Tower City while you’re there. 
  • Wild Winter Lights at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo: With hundreds of light displays and holiday-themed spots like Candyland, Santa’s Workshop, Enchanted Forest, and Conservation Trail, the whole family will be mesmerized. There are two options for visiting the Wild Winter Lights: walk-through or drive-through. Walk-through tickets are $19 for Zoo members and $22 for non-members if purchased in advance. Drive-through tickets are $57 per car for Zoo members and $66 per car for non-members. It’s highly recommended that you book your timed tickets in advance. You can buy them here.
Two women and a baby inside a candy cane lighting display
Taking my nephew to Wild Winter Lights
  • Magic of Lights – A drive-through light display featuring the latest LED technology and digital animations at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds. It runs daily from 5:30-10 p.m. from November 23, 2022 though January 1, 2023. Entry prices are per vehicle, and start at $19 per vehicle if you purchase tickets online in advance.
  • Country Lights – This drive-through at Lake Metroparks Farmpark is another great option. It takes place from 6-8:30 p.m. through December (starting on Nov. 30, 2022). Advanced tickets are required, and tickets are $27.50 per car.
  • Holiday Lights Cruise-Thru: The Lorain County Metroparks’ Carlisle Reservation is hosting its annual twinkling lights and holiday displays from November 25-December 23, 2022 on Wednesday-Saturday nights. This is free, but they are requesting at least one non-perishable food item to donate to the Second Harvest Food Bank. 
  • Lights on the Lake – This light display in Ashtabula County claims to be the largest holiday light display on Lake Erie. It has 70 displays across the 54 acres of Lakeshore Park. It runs on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings from 6-9 p.m. from November 25 through December 31, 2023. A donation of $5 per car is suggested.
  • Holiday Lights – Located at the Medina County Fairgrounds, this drive-through holiday light display runs Fridays-Sundays from November 25-December 11, and also from December 16-25 in 2022. It costs $10 per car (cash or check only), and is open 6-10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 6-9 p.m. on Sundays and weeknights.
  • Bethlehem Hills Christmas Light Park: With 40 different light displays to witness along a 1.5-mile path, you’ll be enchanted by the 2 million LED lights on display at the Geauga County Fairgrounds. This drive-through is open nightly from November 25, 2022-January 1, 2023. Tickets are $25 per (regular) car load.

RELATED: Where to See the Best Christmas Light Displays Near Cleveland

6. Go Ice Skating

Good for: Older kids/teens

Public Square ice rink
Ice skating at Public Square

Dance around the ice together among enchanting light displays around the city. Here are some great places to go ice skating during the holiday season: 

  • Cleveland Foundation Skating Rink in Public Square – The Public Square rink opens this year on November 25, 2022, and will remain open through February 21, 2023 (various open dates; check here). Tickets are $12 per person, and include skate rental.
  • The Rink at Wade Oval – This rink is a great place to stop off between museum visits in University Circle, or after going to Twinkle in the 216 at the Botanical Gardens. It opens on December 2, 2022, and is set to remain open through February 26, 2023. Admission. is$2, and skate rentals are $3. They’re even doing free skating lessons this year every Saturday at noon! More info here.
  • Crocker Park Ice Rink – Presented by the Cleveland Monsters, the rink at Crocker Park in Westlake opens on November 19, 2022, and will remain open through February 20, 2023. The rink is located in Union Square right in front of Regal Cinemas. Skating costs $12, and includes skate rental.

7. Enjoy Kid’s Shopping Day at Tower City

Good for: Kids of all ages

Tower City at Christmas
Tower City at Christmas

Tower City is really stepping it up this holiday season, with festive decorations and events throughout December. Along with weekend events with movies, crafts, and costumed characters (and Bruce the Spruce, of course!), Tower City is also offering its Kid’s Shopping Day again this year.

The event takes place December 11, 2022 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at Skylight Park. During this event, holiday characters help kids shop for gifts for friends and family, and will even help them wrap their present choices.

The event itself is free, but you do need to reserve a spot online here.

8. Try a Christmas-Themed Escape Room

Good for: Older kids/teens

For families with slightly older kids, why not test out your skills with a holiday-themed escape room? There are plenty of awesome escape rooms in Cleveland, but these have special Christmas-themed rooms:

  • Perplexity Games: The Naughty List Christmas Escape Room is a fight against time as you break into Santa’s house to take your name off the Naughty List and add it to the Nice List. Price is $33 per person. This room can be solved by up to 10 people, and is suitable for kids 8 and up. Book here.
  • Trapped! Escape Room: Operation: Candy Cane is a room where you’re helping Santa on the night before Christmas find the forgotten child who is meant to receive his present – all before the sleigh departs! Prices are $28 per person. This room is for 2-8 people. Book here.
Christmas escape room at Perplexity Games
“Solving” the Naughty List Christmas Escape Room last year

9. Visit the Grinch at Crocker Park

Good for: Younger kids

When: Sundays November 20-December 18, 2022 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Where: East Park at Crocker Park (next to the Cheesecake Factory) in Westlake

The Grinch is coming to Crocker Park in Westlake this year with his “Grinchmas Throne & Shows.” He’ll be doing live shows and meet and greets every Sunday from November 20-December 18 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on the East Park Stage.

These interactive shows will include photo opportunities, too.

Crocker Park also has lots of other holiday things to do and see, too, including Santa’s Village and the holiday market. Kids will also love taking photos with Santa’s sleigh, walking through the Snowflake Garden, and riding a train! Check out all the current events here

How Much: The Grinch’s shows are free

10. Twinkle in the 216 at Cleveland Botanical Gardens

Good for: Kids of all ages

Twinkle it the 216 at Cleveland Botanical Garden at Christmas
Decorated trees at Twinkle in the 216

When: November 19-December 31, 2022; hours vary.

Where: Cleveland Botanical Gardens, 11030 East Blvd, Cleveland

Take the family to Twinkle in the 216 at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens where they can enjoy the decorated trees, gingerbread house displays, a kid’s play area, and more! 

There are even fun activities like marshmallow roasting and crafting on the weekends. The garden will also be hosting Krampusnacht with music, drinks, and crafts on December 3, and, of course, breakfast with Santa (as mentioned above). 

How much: You’re encouraged to purchase timed tickets for Twinkle in the 216 in advance. Admission to the gardens is $20 per adult and $14 per child for non-members. Purchase tickets here.

Gingerbread treehouse at Twinkle in the 216
Gingerbread house at Twinkle in the 216

11. Take a Train Ride to the North Pole

Good for: Younger kids and older kids who love trains

When: November 14-December 21, 2022. Departs Rockside Road at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. 

Where: Cuyahoga Valley National Park Scenic Railroad Rockside Road Station. Rockside Road Station is located at 7900 Old Rockside Rd, Independence*

The North Pole Adventure train is back, and you and your child can travel to the North Pole in style! They will get cookies and cocoa, write letters to Santa, dance and sing, and visit with Santa as they ride all the way to the North Pole to see Santa’s workshop up close. 

Kids are encouraged to wear their pajamas or festive attire.  

How Much: Starting at $45 for a weekday ticket or $47 for a weekend ticket. More info here.

*Due to erosion issues along the Cuyahoga Valley National Park tracks, the train will not be departing from Akron Station this year.

12. Check out holiday trains at Puritas Nursery

Good for: Any kid who loves trains

When: Through the holiday season; they’re open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Puritas Nursery & Garden Center, 19201 Puritas Ave, Cleveland

Speaking of trains…

This West Park garden center is a local staple, selling all the usual gardening necessities plus Christmas trees, mistletoe, fresh wreaths, and more through the holiday season. But what makes this spot extra fun around Christmas are the holiday trains!

A volunteer group of local model railroad hobbyists set up trains throughout the greenhouse each Christmas season. It’s a tradition that’s been happening for more than 20 years!

How much: Free!

13. Visit Castle Noel

Good for: Older kids/teens

NYC display window at Castle Noel
NYC holiday winter display at Castle Noel

When: Hours vary by time of year, but they are always closed on Mondays. They typically are open from 9 or 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. during November and December.

Where: 260 S Court St, Medina

Castle Noel is America’s largest indoor year-round Christmas entertainment attraction all thanks to founder Mark Klaus (yes that is his real name)! 

Enjoy some of the best things to see at Castle Noel, including Christmas movie memorabilia, New York holiday storefront displays, vintage toys, and more. There are some interactive elements, too, like the Blizzard Vortex, Santa’s Chimney Squeeze, and getting a photo with Santa before going down the Santa Slide! 

This has been a family favorite Christmas activity in Cleveland for years, and the kiddos will enjoy all the displays as well as meeting Santa himself. (Though note that you visit here on a 2-hour guided tour, and I think it’s best for older kids.)

How Much: Admission for adults is $27.50 and children 12 and under is $22.50. Also, you’ll need to book your tour tickets in advance. This can be done online here. Tours last between 1.5 and 2 hours, and are guided.

RELATED: Your Complete Guide to Visiting Castle Noel

14. Candy Land at Penitentiary Glen Reservation

Good for: Kids of all ages

When: November 19, 2022-January 1, 2023 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Where: 8668 Kirtland Chardon Rd, Willoughby

Back again in 2022 is the real-life game of Candy Land you can play inside the Penitentiary Glen Nature Center. The game this year takes players on a birding adventure to learn about birds and their habitats. Along with the life-sized game board, there are also crafts, scavenger hunts, and more.

On Saturdays, you can also look forward to an outdoor campfire with s’mores, and on Sundays you can meet live animals.

Candy Land isn’t necessarily holiday-themed, but it is an activity that’s only available during the holidays!

How much: Free!

15. Stay in the Kringle Suite

Good for: Kids of all ages

When: November 11, 2022-January 6, 2023.  

Where: Hilton Cleveland Downtown, 100 Lakeside Ave E, Cleveland, and Hotel Indigo Cleveland Downtown, 651 Huron Rd E, Cleveland

Nestle your children all snug in their beds as visions of sugar plums dance in their heads at the Mr. Kringle Suite at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown or the Mrs. Kringle Suite at the Hotel Indigo Cleveland Downtown.

These holiday-themed suites have room for up to 4 guests, and include milk and cookies, a personalized note from Mr. or Mrs. Kringle, and free parking. 

The rooms are decorated with holiday decor and multiple Christmas trees, plus have a large TV so you can watch your favorite Christmas movies with the family. Great for a holiday-themed staycation in Cleveland.

How Much: Prices start at $450 per night for the suite. More info here.

From breakfast with Santa to jaw-dropping light displays, there are so many amazing things to do during Christmas in Cleveland that the kids are sure to love!

Which activity are you most looking forward to with the kids?

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