Winter in Cleveland can be a great time to get outdoors and enjoy some unique cold-weather activities, or an equally great time to stay indoors where it’s cozy and warm. No matter what your preference is, there are plenty of things to do in Cleveland in winter.
And even though winter in 2020-21 will look a little different than past winters because of pandemic restrictions, there are still plenty of winter-centric things to do.
Use the list below to inspire your own winter adventures this year.
Note: I’m not including any holiday-related activities here, because I have a whole separate post all about Christmas in Cleveland! This post is about all the OTHER things to do in Cleveland during the winter months.
Things to Do in Cleveland in Winter
1. Go ice skating
If it’s outdoor ice skating you’re after, Cleveland has a few outdoor rinks that pop up during the winter months.
There’s the Cleveland Foundation Ice Rink at Public Square, which usually opens up at Winterfest (usually the weekend after Thanksgiving) and stays open through mid-February. Unfortunately this rink will NOT be open this winter.
There’s also the Rink at Wade Oval in University Circle, which usually opens in early December (often coinciding with Wade Oval’s Holiday Circle Fest). This year, it’s open Fridays through Sundays from December 4-February 15, and every day from December 21-January 3. Admission is $2, and skate rentals are $3. This year, they are limiting the rink to 30 skaters at a time, and masks will be required.
New this season is a synthetic rink at Merwin’s Wharf that’s part of Winter RiverFest. The rink opened on November 27, 2020, and advanced signing of a waiver is required before you go. It costs $7 to skate and $3 to rent skates, and you can book your time slot here.
There’s also a seasonal ice rink at Halloran Park west of the city, and additional outdoor rinks at Crocker Park in Westlake and at Pinecrest in Orange.
For indoor ice skating in the Cleveland area, you can check for open skate hours at the Serpentini Winterhurst Arena in Lakewood, the C.E. Orr Ice Arena in Euclid, the Cleveland Heights Community Center Ice Rink, and the Michael A. Ries Ice Rink in Parma. (Many of these may NOT be offering public skating this winter, so definitely check websites or call ahead before going.)
2. Ride the toboggan chutes
The toboggan chutes at Mill Stream Run Reservation in Strongsville are a winter tradition in northeast Ohio. The chutes open the weekend after Thanksgiving (no snow is necessary for them to run!), and stay open on weekends through the beginning of March.
The toboggan chutes are 70- feet tall and roughly 700 feet long, and you can reach speeds upwards of 40 miles per hour. It’s incredibly fun!
You can fit up to 4 people on each toboggan, too, so it’s a very family-friendly activity. And while you do have to walk up 108 stairs to reach the top of the chutes every time you want to ride, you don’t have to carry a toboggan up with you – that part is all automated now!
Learn more about tobogganing in Cleveland here. The chutes ARE open this winter, but you need to reserve your time slot in advance.
3. Take a winter hike
The Cleveland Metroparks, Lake Metroparks, Lorain County Metro Parks, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park are all open year-round, even in the winter months. You can go for a winter hike in any of these; some even offer outdoor winter programs like interpretive hikes, cross-country skiing lessons, snowshoeing, and more.
You can also take to the trails on your own by renting snowshoes or skis when there’s enough snow. Chapin Forest Reservation (Lake Metroparks) rents both of these and maintains groomed trails during the winter that are even lighted after dark. You can also rent snowshoes at Penitentiary Glen Reservation (Lake Metroparks), and the North Chagrin Nature Center (Cleveland Metroparks).
Cuyahoga Valley National Park also leases out snowshoes and skis (for FREE!) to use within the park. You can rent both from the Winter Sports Center at M.D. Garage on weekends, and snowshoes from the Boston Mill Visitor Center during the week. (Call ahead to confirm there’s enough snow/rental options.)
4. Go skiing/tubing/sledding
Northeast Ohio isn’t exactly a great geographic fit for skiing or snowboarding (that whole lack of hills thing…), but we do still have Boston Mills/Brandywine and Alpine Valley Ski Resort just a short drive from Cleveland.
Both of these ski resorts rent equipment, offer lessons, and also usually have dedicated lifts and runs just for snow tubing. Tubing is definitely the more affordable and family-friendly option.
You can check hours, snow conditions, and prices at each resort’s website:
In 2020, you’re encouraged to buy your lift tickets in advance since the resorts are limiting crowds. Face coverings are also required this winter – but my guess is you were planning to wear one on the slopes anyway!
5. Hand-feed chickadees
A unique winter activity the whole family can enjoy is hand-feeding chickadees and other non-migratory birds at the Brecksville Nature Center in Brecksville Reservation.
The “Hand Feed a Chickadee” program has been a tradition at the Nature Center since the 1940s, and runs each winter from December through the end of February.
When the weather is cold and snowy, the birds are extra active and in search of food, and will land right in your outstretched palm to eat black oil sunflower seeds.
6. Check out a winter festival
In a normal year, there are plenty of winter festivals and events happening in and around Cleveland.
For the holidays, many neighborhoods have their own Christmas/tree-lighting celebrations, including Winterfest downtown, Light Up Lakewood, Holiday Circlefest n University Circle, and Wintertide in Gordon Square. Sadly, many of these holiday events were canceled or went virtual this year.
Similarly, some holiday-specific festivals (like Brite Winter and Winter Beerfest) will also likely not be happening this winter. BUT, some area winter festivals you can still look forward to include the North Coast Harbor Ice Fest (on MLK Jr. Day in January) and maybe the Slovenian cultural festival Cleveland Kurentovanje in February.
Not far from Cleveland, you’ll find the annual Medina Ice Festival in February. And those who are brave enough could even join in on the Cleveland Polar Plunge into Lake Erie at the end of February. (No word yet though on whether either of these will happen in 2021.)
Looking for more info about these festivals and events? Check out our Cleveland Calendar!
7. Keep cozy indoors
Of course, winter doesn’t HAVE to be about being outdoors at all. If you’d prefer to stay cozy indoors during the dark months of winter in Cleveland, there’s (usually) more than enough to do.
This winter, of course, is a little different, but you can still grab a local coffee or visit most of Cleveland’s museums by reserving timed tickets in advance.
Some of my favorite indoor activities in Cleveland include:
- Visiting a museum like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA is currently closed, but the Rock Hall is still open)
- Cuddling up with adoptable cats at AffoGATO cat cafe (reservations required)
- Taking a food tour of the West Side Market (tours are not running this winter, but the market is still open for shopping)
- Spending some time getting to know Cleveland’s coffee shops (almost all still open for take-out!)
- Building your own DIY craft brewery crawl (which you can also totally do at home)
READ MORE: 10 Indoor Things to Do in Cleveland
And if you’d prefer your indoor adventures to take place in the safety of your own home this winter? Well we have suggestions for that, too! Here are some things to keep yourself busy at home:
- Cleveland on Screen: 12 Movies Every Clevelander Should See
- 10 Cleveland Jigsaw Puzzles to Solve Online at Home
8. Dine in an igloo
Heated igloos and domes are all the rage at restaurants this season, and there are several spots around Cleveland where you can rent out a private igloo for drinks or a meal.
Many local restaurants are installing these igloos this year, so you have several different options! Read more about heated patios and igloos in Cleveland in this post.
Top spots with igloos include: Georgetown/Vosh, The South Side, Felice Urban Cafe, and Betts Restaurant, among others.
9. Celebrate Paczki Day
Most Clevelanders are in-the-know on this one, but in case you’re not, a paczki looks like a big jelly donut doused in powdered sugar. And while paczki are indeed filled with fruit fillings, don’t call them donuts; they’re made with a special sweet yeast dough and are a unique pastry in their own right.
These sinfully delicious treats come from Poland, and Paczki Day in Cleveland is on Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday) every year. The tradition of eating these pastries ties into the pre-Lenten indulgences of Mardi Gras, and you won’t find paczki for sale any other time of year.
In 2021, Paczki Day is on Tuesday, February 16. (And here it’s pronounced “POONCH-kee,” in case you were curious.)
Some of the best local bakeries making traditional paczki include Rudy’s Strudel & Bakery in Parma, Colozza’s Bakery in Parma, Michael Angelo’s Bakery in Broadview Heights, Stan’s Northfield Bakery in Northfield, Becker’s Donuts & Bakery in Fairview Park, and Seven Roses Polish Deli in Cleveland. Local donut shops also whip up these specialties, like Goldie’s Donuts and Bakery, Jack Frost Donuts, and even Brewnuts.
Bonus: Chase (frozen) waterfalls
IF it gets cold enough (we’re talking Arctic Blast or Polar Vortex cold), then you might get lucky enough to see some of northeast Ohio’s waterfalls turned into frozen cascades of ice.
You can find snowy, icy waterfalls in places like Cuyahoga Valley National Park, as well as in some of the area metroparks. For a full guide, check out this post: Where to See Frozen Waterfalls near Cleveland This Winter.
What’s YOUR favorite thing to do in Cleveland during the winter months?
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Amanda was born and raised in northeast Ohio, and has always been a fangirl of the state. Now, she wants to share her love of Cleveland with the world, highlighting all the best things to do, see, and eat in the CLE. She’s been running Cleveland Traveler since January 2019.