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The Top 10 Things to do in Cleveland in Winter From a Local!

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Chris and I have enjoyed living in this Midwestern city for a while now. With amazing breweries, a top-notch food scene, plenty of parks and beaches/islands (Put-in-Bay is fantastic in the summer!), an amazing wine country, and more, it is well worth your time to visit! But what about visiting Cleveland in winter?

You’ve probably heard about it: Cleveland winters. If you know the Midwest, you’ll know that winters can be brutally cold with a lot of snow. But as someone who has spent the better part of 5 Cleveland winters sticking around the city, I certainly have found time to discover all the top things to do in Cleveland in wintertime.

So whether you’re coming up for the holidays or you may have found a good flight/hotel deal to Cleveland during the winter season, here are the top 10 fun things to do in Cleveland in the winter. 

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The Ultimate Cleveland Winter Guide - Top Things to do in Cleveland in Winter - Winter Guide for Cleveland

Top 10 Things to do in Cleveland in Winter

Bundle up, y’all, we’re exploring the best Cleveland winter activities! 

  1. Checking Out the Best Breweries is a Great Thing to do During Cleveland in Winter

I wouldn’t say I’m biased, but Cleveland, and Northeast Ohio, in general, have AMAZING craft beers. Trust me, we’ve traveled the world and have tried a lot of beer (including places like Belgium, Milwaukee, Hanoi, and Asheville)… just check our Untappd profile…it’s embarrassing how much we’ve consumed.

And when the weather outside is frightful, the beer here is super delightful.

Breweries in Cleveland- things to do in Cleveland winter

What are our favorite breweries for winter? Check these out:

  • Great Lakes Brewing Company: Yes, it’s probably the most famous, but nothing is better than heading down to their cozy brewpub and sipping on a strong but delicious Christmas Ale or, my personal fave, Barrel Aged Alberta Clipper porter to warm you up on a cold winter’s eve.
  • Masthead Brewing Company: Few places make such incredible beer that people will literally stand outside in a line wrapped around the building in sub-zero temperatures on a Saturday morning for a can release. When they have a new beer on tap, the crowds come running. It’s that good. We always love their Single Origin Coffee Stout and loved their Sleigh All Day Holiday IPA with spruce tips last year.
  • Terrestrial Brewing: With views of Lake Erie, this laid back warehouse-turned-brewery is perfect for sipping beers on a chilly day. We love their Pebbles sour beer and Dunce witbier.
  • Forest City Brewery: This brewery is a favorite winter brewery for us. While it has a fantastic beer garden out back, there is no better place to warm up than hanging out amongst the old Duck Island memorabilia and sipping some dark beers at this place. Right now, we love the Towpath Trail Oatmeal Stout and the Black Betsy Black IPA.

Great Lakes Brewery in Cleveland

  1. Speaking of Beer, Head to Beerfest!

When it comes to one of the best things to do in Cleveland in the winter, Beerfest is one of them. Usually, in late January, get out of the freezing cold Cleveland winter weather and enjoy craft beer from around the country! Located at the Huntington Convention Center in downtown Cleveland, you can imbibe on hundreds of craft beers (actually, you may want to pace yourself!), find beer-themed things, and even warm up while dancing to live music!

Cuyahoga Valley National Park in winter

  1. Hike at the Metroparks for Fabulous Snowy Photos (Or Maybe Go Tobogganing)!

Okay, being outside in the winter doesn’t sound like a great idea, but if you’re willing to bundle up, there are fantastic hiking paths in the Metroparks and around the Cuyahoga Valley National Park worth seeing in the winter!

Check out Brandywine Falls in their frozen, mystical state, or hike in Rocky River Reservation and have the park to yourself. Either way, you’ll enjoy taking beautiful nature photos in the winter.

Mady Stoner Photo of Cleveland Metro Parks in Winter

Cleveland Metroparks in the winter. The photo was taken by Mady Stoner from Wanderlust in Ohio.

Oh, and for the adventurous people, why not go tobogganing in Strongsville at The Chalet in Mill Stream Run Reservation!

  1. Find the Best Dives in the City for Winter Respite

I don’t know about you, but there are places that I only go to in the winter for a meal. I’m not sure why… but it just feels right in the winter. Probably because the food is hearty and sticks-to-your-ribs, but the places just feel cozy and are a fun way to get out of the cold and warm up with some scrumptious food.

Juke Box food and beers in Cleveland

Pierogis at Juke Box.

Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Happy Dog. I mean, what better place to warm up from the cold than a dive bar with make-your-own hot dogs? Create a hot dog or vegan dog of your dreams and pair it with a nice local draft beer and tater tots for a great winter meal. My go-to order is the vegan dog with peanut butter, cucumber, feta cheese, and tomato. It sounds disgusting but it is perfection. I also order like 10 sauces with my tots and they never judge. Bless them.
  • Angelo’s Pizza. You can have pizza any time, but during a Cleveland, Ohio winter, nothing sounds better than their baked potato pizza. They have thick, hearty pizzas that’ll take the chill off of your winter day.
  • Xinji Noodle Bar. Ramen is my favorite thing and this place is a perfect winter spot to warm up with a bowl of veggie ramen.
Happy Dog hot dog and mac and cheese tots

Happy Dog.

  • Superior Pho. Speaking of hot soup, pho will warm you to the bones on a chilly day. And this is the best place for pho. I also love and crave the tofu tamarind soup during a freezing, Cleveland winter day.
  • Juke Box. This dive bar in Ohio City makes the best pierogis in the city. With both vegan and meat options, they crisp these babies up and they are a hearty meal to pair with a delicious craft beer.
  • Johnny Mango. December is seriously the best time to visit J-Mang’s as we call it. Why? Laksa soup month! This restaurant is great year-round (in summer we love to sit on their patio and have margaritas), but in the winter, and especially December, this soup calls my name. This spicy, Southeast Asian soup will warm your soul and make you happy!

West Side Market

  1. Take a Food Tour!

And speaking of food, when it comes to things to do in Cleveland this winter, I highly recommend a food tour.

Last year, I did the West Side Market food tour and it was fabulous! I’ve lived in the same neighborhood as this market for years and have visited many times, but the food tour really showed me a ton of stands and things I’d never even paid attention to or tried!

It was great to see more of the market, and there are also great food tours you can take of Tremont and Little Italy! Seriously, if you want to see some of Cleveland’s great food, check one of these food tours out.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame- Top things to do Cleveland in winter

  1. Enjoy the Museums

I mean, what better way to avoid being outside on a cold winter day than by going to the museums? Head over to University Circle on the east side of Cleveland and enjoy the gorgeous Cleveland Museum of Art with world-class art from the likes of Monet and Da Vinci as well as art from around the globe.

While you’re there, check out the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (where we got married!) for dinosaurs, native animals of Ohio, and more! And if you’re here the third Thursday of the month, why not go to a fun Think and Drink With the Extinct event? We went to their Winter Solstice one and had a blast last year!

And, of course, what better way to pass a chilly afternoon than by rocking out at the Cleveland Rock N Roll Hall of Fame? View iconic stage outfits of your favorite performers, browse through the history of rock n roll, and stick around to watch throwback clips of American Bandstand!

A Christmas Story House as a top Cleveland Winter Activity

A Christmas Story House in Tremont. Photo was taken by Amanda Williams from Cleveland Traveler.

  1. Enjoy Many Christmas Events in Cleveland!

Cleveland is a delight around Christmas. There are a ton of Cleveland attractions in winter around the holidays!

The chance of snow is high, and the winter events in Cleveland this time of year are stacked! Check out our favorites:

  • Visit Stan Hywet for the holiday lights and Deck the Halls event where they decorate this mansion with a new holiday theme each year! Also, get some hot cider and gingerbread to get extra festive!
  • A Christmas Story House: Yes, this famed house from the cult-classic A Christmas Story is located right in Tremont, a trendy neighborhood in Cleveland. This is the perfect place to buy A Christmas Story memorabilia, take a tour of the house (and spot where iconic scenes were filmed), and you can even spend the night!
  • Go to the Theatre: Playhouse Square is the perfect place to go around Christmas to enjoy classic performances like A Christmas Story, The Nutcracker, and A Christmas Carol.
  • Trans-Siberian Orchestra. For a mesmerizing holiday performance, head to Rocket Mortgage Field House arena in December.
  • Santacon. On December 20 from 2-7 pm, people bar crawl it up around the neighborhood of Ohio City dressed up as Santa, his elves, or any other Christmas costumes!
  • Christmas Story Run! The first Saturday in December is a fun time to visit Cleveland in winter because you can run the Christmas Story Run! Starting downtown and the 5k ends at the house (10k goes back downtown), you can enjoy free entrance to the house and, of course, some Ovaltine.
  • Ice Skating in Public Square is a fun thing to do in Cleveland in winter, especially around the holidays.
  • Castle Noel. Located in Medina, if you want to get into the Christmas spirit, this is the place. See the RV from Christmas Vacation, admire old New York holiday displays, and even visit Santa before sliding down the Christmas Story Santa slide!

As you can see, there is a TON to do around the holidays in Cleveland!

Downtown Cleveland Public Square

Public Square in downtown Cleveland decorated for Christmas. Photo was taken by Amanda Williams from Cleveland Traveler.

  1. Go Skiing or Tubing at Boston Mills and Brandywine.

A relatively flat part of the country, Cleveland isn’t known for its winter sports like skiing. However, Boston Mills and Brandywine are great for learning to ski and testing out your ski skills!

Also, if you’re not into skiing, go tubing instead!

Cleveland Arcade at Christmas

  1. Explore the Arcade.

The Arcade is absolutely stunning. Filled with shops and restaurants, it is the perfect place to escape the cold, do some shopping for craft goods, tea, etc. and take photos of this iconic Cleveland treasure.

Cleveland street after snowstorm in winter

  1. Cheer on the Cavs.

And last, but certainly not least, Cleveland has sports going on year-round. And if you are looking for a fun thing to do in Cleveland in winter, cheering on the Cavs is a great idea! Clevelanders love their sports so get prepared to cheer loudly and proudly for our team!

Also, before you go, check out Cle Clothing for some great Cleveland and Cavs swag before the game! It’s also in the cute and trendy East 4th Street next to a ton of great bars and eateries.

Cleveland in Winter Weather

Cleveland, Ohio Winter Weather

Cleveland winters can be cold. According to the Weather Channel, the average temperatures for the winter months are as follows:

  • December: Low 26ºF (-3ºC), High 38ºF (3ºC)
  • January: Low 22ºF (-6ºC), High 34ºF (1ºC)
  • February: Low 24ºF (-4ºC), High 38ºF (3ºC)
  • March: Low 30ºF (-1ºC), High 47ºF (8ºC)

And during the winter, there is an average of 2-3 inches of precipitation, which is typically snowfall.

This means you will want to pack warmly! I swear by my Northface Metro long parka (seriously, I asked for this for Christmas my first year moving here) and pair it will my boots, fuzzy socks, a cute sweater, and a scarf. Chris wears his dressy boots, quarter-zip, and his wool pea coat.

West Side Market

Getting to and Getting Around Cleveland

Getting to Cleveland is pretty easy from around the country thanks to the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Find great flight deals from anywhere in the US on Skyscanner! You can snag a winter flight to Cleveland from NYC for under $200 round-trip for direct flights.

Also, Cleveland is within driving distance from many major cities including NYC (7 hours), Chicago (6 hours), DC (6 hours), Pittsburgh (2 hours), Detroit (2.5 hours), and Toronto (5 hours)! If you do drive, just be careful and check road conditions!

Once you get to Cleveland, you can easily get around via Uber or Lyft. And downtown Cleveland is walkable. But to really get out into the various areas of Cleveland, I recommend renting a car. We love for finding great car rental prices, and it’ll put you in great shape to explore the best of Cleveland in the winter!

Pro-tip: If renting a car, get one with 4-wheel drive and be careful driving in winter conditions.

Cozy coffee shops in Cleveland copy

Grab a coffee at one of many coffee shops in the city to warm up!

Where to Stay in Cleveland, Ohio

Most of the hotels are in downtown Cleveland, which is a great place to base yourself during your stay. And the best part is that during the winter months (outside of the holidays), you’ll find great hotel deals!

Budget: The Cleveland Hostel

Yes, Cleveland has a hostel, and it’s great! Located in the cool neighborhood of Ohio City, just across the bridge from downtown Cleveland, this hostel is on West 25th, an awesome street filled with bars, restaurants, and breweries. For around $29 per night for a dorm or $75 for a private room, it is a wonderful place to stay on a budget.

Read reviews on TripAdvisor and book here!

Mid-Range: Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the Arcade

Located at the iconic Cleveland Arcade, you can get a room overlooking this magnificent architectural treasure or get a room facing the city. Either way, you’re in a prime destination for exploring, and you’ll love grabbing a cup of coffee at the delicious Rising Star Coffee Roasters just downstairs at the Arcade. You’ll also enjoy the cozy and comfortable rooms and 1890 Restaurant and Lounge here. Prices in the winter start at just under $100 per night.

Read reviews on TripAdvisor and book here!

Luxury: The Ritz-Carlton Cleveland

And for more luxury, next to the shops and casino at Tower City, you’ll enjoy the spacious and modern rooms, great views of Public Square, and the spa and sauna here. At around $300 per night, you’ll have a luxe time in Cleveland at this hotel.

Read reviews on TripAdvisor and book here!

When it comes to visiting Cleveland in winter and exploring the best things to do in Cleveland in the winter, we think you’ll enjoy the items on this list. From outdoor adventures like hiking and skiing to feeling yuletide joy and warming up with a hot meal or cold brew, Cleveland is the place to enjoy a winter getaway that you didn’t know you needed.

Would you visit Cleveland in the winter? What are your tips for visiting this city during this chilly time of year? Let us know in the comments!

Interested in more from the Midwest? Check these articles out:

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