19th annual Holiday CircleFest in Cleveland offers reindeer, carriage rides, ice skating

University Circle opens its doors for holiday fun

CLEVELAND - The 19th annual Holiday CircleFest on Sunday is a once-a-year opportunity for families to kick off the holiday season surrounded by the beauty and cultural experience that can only be found in University Circle.

More than a dozen of the museums, galleries, gardens and churches will open their doors from 1 p.m. until 5:30 p.m., offering holiday exhibits and special activities for children.

Santa and some of his reindeer will be on hand. Holiday music, food, free carriage rides, ice carving and skating at The Rink on Wade Oval are just a few of the special features. University Circle Inc. President Chris Ronayne upgraded the rink surface this year.

"We've got fresh, real ice out there. The other big thing is that it's free. Thanks to our sponsors, we have the only free outdoor rink in Cleveland." If you don't have your own skates, you can rent a pair for $3. The rink is open daily through December, with some special evening hours on certain days which you can find here. http://universitycircle.org/events/2012/11/the-rink-at-wade-oval

At the Cleveland Botanical Garden, 100,000 twinkling lights adorn a forest of trees, including a spectacular tree decorated with live poinsettias that is 30 feet tall. "Glow at the Garden" also features a garden express train, a wishing tree and an area where children can make their own gingerbread houses. More than 100 gingerbread houses are on display throughout the show. You can find hours and more information here. http://www.cbgarden.org

Holiday CircleFest is also a great way to tackle your gift list. Museum gift shops offer unique gift items with a local flair. Ronayne suggests you "think about a day in University Circle. Go shopping for holiday items, walk through museum exhibits, come out and have a skate and some hot chocolate." A lot more fun, and far less hassle than the mall.

The December night will be illuminated at dusk with the Cleveland Museum of Art's lantern installations on Wade Oval, created by guest artists. At 5:30, the procession of lights will wind its way through the oval, featuring guest lantern artists, illuminated puppets and dancers.

You can look at a complete Holiday CircleFest schedule here. http://www.universitycircle.org/events/2012/12/holiday-circlefest

Happy Holidays in University Circle.

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