Cleveland.cold

Remember that time it was 60 degrees in December, the sun was shining and the neighborhood kids were outside playing basketball in shorts and hoodies? Yea, me too. It was an hour ago.

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But now, things are back to normal. It’s windy, the sun is shining in that mean way that makes you think it’s pleasant outside when it’s not,  the neighborhood kids are all back inside, causing a ruckus and mussing up the carpets with their 60 degree shoes still on, and the Browns are losing. Thankfully, Cleveland is used to Mother Nature’s mood swings (and our own athletic inability), and has entertainment for all weather-types.

Since I, too, am stuck indoors to keep the chill out of my bones, I’ve decided to put my time to good use with only minor complaints about the ruckus downstairs. Here is a short list of things to do in Cleveland when afternoons bring 30 degree temperature drops, blustering winds, and another Browns loss.

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1. The Cleveland Museum of ArtUniversity Circle, FREE — This is mostly on the list because it’s free (with the exception of special exhibits). The CMA also has a fantastic interactive art experience room for kids. Thing massive, wall-sized touchscreen art, reading tents, a library wall, crafting stations, and all sorts of sounds, shapes and textures to interact with. It’s on the left as soon as you walk in the front door. Bringing a child is recommended, but not necessary. Reading tents are excellent places to hide from the world for both kids and adults.

2.  Toboggan Chutes — Cleveland Metroparks (Strongsville), FREE — Nothing says “Bitch, I’m from Cleveland,” quite as well as getting your tushy outside when the bad weather hits. The Cleveland Metroparks offer two toboggan chutes, 700 ft long that drop 70 ft down. The combination of cold air, screaming, sledding, the outdoors and some h-core frolicking also all but guarantee the little ones (and big ones) to be passed out by 8 p.m. and that, my friends, is priceless. The chutes at the Mill Creek Reservation in Strongsville are the only ones of their kind in Ohio, and are surrounded by hundreds of miles of cross-country skiing trails, as well. If you don’t have a toboggan, sleds work just as well, as do plastic lunch trays and those old, round garbage can lids (do those even exist anymore?).

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3. Playmatters toy store — Shaker Square, FREE — If you want to shop, then no, it’s not free. But what IS free is the entertainment for your (younger) children inside the store, and  the entertainment for everyone else when it’s time to watch you try and drag your kid out at the end. Playmatters is a small shop, but it’s filled to the brim with every sort of toy, both big name and small, artsy-type wooden things. There are innumerable “samples” opened and set out for kids to play with. My daughter’s personal favorite is, well, everything. She hops on the scooter and rides back and forth between the train set, Calico Critter’s playhouse, plastic horses, Koosh balls, slinkies and dice games. The employees are friendly, helpful, and ready to assist with hogties when your 4-year-old latches on to the noise-maker display and won’t let go at the mere mention of “heading home soon.” Playmatters’ location is also ideal, as it’s right down the square from the Popcorn Shop (coffee, ice cream and popcorn), the Shaker Cinemas ($6 movie Mondays), Cosmic Bobbins (locally-made crafty gifty pop-up shop awesomeness until *gasp* Tuesday, Dec. 24), and Yours Truly (milkshakes and a variety of yum).

4. The Corner Alley — Cleveland (E. 4th St.), $35/hour on weekends — Twelve lanes of upscale bowling (whatever that means), a bar, a Cleveland food restaurant (whatever that means), a martini bar and a 2,000 sq ft “spare room” with air hockey, billiards, fooseball, darts, video games and Wii. It’s every kids fantasy. Take the train to Tower City and walk across the street to The Corner Alley. You can have a cocktail and some pierogis while your kids tear around the spare room and cause a ruckus in a more appropriate venue than your living room. Plus, Colossal Cupcakes are within walking distance. This one’s a no-brainer.

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5. The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library — Cleveland Heights, FREE — This library has many locations, including in Coventry Village, Noble Neighborhood and University Heights. I always go to the one in Cleveland Heights on Lee Rd. Books are great — kids love books. They also love train sets, computers, stages, things to climb on, doors to peek in and activity tables, plus plush chairs and study tables for mommy to blog from while the little ones tear around the treehouse room with the massive mural in the center of the room. There are  private and silent rooms for reading, working or studying, computerized check-out stations, helpful, knowledgable, friendly staff, a sheet music section, oh, and it’s warm and not your house.

Aside from these five, there are at least 1 to 2 million more things to do in Cleveland in the winter when it’s in one of its depressive, cold phases. These five are things I like to do with my 4-year-old in tow. Sometimes, if I warm up my car properly and scout parking in advance, I only have to wear one coat, too!

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