Happy Thanksgiving! And, for that matter, happy Hanukkah (starts Dec. 2), merry Christmas, happy Kwanzaa (begins Dec. 26) and, what the heck, for our British friends across the pond, have a bang-up Boxing Day (on Dec. 26), whatever that is.
If you are not too worn down from cooking, baking, stuffing, shopping or entertaining relatives, here are some fun events to check out in Greater Akron to enhance your holiday season.
WinterFest at Lock 3
The holidays officially kick off at 6:30 p.m. Friday with the opening of WinterFest at Lock 3 in downtown Akron and the lighting of the city's Christmas tree. Santa is expected to make an appearance with a "special announcement" at 7:20 p.m. The opening evening festivities include free hot chocolate, cookie decorating and fireworks. The ice rink for big kids and a smaller one for beginners at Lock 3 along with the indoor Polar Putt Putt are also open this weekend. Info: www.lock3live.com
Lots of Christmas trees
The beloved annual Holiday Tree Festival to raise money for Akron Children’s Hospital will run through Sunday. The free event is at the John S. Knight Center (77 E. Mill St.) in downtown Akron and features more than 200 decorated trees with some 85,000 strings of lights and other holiday decorations. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. www.akronchildrens.org
Friday through Dec. 30: A very zoo Christmas
The Akron Zoo will host its third annual Wild Lights starting this weekend through Dec. 30. The event runs from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The zoo grounds are decorated with colorful lights and lighted displays. There will be festive food and for the first time an Ice Beer Garden that will offer adult beverages for those ages 21 and older. New this year: an ice rink for guests (for a $5 fee). Tickets are available at www.akronzoo.org or at the zoo’s ticket window. Admission is $12 for adults and $9 for kids (parking costs $3).
Friday through Dec. 23: "A Christmas Story"
You'll shoot your eye out! Ralphie and the gang will return to the Cleveland Play House for the 11th year in "A Christmas Story," running through Dec. 23 at the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square. The glowing-leg-lamp, triple-dog-daring show has become a Cleveland holiday tradition. The production features real-life brothers Jake and Sam Spencer of Bainbridge as Ralphie and Randy. $25-$97. Student rush tickets are available for $12. www.clevelandplayhouse.com.
Welcome Santa Holiday Parade
The downtown Akron family tradition kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday. The city says that the fun will start at the corner of Main and Cedar streets, run north along Main Street to West Exchange Street, turn left onto Exchange, run west along Exchange, then turn right onto West Bowery Street. The route will end up in front of Lock 3 at the corner of University Avenue and State Street and will feature floats, costumed characters and dance groups. www.akronohio.gov.
Saturday through next weekend: "The Nutcracker presented by Ballet Theatre of Ohio"
Venture to the magical Christmas world of angels, dolls, mice and soldiers in this crowd-pleasing Tchaikovsky classic. Performances run Saturday and Sunday, and Dec. 1 and 2. $40-$50. 182 S. Main St. Note: Group, Girl Scout and subscription rates are available through the Ballet Theatre of Ohio by calling 330-688-6065. More info: www.akroncivic.com. Coming Saturday in the Beacon Journal: Arts writer Kerry Clawson previews a wide range of "Nutcrackers" headed our way.
For less outdoor-chilly activities, several new movies are also hitting theaters for Thanksgiving weekend. They include "Ralph Breaks the Internet," Disney's animated follow-up to "Wreck it Ralph"; "Creed II," the continuing Rocky boxing offshoot with Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed and Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa; "The Front Runner," a political drama with Hugh Jackman as former presidential candidate Gary Hart; and a new "Robin Hood" staring Taron Egerton as the avenging Robin.
Nov. 28: Donny & Marie Holiday 2018 Tour
She's a little bit country. He's a little bit rock 'n' roll. Yes, folks, Donny and Marie Osmond are heading to the Hard Rock Rocksino for a night of holiday songs and shiny bright smiles. They'll mix Christmas tunes with their hits, including “Puppy Love,” “Paper Roses” and “It Takes Two” and re-create some of the sparkle of their long-running gig in Las Vegas. 7:30 p.m. $89.50-$149.50. 10777 Northfield Road, Northfield. www.hrrocksinonorthfieldpark.com
Nov. 30: Reindeer magic
The play "Prancer" is a tale of an injured reindeer who appears in a girl's backyard. The story about miracles, friendship and devotion will play through Dec. 16 at Magical Theatre Company (565 W. Tuscarawas Ave, Barberton). $15-$17, or $17-$19 for the opening night reception. www.magicaltheatre.org
Dec. 4: Canadian Brass
Tuesday Musical will present the Canadian Brass Holiday Concert at the Akron Civic Theatre, part of the FUZE series. Known as the world's most famous brass group, the quintet of sneaker-wearing virtuosos has a discography of more than 130 albums. In Akron, the quintet will play a program ranging from "Bach's Bells" to "Glenn Miller Christmas." 7:30 p.m. $40-$45. www.tuesdaymusical.org.
Dec. 7: Holiday pops
The Akron Symphony Orchestra will perform the concert "Home for the Holidays" at E.J.Thomas Hall (198 Hill St.) at the University of Akron. The orchestra will be joined by the Akron Symphony Chorus, Akron Youth Symphony, soprano Sarah Hutchins and tenor Daniel Doty. Santa also will make an appearance, and families can enjoy a Winter Carnival in the lobby with children’s activities before the show. 7:30 p.m. $25-$60, or $12.50 to $30 for students.
Note: The orchestra also will perform "Medina Holiday Pops," along with the Akron Symphony Chorus and Youth Symphony, at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 at 851 Wymouth Road, Medina. Cost is $20-$30. www.akronsymphony.org.
Dec. 8: "Home for the Holidays"
International crooner Connor Bogart O'Brien, who hails from Ashtabula, will be host, bandleader and featured vocalist at "Home for the Holidays" at the Akron Civic Theatre. O'Brien will present a concert that harks back to the holiday TV specials of Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley and Nat King Cole. Joining him will be high school performers from last year's All City Musical "Jesus Christ Superstar,'' which O'Brien directed. 7:30 p.m. $20-$35. www.akroncivic.com.
Dec. 8: Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour 2018
Smooth jazz saxophonist Dave Koz and his Christmas Tours are favorites here in N.E. Ohio. This year, Koz and the 21st iteration of his annual tour return to Cleveland with musical friends saxophonist/singer Mindi Abair, singer/guitarist Jonathan Butler and keyboardist Keiko Matsui. Expect smoothed-out groovy renditions of holiday tunes and a Hanukkah medley! 7:30 p.m. State Theatre, 1501 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, $10-$175. www.playhousesquare.org
Dec. 8: Cleveland Jazz Orchestra: The Holidays With Helen!
The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra will hold its annual two-hour swinging show, “The Holidays With Helen!” with special guest and popular area singer Helen Welch. 8 p.m. Hanna Theatre, 1501 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, $35-$65. www.playhousesquare.org
Dec. 11-13: "The 10th Annual Ryan Humbert Holiday Extravaganza"
Ryan Humbert, one of the hardest-working men in local show business, returns with the 10th anniversary edition of his annual Holiday Extravaganza. This year the show will be performed cabaret style with the audience and the performers all on the stage of the Civic, which means seating is limited. The show is also a fundraiser for Akron General’s Muffins For Mammograms program. 7:30 p.m. Akron Civic Theatre, 182 S. Main St. $20. www.akroncivic.com
Dec. 14: "A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage"
Charles Schulz's holiday TV special about the Peanuts gang is a beloved classic more than 50 years old. Magnify that fun by seeing Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and Snoopy on stage, with the wonderful musical score from Vince Guaraldi. Bonus: After the final curtain, the audience is invited to sing along to Christmas favorites with the cast. 7:30 p.m. Akron Civic Theatre, 182 S. Main St. $47-$100. www.akroncivic.com
Dec. 30: Trans-Siberian Orchestra: "The Ghosts of Christmas Eve: The Best of TSO"
For some people going to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra is almost as big a part of their holiday activities as opening presents. The group returns to Quicken Loans Arena with “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve: The Best of TSO and more.” The mega-successful group tours every holiday season with a different show that is a veritable cornucopia of audio and visual stimuli. Look for lasers, impressive plumes of smoke and dry ice and several dudes in tuxedos with big arena metal hair. 3 and 8 p.m. Quicken Loans Arena, 1 Center Court, Cleveland, $49.50-$89.50. www.theqarena.com
Pulse staff writers Craig Webb, Kerry Clawson, Malcolm X Abram and Clint O'Connor contributed to this report.