11030 E. Boulevard
Cleveland Ohio 44106United States
Free with regular garden admission
The gingerbread competition is the highlight of this University Circle holiday tradition.
The sugar plum fairy meets Frank Lloyd Wright at the Cleveland Botanical Garden's annual WinterShow, where the enchanting display of handmade gingerbread houses takes center stage. A two-story tree, plenty of boughs of holly and other Christmas greenery, hot chocolate and winter treats, and a charming outdoor skating rink make the WinterShow a holiday favorite. The 2010 show runs November 20 to January 2. The annual gingerbread competition is the highlight of the show. Dozens of gingerbread structures are displayed throughout the garden's main halls and in the library (it's a bit like walking through a life-size version of Candy Land). You'll find everything from traditional gingerbread cabins to completely unexpected candy creations (with little visible gingerbread). While there are plenty of heartwarming and homespun kids' creations, the size and reputation of this contest attracts the area's best pastry chefs and gingerbread architects. The fairly strict rules (no kits, everything visible must be edible) guarantee that these competitive entries are both technically flawless and creatively superb. If you've ever lost an hour or two watching the cake decorating shows on the Food Network, you'll be absolutely taken with this display. Decking the halls with holiday greenery both sophisticated and whimsical is also part of the show. The mood is set immediately with a giant Christmas tree in the main atrium. Smaller trees each decorated to a theme are scattered throughout the show. There are also plenty of wreaths and other greenery that both add to the festive ambience and are sure to inspire guests in their own holiday decorating. Although it's not technically part of the WinterShow, don't leave without a visit to the Eleanor Smith Glasshouse. This 18,000-square-foot conservatory houses its own little piece of rain forest. Stand still long enough, and you're practically guaranteed to be visited by one of the hundreds of butterflies fluttering throughout the exhibit. There's a daily butterfly release at 2 p.m. This indoor feature is fantastic year-round. Cleveland's only outdoor skating rink sits just outside the museum on Wade Oval. The rink, which is actually made of a silicone-based polymer, is erected each year for the holiday season. Its faux-ice lasts longer than the real stuff in fickle weather but can take some getting used to. The rink is small and can get crowded on the weekends; newer skaters (or skaters with small children) might want to avoid it during peak times. Admission to the show is free with regular garden admission.