Friday, December 28, 2018

Gadget Gifts

Did you get any gadgets for Christmas? A new phone? A TV or streaming device? Computer? Have you figured out how to use them?

You don’t have to be a genius or consult a “genius” to get started. Free help is available through your local library. Check their calendars for dates and times of classes and walk-in hours.

Cuyahoga County Public Library branches have walk-in hours every week for just this thing. Independent libraries including Lakewood, Westlake, Rocky River and Avon Lake offer the service as well. These are the libraries I know best, but you can find these services at Lorain Public Library System branches, too. The Medina County District Library is offering classes including Introduction to iPads for Seniors, taught by an Eagle Scout, at the Medina branch in January. Tech help also is offered at Summit County Library and branches in Lake County.

If you’re considering getting a new gadget, some libraries will let you check them out. You can take devices for a test drive — some are for in-library use only — before you buy. While you’re there, read what Consumer Reports says about the gadget you’re looking at. You could save yourself a lot of money.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas!

That’s the message today for those who celebrate Christmas. I hope you’re spending the day with people you love — or at least like — and enjoying yourself.

If you’re looking for something to do, scroll through my previous posts for some ideas.

Thank you for reading CLE on the Cheap and offering feedback and support. Come back Friday for the final post of 2018.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Castle Noel

Take a two-hour tour to Christmas past when you visit Castle Noel in Medina. Castle Noel is “America’s Largest Year-Round Indoor Christmas Entertainment Attraction,” according to creator Mark Klaus. Yes, that’s really his name.

You’ll see props and costumes from popular Christmas movies and animated windows from New York City department stores during the guided tour, which begins outside and includes a chance to go down a giant slide like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story.”

Last year, my friend Moe asked our guide how Klaus acquires the animated windows. “Magic,” she replied. That answer will have to do. And Castle Noel does have a magical atmosphere.

Visitors from virtually every generation will be brought back to their childhood Christmases when they see the movie props and toys from another time. I might not be remembering this correctly, but I think our guide told us we couldn’t take pictures last year. Castle Noel’s website, however, encourages visitors to take photos. I’m sure someone will let you know the rules when you go.

Admission is $19.50 per person, although groups of 15 or more and seniors get in for $18.50 each. Children 3 and under are free. I don’t think anyone that young would enjoy this experience, which could affect the enjoyment of others on the tour. Something to consider.

Walk-ins are welcome, but I recommend buying tickets online in advance. Castle Noel’s hours vary, and you want to be sure the people in your group can tour together.

This might not qualify as “cheap” for everyone, but it’s a unique experience, which makes it a good value for the money.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Go Toward the Lights

Years ago I interviewed a woman who was visiting from Russia. One thing that struck her about the United States was that almost everyone decorated the outside of their homes for the Christmas season. She was impressed that Americans did this for other people to enjoy.

There are many places to view holiday lights in Northeast Ohio. Some venues charge you to look at theirs, but you can see quite a few free dazzling displays in public settings, such as Crocker Park in Westlake (seen in the photo) and in neighborhoods throughout the region.

Here is a sampling:

Cleveland’s Public Square – The official lighting ceremony was during Winterfest on Nov. 24, but you can enjoy the display while driving or walking through the square. I haven’t been able to find out how long this display will be up, but I think it’s safe to assume it will be there at least through early January.

Tower City – Whether you’re shopping or just passing through, it’s worth your while to stop and take in the festive surroundings.

5th Street Arcades – The Euclid Arcade and the Colonial Arcade are beautiful any time of year, but they step it up during the holidays.

Playhouse Square – The Festival of Trees goes through Saturday in the Allen Theater lobby. (Does it seem odd to anyone else that it ends before Christmas?) Playhouse Square also will be decked out for the holidays.

Nela Park – This tradition on Noble Road in East Cleveland has been going strong for more than 90 years. You can see the display’s 500,000 LED lights and replica National Christmas Tree after 5:30 p.m. daily through Jan. 2.

Seabury Avenue – Almost every house on this Fairview Park street takes part in this annual tradition that apparently dates to 1953. Neighbors walk through and others drive from all over to see the spectacular display of lights and themed decorations.

Where are your favorite free spots to view holiday lights?

Friday, December 14, 2018

Passing Through

Did you get to Holiday CircleFest a couple of weeks ago? If so, maybe you visited some of the museums on Sunday, when they all offered free admission.

Whether you got there or not, I’ll bet there are things at each museum you haven’t seen. If you don’t want to wait until next year’s Holiday CircleFest or pay full admission before that, the Circle Pass might be for you.

The Circle Pass covers admission to Cleveland Botanical Garden, the Cleveland History Center, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (which includes the Perkins Wildlife Center, where you will find beautiful creatures such as this one) and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA). The Cleveland Museum of Art is not included, because it doesn’t charge admission. The passes are valid for 10 days after first use and save you more than 25 percent off full admission.

Still, I recommend doing some math (Sorry!) before you buy. The Circle Pass is $35 for anyone 13 or older and $19.50 for kids ages 3-12. Figure out whether it would be a bargain for you. Full admission to all four museums would total $48.50, so the pass would save one adult $13.50.

Some things to consider, especially if kids are involved. The pass covers one admission to each place. So if your 4-year-old gets worn out before you’ve seen all the dinosaurs and such at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, you can’t use your pass to go back another time. Also, the pass covers general admission only; the planetarium show is extra ($6).

Regular admission ranges from $17 to $14 with anyone younger than 3 admitted free. The museum offers a flat-rate admission of $8 after 5 p.m. Wednesdays. Members get perks including free admission.

MOCA is free for kids younger than 18 every day and free for everyone the first Saturday of the month. MOCA also has a reduced admission fee of $5 for everyone after 5 p.m. Fridays and benefits exclusive to members. Regular admission ranges from $9.50 to $5.

Admission to Cleveland Botanical Garden is $12 for adults, $8 for kids 3-12 and free for anyone younger than 3 and for members. Active military and veterans with ID and their immediate families also are admitted free. This applies to one adult admission and two child admissions.

The botanical garden is the region’s first participant in Museums for All, a national program aimed at giving every child and family access to high-quality museums. I just learned about the program while working on this post. Cleveland Botanical Garden and Holden Arboretum in Kirtland offer $1 admission to the holder of an EBT card (what some people mistakenly refer to as food stamps) and their immediate family. The rate applies to up to four people per EBT card.

Admission to the Cleveland History Center ranges from $10 to $5, with children 2 and younger, active military and museum members admitted free.