If you’ve been to Cleveland, Ohio, you know there’s far more to the city than just its ability to rock. Ok, yes, it definitely does rock, but what else is there to do in Cleveland besides checking out its music scene? It turns out there’s plenty. From free museum admission to moseying around a historic market, here are 12 fun things to do in Cleveland with kids.
Living 90 minutes away from Cleveland, Ohio, makes me a lucky lady. It’s super easy to pack the family in the car and road trip north a few times a year. And whether it’s a day trip or a weekend getaway, there’s always plenty to do. Here are my top picks for what to do in Cleveland with kids – and what kids will dig.
1. Great Lakes Science Center
I remember taking my daughter to Great Lakes Science Center for the first time. Mouth gaped open, she lead me by the hand from exhibit to exhibit. Fast forward to many years later where she’s now a teenager – and still adores visiting. Sitting right beside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it’s an easy way to split up and tour different museums.
In a nutshell, GLSC is three levels of interactive exhibits, both permanent and not. We loved the tribute to an Ohio hero in the NASA Glenn Visitor Center. Another must-see is the William G. Mather Steamship. A working Great Lakes freighter, it shows parents and kids what life was like working and traveling via ship.
While you really can’t play “Titanic,” you can certainly dream about it when touring the swanky guest quarters.
2. Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
This one doesn’t take a ton of time to tour, but it’s definitely worthy of a visit at least once. Giving homage to the American Civil War, giant bronze groupings show scenes from each of four military battle scenes. Its exterior is lovely to check out on a warm day, but the inside is so worth a quick peek. If you really want to see a cool optical illusion, ask the folks inside the story of the statue’s saber.
3. Lakeshore Views
Even on colder days, we like to visit Voinovich Bicentennial Park right on the lakeshore. For my family, there’s not a bad view. Honestly, there’s a 360 degree view of water. In summer there are live shows and concerts, so make sure to check the schedule when you visit.
4. Cleveland Museum of Art
If I had to choose the best place in Cleveland to take kids, it would be the Cleveland Museum of Art. Why an art museum? Simple, really. Not only is it filled with art, both modern and of the masters, but it’s free! A cool, interactive app, ArtLens, lets us find favorite artifacts and art pieces and learn more about them.
Then there’s the ArtLens Gallery. Created with curious families in mind, it uses digital technology to delve deeper into the museum’s collection.
On nice days, make sure to head to the outdoor art displays and giant water fountain.
5. Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Here’s my two cents. The best way for kiddos to learn is when they don’t think they’re learning. CMNH is one of those places in Cleveland that will accomplish that task. The Shafran Planetarium is a good place to start, although kids that don’t dig dark places may shy away.
The museum is not a massive one, so it’s great for younger kids or for folks that don’t want to spend an entire day at one spot. If you dig dinosaurs (I had to write it!), look for Happy, the museum’s first dino.
6. Edgewater Park Beach
Just outside of Cleveland proper sits Edgewater Beach Park. There’s plenty to do including swimming, nature hiking, and picnicking. In winter, locals like to hit the shore for ice fishing, too.
TravelingMom Tip: The beach area isn’t super large, so if you want to spend a day there, go early enough to grab a spot.
7. Cleveland Free Stamp
Check out Cleveland social media and you’ll undoubtedly find the Cleveland Free Stamp is a popular spot for photos. Happily titled the World’s Largest Rubber Stamp, it’s 28 feet by 48 feet. Knowing the history behind why it has the word free on it is just as interesting, too.
Originally created to sit close to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, the stamp was held in a warehouse in Indiana until 1991. It now sits in Cleveland Willard Park.
8. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Unless you’re extremely ambitious, a visit to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is an all day affair. If you’ve only got 24 hours in Cleveland, and the weather is pleasant, it’s definitely on my short list. Heck, it’s a great daycation idea, too. Happily, I don’t mind a bit. It’s split into themed areas with the usual zoo animals. What sets it apart is its RainForest. With a 25-feet tall waterfall, 10,000 plants, and over 600 animals, the giant indoor space is a true stunner.
Of course, the rest of the zoo cannot be discounted, either. Areas are based on Loop Trails and there are plenty of places to rest and play.
9. A Christmas Story House and Museum
If yours is anything like my family, there’s one movie on for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day: A Christmas Story. While the movie’s setting is Hohman, Indiana, it was filmed in Cleveland. The house actually has overnight stays for true fans. Across the street is the museum and its filled with movie props like Randy’s snowsuit and the Parker family’s car.
TravelingMom Tip: Make sure the kids have seen the movie before visiting. The stories behind the filming and props will come to life.
10. Westside Market
When my daughter was a tween, a visit to Westside Market was an eye opener. It’s filled with local fruit and veg and it was a hoot to see her already-creative mind begin to think up meal ideas. Truly.
Cleveland’s oldest public market is filled with over 100 vendors that sell everything from flowers to fresh meat, so take a cooler along with you to keep your purchases fresh.
Travelingmom Tip: Try to look for items that the kids haven’t eaten yet. With all of the colorful offerings, it will be hard to resist trying new flavors and foods!
11.Cleveland Botanical Garden
You may think of a garden setting as a warm weather destination, but Cleveland Botanical Garden is a four season spot, for sure. A walk through the GlassHouse is a fun way to beat the chilly, winter weather. In summer, the outdoor walking spots, including the Hershey’s Children’s Garden, were made for kids.
If you’re planning a fall visit, make sure to mosey along the wooden walkways in the Woodland Garden. It’s filled with trees, birds, and wildflowers.
TravelingMom Tip: Make sure your camera’s batteries are fully charged. Cleveland Botanical Garden is a great spot for family photos.
12. Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Last, but certainly not least, is Greater Cleveland Aquarium. 1,400 animals. 250 species. Uncountable fun. Alright, that may sound like an ad, but it’s the truth. Completely indoors, the aquarium is located inside a restored powerhouse.
What my family loves: the 175-feet long SeaTube that winds around and under the giant aquariums. Kids, no matter what the age or size, will have a great view of a created ocean floor.
Do you have a favorite Cleveland spot to take the kids? Please let us know in the comment section below!