John Mayer was there, honoring his idol, Stevie Ray Vaughn. Patti Smith was there, performing a musical tribute to the songs of the late Lou Reed. And, of course, Sir Paul was there, inducting his old pal Ringo into the Hall for a second time.
As the star-studded line up for this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony took their places onstage, I’ve been recalling our family trip to the Hall last summer. As a family of music lovers, we considered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one of the highlights of our trip. We didn’t rub elbows with any headliners – this time! – but we did get to experience a one-of-a-kind walk through the pages of rock history, filled with genuine artifacts, little known facts, the sights and sounds of rock through the ages.
Destination Cleveland provided tickets for my family, but we did all the planning ourselves. After all, how could I explain my family’s eclectic tastes – from the Beatles to the Ramones with a side of Springsteen and a good measure of Motown – to anyone else? Fortunately, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame showcased all of these favorites.
NAVIGATING THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME
Even before you enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you can tell you’re in for something special. The building itself is gorgeous, a diamond pyramid sitting on the shores of Lake Erie. Designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, the Hall is the world’s first museum dedicated to rock and roll music.
Inside, there are six levels of history, exhibits and, of course, interactive music. We started on the lower level, which took us back in time to the very roots of rock music. Here we explored several permanent exhibits, including one solely focused on Elvis Presley and another showcasing the legends of rock and roll, including the Rolling Stones, the Supremes, and Michael Jackson.
This level also featured several interactive listening experiences, where my kids could don headphones and listen in on various soundtracks. One of our favorites let you choose your favorite artist, and listen in on the artists who inspired him. Rapper’s Delight, the story of hip hop, was also featured on this level, which pleased my middle son.
The second level continued the history with The Architects of Rock and Roll. Also on this level was a fun video presentation called Video Killed the Radio Star (the Buggles, anyone?), which explored the classic videos from the early MTV age. A fun exhibit about one hit wonders was also included in this floor.
The third and fourth levels weren’t as intensive, but each included some not-to-be-missed exhibits. The highlight of the third level was the film footage of various Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, which was a virtual who’s who of rock stars. A huge exhibit of Pink Floyd’s The Wall dominated the fourth level.
One of my personal favorite exhibits was the two walls commemorating Rolling Stone Magazine, including cover art and letters to the editor. Letters came from all over – from John Lennon’s penthouse to Charles Manson’s jail cell – and were a real insight on how media affected the public’s perception of rock and roll. (Yes, I guess I’m just a journalist at heart.)
The top floor is always dedicated to special exhibits. Last summer, we enjoyed Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience, which featured the sights and sounds of the many Woodstock festivals. Growing up, I always heard stories of when my dad went to Woodstock, so it was fun to see what the atmosphere there was really like.
I asked my family about their favorite exhibits, and the responses were as varied as their tastes in music. But if we were to compile a list of “don’t miss” exhibits, it would include:
- The Beatles exhibit, especially for the lyric sheet for “Birthday” in Paul McCartney’s handwriting, the birthday card Ringo sent John in ’69, and the bright yellow jacket Lennon donned on Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
- Timothy B. Schmidt’s hotel key collection. This former Eagle collected keys as the band toured cross country. Since we collect “Do Not Disturb” signs from our various hotel visits, we could relate to this particular souvenir.
- The fashion floor. Even my daughter, who at 11 isn’t into music older than YouTube groups, enjoyed the display of rock fashion, from MJ’s studded glove to Madonna’s bustier and the tie dye of the Grateful Dead.
- The Jim Morrison displays. Even if you aren’t a Doors fan, these are a fascinating view into the Lizard King, from birth (including the hospital bill from his delivery) to death (“The Report of a Death of an American Citizen” from the US Embassy in Paris). I loved reading the letter Morrison’s father wrote to his parole officer in Florida, stating he had tried to steer his boy away from rock and roll “because of what I consider to be a complete lack of talent in this direction.” Priceless!
Visiting The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland OH
Located at 1100 Rock and Roll Boulevard, Cleveland OH 44114
As of this (4/2015) writing, tickets for adults are $22. Greater Cleveland residents enter at a reduced rate of $18. Seniors (65+) and those with a military ID are $17, and children 9-12 are $13. Kids 8 and under are free with an adult admission. Tickets are available online or at the box office.
Learn More About It
Click here to read about the latest special exhibit at the Hall – all about Paul Simon.
Movies more your speed? We also visited the Christmas Story House and Museum the same day.