For those who have never visited Cleveland with kids, it might be time to consider a detour to this former Rust Belt city. Cleveland is hard at work trying to re-invent itself and become a vibrant Midwestern hub once again. They are doing so with massive development efforts, an up and coming culinary scene, and museums that outshine some of their big city counterparts. Families will love the friendly hospitality and affordability that can be hard to find in other big cities.
This summer we traveled through Cleveland on our way to Cooperstown, New York. We were hoping to spend close to 24 hours inCleveland, but we got lost coming out of Chicago (not my fault) so it ended up being closer to 20 hours. We packed a lot into that small window of time. We taught our kids about the historical significance of the city, explored the city’s museums, and hopefully re-defined our children’s definition of rock and roll music.
Places to Visit
Greater Cleveland Aquarium
The Greater Cleveland Aquarium is a bit out of the downtown area, located in a former powerhouse on the banks of the Cuyahoga River. The aquarium has a very unique layout and vibe, tastefully incorporating the building’s original features into its present day use as an aquarium. It’s not very large, so it’s easy to walk through in under an hour, and if your kids love fish, petting sting rays, admiring glowing jelly fish, and walking through a shark tube, this is the place for them. If you have never experienced walking down a tunnel while sharks swim above and around you, it’s a pretty cool experience. Our kids loved it for what it was, short and sweet.
Great Lakes Science Center
Our family tends to have an addiction to all science museums and this one stands out as one of the better ones we visited this summer. The Great Lakes Science Center is housed in a beautiful building overlooking Lake Erie. It’s home to the NASA Glenn Visitor Center, an IMAX theater, the steamship William G. Mather, and hundreds of hands-on exhibits. Our kids loved pretending to be astronauts, watching and participating in demonstrations, and learning about various science phenomena. We only stayed a couple of hours, but the kids would have stayed longer if we had time.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Adjacent to the science center is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, one of the major attractions for visitors coming to Cleveland. Walking into the building, we had no idea what to expect, but when we discovered there were seven floors of exhibit space, we knew we didn’t have time to see everything. We made a quick tour of the lower levels, admiring the Legends of Rock and Roll memorabilia and Hall of Fame inductees exhibit. The kids loved the jukeboxes where they could choose different inductees and listen to songs from their catalog. We only had two hours to spend at the Hall of Fame before closing time, but easily could have stayed longer. The museum is pretty well laid out and the history of music and interactive displays will fascinate visitors of all ages.
Our central location at the Holiday Inn Express Downtown gave us easy access to all of the sporting venues in Cleveland. By chance, the Chicago Cubs were playing the Cleveland Indians the night we were there, so my husband and oldest son went to the game. The field was easy to walk to and they felt very safe at night getting to and from the hotel. The game went extra innings and the Cubs lost, but they enjoyed seeing a new ballpark.
Cleveland deserved more than the short visit we were able to give it. Many children would also enjoy the zoo, botanical garden, and Natural History Museum.
The city has done an amazing job creating must-see attractions and a vibrant foodie scene. We only sampled two restaurants near our hotel, Noodlecat and Hodges, but everyone loved their meals. It was obvious from the hotel staff that the food scene in Cleveland is second to none and there are endless choices for a decent meal.
We may have spent less than 24 hours in Cleveland with kids, but we packed a lot into our short visit. The one thing we learned on this trip was that Cleveland is a city with a rich history and culture, it’s a wonder it often gets overlooked. This may have been our first visit to the city, but it certainly won’t be our last.