30 Best Things to Do in Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland is best known for being the birthplace of rock and roll, x-ray machines and superman. The 52nd largest city of the United States has also given us other gems such as Halle Berry, Paul Newman, Steph Curry, Bob Hope and Steve Harvey. A city famous for its quirk and hospitality will leave you asking for more.
Here are 30 things you can do at Cleveland:
Visit the Cleveland Botanical Garden
The Cleveland botanical garden was established in the year 1930 and since then, has been an urban sanctuary for the locals and tourists. The garden contains the Eleanor Armstrong Smith glasshouse which is divided into two parts; the first area is dedicated to the Madagascar desert and the second area is a replica of the Costa Rican Rainforest and contains colossal strangler fig, coffee, papaya and chocolate trees. A favorite among the kids is the Hershey’s chocolate garden and another lush green space is the Japanese, herb, rose and topiary gardens.
Support Local Farmers at West Side Market
The west side market is one of the best indoor markets of North America and is based inside a stunning early 19th century building. The market is often crowded with locals buying fresh produce or tourists surveying the goodies of Cleveland. There are 100 stalls inside the hall and they serve fresh cuts of meat, sausages, vegetables, sweets from various bakeries, spice sellers, fishmongers and cheese mongers, among many others. You can either decide to have a meal here or buy produce and cook up a meal of your own choice.
Turn Back the Clock at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The notable building of the Rock and Roll hall of fame and museum is situated on the shores of Lake Erie and boasts of a rich collection of displays, exhibitions and collections of rock and roll singers. The most fascinating areas of the museum include the Pink Floyd wall, portraits taken by photographer Herb Ritts and Legends of Rock. The museum also has a library, archive and educational programs for both, adults and children.
Get Educated at the Museum of Natural History
The Museum of Natural History has an extensive outdoor area which includes the Lake Erie Island, hardwood forest, fossil dune ridge, marsh, glacial wetland and the swamp. The indoor area contains the dinosaur hall, Shafran Planetarium and an interactive display called the Smead discovery center. The museum hosts nature hikes, educational programs and temporary exhibits such as fossil hunters and teen night at the museum.
Meet Animals at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
The Cleveland metroparks zoo is not only one of the largest in the country but is legendary for being founded in the year 1892. The Zoo is divided into various bio-thematic sections such as the African Savannah, the Australian adventure, the Northern trek and the Rainforest. The Wolf wilderness zone replicates life in the northern temperate forest and the cat and aquatics building houses gorillas, lemurs and monkeys. In case, you get tired of walking around you can hop on one of the Zoo trams and add more fun to the experience.
Watch a Live Performance at Playhouse Square
The Playhouse Square is a group of regional theatres in Cleveland which include the Allen theatre, the Helen theatre and the outcalt theatre. There are numerous well-known and high quality shows which are produced and showcased here on a weekly basis and if you get the opportunity of attending a show, you must seize it. It is situated in downtown Cleveland and has been successfully running since 1915 as well as creating educational programs for the youth and community at large.
Admire Culture at the Museum of Contemporary Art
The museum of contemporary art is a not-for-profit institution and was founded in the year 1968 during the Hippie era. The museum houses 2,000 works of original art and has temporary exhibitions which in the past have featured Andy Warhol, Jim Hodges and Christo. If you’re an art lover, you will appreciate the sheer effort and regard shown to contemporary and modern art as well as the various educational programs organized for the community.
Learning is Fun at Great Lakes Science Center
The great lakes science center was founded in the year 1996 and since then has been hosting traveling and permanent exhibits relating to science which are educational as well as fun. The center demonstrates the natural environment of the great lakes region and contains the NASA Glenn visitor center which hosts galleries, interactive exhibits and artifacts. You can also marvel at the Steamship Mather from 1925 and visit the IMAX Dome theatre which seats 300 people and is 79 feet tall.
Visit the Cleveland Museum of Art
The Cleveland museum of art is significant in regards to its awe inspiring architecture of a neoclassical white marble building as well as for the fact it was founded in the year 1913. The museum houses art from around the world including Africa, Europe, Asia and most importantly, Egypt. There are 30,000 works of art which span 5,000 years and some of them are world renowned and revolutionary. The museum is a cultural institution and hosts educational programs and community events.
Become Artistically Curious at Gordon Square
The Gordon square was formerly a blue collar neighborhood but in the late 1990s, a group of dedicated volunteers transformed it into an arts district. The area contains numerous theatres such as the intergenerational community theatre called near west, the Cleveland public theatre, the Brick city theatre and a complex which runs independent, art and documentary films called Capitol theatre. There are many restaurants including the Irish pub called the harp, cha pizza and spirits, happy dog and the toast wine bar.
Admire the Views Atop the Terminal Tower
The terminal tower was opened to the public in the year 1930 as an office for the centralized rail system in the city of Cleveland but has recently, been opened to the public. The tower is 708 feet tall and has 52 storey’s which makes the views from the observation desk breathtaking and awe inspiring. There are 25 minute long guided tours offered where a visitor can enjoy 360 degree views of the city from the 42nd floor of the tower. The historic site has stood as a witness to the vast history and eccentricities of Cleveland including the debacle of the balloon fest when 1.5 million balloons were released from the center of the city.
Marvel at the Frozen Cleveland Lighthouse
The lighthouse was built in the year 1911 and stood witness to many of Cleveland’s historic moments but the structure itself went unnoticed for decades. In 2010, Mother Nature sculpted this ordinary lighthouse with an extraordinary natural phenomenon when splashes from Lake Eerie hit the lighthouse repetitively and the water froze and gathered around the building. This ice has remained the way it set many years ago and has transformed this lighthouse into one of the most visited tourist spots of Cleveland. The view of the frozen lighthouse in the middle of the great lakes region is a spectacular site and as a visitor, you should make most of the picture perfect location by bringing your camera along.
Shop Till You Drop at the Cleveland Arcade
They say, necessity is the mother of invention but often, invention is the product of a rich snob’s idea for staying cool during the hot summer seasons. John D. Rockefeller built the first indoor shopping complex of North America in the 1880s and since then, it has provided relief to many Clevelander’s during the hot waves. The Hyatt regency hotel occupies the top floor of the arcade and the other two floors house many retail shops and cafes. The building is modeled after Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II and is absolutely dazzling.
Too Much to See at the University Circle Area
The university circle area was developed in the 18th century and is home to some of the best health, educational and recreational institutions of Cleveland. A visitor can visit a number of spots including the Cleveland orchestra, institute of art, the Ronald McDonald house, western reserve historical society and the Crawford auto and aviation museum. As you walk along, you will encounter residential Parkside townhouses and heritage lane historic homes as well as many restaurants and bakeries like the coffee house, Mitchell’s ice cream, potbelly sandwich shop, rascal house pizza, falafel café and ABC the tavern. If you decide to stay in this area, you can book yourself a room at one of the hotels such as Tudor arms or Glidden house.
Remember the Past at the James A. Garfield Monument
The James A. Garfield monument is dedicated to one of the most prolific and shortest serving presidents in American history. James Garfield was assassinated in the year 1881 and spent only 200 days in office but the monument built in his honor is one of the most striking you will ever come across. The architecture is of the Gothic and classical styles and the rags to riches life story of the former president is portrayed on terra cotta panels. Inside the monument, you will come across beautiful stained glass windows and murals, one of which depicts the exact moment a disgruntled office worker shot and killed Mr. Garfield. He and his wife are interred in the crypt and their caskets can be seen by the public.
Strength of Diversity at the Cultural Gardens
The cultural gardens are a group of 26 gardens situated along the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and represent the nationalities which call Cleveland their home. People belonging to these various nationalities have set up a lush green sanctuary which represents the values of inclusivity, diversity and tolerance. Here, a visitor can spend their day strolling around, biking, having a picnic, sunbathing or admiring at the statues of famous individuals.
Quench Your Thirst at Great Lakes Brewing Company
The great Lakes brewing company is extremely popular and well-known in Cleveland and when it was set up in 1988, it became the first microbrewery of the city. The brewing company has a brewpub which has a tiger mahogany bar from the 1800s as well as beer cellar and a Rockefeller room. The place also has a shop where you can purchase beer bottles, barware and apparel as a souvenir. Their notable beers include the dortmunder gold, turntable pils and light keeper blonde ale.
Fight the Enemy at USS Cod Submarine Memorial
The USS cod submarine is the only United States Navy vessel to be named after the cod fish which is found in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. The submarine was commissioned in 1943 and is credited with sinking 12 enemy vessels. It has been moored since the end of the war and is open daily to the public in the month of September. The mighty submarine was built by General motors and still has the same stairways and doors used in the initial times.
Dive Deep at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium
The greater Cleveland aquarium is one of the most loved tourist spots and has 40 tanks containing aquatic life ranging from fishes found in Lake Eerie to exotic marine life from around the globe. The Coastal zone allows visitors to physically touch stingrays, rays and sharks. The weird and wonderful and the shark tank are the other zones situated inside the vicinity. After a tiring day of parents taming their kids, you can visit their in-house restaurant and eat sandwiches, salads or pizzas after which, you can buy souvenirs at the gift shop.
Fly High at the International Women’s Air and Space Museum
The state of Ohio is generally referred to as the ‘birthplace of aviation’ and the contribution made by female pilots and engineers has often been overlooked. Situated inside the Burke lakefront airport is the hidden gem of International women’s air and space museum. The systematic glass cases enclose various memorabilia and artifacts worn by women aviation officers such as the helmet of Ruby Wine Sheldon who was the first female to receive certification for Helicopter instrument training. Other times include vintage stewardess uniforms and miniature models of planes.
Have a Poetic Evening at Brews and Prose
Brews and Prose is a distinctive literary event which takes place in the basement of the market Garden brewery. The reason for its distinctiveness lies in the fact it believes poetry belongs in bars and I have to say, this explains the connection between writers and alcoholism. Here, you can enjoy a glass of chilled beer and snacks while listening to some of the best literary talent Cleveland has to offer. This is not only a great way to breathe in the cultural air of the city but to support the dying medium of oral storytelling in the age of social media.
Satiate Your Taste Buds at Luna
Luna bakery was started in the year 2011 and is situated in the historic Cedar Fairmount district of Cleveland. Luna is considered to be a hidden gem and is a European-style bakery with patios and limited seating. Even though it primarily serves sweets, you can also choose from some savory options such as salads, Panini’s, burritos and avocado toast. The best dishes to satisfy your sweet tooth include crepes, scratch pastries and cakes made with the highest quality ingredients.
Horror Has an Address at Franklin Castle
The Franklin castle was built in the 1880s by a banker whose family life was marred by tragedy which began with the death of his daughter and three infant children. It was followed by the sudden demise of his mother and later, his wife. The tales of the haunting include sounds of a baby crying, a woman walking across the hallway, human bones found in the closet and remnants of an axe murder. Interestingly, the castle is privately owned but visitors can enjoy its Victorian architecture and tales of death from outside of the building which are enough to leave them bewildered.
Pay Your Respects at St. Theodosius Cathedral
President Donald Trump would be very pleased knowing that the St. Theodosius cathedral was built during the early years of the 20th century and was funded by Czar Nicholas II. The architect borrowed heavily from Russian architecture and hence, the building is one of the most distinctive and uncommon you will see in the entire country. The striking architecture includes an onion dome and vibrant murals painted in the colors of red, blue and gold. This is a famous orthodox church and was used for the wedding scene in the 1978 hit movie ‘The Deer hunter.’
Get Spooked at the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft
The Buckland museum of witchcraft and magick may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is definitely worth a visit especially when you get to see a ‘demon in the box’ captured in the 1970s. The museum’s history goes back to the late 1960s when Raymond Buckland decided to create a display for all the occult and witchcraft paraphernalia he had collected over the years. Some of the items include Egyptian funerary figurines, items from the Salem witch trials, artifacts belonging to astrologers, magicians and fortune tellers. If you’re willing to be spooked then, you must visit this quirky museum and have a one-of-a-kind experience.
The Oldest of Them All, the Dunham Tavern
The Dunham tavern is considered to be the oldest building of Cleveland having been built in the year 1824. The initial owners of the home had installed a taproom, horse stables and a guest house which quickly became a bustling hangout space for locals but in the later years, it became a single family home and was kept away from the public eye. In 1941, the Dunham Tavern was transformed into a museum where there are displays of antiques, memorabilia and the history of this city open for the public. Having lived through almost every important event of the 19th and 20th centuries, you can’t help but wonder what tales these walls would tell if they could talk?
Cat and Dine at Affogato
The affoGATO café is not your regular hangout space because it is Cleveland’s first and only cat café which means you get to enjoy your cup of coffee while petting adorable cats. The café and cat lounge are in separate corners and some of the best dishes you can try here include the ice cream pop-o-gato, catpawccino, the snow leopard and purr-over. The best part of AffoGATO is that it offers cat adoptions for any enthusiastic cat lover.
Experience Night Life at Little Italy
The lively area of little Italy is situated on Mayfield road hill and was established by sculptor Joseph Carrabelli in the 1880s as a culturally significant place brimming with lovely cafes, deli’s, art galleries and restaurants serving up some of the highest quality and delicious food in Cleveland. The area becomes even more vibrant during festivals such as the feast of the assumption and hosts art walks as well as provides for an exciting night life.
The Hidden Beauty of the Wade Memorial Chapel
The Wade memorial chapel was built in the year 1901 and is a Greek revival building where locals of Cleveland hold weddings and funerals but the most alluring part of the chapel is its stained glass window which was painted by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The window is 9 feet tall and 7 feet wide and is known as the flight of souls or the resurrection window. The murals painted on the window are called the fulfillment and the enlightenment on the east and the law and the prophets on the west. This is a hidden gem of the city and once you stand parallel to the striking stained glass window, you will cherish the experience for a long time to come.
Initially, Cleveland may seem like an unassuming metropolis but as you dig deeper, you find a vast history riddled with the paranormal and a rich musical heritage. I hope the items on the list are enough to convince you to visit Cleveland and while you’re at it, thank this city for inventing the modern golf ball and keeping your grandfather busy.