Blake Walsh

35 Best Things to Do in Cleveland, OH

  • Published 2023/02/06

Cleveland, the 52nd largest city in the United States, is best known as the birthplace of rock and roll, x-ray machines, and superman.

The city is also notable for its other gems, such as Halle Berry, Paul Newman, Steph Curry, Bob Hope, and Steve Harvey.

Other than its prominent people, Cleveland offers different attractions you may want to try, including parks, coffee shops, restaurants, gardens, and many more!

Interested to know more about this stunning city?

Here are the 35 best things to do in Cleveland, Ohio:

Visit the Cleveland Botanical Garden

Cleveland Botanical Garden

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Cleveland Botanical Garden was established in 1930 and, since then, has been an urban sanctuary for locals and tourists.

The garden contains the Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse, which is divided into two parts.

Butterfly at Cleveland Botanical Garden

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One of which is dedicated to the Madagascar desert, and the second is a replica of the Costa Rican Rainforest, which contains colossal strangler fig, coffee, papaya, and chocolate trees.

A favorite among the kids is Hershey’s Chocolate Garden.

Tortoise at Cleveland Botanical Garden

Pat Dooley /

Attend the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival

Cleveland Shakespeare Festival is committed to presenting plays of the highest caliber to patrons in the Greater Cleveland region to foster community through theater.

Through theatrical presentations of Shakespeare’s works, it seeks to better enrich Cleveland and its surrounding areas with the history, creativity, traditions, and academic marvel of William Shakespeare.

Northeast Ohio has had direct access to cost-free, affordable theatre acts for the past 25 years, thanks to the Festival!

Every summer, the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival tours plays across Cleveland, presenting them outdoors in the stunning parks of northeast Ohio, drawing over 3,000 spectators.

Cleveland Shakespeare Festival is an essential source of art and culture for the whole city of Cleveland, with a history of fostering community and enhancing the values of varied populations.

Support Local Farmers at West Side Market

West Side Market

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West Side Market is one of the best indoor markets in North America and is based inside a stunning early 19th-century building.

Exterior view of West Side Market

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There are 100 stalls inside the hall, and they serve fresh cuts of meat, sausages, vegetables, and sweets from various bakeries, spice sellers, fishmongers, and cheese mongers, among many others.

You can either decide to have a meal here or buy products and cook a meal of your choice.

Fresh fruits at West Side Market

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Pay a Visit to the Cleveland Institute of Art

Exterior view of Cleveland Institute of Art

Warren LeMay from Cincinnati, OH, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Among the top approved independent universities of art and design in the country is the Cleveland Institute of Art.

The college has served as a pillar of Cleveland, Ohio’s educational landscape since 1882.

Cleveland Institute of Art combines a personalized learning experience with the advantages of a bigger school for its approximately 600 learners.

Posters at Cleveland Institute of Art

Simon Zirkunow, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

All students, professors, staff, alums, and visitors are welcome to have fair and expansive access to opportunities in classrooms, studios, residence halls, institutional arrangements, galleries, and public places.

Cleveland Institute of Art aims to develop creative leaders through cutting-edge art and design courses who will motivate others, bolster communities, and support a vibrant and sustainable economy.

Visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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The notable building of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is situated on the shores of Lake Erie and boasts a rich collection of displays, exhibitions, and groups of rock and roll singers.

Exhibit at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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The fascinating areas of the museum include the Pink Floyd wall, as well as portraits taken by photographer Herb Ritts and Legends of Rock.

The museum has a library, archive, and educational programs for adults and children.

Entrance to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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Explore the Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Dinosaur at Cleveland Museum of Natural History

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Cleveland Museum of Natural History has an extensive outdoor area that includes Lake Erie Island, hardwood forest, fossil dune ridge, marsh, glacial wetland, and swamp.

Exterior view of Cleveland Museum of Natural History

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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.

Interior view of Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Tim Evanson from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

See Various Animals at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

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Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, one of the largest zoos in the country, was founded in 1892.

The zoo is divided into various bio-thematic sections: the African Savannah, the Australian adventure, the Northern trek, and the Rainforest.

Lantern festival at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Eric Glenn /

The Wolf Wilderness Zone replicates life in the northern temperate forest, and the cat and aquatics building houses gorillas, lemurs, and monkeys.

If you get tired of walking around, you can hop on one of the zoo trams and add more fun to the experience.

Panda lantern at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Eric Glenn /

View the Exhibitions at Rockefeller Park Greenhouse

Colorful plants at Rockefeller Park Greenhouse

Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Originating more than a century ago, the RPG is a greenhouse in Rockefeller Park.

Growing plants for the City Parks and Gardens’ beautification was initially the exclusive purpose of the Greenhouse.

The Greenhouse and surrounding area have transformed into a botanical garden with specialty plant collections, changing flower exhibits, outdoor classrooms, and concept gardens.

Plants at Rockefeller Park Greenhouse


Seasonal gardens and exhibitions are available all year long at the Rockefeller Park Greenhouse.

With prize-winning irises in the Willott Iris Garden and vibrant fruit trees in the Tropical Showhouse, there’s something constantly in bloom at RPG.

Cactus plants at Rockefeller Park Greenhouse


Watch a Live Performance at Playhouse Square

Playhouse Square

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Playhouse Square is a group of regional theatres in Cleveland, including the Allen Theatre, the Helen Theatre, and the Outcalt Theatre.

Numerous well-known and high-quality shows are produced here every week, 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 in creating educational programs for the youth and community.

View of Playhouse Square

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Admire Culture at the Museum of Contemporary Art

Exterior view of Museum of Contemporary Art

Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Museum of Contemporary Art is a not-for-profit institution founded in 1968 during the Hippie era.

The museum houses 2,000 works of original art and has temporary exhibitions, which once 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 and the various educational programs organized for the community.

Hand sculpture placed outside the Museum of Contemporary Art

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Have Fun at Great Lakes Science Center

Great Lakes Science Center

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Great Lakes Science Center was founded in 1996 and since then has been hosting traveling and permanent exhibits related to science that is educational and 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.

Front view of Great Lakes Science Center

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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.

Exterior view of Great Lakes Science Center

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Take a Look at the Steamship William G. Mather

View of Steamship William G. Mather

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Great Lakes Engineering Works in Ecorse, Michigan, constructed the Steamship William G. Mather in 1925.

At the moment of its construction, it was considered the pinnacle of ship design, propulsion, navigation technology, and staff quarters.

See what it was like to live on board a working Great Lakes freighter by taking a tour of this refurbished 618-foot historical ship.

Interior view of Steamship William G. Mather

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Discover the massive cargo holds, the pilot house made of brass and oak, the opulent guest rooms, and the four-story engine room of the 1925-built Mather by traversing it from bow to stern.

Wander the decks and take what made Northeast Ohio a thriving manufacturing hub.

Experience the golden age of steamships aboard one of the greatest!

Cabin at Steamship William G. Mather

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Visit the Cleveland Museum of Art

Cleveland Museum of Art

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Cleveland Museum of Art is significant in regards to its awe-inspiring architecture of a neoclassical white marble building and the fact it was founded in 1913.

The museum houses art from around the world, including Africa, Europe, Asia, and Egypt.

View of Cleveland Museum of Art

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There are 30,000 works of art that 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.

Interior view of Cleveland Museum of Art

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Go Shopping at Gordon Square Arts District

Gordon Square Arts District 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 that runs independent art and documentary films called Capitol Theatre.

Admire the Views Atop the Terminal Tower

Terminal Tower

Kenneth Sponsler /

Terminal Tower was opened to the public in 1930 as an office for the centralized rail system in Cleveland but has recently been opened to the public.

The tower is 708 feet tall and has 52 stories which makes the views from the observation deck breathtaking.

Interior view of the Terminal Tower

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There are 25-minute guided tours where a visitor can enjoy 360-degree views of the city from the 42nd floor of the tower.

The historic site had stood as a witness to Cleveland’s vast history and eccentricities, including the debacle of the balloon fest when 1.5 million balloons were released from the center of the city.

Wander around the Transformer Station

On Cleveland’s west side, Transformer Station is a privately managed and owned art gallery that opened its doors in 2013.

Introducing the work of eminent modern artists to Northeast Ohio is something Transformer Station is particularly interested in.

Transformer Station combines a historic landmark structure with a modern minimalist extension and has established itself as a critical location in Cleveland’s quickly changing Ohio City district.

Within a short walk of the restaurants and stores of the Market District and a few streets from the Gordon Square Arts District, the museum introduces a brand-new cultural asset to an area that is both residential and industrial.

Every year, the museum offers four exhibitions aided by imaginative programming.

Marvel at the Frozen Cleveland Lighthouse

Cleveland Lighthouse

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Frozen Cleveland Lighthouse was built in 1911 and witnessed 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.

View of the Frozen Cleveland Lighthouse

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This ice has remained the way it set many years ago and has transformed this lighthouse into one of Cleveland’s most visited tourist spots.

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 the most of the picture-perfect location by bringing your camera along.

Shop Till You Drop at The Arcade

Cleveland Arcade

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John D. Rockefeller built the first indoor shopping complex in North America in the 1880s, and since then, The Arcade has provided relief to many Clevelanders during the hot waves.

Stunning archtecture of the Arcade

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The Hyatt Regency Hotel occupies the top floor of the arcade, and the other two house many retail shops and cafes.

The building is dazzling, modeled after Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II.

Christmas decoration at the Arcade

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Wander around the University Circle Area

University Circle Area

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University Circle Area was developed in the 18th century and is home to some of Cleveland’s best health, educational and recreational institutions.

Visitors can visit several spots, including the Cleveland Orchestra, Ronald McDonald House, and the Western Reserve Historical Society.

View of University Circle Area

Tim Evanson from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As you walk along, you will encounter residential Parkside townhouses and heritage lane historic homes, as well as many restaurants and bakeries.

If you decide to stay in this area, you can book a room at one of the hotels, such as Tudor Arms or Glidden House.

Kossuth Monument at University Circle Area

Warren LeMay from Cincinnati, OH, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Remember the Past at the James A. Garfield Monument

James A. Garfield Monument

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James A. Garfield Monument is dedicated to one of the most prolific and shortest-serving presidents in American history.

James Garfield was assassinated in 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.

Facade of the James A. Garfield Monument

Zack Frank /

Inside the monument, you will come across beautiful stained glass windows and murals, one of which depicts the moment a disgruntled office worker shot and killed Mr. Garfield.

He and his wife are interred in the crypt, and the public can see their caskets.

Interior view of the James A. Garfield Monument

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Pay a Visit to Cleveland Cultural Gardens

View of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens

Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cleveland Cultural Gardens are a group of 26 gardens situated along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and represent the nationalities that call Cleveland their home.

People of these various nationalities have set up a lush green sanctuary representing inclusivity, diversity, and tolerance.

Here, a visitor can spend their day strolling around, biking, having a picnic, sunbathing, or admiring the statues of famous individuals.

View of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens

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Quench Your Thirst for Beers at Great Lakes Brewing Company

Great Lakes Brewing Company is top-rated and well-known in Cleveland, and when it was set up in 1988, it became the city’s first microbrewery.

The brewing company has a brewpub with a tiger mahogany bar from the 1800s, a beer cellar, and a Rockefeller room.

The place also has a shop where you can purchase beer bottles, barware, and apparel as souvenirs.

Their notable beers include the dortmunder gold, turntable pils, and light keeper blonde ale.

Visit USS Cod Submarine Memorial

View of the USS Cod Submarine Memorial

Cliff, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

USS Cod Submarine Memorial is the only United States Navy vessel named after the cod fish found in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans.

The submarine was commissioned in 1943 and is credited with sinking 12 enemy vessels.

View of the USS Cod Submarine Memorial

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It has been moored since the war’s end and is open daily to the public.

The mighty submarine was built by General Motors and still has the same stairways and doors used in the initial times.

See Various Aquatic Animals at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium

Exterior view of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium

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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 touch stingrays, rays, and sharks physically.

Shark at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium

Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The weird and wonderful shark tank is 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.

Jelly fish at Greater Cleveland Aquarium

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Revisit History at the International Women’s Air and Space Museum

Exterior view of the International Women’s Air and Space Museum

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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 International Women’s Air and Space Museum.

Interior view of the International Women’s Air and Space Museum

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Exhibits at International Women’s Air and Space Museum

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Have a Poetic Evening at Brews and Prose

Brews and Prose is a unique literary event 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 Cleveland’s best literary talents.

This is a great way to breathe in the city’s cultural air and support the dying medium of oral storytelling in the age of social media.

Satiate Your Taste Buds at Luna Bakery and Cafe

Luna Bakery and Cafe was started in 2011 and is situated in the historic Cedar Fairmount district of Cleveland.

This bakery is considered a hidden gem and a European-style bakery with patios and limited seating.

Even though it primarily serves sweets, you can also choose from savory options such as salads, Panini, burritos, and avocado toast.

The best dishes to satisfy your sweet tooth include crepes, scratch pastries, and cakes with the highest quality ingredients.

Explore Franklin Castle

Exterior view of the Franklin Castle

Christopher Busta-Peck, CC BY-SA 1.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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 haunting tales include 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 the building, which are enough to leave them bewildered.

Take Some Pictures Outside of St. Theodosius Orthodox Cathedral

Exterior view of the St. Theodosius Orthodox Cathedral

Eddie~S, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

St. Theodosius Orthodox Cathedral is one of the most distinctive and uncommon in the country.

The striking architecture includes an onion dome and vibrant red, blue, and gold murals.

This famous orthodox church was used for the wedding scene in the 1978 hit movie ‘The Deer hunter.’

Get Spooked at the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft & Magick

Buckland Museum of Witchcraft & Magick may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is worth a visit, especially when you 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 items include Egyptian funerary figurines, articles from the Salem witch trials, and artifacts belonging to astrologers, magicians, and fortune tellers.

If you’re willing to be spooked, you must visit this quirky museum and have a one-of-a-kind experience.

Visit Dunham Tavern Museum & Gardens

Dunham Tavern Museum & Gardens is considered to be the oldest building in 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.

In the later years, however, it became a single-family home and was kept away from the public eye.

In 1941, the Dunham Tavern Museum & Gardens was transformed into a museum with displays of antiques, memorabilia, and the history of this city open to the public.

Dine at affoGATO Cat Cafe

affoGATO Cat Cafe 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, cappuccino, 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

Church at the Little Italy, Ohio

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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.

This neighborhood brims with lovely cafes, delis, art galleries, and restaurants serving up some of the highest quality and delicious food in Cleveland.

Shop at Little Italy

Warren LeMay from Cincinnati, OH, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The area becomes even more vibrant during festivals such as the feast of the assumption, hosts art walks, and provides exciting nightlife.

People celebrating a feast at Little Italy

Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Discover the Hidden Beauty of the Wade Memorial Chapel

Entrance to the Wade Memorial Chapel

Ray Curtis, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wade Memorial Chapel was built in 1901 and is a Greek revival building where locals of Cleveland hold weddings and funerals.

The most alluring part of the chapel is its stained glass window, which Louis Comfort Tiffany painted.

Side view of Wade Memorial Chapel

Christopher Busta-Peck, CC BY-SA 1.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The window is 9 feet tall and 7 feet wide and is known as the Flight of Souls or the Resurrection Window.

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.

Final Thoughts

Cleveland, Ohio, is a thriving, culturally varied city with top-notch museums, free activities, one-of-a-kind wedding locations, and lovely parks.

With theaters and community performance spaces, it boasts a bustling arts and cultural environment that you can constantly explore.

There’s no excuse not to maximize your Cleveland vacation with all these enjoyable possibilities.

Regardless of how long you plan to stay in the city, you’ll discover activities to amuse and entertain yourself.

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