Best Things To Do in Cleveland
Although not nearly as big as NYC, Los Angeles or Chicago, Cleveland's 78 square miles are jam-packed with things to do for visitors of all ages and interests. Foodies, adventure-seekers, nature-lovers, sports fanatics and history buffs alike will find plenty of things to enjoy in Cleveland. If you're planning to visit in the warmer months, consider spending a few days exploring the Cleveland Botanical Garden, the Cleveland Metroparks and the Cleveland Zoo for some outdoor fun for the whole family. If you're looking to escape the heat or snow, you definitely do not want to miss the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum or the Cleveland Museum of Art, both local and visitor favorites. And when you get hungry, make sure to stop by the historic West Side Market for some international grub — the baked goods come highly recommended.
Updated May 2, 2017
- #1View all Photos#1 in Cleveland4 miles to city centerHiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND4 miles to city centerHiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
More than 21,000 acres of nature preserves make up Cleveland's extensive metropolitan park system. There are 18 parks and reservations throughout the Cleveland area that offer a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, fishing, boating, horseback riding and more. Visitors can learn about the reservations at any of the 10 nature visitors centers or partake in group programs like animal tracking and nature explorers. Bring lunch and rest your legs in the picnic areas located throughout the parks.
Although all the reservations provide endless amounts of outdoor fun and gorgeous scenery, the Rocky River Reservation and North Chagrin Reservation come highly recommended from past visitors who said the views were incredible and the nature sightings were aplenty. Many reported seeing a variety of ducks, frogs and birds. The thousands of trails are also great for walks, hikes and bike rides. The Lakefront, Brookside and Washington reservations are within the downtown Cleveland area, and are convenient alternatives if you don't feel like making the trek to the Rocky River and North Chagrin reservations.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Cleveland0.7 miles to city centerMuseums, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND0.7 miles to city centerMuseums, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Beating out NYC for the location of choice, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is one of Cleveland's most popular attractions. In fact, since its opening in 1995, more than 9 million visitors, musicians and celebrities alike have walked through its doors. The museum houses a number of permanent and temporary exhibits, as well as special collections and artifacts from some of the best rock 'n' roll musicians of all time, such as The Beatles, Metallica, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and many more. The museum also offers lectures, films, panel discussions and, of course, live rock music performances. But perhaps the museum's most famous event is the annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony that takes place every April.
You don't need to be a die-hard fan of rock music to enjoy the country's one and only Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Recent visitors loved the museum's massive collection of memorabilia and enjoyed the historical aspects behind each exhibit. The short films and inductee videos come highly recommended, as well as the outdoor patio and cafe, and the museum shop. Although, some warn that this may not be a great place to bring youngsters who aren't all that familiar with rock 'n' roll legends. Also, be sure to call ahead if you have a particular exhibit you want to see because the displays are constantly changing.
- #3View all PhotosfreeWest Side Market#3 in Cleveland1.2 miles to city centerShopping, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.2 miles to city centerShopping, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Dating all the way back to 1840, Cleveland's oldest publicly owned open-air market began on a simple tract of land. After undergoing intense renovations and repairs, the West Side Market reopened to the public in 1912, unveiling its indoor yellow brick markethouse and its iconic 137-foot-tall clock tower. Over the years it has continued to grow, and the market is now home to more than 100 different vendors selling items from all over the world. And you don't have to be a foodie to appreciate the wide array of fresh produce, baked goods, dairy and cheese products, meats and even fresh flowers sold here. This historic market also houses food stalls selling ready-to-eat items, candies and nuts. Having been featured on the Travel Channel and Food Network, West Side Market is an original must-see Cleveland attraction luring more than 1 million visitors each year.
Both locals and visitors recommend strolling the market and enjoying the fresh samples before making any purchases — there's a lot to see, so try before you buy. Travelers also note the European-feel of the market is especially appealing. Many applaud the fresh produce and meat selections, as well as the low prices, while some say the architecture of the building alone is worth a visit. Just be careful if you plan on driving, because the parking lot fills up fast.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Cleveland4.2 miles to city centerMuseums, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND4.2 miles to city centerMuseums, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
This art museum may be small, but it competes with the best of them, drawing more than 550,000 visitors from around the world each year. Founded in 1913 "for the benefit of all the people forever," The Cleveland Museum of Art currently houses more than 61,000 pieces of artwork spanning 6,000 years. The exhibits are arranged in chronological order and include photographs, paintings, sculptures, objects and installations by world-renowned artists, including Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso. There are also special exhibits and events, such as Parade the Circle and the Solstice summer music festival, hosted by the museum annually.
Past museumgoers have nothing but good things to say, with many lauding the museum for its extensive collection of world-class art. The majority praise the CMA's huge and impressive selection of modern and contemporary works, specifically the paintings, while others highly recommend visiting the museum restaurant and resting your legs in the atrium. What's more, kids will enjoy the hands-on art activities offered in Studio Play.
- #5View all Photos#5 in Cleveland4.2 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND4.2 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The Cleveland Botanical Garden offers a natural oasis located within the concrete jungle. Founded in 1930, the property features 10 acres of outdoor gardens and an 18,000-square-foot Glasshouse. Visitors can spend the day strolling through 11 different gardens, such as the Japanese Garden and Inspiration Garden, before grabbing a bite at the on-site cafe and heading indoors to the Glasshouse. The greenhouse features everything from butterfly-filled rainforests of Costa Rica to deserts reminiscent of Madagascar, as well as 350 species of exotic plants and 50 species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and more. Children will especially love running around the Hershey Children's Garden, which features a fountain and a treehouse. The gardens also offer a variety of adult, family and children's programs like arts and crafts, butterfly releases and yoga.
The gardens receive stellar reviews from past visitors, who said it's a great place to relax and enjoy the serene surroundings. Travelers particularly loved the variety of themed gardens, as well as the flowers inside the Glasshouse. Even those who weren't interested in plants said they had a fantastic time strolling the grounds, and many noted that the gardens are beautiful year-round.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Cleveland4.3 miles to city centerEntertainment and Nightlife, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND4.3 miles to city centerEntertainment and Nightlife, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Originally opened in 1931, Severance Hall is home to The Cleveland Orchestra and regarded as one of the world's most beautiful concert halls. If you happen to be in town when there is a concert, you should consider shelling out the money for a ticket to see the world-renowned orchestra play pieces by Mozart and Beethoven, among other composers. But if you're on a tight budget, you can still tour Severance Hall and revel in its impressive architecture. There is also an on-site restaurant for those who want to grab a bite to eat.
Visitors who had the chance to see The Cleveland Orchestra perform at Severance Hall call it a once-in-a-lifetime experience and say the building is one of Cleveland's hidden gems. The hour-long tour also comes highly recommended as you'll have the chance to better appreciate the architecture and learn a bit about the building's history. Many past visitors particularly enjoyed The Cleveland Orchestra's Christmas performance.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Cleveland3.8 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, Tours, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND3.8 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, Tours, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
With more than 3,000 animals representing 600 different species, you'll find plenty to do at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Beyond regular zoo amenities, such as animal viewing, gift shops and dining, this zoo introduces animal lovers to more educational experiences, allowing visitors to participate in a variety of hands-on activities like giraffe and lorikeet feedings, camel rides and overnight programs where guests spend the night at the zoo in safari tents and partake in night hikes, s'mores making and behind-the-scenes tours.
Visitors of all ages will enjoy the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, with past visitors fawning over the exhibits and attractions, particular favorites include the Elephant Crossing and carousel, and the informational docents. Many said this is a must-see family-friendly activity thanks to the zoo's plethora of programs. Some also recommend calling ahead as certain exhibits can be closed for renovations. And to avoid the crowds, consider visiting Tuesday through Friday.
- #8View all Photos#8 in Cleveland0.8 miles to city centerMonuments and Memorials, Museums, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.8 miles to city centerMonuments and Memorials, Museums, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Located next to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, this National Historic Landmark is a must-see. The World War II sub was placed in commission on June 21, 1943, under the leadership of Cmdr. James Dempsey and is famous for performing the only international submarine-to-submarine rescue in history. It still stands exactly how it did years ago during wartime, with no alterations. Visitors can enjoy a self-guided or guided tour of the submarine, as well as the Mark 14 steam-driven torpedo, a five-bladed bronze submarine propeller and a search periscope. Make sure to stop by the memorial and pay your respects to the nearly 4,000 men and women who lost their lives aboard U.S. submarines.
Visitors say the USS Cod is a hidden gem and perfect for the family as the kids will love the deck gun. Many said the best part of their visit was being able to walk around a genuine, historic unrefurbished WWII submarine and talking to the informational volunteers. Travelers should be warned that the entrance and exit are through the original hatchway, meaning the hallways are narrow and the ladders are steep, so it may not be easily accessible for small children, handicapped or those who are claustrophobic.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Cleveland4.2 miles to city centerMuseums, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND4.2 miles to city centerMuseums, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Learn all about the natural world and millions of years of history at Cleveland's Museum of Natural History. With a variety of permanent exhibits, such as dinosaurs from different prehistoric eras, Balto the Alaskan sled dog and Ohio's first planetarium, museumgoers are bound to find something that suits their interests. Visitors can even experience what a 5.5 magnitude earthquake feels like or put their paleontology skills to the test and dig up faux dinosaur bones. After visiting the museum, head to the Smead Discovery Center, Perkins Wildlife Center and the Shafran Planetarium & Mueller Observatory, all on the same property. The museum has a ton of temporary exhibits and events, so be sure to check out the schedule before visiting.
The dinosaur exhibits and interactive dioramas and artifacts received heaps of praise from past visitors who also recommended bringing the entire family and taking a guided tour. Although, some said that the live outdoor animal enclosures need some major sprucing up as the cages seemed too small and the animals looked unhappy. The high admission costs also made some second guess their visit.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Cleveland2.1 miles to city centerMuseums, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND2.1 miles to city centerMuseums, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Cleveland was the primary site for the filming of Bob Clark's classic 1983 movie, "A Christmas Story." If you're a fan of the movie, you won't want to miss visiting Ralphie's house now, would you? The Parker house used in the film has been restored to its original cinematic glory. Visitors can go on a guided tour as well as visit the official "A Christmas Story" Museum, which features costumes, props and lots of movie memorabilia. There's even a gift shop if you want to take some of the movie magic home with you.
Whether or not you've seen the movie beforehand, you'll leave as "A Christmas Story" fan. Past travelers said a visit here left them feeling nostalgic and reminiscing of their childhood, and many raved about the entertaining and funny tour guides who shared plenty of behind-the-scenes details and filming trivia. You'll even discover a few hidden secrets. Watching the movie after touring the house is recommended as you'll probably notice more of the smaller filming details. And those who visited during Christmastime said it felt extra special.
- #11View all Photos#11 in Cleveland0.4 miles to city centerSports, Tours, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND0.4 miles to city centerSports, Tours, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Home of Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians, Progressive Field promises sports fans a good time whether it be for an actual game or just a tour. If you're in town for game, you should consider going as you'll get the most authentic Progressive Field experience. However if there's not a game, you can still visit the facility via a guided tour. The one-hour tours cover the entire premises, so visitors will be able to see the batting cages, FanCave, the party suite, the club lounge, the bullpen and the Heritage Park Indians Hall of Fame Museum.
Those who visited Progressive Field for a baseball game said they had a blast thanks to the vendors' tasty food and the cheap tickets, some of which cost only $10. The majority of visitors say there's not a bad seat in the house, so you're pretty much guaranteed a quality view of the field. And the tours also come highly recommended, as many noted the guides are knowledgeable and provided a wealth of information to visiting fans.
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