Cleveland Rocks, as the saying goes. And we don’t disagree. There are so many great things to do in Cleveland, and it’s just a question of fitting them all in. Before we get down to business, here’s the science bit… Cleveland is the second largest city in the Midwestern state of Ohio. It was founded back in 1796 by General Moses Cleaveland when he was sailing along the banks of the Cuyahoga River. After getting off his boat and making it to land, he decided it was a lovely spot for a new town. He was right. Unfortunately, after deciding on the spot, he went home to Connecticut and never once returned to the place bearing his name. We think that’s a real shame, because he really missed out. Cleveland’s population is now around 383,000 people, with thousands more visiting the city each year.
Let’s have a wee look at Ohio’s second city and explore all the great things to do in Cleveland on your visit.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
If you love music, then this is an essential thing to do in Cleveland. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was established in 1983, and the several cities pitched to try getting the museum. Cleveland put their money where their mouths were and romped home. Although at first glance, Cleveland may not seem like a natural fit, the first-ever rock and roll show was actually held in the city. Also, a local radio DJ is even credited with coming up with the term ‘rock and roll.’ So, as it turns out, it’s the perfect place. There are seven floors within the futuristic building that sits on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown, and you can easily spend the best part of a day exploring it. Some of the highlights include exhibits on cities that have had the biggest impact on the genre, individual artists, and even one-hit-wonders. The museum’s core function is to preserve and celebrate rock and roll music from across the world, and it does this throughout its displays. There’s also an annual concert and presentation when new inductees are introduced to the Hall of Fame. For 2019, these include Stevie Nicks, Radiohead, and The Cure.
Tickets required, available from the box office, $16-$26
Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland Museum of Art is based in the lovely University Circle neighborhood and covers a huge range of time periods and genres. With everything from Islamic Art to Textiles to Prints and Photography to Contemporary Art, it pretty much covers all bases and interests. With more than 61,000 artifacts and artworks, it’s the fourth wealthiest museum in the US. Basically, when you go, be super careful not to bump into anything – that’s all we’re saying. Some of the many highlights of the museum include works by Picasso, Monet, Dali, van Gogh, El Greco, Caravaggio, Warhol, and Jackson Pollock. Can you imagine what they must pay in insurance premiums each year? Anyway, CMA is one of the top things to do in Cleveland. In actual fact, it’s one of the most visited museums in the whole of the US. Also, as there’s no admission, it’s also the best free thing to do in Cleveland.
Cleveland Museum of Natural History
It’s difficult to know how to summarize this museum as it’s really more of a complex and there’s just SO much to see. The entire museum and all its different facets cover a mind-boggling 550 acres and include the main museum, an outdoor gallery, human health research facility, a dinosaur hall, and a Planetarium. There are more than 4 million items in the museum, and they cover anthropology, paleontology, zoology, and some other ologies we’ve never even heard of. It’s a great thing to do in Cleveland with kids because it has the potential to keep them occupied for so many hours. Little ones also adore the full-size Stegosaurus who lives in the grounds. Spoiler alert: he’s not real. If he was, we doubt he’d be quite so popular because, well…he’s gigantic. And a dinosaur.
Tickets required, available from the entrance, $14-$17, planetarium tickets sold separately.
Progressive Field is part of the Gateway Sports and Entertainment Complex in the city, and the park is home to Major League Baseball side, the Cleveland Indians. The stadium has a capacity of more than 34,500 and was the first ballpark to be named as the best in the MLB. Seeing a baseball game in the US – given its popularity and history – is an experience not to be missed. If you can, grab a ticket and go catch a game. Taking in the sights and sounds of an Indians game is one of the top things to do in Cleveland, and the city is crazy about the team, and sports in general.
University Circle is the city’s cultural hub and a spending some time exploring the area, it’s museums and galleries, is one of the top things to do in Cleveland. There are so many institutions based in the neighborhood, such as the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Art, which we covered above. As well as being the city’s hub for culture and education, it’s also popular with music lovers and performers. Cleveland Institute of Music and the Severance Hall – where Cleveland Orchestra is based – also count University Circle as home. Architecturally, the area is also a real gem. Internationally acclaimed architect, Frank Gehry (who designed the amazing waterfront in Dusseldorf, Germany), is responsible for the rather bendy Weatherhead School of Management, while the Glidden House Hotel oozes old school glamor. Go. Walk around. Have a lovely time.
West Side Market
This historic food market has been an institution in Cleveland since 1912, and is the oldest indoor/outdoor market in the city. West Side Market has more than 100 stalls and is open every day except Tuesdays and Thursdays. Market vendors sell everything your little heart could possibly desire. There’s locally grown fruits and vegetables, imported Mediterranean goods, vegetarian specialties, seafood and, let’s not forget, sweets and pastries. After all, it’s important to eat a balanced diet. Luckily for you, there’s plenty of balance to be had. There’s Vera’s Bakery, Grandma Campbell’s Cupcakes, Medditera Bakehouse, and Euro Sweets. If we’re being honest, there’s almost too much balance. But we love it.
Off-beat things to do in Cleveland
We’re very excited to report that there are TONS of weird things to do in Cleveland. Yes, people, the good folks of the city dig unusual attractions, and it would be rude to visit and not check ‘em out. First up is the World’s Largest Rubber Stamp in Willard Park. The stamp (also called The Free Stamp) is an enormous piece of public art, designed by Claes Oldenburg and his wife. It’s the greatest thing you didn’t know you needed to see.
While we’re in the realms of some of the world’s biggest stuff, did you know Cleveland also has the largest outdoor chandelier? The gorgeously sparkly light sits in the Playhouse Square Theater District, is 20 feet tall, and has 4,200 crystals. If Liberace was still alive, we reckon he’d be playing piano beneath it every night. The amount of bling is off the scale. Other notable oddities include a Christmas Story Museum and a statue of The Angel of Death Victorious in historic Lake View Cemetery. We told you it was weird. Never change, Cleveland.
FAQs About Cleveland
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the city and things to do in Cleveland. These will help your research, planning, and general education about all this exciting Midwestern city has to offer residents and visitors alike.
What is there to do in Cleveland, Ohio for free?
Head out to the beautiful Rockefeller Park Greenhouse and Botanical Garden. The site has many specialty areas, such as the Japanese Garden, the Iris Garden, and the Latin American Garden. It’s a lovely spot for a walk and one of the top things to do in Cleveland for free.
What museums are free in Cleveland?
Hit up the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, the Cleveland Museum of Art, or Cleveland Public Library for your fix of free education and culture in the city.
Is downtown Cleveland safe at night?
Like anywhere, there are risks to being out in a major downtown area at night – particularly if you’re in that area on your own. The downtown area of the city tends to be a bit quieter than other cities, so if you are enjoying it, take a cab home and don’t wander around in unknown or dimly lit areas. Alternatively, stand under the chandelier in the Theater District as that’s never dimly lit. You’re welcome.
Is Cleveland a walkable city?
Yes. Cleveland is a very walkable city. There’s tons of green space, public parks and squares, and everything is pretty well connected. In fact, we recommend walking in Cleveland as there’s so much to see that you may otherwise miss. Cleveland was once voted the 18th most walkable city in the United States, you know. And you don’t get a top honor like that unless you’re only 17 places less walkable than the city in first place. Result.
What is popular in Cleveland?
Ooh, now, where to start? Cleveland loves its sports and has a plethora of teams. The highest-level ranking is the MLB’s Cleveland Indians, NFL’s Cleveland Browns, and NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. There’s also Cleveland SC soccer team, Cleveland Rovers rugby team, Cleveland Monsters ice hockey team, and the amazing ladies of Burning River Roller Derby. In terms of popular attractions, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Museum of Art are among the top rated in the state.
Cleveland Rocks. Seriously, though; it does. It’s a great city for walking around; has so many quality museums and galleries; great food and drinks, and many attractions to keep children happily occupied until they’re hungry again or need to use the bathroom or are too tired or need you to carry them. The city sits in a great location on the edge of Lake Erie, so not only do you have all the great land-based attractions, you can head out on the water, too. The city is served by Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, and accommodation covers everything from the historic Glidden House Boutique Hotel to budget hotels, like La Quinta by Wyndham or Holiday Inn Express. We hope we’ve managed to convince you of all the cool things to do in Cleveland and hope you’ve got it firmly noted on your to-do list.