The midwestern city of Cleveland has a little bit of everything – including plenty of fantastic attractions for kids to enjoy
Perched on the fringes of Lake Erie in the state of Ohio, Cleveland is widely regarded as one of the region’s best places to live for families, thanks to its mix of quaint neighbourhoods, big city life and outdoor attractions. If you’re coming to Cleveland with kids and would like to start planning your trip, we thought we’d help get you started by putting together a list of 12 great things to see and do with little ones in and around the city.
Visit a top-class museum
Dinosaur exhibits, an earthquake simulator and live animals – it’s easy to see why the Cleveland Museum of Natural History is one of the city’s most visited family attractions. Designed to inspire, entertain and educate in equal measure, the museum lets kids discover all aspects of the natural world through a variety of hands-on displays and activities. Whether it’s digging for fossils, inspecting tiny specimens under a microscope, or embarking on a family nature hike in the company of a museum guide, there’s something to cater for every kiddie curiosity and interest.
Built upon the collection of famed English writer Raymond Buckland, known for his work on witchcraft, the paranormal, and the occult, the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick houses a huge assortment of exhibits and artefacts related to use of magic, including charms and talismans used to bring fortune, wealth, fertility, and more. Currently the only museum of its kind anywhere in America, notable exhibits include tools used by prominent members of the pagan community down the ages. Also highlighted are the importance of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which was designed, in part, to protect the establishment of non-mainstream religions such as those that have emerged out of witchcraft.
2155 Broadview Road / Check website for tour times and scheduling www.BucklandMuseum.org
1 Wade Oval Drive / Tues-Sun 10am-5pm
Particularly suited for kids aged up to about eight, the Children’s Museum of Cleveland lets your little ones imaginations go wild. Exhibits like Adventure City where you can pretend to shop for groceries, go to the auto shop, and use materials to build stuff, gives children that sense of independence and responsibility that they associate with adulthood. Other popular areas include The Wonder Lab for budding scientists, and Arts & Parts for visitors with a penchant for all things creative.
3813 Euclid Avenue / Fri-Weds 9.30am-1.30pm Closed Thurs
Learn all about the region’s rich history
Curated to provide a sense of place in today’s mobile society, the Cleveland History Center invites visitors to explore the history of Cleveland and discover through the lens of local stories how the people, neighbourhoods, places, events and movements in the city and region shaped and continues to influence the American experience. From the very first map of Cleveland to LeBron James’ championship shoes, each artefact tells a story that engages individuals, young and old. Other highlights include the chance to ride on the restored Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel, walk through two historic mansions, and experience the evolution of the automobile in Cleveland and across the world.
10825 East Boulevard / Thurs 12pm-8pm Fri-Sun 10am-4pm Closed Mon-Weds
Spend the day at a zoo
A trip to the zoo usually gets a big thumbs up from kids and in Cleveland families can enjoy one of the region’s best. Home to a wide assortment of birds, mammals, marine life, and more, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo lets you get up close and personal with dozens of animal species. The zoo is divided into geographically-themed zones, including the Australian Adventure and African Elephant Crossing, each housing creatures indigenous to that part of the world. Other attractions popular with kids include giraffe feeding sessions, a 4-D theatre, a miniature train ride, and a carousel.
3900 Wildlife Way / Mon-Sun 10am-5pm
Join a guided city walking tour
One of the best ways to get to know a city is exploring it on foot and a two-hour walking tour is the ideal length for kids. In the company of an expert guide, you and your small group will traverse the streets of downtown Cleveland, listening to fascinating stories and facts about the city and its most famous residents as you go. Along the way, you’ll stop at various landmarks and places of interest, including the buildings and monuments on Public Square and along the Mall, the Cleveland Public Library, the Cleveland Federal Reserve, the Cleveland Arcade, and finally Playhouse Square, where the tour comes to an end.
Marvel at an array of exotic marine life
Another sure-fire winner with kids, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, located close to downtown, is packed full of fascinating marine life that will leave your little ones’ mouths agape with wonder. Centred around the underwater world as it is found in the ocean and local waterways of Cleveland and Ohio, the aquarium is teeming with immersive exhibits and experiences, including the chance to walk through a glass tube while spotting sharks swimming overhead, stroke a real-life stingray, and learn all about the creatures that lurk beneath the region’s waters.
2000 Sycamore Street / Mon-Sun 10am-5pm
Escape the city to visit Ohio’s only national park
If you fancy an excursion out of the city, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park should certainly be near the top of your list. Just under 20 miles south of central Cleveland, Ohio’s only national park is teeming with wildlife and native plants, providing a captivating route of discovery for all who come here. The winding Cuyahoga River gives way to deep forests, rolling hills, and open farmlands, and many choose to walk or ride the Towpath Trail to follow the historic route of the Ohio and Erie Canal. Alternatively, you can explore the park via the historic Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which offers scenic rides throughout the year.
Explore the serene environs of a botanical garden
Situated a ten-minute drive west of downtown, Cleveland Botanical Garden is a haven of tranquillity and an ideal antidote to the hustle and bustle of the city. Offering fun for all the family, it has numerous gardens to explore, butterflies to enjoy, and glasshouses where you’re taught all about rainforest plants. Particularly popular with kids is the Hershey Children’s Garden, where kids can keep their eyes peeled for turtles in the pond, watch honey bees around their hive, discover how vegetables and herbs grow, and learn how to take care of plants. The venue also hosts frequent kid-friendly events and activities including scavenger hunts and summer camps.
11030 East Boulevard / Tues-Sat 10am-5pm Sun 12pm-5pm Closed Mon
Catch a baseball game
Like in pretty much every city across the US, baseball is a seriously big deal in Cleveland. The big city draw when it comes to ballparks is Progressive Field, home to the Cleveland Guardians Major League Baseball side. The stadium’s electric atmosphere on match days makes it a captivating experience for visitors, while the obligatory smell of hot dogs and popcorn invariably ends up too strong a temptation – particularly if you’ve got kids with you. Match tickets can be purchased online or at the stadium box office.
2401 Ontario Street
Head to the beach
There are several excellent beaches in and around Cleveland and one of the most popular – thanks in part to its proximity to downtown – is Edgewater Beach. With plenty of space for kids to enjoy, the sprawling stretch of sand attracts sun-seekers in their droves on warmer days, while throughout the summer the beach also plays host to regular family-friendly events featuring live music, games and food trucks. Neighbouring the beach is Edgewater Park, where you’ll find walking paths, a playground, and great views of Lake Erie and downtown.
Get a taste of the local Italian food scene
During the late 19th and early 20th century, Italians emigrated to Ohio in large numbers, with many settling in Cleveland. This fresh demographic soon gave rise to a district now known as Little Italy, and one of the main contributions of these new arrivals was to bring Italy’s rich food culture to the city. Taking in old-school Italian cafes, bakeries and pizzerias, as well as elegant trattorias where singers perform opera arias, plus speciality Italian food and wine shops, the Little Italy food tour is the perfect introduction to this long culinary heritage. During the 3.5-hour tour, you’ll be shown around the neighbourhood, learning about its history while stopping to sample local dishes and delicacies dating back decades.