Thrilling Things to Do in Cleveland

Cleveland, Ohio, packs a punch with its buzzing nightlife, world-class restaurants, historic buildings, and exciting attractions. Resting on the shores of Lake Erie, the city also offers scenic views and serene locales. From the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to its public parks, you’ll want to see the local icons of art and culture.


01Rock out at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Since the term “Rock and Roll” was coined in Cleveland in the 1950s, the genre has played an important role in the city’s identity. Celebrate the genre and the country’s best rock artists with a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The striking, angular building holds permanent and rotating exhibits celebrating the origins of rock and roll, as well as its influence on social, political, and cultural history. Artifacts and exhibits showcase artists like Janis Joplin, Mick Jagger, and Aretha Franklin. If you’re at all into music, you’ll want to check this out.


02Eat at Heinen’s Downtown

Although a grocery store may not sound like a thrilling attraction, checking out Heinen’s is a must-do experience when in Cleveland. Located in the historic Cleveland Trust Building, you’ll never have seen a grocery store so majestic. Taste local wines and beers, or enjoy a warm espresso at the coffee shop while admiring the old bank’s tall pillars, elaborately decorated arches, and an impressive glass ceiling. You could spend hours in this beautiful building (and you won’t go hungry).


03Explore the West Side Market Clock Tower

The West Side Market and its iconic clock tower are on the west side of downtown, in the Ohio City district. It's the oldest market space in Ohio and hosts hundreds of vendors selling everything from produce to poultry, spices to confectionery. Climbing the clock tower that stands on one corner of the market will transport you to Europe in an earlier century; it’s in the National Registry of Historic Places, and the view from the top is one of the best in Cleveland. 


04Walk through the public squares

Cleveland Public Square PapaBear / Getty Images

Rarely does public space feel so well-celebrated as in Cleveland’s downtown district. Perk Plaza is a lovely place to enjoy a coffee or read a book, and Willard Park hosts the Free Stamp, a locally famous piece of public art. Make sure you take a walk through the Cleveland Public Square, the central plaza of the city. The park is home to a 125-foot monument to the Civil War and gives you a great view of Cleveland’s three tallest buildings—Key Tower, the Terminal Tower, and 200 Public Square.


05See a game at Progressive Field

Sports fans will enjoy seeing the Cleveland Indians play live at Progressive Field. Check out the unique local eateries and craft beers that line the stadium before the game, or browse the Indian Team Shop. You can even book a tour to get a behind-the-scenes look at the facilities. If you're traveling with kids, the Kids Clubhouse has various interactive activities for children of any age, including a pitching simulator and a kid-sized baseball field.


06Check out a festival

Cleveland has a busy festival schedule all year long, and there's something for everyone. The Cleveland International Film Festival is a huge city event and is visited by over 100,000 people every year. The city’s fashion week is another popular event and is the third largest fashion week in the United States. If you like to party, don’t miss the Great Lakes Burning River Fest, a two-night event at Whiskey Island featuring music and craft beer.


07Cruise around Lake Erie

Have your dinner with a view. Cleveland’s unique location, perched on the shores of Lake Erie, is part of what makes this city so special. Local companies offer brunch, lunch, and dinner cruises leaving from downtown. You’ll coast down the river, listen to live music, and end with a stunning sunset and a fantastic view of Cleveland’s waterfront skyline.


08Experience east 4th street

East 4th street is the heart of downtown. A pedestrian street lined with independent cafes, local bars, world-class dining, and exciting entertainment, it’s no wonder locals say that East 4th is like no other street in the world. For dinner, look for one of the many local restaurants opened by world-renowned chefs. Then take in the game at a sports bar or a unique cocktail at one of the city’s luxurious bars. End the night at a renovated arcade or bowling alley. You can't be bored on East 4th.


09Get lucky at the JACK Cleveland Casino

If you’re feeling lucky, you might want to spend an evening at the JACK Cleveland Casino. Located in the former Higbee's department store building in Tower City Center, the casino has over 100,000 square feet of premier gaming space. The casino is open 24 hours, so you can get your gaming fix at any time. While you’re there, go next door to Terminal Tower and take the elevator up the 52 stories to the viewpoint at the top. You’ll find an unrivaled view of the city at the top of what once was the tallest building in North America outside of New York City.


10Great Lakes Science Center

If you’re curious about the Great Lakes ecosystem and the regional environment, the Great Lakes Science Center is for you. This one-of-a-kind educational facility features exhibits on the natural environment in the Great Lakes region and exhibits showcasing local biotechnology, energy, and space advancements. The IMAX Dome theater shows breathtaking films on a 6-story curved screen format. Their films span a number of topics from the Great Bear Rainforest to animal species that have been saved from extinction.


11Visit the Cleveland Cultural Gardens

The Cultural Gardens began in 1916, and today have 33 gardens that have been designed and planted by a variety of cultural groups. They line the Martin Luther King Boulevard and East Boulevard in Rockefeller Park. The purpose of the diversity shown through gardening is “peace through mutual understanding.” Designers used their individual landscapes to pay homage to poets, philosophers, scientists, and other people who have contributed positively to the world. Also featured in the gardens are symbolic sculptures and replicas of or tributes to sacred monuments in other lands. Come to enjoy nature on foot or on a bicycle. You can take a leisurely walk or ride along the Doan Brook, which runs its route right through the Gardens. Educational guided tours are available through bookings.


12Check out the house from A Christmas Story

This house—otherwise known as the Bumpus House—was the actual location used to film the iconic movie, A Christmas Story. House tours are open most days except holidays, and A Christmas Story Museum is right across the street. If the tour isn’t enough for you, you can even spend the night in the house! There are two individual suites within the house: The Stolen Turkey suite comprises the second and third floors of the house, while the Hound Dog Haven suite occupies the first floor. The first floor is wheelchair accessible. There’s even a museum all about the house and movie right across the street, full of props and behind-the-scenes photos. Film buffs and curiosity-seekers, don't miss this classic piece of 1980s nostalgia.


13Tour the Greater Cleveland Aquarium

Get up close and eye-level with over 300 marine species in various 360-degree displays throughout the aquarium. The facility houses 2,500 freshwater and saltwater animals, many of which come from nearby Lake Erie. Explore 8 different ecosystem galleries, including Tropical Reef and Giant Pacific Octopus. Help care for the stingrays by collaborating on a piece of art, or Sign up for ZZZs in the Seas and spend the whole night sleeping underneath the sharks. Shark enthusiasts can also visit the shark habitat to take a dive with them!


14Visit the International Women's Air & Space Museum

The women's flight museum is a showcase of the history of women in all facets of the aviation and aerospace industry. Tour the exhibits and learn about big names like Amelia Earhart, plus lesser-known women such as Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman and first Native-American to have a pilot's license. Entrance is free and you can purchase an inexpensive guided tour if you prefer.


15Visit the North Chagrin Reservation

North Chagrin Reserve is a stunning natural attraction filled with picnic areas, woodlands, wetlands, sanctuaries, and trails. Located in Mayfield Village, Willoughby Hills, and Gates Mills, the reservation is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals, including varieties of frogs, toads, snakes, turtles, woodpeckers, wild turkeys, oaks, chestnuts, and wild geraniums. Don’t miss out on Squire’s Castle, a beautiful vacant gatehouse from the 1890s.


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