The best things to do in Cleveland
A 48-hour itinerary to visit Cleveland
Have you ever thought about vacationing in Cleveland, Ohio?
Cleveland is the second largest city in Ohio. It is located right on the southern shores of Lake Erie. The city of Cleveland is easily accessible to many other points, including Buffalo, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Columbus. Cleveland is also reasonably located between two Canadian border crossings on either side of the lake. These geographical benefits make Cleveland an easy place for a road trip destination or weekend getaway.
Sports fans will certainly know Cleveland as the “City of Champions” due to her various professional sports teams – Browns, Guardians, Cavaliers, etc. Rock and Roll fans know her for her iconic Hall of Fame. However, when booking a road trip destination, Cleveland is often unfairly overlooked as simply a rustbelt city in decline. That is all a thing of the past. There is much more to Cleveland in the 21st century – and we think it is a city worth (re)discovering.
Cleveland is an accessible city to get around and explore. Many attractions are conveniently located in different neighbourhoods popular with tourists – North Shore, Warehouse, Playhouse Square, and The Flats. Each of these neighbourhoods is very walkable with a lot to see and do, other areas are just a short drive, and the city is easily driveable.
The ease of getting around makes a visit to Cleveland a great city to pack a lot into a short stay.
For those about to Rock
Undoubtedly, one of Cleveland’s most popular and well-visited attractions is the Rock & Roll Holl of Fame. The facility was built along the shores of Lake Erie and opened in 1995. The museum houses artefacts, memorabilia, and art relating to the musicians, artists, and industry professionals inducted and the history of Rock & Roll. The collections contained within the Rock Hall are some of the most impressive collections ever assembled. In the nearly 30 years since opening its doors to visitors, millions of people visit Cleveland to see the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to see why Cleveland Rocks.
When you finish at the Rock Hall, you can check out several other fabulous museums in the area. Like the Great Lakes Science Centre and the International Women’s Air & Spacey Museum. Don’t forget to enjoy the Voinovich Bicentennial Park for an iconic photo of the Cleveland Script Sign with the Rock Hall in the background.
Before you visit Cleveland, check out our feature article on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
We are not into sports, but many of you are – and Cleveland boasts many professional sports teams. The city is home to the NFL team, the Cleveland Browns; the MLB team, the Cleveland Guardians; and the MBA team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. With so many teams to root for, Cleveland is a must-visit destination for many sports enthusiasts. The stadiums and arenas these teams play in are all conveniently located to other attractions in town, and even if you don’t have time to see a game, you might still want to check out the stadiums.
Cleveland Public Square & Playhouse Square
Playhouse Square, Cleveland’s theatre and entertainment district runs from Public Square along Euclid Avenue. This neighbourhood is one of the liveliest sections of the city. You will find theatres where touring productions of Broadway shows perform. There is a pedestrian row on 4th Street that tourists flock to for great restaurants, cocktail bars, breweries, souvenirs, and nightlife. Overhead, crossing Euclid Avenue, is a giant crystal chandelier (the world’s largest), a significant attraction in Cleveland. In the same district are a casino, hotels, arts, and a gorgeous shopping arcade from the 1890s. Playhouse Square is certainly a must do destination when you visit Cleveland.
Art & Architecture
Cleveland is a city full of gorgeous art in many galleries and public spaces. As you explore the city, you will find many sculptures, statues, fountains, oddities, and roadside attractions along the way.
The city of Cleveland is also home to many unique and beautiful buildings. It is best to view the city’s architecture and the many bridges through a boat tour of the town.
Drive across the Hope Memorial Bridge and marvel at the beauty of the Guardians of Traffic that adorn the bridge. There are four pairs of statues sculpted onto opposite-facing ends; each Guardian holds a different vehicle in its hands: a hay wagon, a covered wagon, a stagecoach, and a 1930s-era automobile, as well as four types of motorized trucks used for construction.
Home of Superman
One of the most famous superheroes ever created was born from the creative minds of 2 friends and neighbours of Cleveland. Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel met in 1932 while attending the same Glenville area school. They lived only a couple of blocks away from each other, and now, the homes where they grew up are popular attractions for fans of Superman. The neighbourhood also has a “Home of Superman” historical plaque.
I double-dog dare you.
Fans of the popular holiday movie “The Christmas Story” will want to check out the Christmas Story house, museum and gift shop when they visit Cleveland’s Tremont district. Visitors can walk through the house used for the film’s exterior shots where little Ralphie Parker and his family lived. It is part of a complex of four buildings in the area that are devoted to the film. The owner reconfigured and transformed the house into a near replica of the movie set. Located right next door is the Bumpus house, with a museum and gift shop across the street. The gift shop has the most impressive collection of items related to its theme that we have ever seen.
Season of the Witch
Located in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn district, The Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick is a small, unassuming museum and a must for anyone interested in the occult, witchcraft, or the offbeat. “The first and only museum in the United States to celebrate witchcraft and the occult and their related cultures!” Look for the Demon in a Box – but don’t open it.
Check out some other Unusual & Weird museums you may want to visit
Greater Cleveland Aquarium
The Greater Cleveland Aquarium is a site to behold in what is probably one of the most extraordinary aquariums of the dozens we have ever visited. Located on the banks of the Cuyahoga River, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium is housed in the FirstEnergy Powerhouse, a building built in the late 19th century to power electric streetcars and railways. A National Historic Landmark, the aquarium preserves the building’s Roman-inspired architecture with beautiful arched windows and pointed roofs. Some unique features include jellyfish floating in old smokestacks.
Combining a historic Cleveland architectural landmark with aquatic life exhibits, this is not your typical aquarium experience.
Check out our Tips on Planning a Road Trip
The Cleveland Cultural Gardens
When you visit Cleveland, there is much more to explore in the neighbourhoods beyond the downtown core. On the city’s east side, take a drive along Martin Luther King Jr Blvd and discover the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. This nearly 3-mile-long drive stretch runs along Doan Brook. Here is a collection of over 30 public landscaped gardens honouring the various ethnic communities of Cleveland. This unique park space is a beautiful celebration of Cleveland’s ethnic diversity, making it an excellent way to spend an afternoon.
Lake view Cemetery
When you visit Cleveland, you might like to visit Lakeview Cemetery in the east end of the city, where you will find the burial spots for some famous people such as:
Alan Freed with a Rock & Roll Jukebox headstone
Eliot Ness – FBI agent is known for taking on Al Capone
John D Rockefeller
James Garfield, 20th President of the USA
And the crying angel monument.
image credit: Ohio Magazine
You may want to check out these other Graveyards worth visiting.
Cleveland’s oldest publicly owned market is on the city’s west end. The market was built in the early 1900s and is now home to one of the best markets in the United States. Now, it chiefly houses hundreds of vendors selling a variety of meats, seafood, cheese, and produce. In addition – there are prepared meals, beer, fresh flowers, and so much more. When you visit Cleveland, you surely should include a trip to the West Side Market.
Like many other rustbelt relics you may have forgotten about, Cleveland has evolved, revitalized, grown, and become much more, making them a fantastic road trip destination.
Forget everything you think you know about cities like Cleveland and consider them for your next road trip adventure. They will surprise you.