While Cleveland is commonly perceived by outsiders to be an industrial town bereft of vacation destinations or attractions of interest to kids and their families, the urban center of Northeast Ohio is actually filled with a variety of impressive parks and activities designed and operated with pint-sized visitors in mind. If you’re considering a visit to Cleveland in the near future with your family, these are ten of the attractions you won’t want to miss.
- Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (Independence, OH 44131) – Kids with an affection for trains are sure to love a trip on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which winds through Cuyahoga Valley National Park and along the Cuyahoga River. There are several stations from which you can board the trains, and special programs like the Underground Railroad that impart history lessons along with the excitement of train rides and scenic beauty.
- Cleveland Botanical Garden (Cleveland, OH 44106) – Teaching kids about sustainable living, the importance of green living and instilling a love for nature requires a bit of time exploring the flora and fauna, which is why a trip to the CBG should be moved to the top of your must-do list while your family is visiting Cleveland. The Hershey Children’s Garden alone, which features a wheelchair-accessible treehouse, is worth the trip.
- Great Lakes Science Center (Cleveland, OH 44114) – The vast majority of exhibits at the Great Lakes Science Center are interactive, hands-on installations that allow kids to experience natural science concepts for themselves. The Indoor Tornado, Bridge of Fire and Polymer Funhouse are all perennial favorites of the many small-statured visitors that make unforgettable memories at the Great Lakes Science Center each day.
- Money Museum – Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland (Cleveland, OH 44114) – What better way to supplement lessons in money management and financial responsibility than a trip to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland? Learning about spending, bartering and other forms of trading are among the potential lessons at the Money Museum, which can be experienced in a rushed forty minutes or a leisurely few hours over the course of an afternoon.
- Cedar Point Amusement Park (Sandusky, OH 44870) – Roughly and hour’s drive west of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport lies Cedar Point, an amusement park that consistently finds itself on “Best Of” and “Most” lists. While older kids are sure to flip for the world-class roller coasters, little ones can get in on the fun at Planet Snoopy.
- The West Woods (Novelty, OH 44072) – The West Woods is a beautiful park in Novelty, Ohio, but also serves as a resource and learning center for those interested in conservation and ecology. The Geauga Park District employees are both kind and knowledgeable, as well as eager to answer any questions posed by kids and adults alike.
- A Christmas Story House (Cleveland, OH 44109) – While younger kids may not be familiar with the iconic house featured in the slightly off-color Christmas film classic A Christmas Story, older kids are sure to be delighted by a tour through the house, where Randy’s snowsuit and other props are displayed. The gift store on the property also sells reproductions of the infamous Leg Lamp, naturally.
- Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (Cleveland, OH 44106) – If you’re hoping to instill a bit of appreciation for modern art in your brood, a trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland may be just the ticket. Kids under twelve are always admitted for free, and the museum frequently hosts workshop and family programs for the younger set.
- Memphis Kiddie Park (Cleveland, OH 44144) – Few things will delight little ones as much as Memphis Kiddie Park, which includes eleven miniature amusement rides designed specifically for kids less than fifty inches tall, an arcade and a miniature golf course.
- Lake Metroparks Farmpark (Willoughby, OH 44094) – Kids will be so excited at the prospect of milking a cow, observing a busy beehive in action and getting up-close and personal with more than fifty farm animals that they may not even realize they’re in the middle of agricultural and farming lessons. Don’t miss The Great Tomato Works!
There are plenty of things for the youngest members of the family to do and see in Cleveland, but that doesn’t mean that the grown-ups are left out. In addition to the many museum and performing arts cultural centers in and around the city, Cleveland also boasts an emerging culinary scene and more golf courses per capita than any other city in the United States.