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25 Fun Things to do in Cleveland

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Born, raised and having lived most of my adult life in Cleveland enables me to give you truly a list of the best things to do in Cleveland. While I have done or seen most of these myself, there are still a handful of items I need to enjoy.

Whatever you are looking for – whether that’s family fun in Cleveland, solo things to do in Cleveland or romantic date ideas in Cleveland, you are sure to find something on this list.

The post is divided into various Cleveland regions. Either browse the whole article or open the table of contents to go directly to the area you want to visit. Enjoy!

Large white Cleveland script sign in front of downtown high rise buildings
Script sign at Voinovich Park, East 9th Street Pier

Best Things to Do in Downtown Cleveland

Playhouse Square

Broadway is to New York City what Playhouse Square is to Cleveland. It is the largest performing arts center in the nation outside of New York. Think about that again. Playhouse Square is the second-largest performing arts area in the USA. In Cleveland.

See the 5 original magnificent theaters (out of 11 currently). The crystal-encrusted outside chandelier.

All within walking distance of each other and this vibrant downtown Cleveland neighborhood.

Stop at Corbo’s bakery before or after the show for a true Italian treat. Or, consider eating at …. Before the show.

Broadway’s greatest continue to perform here. I’ve seen The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, A Christmas Carol and countless more since I was a member of the Broadway Series for years.

If you are into theater, you need to check out Playhouse Square.

1501 Euclid Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio 44115

Script Cleveland Signs

You’ve seen the script signs, right? No visit is complete without taking your picture at least by one of them!

Currently, there are 6 Cleveland Script signs around town.

Find them at :

  • Cleveland’s airport
  • Edgewater Park
  • East 9th Street Pier at Voinovich Park
  • The Foundry
  • Tremont
  • Euclid Beach

Go ahead and have some fun and see if you can find them all.

William G. Mather Steamship

Part of the Great Lakes Science Center, the Mather Steamship is a restored 618-foot historic ship where you can see what life was like onboard a working Great Lakes freighter.

Large black steamship docked in the water with the name William G Mather

Built in 1925, see how this ship helped transform Cleveland into an industrial giant. Marvel at the pilothouse, the guest quarters and the large cargo hold.

See the steamship as part of the Great Lakes Science Center or tour it on its own buying tickets on board.

Check for the latest admission and visiting hours here.

600 Erieside Ave
Cleveland, Ohio 44114

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum

Interested in a little rock and roll history? Then, you need to visit the museum dedicated to just that.

Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum opened in 1995 dedicated to those who made music history in the past as well as those making it now.

It features rock and roll artifacts from musicians that inspire us. Its education programs, both in-person and virtual, rival that of any fine arts collection in the nation.

Easily recognizable for its pyramid-shaped architecture, Cleveland’s Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame Museum is a must for any music lover.

1100 Rock and Roll Boulevard
Cleveland, Ohio 44114

Terminal Tower Observation Deck

Constructed in 1928, the Terminal Tower was the tallest building outside of the Manhattan skyscrapers at the time. Take a tour up to the 42nd floor (out of 52) for a view surrounding miles on a clear day.

You are limited to 15-minute tours and times must be reserved here.

Often at night, the Terminal Tower changes colors in support of sports teams, charities, holidays, events or groups of people.

Public Square
Cleveland, Ohio 44113

Great Lakes Science Center

Every great city needs a great science museum and you’ll find it here at the Great Lakes Science Center. Set on the shores of Lake Erie, this museum is fun and entertaining for all ages.

Browse the Nasa Glenn Space Center visitor exhibit, interact with STEM technologies in the Biomedtech Gallery or take in a movie at their giant domed theater.

We have a blast every time we go here because it never seems to get old. If you love exploring science centers, this should definitely be on your list of Cleveland activities.

601 Erieside Ave
Cleveland, Ohio 44114

East 4th Street

Looking for one of downtown Cleveland’s hangout spots? You need to check out East 4th Street.

This small, pedestrian street is lined with restaurants, bars and entertainment venues. Head for dinner at Zocalo’s, then enjoy a Hilarities comedy show.

Into bowling? Try The Corner Alley. This was an after-work stomping ground for me in the years I worked downtown (I even was on a bowling league). Its bar meets bowling alley with a patio.

If you are traveling with little kids, I wouldn’t suggest coming here at night unless it’s dinner somewhere before a play at Playhouse Square. We’ve taken our daughter to be both Saigon and Zocalo’s and she loved both of them.

East 4th Arcade

Hard to believe something so extraordinary is in downtown Cleveland. Based on Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele mall, the East 4th Arcade definitely deserves a walkthrough on any trip to downtown.

Anchored by the Hyatt Regency Cleveland and The Chocolate Bar restaurant, the arcade doesn’t have a huge shopping presence anymore which is unfortunate. There are a few small shops to wander through.

Several of the upper floors were converted into Atrium Suites by the Hyatt Regency. I’ve stayed here a number of times over the years as a solo weekend escape to write. It’s beautiful, but can be noisy, although the wonderful staff sends you an email if an event is happening that would be disturbing (they offer you the chance to take a quiet room on either end).

Hyatt’s restaurant, the 1890 room, is the main reason I chose at this hotel! Brunch has always been exceptionally good, so if you are staying near downtown, I highly suggest it.

401 Euclid Ave
Cleveland, Ohio 44114

Progressive Field

Nothing says Cleveland more than taking in one of its sports teams for an afternoon. Home of the Cleveland Indians baseball team, Progressive Field is an easy walk from the main downtown establishments.

Can I admit that $1 dog days are my favorite?

There’s nothing like watching the home team win before a packed stadium. Even if it’s the coldest, snowiest playoff game. World Series 1997. Been there.

If you have an afternoon free, take the family to a baseball game for some old-fashioned fun!

2401 Ontario Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44115

Jack Casino

Long gone are the days of retail being the center of activity in downtown Cleveland. Higbee’s, once the epitome of shopping downtown right on the square, is now the Jack Casino.

Occupying several floors of The Higbee Building, the Jack has table games, slot machines, electronic games and a sports deck.

Stop in anytime to try your hand at lady luck! You must be at least 21 years old to enter.

100 Public Square
Cleveland, Ohio 44113

The Flats

Back in the 80’s, the Cleveland Flats was THE place to be. It was wall to wall people partying and hanging out at all the bars and singing to the music of the dueling pianos.

After quite a lull, the Flats is back in action with new venues such as Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville, Merwin’s Wharf and Alley Cat.

Situated on both sides of the Cuyahoga River, the Flats is an entertainment zone encompassing restaurants, bars, dance clubs, The Cleveland Aquarium and a comedy club

However, my favorite experience has always been eating lunch at Shooter’s on the Water. Sitting at an outdoor table watching the boats go by – tranquility in the summer. Right on the shores of Lake Erie.

Best Places to Visit in the University Circle Area

Cleveland Museum of Art

Who would have thought Cleveland would have one of the wealthiest art museums in the US and one of the most visited art museums in the world?

Large cream building with columns in the center and a tree on the right.

Any Clevelander, that’s who!

This jewel sits prominently in University Circle and contains over 60,000 artifacts.

Admission to everyday exhibits is free. However, special traveling exhibits require a charge and a reservation time.

Want to see Monet’s Waterlilies? No, not a replica, the real thing. The Cleveland Museum of Art holds one panel of Monet’s most popular work.

From Monet to El Greco to Andy Warhol, you will not be disappointed.

In addition, take a break from wandering the museum halls with a cappuccino or light snack at their atrium café. This area is perfect for spending some time admiring this architectural beauty.

111500 East Blvd.
Cleveland, Ohio 44106

Cleveland Botanical Gardens

Located in University Circle, the Cleveland Botanical Gardens is a year-round favorite destination among Clevelanders.

Comprised of a Glasshouse and gardens, wander around looking at the various plant species from around the world.

Large decorated Christmas tree in a center court of a museum
Ready for the holidays at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens

The Glasshouse features separate areas for the regions of Madagascar and Costa Rica. While the outdoor gardens feature the renowned Hershey’s Children’s Garden, a Japanese Garden, a rose garden, a topiary garden and an herb garden.

Here during the winter holidays? Check out Glow – the botanical garden’s answer to everything Christmas. From gingerbread houses to a corridor of decorated trees to the holiday train ride for kids, you are sure to get in the holiday spirit.

Hours vary, be sure to check out their visitor information page for the latest updates.

11030 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106

Natural History Museum

You know all the signs you read everywhere that order you ‘Don’t Touch!’? Cleveland’s Natural History Museum takes the opposite approach. In the Smead Discovery Center, their motto is ‘please touch’. Perfect for little hands that want to grab everything!

Besides the children’s area, look around in amazement at the Planetarium or enjoy walking through the dinosaur halls.

Between exhibits, classes you can sign up for, hikes you partake in or the wild animals you meet, there is bound to be something for everyone here at the Natural History Museum.

Cleveland Natural History Museum 
1 Wade Oval Drive
Cleveland, OH 44106

Western Reserve Historical Society

Interested in the great beginnings of Northeast Ohio? Spend a few hours at the Western Reserve Historical Society. Its goal is to educate visitors about the area’s history through virtual and in-person public and education-based programs, exhibits, and special events.

Come explore paintings and fine arts as well as costumes and the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum. Peruse the 170 antique automobiles, 12 aircraft and 3 sleighs that call this museum home.

In addition, several historic mansions also make up the Historical Society.

The Hay-McKinney Mansion serves as the only historic house available for tours that depict life during the blossoming years of Cleveland as a major industrial city.

The Bingham-Hanna Mansion contains the museum’s galleries and administrative office. It is also available for self-guided tours.

Western Reserve Historical Society
10825 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106 

Severance Hall

The home of the renowned Cleveland Orchestra calls Severance Hall home and is highly regarded as one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world.

But, don’t think you have to like classical music to enjoy this exquisite place. Several years ago, we took my daughter to a performance of the orchestra playing Disney theme songs.

It’s also common for them to play the musical accompaniment to movies such as Disney’s Fantasia, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas or to a silent making of The Phantom of the Opera.

Set on the campus of Case Western Reserve University, jump at the chance to see the inside of this marvel and hear the orchestra if you can.

11001 Euclid Ave
Cleveland, Ohio 44106

Little Italy

Canolli’s. Lasagna. Veal Marsala. And all the pasta and pizza you can imagine. My taste buds are salivating just writing about it. Notice I started with dessert first!

Little Italy, just northeast of University Circle, is a vibrant neighborhood known for its festivals such as the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in August of each year.

Wander the area visiting galleries, shops, bakeries, and, yes, those restaurants. It’s a great place to go after spending time in one or two of the University Circle’s museums.

Mayfield Rd and Murray Hill Rd
Cleveland, Ohio 44106

Lake View Cemetery

If you can’t get to Paris to see The legendary Père Lachaise cemetery, the largest and first garden cemetery in the world, check out Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland. Inspired by the former, Lake View opened in 1869 as a resting place for native Clevelanders.

Think John D. Rockefeller (the wealthiest man in the world at the time who made his money in the Cleveland Flats), James Garfield. Elliott Ness.

Interested in a tour? Lake View offers multiple. Think famous women of Cleveland, Cleveland brewers, notable African-American tours, garden tours and the popular Mobsters and Robbers Walking Tour.

12316 Euclid Ave
Cleveland, Ohio 44106

Best Things to Do in Cleveland’s Near West-Side

Cleveland Zoo

Part of the Cleveland Metroparks System, the Cleveland zoo occupies 183 acres and is home to one of the largest collections of primates.

Tigers sitting on a wooden post at the Cleveland Zoo
Just hanging out at the Cleveland Zoo

The Zoo is comprised of 7 different areas:

  • Australian Adventure
  • African Savanna
  • Northern Wilderness Trek,
  • Primate, Cat & Aquatics Building
  • Waterfowl Lake
  • The RainForest (currently closed for improvement projects)
  • Asian Highlands

Cleveland Zoo is open 365 days a year and is a great adventure for all ages. Two trams operate around the park in case you need a break from walking.

Plus, there are carousel rides, lorikeet feedings and an Australian outback train ride.

Pack a picnic lunch or grab something here. You will easily see why it’s one of Cleveland’s most visited attractions.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
3900 Wildlife Way
Cleveland, OH 44109

Westside Market

My great grandfather rented a stall here for many years selling meats from Hildebrant’s. Dating back to 1840, the Westside Market is Cleveland’s oldest indoor/outdoor marketplace.

Today, 100 vendors sell meats, fresh vegetables, and fresh seafood as well as baked goods, dairy and cheese products. There are also booths that sell ready-to-eat foods, herbs, candy and nuts.

Many visitors come here looking for the experiences portrayed by The Travel Channel or The Food Network.

A true ethnic-cultural gem, this is definitely a place to visit if you are in the mood for authentic Cleveland food.

Westside Market
1979 West 25th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113

Best Outdoor Things to Do Around Cleveland

Cleveland Metroparks

Looking for a change of pace and a yearning to get back to nature? Check out the Cleveland Metroparks’ 24,000 acres of parks, hiking trails, lakes, creeks and golf courses.

Nicknamed the Emerald Necklace because of the circle of greenery the Metroparks places around the city of Cleveland, it’s now possible to bike all 58 miles.

Walking trail through a park
Walking through Cleveland Metroparks Beford Reservation

Eighteen park reservations and 7 golf courses comprise the park system.

From nature activity centers to nature preserves to boating, fishing and bridle trails, the Cleveland Metroparks is definitely a huge draw for many visitors and locals alike.

Brandywine Falls

Did you know that Cleveland has the only National Park in Ohio? The Cuyahoga Valley National Park stretches 32,000 acres across the southeastern part of the city connecting to the city of Akron.

One of the most spectacular hikes and waterfalls is in Sagamore Hills at Brandywine Falls. This 60-foot waterfall is most impressive after heavy rain.

Take the boardwalk down to the falls and continue hiking around the Brandywine Gorge Trail for a moderate 1.5-mile loop.

Buckeye Trail

If you are into hiking, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the Buckeye Trail. This 1,444-mile trail winds around the great state of Ohio from the shores of Lake Erie to the riverfront in Cincinnati. It’s a continuous loop so start wherever you are.

The trail branched out both north and east from Cincinnati, eventually coming to meet right at Deer Lick Cave in the Brecksville Reservation in the Cleveland Metroparks.

It even winds itself through the heart of the Hocking Hills hiking trails, notably Old Man’s Cave and Ash cave.

Any avid hiker will definitely want to take part in this state treasure.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

Want to travel by train instead of hiking? Take the scenic Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad through the heart of the Cuyahoga National Valley Park.

Train cars approaching surrounded by trees changing color in the fall
Sightseeing train approaching Brecksville Station

Bring a bike on board and ride the rails one way while biking the return.

Or, take a leisurely trip from the Rockside Station and get off in Peninsula for lunch and shopping.

Special, limited-time train rides are available such as beer or wine tastings, murder mystery rides and family programs such as Cleveland’s Polar Express.

This is a great way to see the area while leaving the driving to someone else!

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, Rockside Station
7900 Old Rockside Rd
Independence, OH 44131

Edgewater Park

Yes – Cleveland has beaches! Quite a few of them, in fact.

If you want to stay close to downtown, pop on over to Edgewater Park in the Cleveland Metroparks for a quick visit. Hey, there’s even a script Cleveland sign here!

Pack a picnic lunch (they have grills, too), stroll along the path or drop a towel and do some sunbathing on the sand. There is 9,000 feet of shoreline with both dog and swim beaches, a fishing pier and boat ramps.

Whatever your choice, enjoy the beauty of the park. It’s also one of the best views of the downtown Cleveland skyline.

Lakefront Reservation – Edgewater State Park
6100 W. Memorial Shoreway, Cleveland, OH

Best Cleveland Sightseeing Tours

Goodtime III Boat Cruise

See Cleveland from the water! Honestly, one of my favorite ways to see any city is through a boat cruise (obviously, only if the city is actually by a body of water).

Take a cruise on the Goodtime III (can I say when I remember when it was the Goodtime I?) for a sightseeing tour, a lunch or dinner cruise or a happy hour getaway with friends.

Sail on the largest passenger ship on Lake Erie while taking in spectacular views of downtown Cleveland, the Flats, the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie.

Cruises do not run in the winter, so be sure to check available dates. This truly is a great family, friends or adult activity. Board right downtown at the East 9th Pier.

GoodTime Boat Cruises, North Coast Harbor
825 East Ninth Street Pier
Cleveland, OH 44114

Nautica Queen

While the Goodtime III is more of a party or family excursion atmosphere, the Nautica Queen is more refined. Think fancy brunch or dinner. Extravagant New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Two enclosed decks provide linen table service while an open-air deck affords beautiful views of the city.

The Nautica Queen hosts many private functions as well such as weddings, proms, and corporate events.

Buy your tickets in advance because many sailings are sold out.

The Nautica Queen

West Bank of the Flats
1153 Main Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113

So, how many fun activities in Cleveland did you get to do? Let me know in the comments what your favorites were!


2 Comments

  1. Why don’t you highlight the famous Karamu Theater, America’s oldest Black theater, founded in1915.
    It has more national importance than Little Italy.

    1. Thank you! I will add this to my list. My original goal was to have 50-75 items of things to do/see in Cleveland. I hope to have that completed in the next few months.

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