4 Reasons to Get Excited About Cleveland

Last updated: October 1st, 2023 | Originally published: March 14, 2023
Things to Do in Cleveland
The Ledges, Cuyahoga Valley N.P.

*For Ichiro Suzuki, whom we love

Seattle Mariner and Hall-of-Fame legend, Ichiro Suzuki, is renowned as much for his stoic demeanor as he is for his baseball prowess. In an out-of-character public interview, Ichiro famously revealed his disdain for Cleveland. When asked if he was excited to be headed back to Cleveland, Ichiro savagely replied (through his interpreter), “To tell the truth, I’m not excited to go to Cleveland… If I ever saw myself saying I’m excited going to Cleveland, I’d punch myself in the face, because I’m lying.”

If Ichiro could have visited Cleveland in the late 1800’s, when the town was considered the wealthiest on earth, when Euclid Avenue had more consolidated riches than the most highfalutin streets of Paris, perhaps he would feel differently. Those were the good old days when John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil placed Cleveland at the forefront of American petroleum production.

Sadly, Ichiro’s impression of Cleveland mirrors the impressions of many Americans — there isn’t much to be excited about in Cleveland. I guess that’s what happens when a city devolves into gangland street violence, notorious industrial pollution, and a football franchise widely mocked for ineptitude. The past hundred years have been rough for Cleveland’s image.

Things to Do in Cleveland
Things to Do in Cleveland

Now what happened to Cleveland is history, but this is not a historical article. This is a redemption story; a beckoning for everyone to look beyond stereotypes and recalibrate their impression of this once outstanding American town. Ichiro made a funny joke at Cleveland’s expense, but he was wrong….

Because it’s time to get excited to go to Cleveland!

Cleveland is a city on the upswing. The downtown is clean and home to beautiful parks. One of the best art museums in the U.S. is here, as is a National Park and the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. A few miles down the road in Sandusky, you’ll find Cedar Point, the nation’s largest roller coaster park. And for all you beach-goers out there, Cleveland has one of those, too!

We spent a week here last spring and it was one of the most surprising places we visited all year. There are a handful of great things to do in Cleveland, and the town is absolutely worth spending a few of your days. We hope you enjoy this classic American city as much as we did.

Things to Do in Cleveland
Cleveland Museum of Art

1. Rock and Roll HOF — Things to Do in Cleveland

Things to Do in Cleveland
Things to Do in Cleveland

This was perhaps the greatest “kid in a candy store” moment of my life. As an aficionado of Rock music spanning thirty years of constant listening, I was floored by what happened at the Rock n Roll HOF. I don’t always know what to expect when I go somewhere. Sometimes I’m disappointed, sometimes I’m profoundly pleased. What happened at the Rock n Roll HOF bordered on transcendent.

Outside of a couple bands I love, everything I could ever imagine was here in one place. Six floors of Rock and Roll history — the music, the stories, the instruments, the MTV video outfits… Everything from Run DMC’s hat and shoes to Beastie Boys original lyrics written on Tide detergent notepads. Purple Haze. People are Strange. Last Dance with Mary Jane. It was piped through the speakers wherever you went, and there were visuals. Memories from every era of my life filled my mind for hours on end.

Things to Do in Cleveland
Exclusive live Recordings of the Beatles.

Level Zero

The building is shaped like a pyramid where you enter on the second floor, take an escalator down, then work your way up. The ground floor is where you’ll find the bulk of the museum, a large-scope exploration of rock, from the early days to the modern era. Level zero was worth the admission alone.

Here you’ll find oversized tributes to The Beatles and Elvis, and smaller tributes to myriad classic artists and bands like The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson etc. There are also compilation sections dedicated to genres like Glam, Grunge, Punk, local Cleveland bands, and more.

The Elvis and Beatles sections included mesmerizing large-screen video presentations. The Beatles video included a long look at the band recording Let It Be, (where the song is quite different in ways), and a rooftop concert of the Let It Be album. We spent an hour or so jamming out with the Fab Four in the small, but very loud theater. It was a definite highlight of the museum.

The Other Levels

Level One (where you enter) is a gift shop and restaurant.

On Level Two you’ll find additional exhibits to peruse, but the highlight is “The Garage,” where you can sing with a live band or learn to play the drums, guitar, and piano with professional instruction.

Level Three is the actual Hall of Fame with the Signature Gallery and the New Inductee Exhibits. Also found here is the Power of Rock Experience (which was closed the day we visited).

Level Four is seen in the photo below, The Pink Floyd The Wall Experience. This is a replica of “The Wall” from the 1990 Berlin performance. Some interesting thoughts are scrawled upon The Wall.

Level Five is the Legends of Rock, a small room full of handwritten lyrics, performance outfits, and instruments from some of history’s greatest concerts. If you enjoy Madonna, Jimi, Prince, Kurt, Bono, Biggy, Beyonce or any other trendsetter, you’ll enjoy the Legends of Rock.

And Lastly, Level Six is a tiny room at the apex of the pyramid featuring four guitarists the HOF considers to be the most important in Rock n Roll History. Interesting choices, no doubt.

Things to Do in Cleveland
Pink Floyd’s Wall

2. Cedar Point Amusement Park — Things to Do in Cleveland

Things to Do in Cleveland

How many truly great roller coaster parks are in the USA? Five? Three?

Cedar Point is without a doubt one of the top three thrill ride parks in the country. Located in the town of Sandusky, Ohio, on a spit in Lake Erie, Cedar Point Amusement Park is about an hour’s drive from Cleveland. The setting is beautiful with the entire park surrounded by water.

If big coasters are your thing, Cedar Point has ten legitimate big-time coasters. In addition to these aggressive thrill rides, the park has a handful of moderate coasters and a vast assortment of slingers, spinners, sliders and splashers to keep you busy for multiple days.

The park has two of the best roller coasters you will find in any thrill park: Steel Vengeance and Maverick. Both are located at the very back of the park and should be addressed at the beginning of the day before lines get stupid long.

The Perfect Coaster: Things to Do in Cleveland

Steel Vengeance, considered by some to be “the perfect roller coaster”, creates more Air Time (the amount of time your butt is out of your seat), than any roller coaster on earth. Once you know this it is easy to recognize the effect. The ride is also surprisingly long.

Maverick is a reckless demonstration of speed with direction changes so swift you’ll laugh like an idiot. Maverick was our favorite.

Things to Do in Cleveland
Things to Do in Cleveland

Also be sure to ride Millennium Force, Valravn, Gatekeeper, Raptor, and Top Thrill Dragster (which is currently not running).

There are several ways to buy Cedar Point tickets. They run promotions on their website that greatly reduce the gate admission price (about $45 per ticket). Local convenience stores will sell reduced rate tickets as well. If you have the time, tickets are most affordable when buying them for two or more days. Season Passes start at about $140 for a Gold Pass, and run all the way up to $280 for the Platinum.

If you love to travel, or love the idea of traveling more, better, or different, we have something we would like to give you. It is our professionally designed e-book and it is FREE of charge. We think it’s pretty great, and we’re pretty sure you’ll like it, too. It’s called, “Cultivating a Lifetime of Travel”. Click HERE. and we’ll send it on over!

Things to Do in Cleveland
Ichiro can’t believe he missed all the things to do in Cleveland.

3. Cleveland Museum of Art — Things to Do in Cleveland

Things to Do in Cleveland

The Smithsonian. The Metropolitan. The Getty Center. The Cleveland Museum of Art?

This FREE museum consistently ranks in the top 10-30 museums in the USA. Did we mention it is FREE?

The permanent collection has over 40,000 works of art from around the world, and houses Botticelli, Van Gogh, Monet, Goya, Matisse, and many other famous painters in less crowded, larger spaced setting than other celebrated art houses. The Art Museum is definitely one of the best things to do in Cleveland.

The museum is best known for its collection of American art from the 20th century. It also has excellent European works from the 18th and 19th centuries and an aesthetically remarkable collection of Asian and Egyptian Art.

There’s a little bit of everything here, from gun and armor collections to stained glass and thousand year old sculptures. The museum begins with the oldest exhibits on the ground floor — we suggest starting here and moving upward through time.

Our personal favorite section was the contemporary paintings that dominated the 2nd floor.

Things to Do in Cleveland
Waterlilies by Monet — Things to Do in Cleveland

Another of our favorite sections was the Artlens Gallery, a multifaceted, innovative experience that allows yous to look closer, dive deeper, and have fun discovering the museum’s collection using award-winning digital technology.

Create your own digital artwork in ArtLens Studio, engage with masterworks of art and touchscreen-free interactives in ArtLens Exhibition, and connect with the museum’s world-renowned collection at ArtLens Wall.  Our autistic son ran back and forth in front of a giant screen showing digital artwork, and as he passed by the painting would change in his wake. Kids were clearly loving the Artlens Gallery.

Things to Do in Cleveland

4. Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Things to Do in Cleveland
Things to Do in Cleveland

Cuyahoga Valley N.P. is different than your average National Park. There are myriad ways in and out of the park, no card-checking gate guards, and houses — yes, single-family houses — all throughout. Honestly, it doesn’t feel like a National Park, but it is easily one of the best things to do in Cleveland.

The winding Cuyahoga (the “Crooked River”) gives way to 33,000 acres of deep forests, rolling hills, and open farmlands. The park is a refuge for flora and fauna, gives a sense of times past, and provides recreation and solitude for Ohio’s residents and visitors.

Things to Do in Cleveland
One of the Best Things to Do in Cleveland

The movement for a national park began in the 1960s, as local citizens sought to fight urban sprawl into the area.  However, in the early 70s, the National Park Service director was vehemently against the creation of a national park in Cuyahoga Valley.  Instead, local leaders convinced Congress and President Gerald Ford to declare the area a National Recreation Area in 1974. 

A key champion of the park was Congressman Ralph Regula, who would help funnel resources to the park for decades and shepherded the change in designation to a national park in 2000.

Brandywine Falls — Not Our Photo

Cuyahoga offers something for everyone—from hiking, golfing, historic train rides, and kayaking to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Highlights of the park include Brandywine Falls (photo above), The Ledges hike (top photo of article), the Everett Covered Bridge, and Blue Hen Falls. Our personal favorite was the inimitable Ledges hike — one of our all-time favorites.

Things to Do in Cleveland

*Bonus Thing to Do in Cleveland: Edgewater Beach Park

Things to Do in Cleveland
Things to Do in Cleveland

Just so we’re clear, you’re not going to mistake Cleveland, Ohio for Waikiki. What you are getting is access to a sandy beach in a mid-western town, and that is worth celebrating.

In addition to a large and decent beach, you will find a beautiful park with a large picnic area, and a very cool lakeside stroll across the bulwark (see photo below). Map of Edgewater Park.

Things to Do in Cleveland

An Honest Conclusion for Things to Do in Cleveland

Things to Do in Cleveland

Ichiro… we know you’re not going to book an immediate flight to Cleveland just because you read this. You’ve been here before (and you played very well), but perhaps you were so focused on your craft and devotion to the team that you failed to recognize the beauty all around you. Everybody makes mistakes, even the greatest batsman in the history of baseball. We love you and forgive you.

The next time you’re staring down a long, purposeless weekend, heck, why not Cleveland? It’s worth it for the Rock n Roll HOF Museum alone! We’re serious! Or are we? Of course we are! You think we’d write this many words because we were messing around?

Honestly… there are some very cool things to do in Cleveland.

And if you like reading about mid-western towns, be sure to read up on Saint Louis, another underrated town waiting to impress you.

Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!

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