When the Ritz-Carlton Cleveland invited us to fly out for their grand re-opening, following an 18-month renovation, I jumped on it. I’ve always wanted to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and I had heard great things about all the things to do in Cleveland with kids and the city’s recent revitalization. Plus I had never been to Ohio at all. Time to change that.
We took advantage of a three-day weekend at school, flying in on a Friday afternoon and heading back to California Monday morning. In those two and a half days we experienced seven distinct kid-friendly things to do in Cleveland, as well as attending the Ritz-Carlton’s celebrations and had an amazingly fun time. Seriously, Cleveland rocks. And it wasn’t just the hotel and all the fun things to do in Cleveland that impressed us. We loved the overall vibe of downtown. It’s a fun city.
So what did we do? And what should you do in Cleveland with kids?
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is roughly a 20-minute walk from the hotel. We started walking, but the rain picked up and we got an Uber for the second half of the journey. We spent two hours at the Hall, getting there right when they opened at 10am and leaving a little after noon. It didn’t disappoint! My 10-year-old son loved all of the displays, but especially the hand-written lyrics from some of his favorite songs. I liked how much of the museum they devote to the Blues musicians who made rock & roll possible. Plus Tom Petty’s guitar from the cover of Full Moon Fever is there. How cool is that? The only negative: where the heck are the Smiths?
The Great Lakes Science Center
A one-minute walk from the Rock Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Center was my son’s absolute highlight. We spent over three hours there, most of it doing interactive activities that showcase the science behind light, sound, motion, force, the watershed and everything else you can imagine. The NASA Glenn Visitor Center space-related displays are impressive as well. When we return to explore even more things to do in Cleveland, this will be our first stop.
The Cleveland Museum of Art
My son loves art and sketching so we headed over to the Cleveland Museum of Art first thing Sunday, getting there when they opened at 10am. We spent an hour and a half at the museum and we felt like we had it to ourselves for most of that. This is an extraordinary museum and should be at the top of your things to do in Cleveland list. The antiquities are impressive, and the European art blew us away – dozens of paintings from Picasso, Modigliani, Monet, Van Gogh, Pissarro, Degas, Matisse, Gauguin and so many others. Who knew these were in Cleveland? And the best part – the museum is completely free.
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History
From the Museum of Art, we walked a few minutes over to the Museum of Natural History. On Sundays they open at noon, so we waited for a few minutes and were first in line. This is a great museum for taking kids (or adults) on a tour of the earth though time, starting with the big bang and continuing through to man. There are interactive stations throughout the museum. My son thought the rock sections were particularly interesting.
Cleveland with Kids: The West Side Market
The West Side Market has been operating in the same location for over a hundred years. We loved walking the aisles checking out the meats, cheeses, pirogies, pastries and produce – even it was painful not being able to buy much! We did get lunch though and we headed to the market overlook to sit and eat while planning out our next things to do in Cleveland. Definitely worth doing while you’re in Cleveland.
From the West Side Market, we walked two minutes down 24th place to the Glass Bubble Project where we spent over an hour with Mike learning how to blow glass. Although we’ve seen glass blowing demonstrations around the world, we had never tried it before. It was very cool! My son went first and created a green vase with a wavy base. I then created a simpler vase. For highly unique and fun kid activities in Cleveland, we recommend glass blowing! It was my favorite activity of the weekend. Be sure to say hi to Morty the Rooster when you’re there.
A Cleveland Cavaliers Game
Cleveland takes a lot of pride in its sports, and its basketball team is one of the best. Plus they have LeBron James, and their arena is connected to the Ritz-Carlton. How could we not go? The hotel arranged for two tickets for us in the Cavaliers’ owner’s suite (a major perk of being a travel writer!) and we had a great time. It was my son’s first professional sports event of any kind. The Cavs now have a fan for life!
Where We Ate
We had breakfast every morning at the Ritz-Carlton’s 14th floor club lounge. We had lunch Saturday at a pub between the Science Center and the hotel. We ate lunch Sunday at the West Side Market. The crepes and pierogis are excellent!
For dinner, we walked from the hotel over to East 4th Street, a pedestrian zone of restaurants and shops, both Friday and Saturday nights. My son loves cooking shows and follows all of the celebrity chefs, so one dinner at Michael Symon’s Lola Bistro was a must. It was excellent. I got the hanger steak. My son had the braised lamb shank. And the beef cheek pierogis to start were amazing – one of my son’s new favorite dishes anywhere.
Saturday night we ate across the sidewalk from Lola at Saigon. We weren’t very hungry since we had a late lunch, so we ordered an assortment of Vietnamese appetizers. Everything was excellent.
Sunday night we ate at the Cavs game.
The Ritz-Carlton Cleveland
The Ritz-Carlton is the best hotel in Cleveland, and following its 18-month renovation, it’s now on par with Ritz-Carlton’s other properties. We loved everything about our stay, from our room to the club lounge to the hotel’s downtown location. They have multiple setups for families. And it’s connected to the Tower City Center mall, which connects to Quicken Loans Arena, providing plenty of things to do in Cleveland without even going outside. It’s roughly a 15-minute drive from the airport to the hotel.
As everyone there told us, the weather was great up until we arrived! We had cool days in the 40s and 50s with moderate rain. But that let us explore Cleveland’s indoor side, and we found plenty to keep us busy for several days. At some point we’ll return in the summer to explore the parks and waterfront. Definitely don’t stay away because of the weather!
We were hosted by Ritz-Carlton Cleveland. Their rates start at $303/night in the winter and $352/night in the summer. Within the city, we used Uber to get around and see all of our favorite things to do in Cleveland – between $6 and $10 per trip. Lola was around $100 for the two of us. Saigon was $25.