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Here are some travel tips for maximizing the experience of visitors to Cleveland. Most of the commonly asked questions of visitors are addressed, and perhaps some lesser known opportunities are discussed. Some of the information may be repetitive, such as when addressing kid-friendly attractions and activities. Enjoy your stay in one of the nation's cultural centers and the entertainment/dining and sporting center of Ohio's North Coast!
Here is the link to TripAdvisor's Cleveland "Things to Do" with traveler reviews for attractions. Some of these attractions, such as the maritime museums, are seasonal.
Some attractions with lower TA rankings but perhaps especially worthy of consideration include the Steamship William G. Mather, part of the Great Lakes Science Center and an ASME historic mechanical engineering landmark; the Terminal Tower observation deck, open on weekend afternoons most of the year; The Arcade, now the downtown Hyatt Hotel on its upper floors, but one of the nation's architectural gems and worth walking through to gawk at its beauty; the International Women's Air & Space Museum; and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Public Square. All but the Steamship Mather and the Terminal Tower observation deck are free attractions.
NOTE: Cleveland's Public Square is under reconstruction, but the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the southeast quadrant of the square remains open. Here's a live webcam of the reconstruction underway. Note that the sidewalks on the periphery of Public Square remain open.
The Great Lakes Science Center, the Steamship William G. Mather, the U.S.S. Cod, and the International Women's Air & Space Museum are located within easy walking distance of the Rock Hall, all along the shore of Lake Erie. The International Women's Air & Space Museum is located in the terminal of Burke Lakefront Airport.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland has a Learning Center and Money Museum.
Those attending games or other events at Progressive Field or Quicken Loans Arena may especially want to check out the discussion of the Gateway District below and in the DINING travel article linked below.
The Arcade -- Located directly across Euclid Ave. from Cleveland's bustling East 4th St. entertainment/dining district, The Arcade is one of the nation's architectural gems and the first Cleveland building placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It offers an excellent pedestrian walkway between Euclid and Superior Avenues. Once known as Cleveland's Crystal Palace, the stunning building features four indoor balconies, brass fixtures, gargoyles, and a 300-foot skylight, a stunning and daring design in the late 19th century.
Built in 1890, The Arcade was financed by John D. Rockefeller and other Cleveland industrial magnates of the day. As late as the 1980s, The Arcade was a center of commerce in downtown Cleveland.
Several factors subsequently destroyed The Arcade's commercial viability, including the building of the mammoth Key Center, opened in 1991, which moved the commercial nexus of downtown back from East 9th St. to Public Square; the exodus of jobs to the suburbs and due to mergers and acquistions; the redevelopment of the Tower City railroad terminal into a mall in 1990; and the construction of the Galleria arcade on East 9th St. in 1987.
The upper three levels of The Arcade and the two office towers on each end were developed into the Hyatt Regency Cleveland hotel in 2001. The lower two levels of The Arcade still are open to the public, although the lowest level often is closed to accommodate wedding receptions, particularly on weekends.
The Arcade is well worth walking through, and provides a pleasant alternative to East 9th St. when walking from the East 4th St. area north to the Rock Hall, Cleveland Public Library or even the football stadium. It closes in the early evening, although Hyatt guests can access the Euclid Ave. entrance after hours using their room key cards.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo -- This fairly large zoo features a world-class African Elephant Crossing, featuring the larger African elephants than the Asian elephants displayed at many zoos; reportedly the nation's largest collections of primates; and the RainForest, one of the best rain forest exhibits in the U.S.
Somewhat unique attractions include the ability to hand-feed giraffes (check on timing), camel rides in the summer, and a learning lab and surgical suite viewing area for the zoo's zoological medical center.
The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is spread out and hilly, so definitely bring strollers for younger children. There is a tram that provides transportation, but it may run infrequently off-season.
Located close to downtown, the zoo is best visited by car. Parking is free. It's possible to reach the zoo using buses, but it can be time-consuming. Contact the Greater Cleveland RTA or search using its route map if interested in using bus transportation to reach the zoo.
The zoo offers many food options, many reasonably priced, including picnic facilities. Concession areas for animal safety do not use straws and lids for drinks, so parents should bring "sippy cups" or other non-spillable containers.
As with any zoo, on hot days, the zoo is best visited in the morning when many animals are more active. Mondays are a free admission day for Cuyahoga County residents and the zoo often is relatively crowded, especially in the summer during school vacation days.
The zoo honors reciprocal memberships, at least partially, from most other zoos.
Cleveland Museum of Art -- One of the best art museums in the U.S., the Cleveland Museum of Art is known as an encyclopedic museum which covers the gamut of human art and crafts from antiquity through today. The museum complex was reinvented in the early 21st century by famed architect Rafael Vinoly so that "art history now unfolds as a 5,000-year global dialogue among civilizations, without a sense of hierarchy," in the words of Steven Litt, architecture and arts critic of The Plain Dealer.
There is no charge to the museum's general galleries, but admission is charged to some special exhibits and events.
The museum often produces world-class special exhibits. Excellent articles describing the museum's exhibits and other topics regarding the museum can be found in Cleveland Art, the museum's excellent members' magazine. Other reviews and articles about the museum are available at cleveland.com. Here is one critic's picks of the museum's top 20 art works.
Hours are Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the museum is open until 9 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday. It's closed on Monday. There's a reasonably priced attached parking garage just north of the museum. Metered street parking may be available for short visits, facilitated by the absence of an admission charge.
The museum is distinguished by large amounts of natural light in many of its galleries and certainly in its grand atrium. It also is well-endowed with strategically placed benches, often perfect for absorbing masterpieces in the museum's collection or providing a rest for tired feet. Overall, it's an exceptionally visitor-friendly museum. It even offers a free coat check service!
The museum's collecting philosophy emphasizes quality over quantity, and it is considered to have extraordinary collections of Asian, Medieval European, Egyptian and pre-Columbian art of the Americas.
With the opening of its new West Wing, featuring the museum's renown collection of Asian art, the CMA has completed a $350 million renovation and expansion. The museum now has 588,000 square feet (55,000 square meters) of floor space. It's reportedly the 12th largest art museum in the U.S. measured by square footage, with the 4th largest endowment (after the Getty in Los Angeles, the Met in New York City, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston).
The renovation project was one of the largest museum expansion projects in American history and required architectural creativity and 21st century engineering solutions, especially to seamlessly integrate a football field-sized atrium into a museum filled with conservation quality, humidified air and lighting requirements.
The new West Wing allows the CMA to exhibit much more of its celebrated Asian art collection, especially strong in Indian and Southeast Asian art.
The CMA also has an internationally renown collection of textiles, some 4,000 years old! Only with its recent expansion will the CMA have a textile gallery in which to display its magnificent collection, representing 4,500 objects (over 10 percent of the museum's collection) and 62 countries. Among the highlights of this collection is an imperial Iranian tent, acquired in 2015 and believed to be the only one in a U.S. art museum.
The CMA currently has the most advanced digital technology of any U.S. art museum. It's ground-breaking Gallery One features the nation's largest multi-touch screen and several unique interactive kiosks. An advanced iPad application additionally interfaces with the multi-touch screen, providing very detailed information about artifacts on display, even videos, and allowing visitors to design their own tours, or to take customized tours designed by others. Those owning iPads or Android tablets can download the ArtLens app before visiting the museum, or visitors can rent a pre-programmed iPad for $5.
While the use of ArtLens is an excellent way to plan a visit to the museum, here are some other links that may prove useful, keeping in mind that works on display often are rotated and some works may be on loan to other museums.
See "Walking Tour" in the following issue of "Cleveland Art."
Its free general admission makes the CMA a great place to take young children to introduce them to high culture. If they get bored, the parents can make a quick exit incurring only a modest parking charge.
Children enjoy the museum's new digital attractions, including "Studio Play," part of Gallery One designed to entertain and educate the museum's youngest visitors with the assistance of a parent. Studio Play offers activities such as mobile and sculpture building, plus line drawing on a big touch screen. Gallery One and Studio Play can be very busy on weekends.
Kids like exploring cultures different than their own and 3-dimensional objects as opposed to 2-dimensional objects. So one reason that kids enjoy the CMA more than most art museums is because it abounds in kid-friendly artifacts.
Young boys understandably are particularly fascinated by the museum's large armor and weapons gallery, where they can see a mounted knight and horse in their full-armored splendor and a plethora of swords and other medieval weapons. The Egyptian and Asian galleries also provide wonders for a kid's mind.
Every Second Sunday, the CMA offers family activities including dance, music and hands-on projects.
The museum also offers performing arts events featuring some of the world's great masters as well as a film series that presents about 90 feature films annually in one of the oldest, most adventurous and respected museum film series in the U.S.On the first Friday of each month, the museum offers a themed Mix from 5 to 9 p.m. with happy hours oriented towards young adults but enjoyed by those of all ages who are young at heart. Advance ticket purchases are recommended.
The museum offers both an excellent full-service Provenance restaurant, and the very good Provenance Cafe, the latter with seating inside in the cafe and outside of the cafe in the museum's atrium.
The museum is one of the anchors of University Circle (see separate topic) and is best reached from downtown on the 24//7 RTA Healthline bus rapid. The museum is less than a 10-minute walk from the Adelbert Healthline station located by Severance Hall.
Hotels within walking distance include Glidden House Inn and the Courtyard Cleveland University Circle. Doubletree Tudor Arms is nearby and offers a free shuttle service to and from University Circle attractions, including the art museum, but check hours and availability. Other possibilities include the Intercontinental and Intercontinental Suites, both of which primarily serve Cleveland Clinic guests.
Cleveland Orchesta & Severance Hall
Severance Hall often is called Cleveland's Taj Mahal, as John Long Severance, its main benefactor, envisioned it as a memorial to his wife, Elizabeth. A recurring motif in the interior reflects Elizabeth's love of the lotus flower.
Severance Hall also hosts a celebrity series of famous artists, such as Natalie Cole in 2013; Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra concerts; and other events. The orchestra's popular Christmas Concerts in December, typically featuring one or more of the Cleveland Orchestra Choruses, often sell out and should be booked well in advance.
The Cleveland Pops Orchestra also offers several concerts at Severance Hall, including its annual New Year's Eve Concert and Dance.
Free public tours of Severance Hall are available on select Sundays during the Severance Hall season. Reservations are recommended.
Severance Restaurant is available to Severance Hall guests. See "Little Italy & University Circle" in the travel article linked under "DINING" below for additional nearby dining options.
Severance Hall has an attached parking garage, but advance purchase of tickets is highly recommended. Additional parking also is available.
The 24/7 RTA Healthline bus rapid provides easy access to Severance Hall from downtown and from other locations near Euclid Ave.; the Healthline's Adelbert Station is immediately in front of Severance Hall.
During the summer, the Cleveland Orchestra performs at Blossom Music Center (see "ATTRACTIONS IN GREATER CLEVELAND AND REGIONALLY" below).
Edgewater Park -- Relatively neglected by the State of Ohio, this beautifully located park on Lake Erie recently was turned over to the Cleveland Metroparks system, which is in the process of greatly upgrading the park as part of its Lakefront Reservation. Edgewater is less than a 10-minute drive from downtown and offers the closest Lake Erie beach to downtown. Edgewater Beach is open for swimming from mid-June through mid-August, then on weekends through Labor Day. In August, Lake Erie's surface water temperature can exceed 75 degrees F. See "Attractions in Greater Cleveland and Regionally" for the Cleveland day trips travel article that lists other Lake Erie beaches close to Cleveland. Wendy Park, see discussion below, uses the same access route from the Shoreway, but is located to the east of Edgewater Park. The seasonal Sunset Bar and Grille at the Whiskey Island Marina offers a unique dining opportunity in Cleveland.
Gateway District -- Formally established as part of the project to build Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland's downtown, the Gateway District additionally features East 4th St., a celebrated mixed used redevelopment, and a trio of arcades, including The Arcade (see above).
those interested in architecture, the Gateway District is a wonderland,
especially when combined with an exploration of Tower City and the
Terminal Tower (see "Terminal Tower Observation Deck" below), let alone the nearby PlayhouseSquare theaters.
Great restaurants (see DINING below), hotels, entertainment venues, and sports bars support the heart of Cleveland's sporting scene. Gateway's many attractions also are a short walk from Tower City and the Horseshoe Casino.
Entertainment venues include the House of Blues, Hilarties comedy club, and Wilbert's, Cleveland's premier downtown dive bar.
Heinen's at Cleveland Trust Rotunda -- The Cleveland Trust Co., now part of KeyCorp, once was the nation's sixth largest bank and one of its most powerful trust companies. Its headquarters at the intersection of East 9th St. and Euclid Ave., opened in 1908 and was designed by the George Browne Post, also the architect of the New York Stock Exchange building. The Cleveland Trust Rotunda is one of the most exquisite architectural spaces in Cleveland, inspired by Greek and Roman temples, and recently was reopened to the public in early 2015 after a quarter century's closure. It now houses the deli and wine offerings of a Heinen's supermarket, and some believe it is the world's most beautiful grocery store.
The building also features a large series of murals depicting the settling of the Midwest.
Not only is the building another highlight for architectural enthusiasts visiting Cleveland, it also offers a good place for visitors to downtown to enjoy a self-serve array of prepared foods, including soup, sandwiches and other entrees. It contains a wine-sampling bar.
The building is a few blocks from Progressive Field and easily reached using the E- or C-line free downtown bus trolleys or the Healthline bus rapid (see the "Public Transportation" article linked below under "Transportation and Parking").
Lake View Cemetery -- Founded by some of the great 19th century American industrialists, such as Jeptha Wade, founder of Western Union Telegraph Company, and oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, Lake View is one of the great American Victorian cemeteries.
Lake View's top attractions include the James A. Garfield Monument, the Louis Comfort Tiffany interior of Wade Memorial Chapel (best visited on a sunny day to view the spectacular stained glass), the grave site of the John D. Rockefeller family, and the cemetery's arboretum-like grounds. A Lake View visit in April to see spring flowers and especially Daffodil Hill, which features 100,000 bulbs and over 50 varieties, is a rite of spring in Cleveland. Daffodil Hill is located just east of the Wade Memorial Chapel. Visitors also marvel at the cemetery's statuary, such as The Haserot Angel.
The Garfield Monument and Wade Memorial Chapel are seasonal attractions not open in winter. Wade Memorial Chapel sometimes is closed to the public when used for weddings or other services.
There is no admission charge to Lake View or any of its attractions.
The Garfield Monument reportedly is the biggest and most elaborate final resting place of any President of the United States (Washington is not buried at the Washington Monument but in a tomb at Mount Vernon; similarly, Lincoln is entombed in Springfield, IL, not at the Lincoln Memorial). The 180-foot tall building features impressive statuary, stained glass windows, terra cotta panels, gold mosaics, and a balcony offering views of the Cleveland skyline and Lake Erie. President Garfield's casket, draped in an American flag, is the only casket of an American president in open display. Binoculars would be useful to view the outside features of the Monument.
Presidential tourists often include a visit to the Garfield Monument with a visit in nearby Mentor, OH, to the James A. Garfield National Historic Site, which features Garfield's historic and authentically restored Lawnfield residence and a small but well-done Presidential museum.
The John D. Rockefeller family grave site is marked by a mammoth and brilliantly white obelisk (obviously cleaned unlike other Lake View obelisks). It's located on a knoll across a road to the left of the grand entrance of the James A. Garfield Monument. Rockefeller was the founder of the Standard Oil Trust, which controlled much of the American oil industry, and was the wealthiest individual in American history, measured by the percentage of the nation's wealth individually controlled. Rockefeller was famed for giving dimes (when a dime was worth over $2.70 in 2012 dollars) to children and others. Today, visitors to Rockefeller's grave site still leave dimes on his modest tombstone for good fortune.
Given all of the notable individuals buried in the cemetery, Lake View, like all cemeteries, is a great place to reflect upon how fleeting is fame and power. For example, buried at Lake View is Marcus "Mark" Hanna, a former U.S. Senator and one of the most powerful presidential kingmakers of the 19th century. The Hanna family legacy lives on in Cleveland primarily in the form of the beautifully restored and modernized Hanna Theatre (see PlayhouseSquare discussion below), named by his son after Mark Hanna, a theater lover. This living memorial has contributed immeasurably to the lifes of generations of Cleveland theatergoers.
Visitors can drive to Lake View, 12316 Euclid Ave., which has maps available during business hours in the main office located to the right just inside the main Euclid Ave. entrance. Cleveland visitors without cars can reach Lake View from downtown, University Circle, or elsewhere on Euclid Ave. on the Healthline bus rapid (see Transportation and Parking). The East 123rd St. Healthline station serves Lake View. Hikers should note Lake View's large size and hilly terrain, making hikes likely of at least a moderate nature.
After visiting Lake View, many Clevelanders like to visit the adjacent Little Italy for a meal or a snack (see Little Italy discussion in DINING). Little Italy actually housed many of the immigrant artisans who made Lake View possible. Hikers can exit Lake View at the Mayfield Road exit just southwest of the Garfield Monument, and walk downhill from there to Little Italy.
PlayhouseSquare -- PlayhouseSquare is a regional mecca for the performing arts, one of the nation's best theater complexes and the world's largest theater restoration endeavor. It offers many entertainment options for visitors to Cleveland. Its 10 stages, some among the most unique in the U.S., have a seating capacity of almost 9,000. It's located in Cleveland's Playhouse Square district centered around the intersection of Euclid Ave. and East 14th St.
Events can range from traveling Broadway shows, to concerts, to original productions by the residential theater companies, especially the Cleveland Play House, the nation's oldest residential theater company, and Great Lakes Theater.
If you want to see the world's largest outdoor chandelier, it's in Playhouse Square. Obviously, it is more spectacular after nightfall.
You might check out "Cinema on the Square" if in Cleveland on a weekend in late July or in August. For $5/ticket, you could enjoy an old-fashioned movie experience in one of the nation's best surviving movie/vaudeville theaters, but shown on the largest non-Imax screen in Ohio. The program includes an organ recital and cartoons, just as in the 1950s and 1960s.
This cinema event tries to duplicate this major form of entertainment in the days before television, when men in suits and women in dresses would jam movie palaces, especially on hot days when these theaters offered air-conditioned comfort. Matinees typically are kid favorites such as "The Wizard of Oz." Films shown are classics from the 1930s through 1980s.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum -- The I.M. Pei-designed home of the Rock Hall is now one of Cleveland's icons. The Rock Hall houses not only an impressive collection of memorablia, but also seeks to document through its video and audio presentations the history and cultural impact of this American art form.
Cleveland has a very compact downtown, but the Rock Hall is located on Cleveland's North Coast Harbor on the northern end of downtown along the Lake Erie shore. It's about a 15-minute walk from Public Square, the center of downtown. This can be a very pleasant walk in nice weather, and good transportation options are available at other times.
Especially check out downtown's free bus trolleys. The B-line operates from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on weekdays and has a stop at East 9th St. and Lakeside. The Rock Hall's East 9th St. location is about a five-minute walk north of this stop. On weekends, the L-line operates from the Horseshoe Casino, on Public Square, directly to lake shore attractions, including the Rock Hall. The trolleys operate at about 10-minute intervals and have trolley bells. Stops are marked by trolley signs.
The RTA rail rapid Waterfront Line operates between the RTA rail rapid hub on the lower level of Tower City and North Coast destinations. Fares are charged (see the Public Transportation article linked in the "Transportation and Parking" section below for detailed fare information), generally $2.25 each way but RTA day passes are $5. Discounts/free fares are available for children, seniors and some others.
The East 9th/North Coast Harbor station is the Waterfront Line stop for the Rock Hall. The Waterfront Line also passes through the East Flats (Cuyahoga River valley). This once was a major entertainment district in Cleveland, but most of the old riverfront has been razed and is being redeveloped into a mixed-use commercial and residential district. The goal within a few years is to have a new, reborn entertainment district in the Flats.
For Rock Hall admission, consider annual memberships, which offer special benefits, including express entry (significant as waiting lines for entry can be long, especially at opening). The duet membership may be especially beneficial for hard core rock fans who will spend more than one day at the Rock Hall, or visit more than once within a year. Rock Hall memberships include a free T-shirt and discounts in the Rock Hall's very good gift shop.
The Rock Hall permits non-flash photography.
If you want a break for lunch, or you don't like the Rock Hall food options, check out restaurants in the Galleria arcade mall, about a 10-minute walk south from the Rock Hall on the east side of East 9th St. Restaurants there include Winks Bar and Grille, affiliated with the small Cleveland-based Winking Lizard sports bar restaurant chain. Alternatively, walk 10-15 minutes to the Warehouse District (see the DINING section below) or take the B-line bus trolley there.
On Thursdays from June to September, Lunch by the Lake takes place from noon to 2 p.m. on the East 9th St. Pier just north of the Rock Hall. The event features food trucks and live music.
If you have an RTA day pass, and want to take a few hours break, take the Waterfront Line to Tower City and switch to the Red Line and go one stop west to the West 25th St. station. The West Side Market is across the street and this great and relatively unchanged Cleveland legacy would provide a good insight into Cleveland's eclectic culture at the time of the birth of Rock and Roll in the early 1950s.
The West Side Market is open on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturdays, and is very crowded on Saturday afternoons. Consider going before or after the lunch time rush on other days, especially if interested in Steve's Gyros. The West Side Market opens at 7 a.m., so also is an excellent breakfast/morning option before a visit to the Rock Hall. In the surrounding Market District, there are many other very good restaurants and breweries, as listed in the following travel article, within a short walk of the Market and the West 25th Red Line station.
The Rock Hall's GPS address is 1100 East 9th Street and not 1100 Rock and Roll Blvd.
Parking for the Rock Hall can be scarce and more expensive on Browns game days or on the rare occasions when other events are taking place at the nearby football stadium. In good weather, especially if visiting the lakefront attractions located just east of the Rock Hall, Burke Lakefront Airport offers paid parking (currently $6, but much higher on Browns game days or when special events are taking place) in a large surface lot adjacent to the U.S.S. Cod. The International Women's Air and Space Museum is located in part of Burke's terminal and has no admission charge. The U.S.S. Cod (open seasonally from May through September) is the other popular destination located east of the Rock Hall. The Cod has a small free parking lot only available for visitors to the ship.
Just west of the Rock Hall are the Great Lakes Science Center and the Steamship William G. Mather, part of the science center.
For great pictures of the Rock Hall against the Cleveland skyline, walk the short distance north from the Rock Hall to Voinovich Bicentennial Park.
For lodging, be aware that most Cleveland area hotels, especially those downtown, offer Rock Hall packages. These packages can include admission to the Rock Hall and free parking. Reportedly, some packages include memberships and not just admission tickets, allowing for express entry and other benefits as discussed above.
The Doubletree Lakeside is the closest hotel to the Rock Hall, but it also is further from the entertainment/dining districts on East 4th St. and the Warehouse District. However, the Doubletree offers free shuttle service downtown; check availability (reservations needed?) and hours of operation. The Doubletree is one of the few more moderately priced hotels with attached, self-parking garages and with a pool, actually a large and well-reviewed pool. It is a converted Holiday Inn. It's a 10-minute walk to the Rock Hall and is located on the B-line free trolley route.
The Hampton Inn also is about a 10-minute walk to the Rock Hall. However, it is located much closer to the Warehouse District, Progressive Field, and East 4th St., also about 10-minute walks to these destinations, compared to about 20 minutes from the Doubletree.
Other hotels reportedly offering free shuttle service to the Rock Hall include the Wyndham and the Hilton Garden Inn.
See lodging discussion for other hotels.
An often asked question is why the Rock Hall is in Cleveland. The historical claim is that the term "rock 'n roll" was coined in Cleveland, which also had the first rock concert ever. Cleveland was a major hot bed of rock 'n roll in its earliest days. Most importantly, the Rock Hall was strongly supported by the community and the city's civic leaders, and Cleveland out bid all other cities for the hall. Cleveland committed $65 million (over $140 million in 2014 dollars) in public money to help build the Rock Hall. As Cleveland native Drew Carey famously stated, "Cleveland Rocks," and Clevelanders wanted everybody to know it.
Cleveland civic leaders also felt that the Rock Hall would complement Greater Cleveland's superb musical heritage with the Cleveland Orchestra, Severance Hall, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and the Oberlin Conservatory, and, as a tourist attraction, offer critical mass to the city's other tourist attractions.
Terminal Tower Observation Deck -- The Terminal Tower observation deck offers great views of downtown Cleveland and Greater Cleveland as a whole, but especially of the Cuyahoga River and its valley (known as the east and west "Flats" at the valley's terminus just west of downtown Cleveland). Cuyahoga means "crooked river" in the Iroquoian language. It's only 30 miles (48 km) from the Cuyahoga's source direct to its mouth, but the river's twisting length is 100 miles (160 km).
The observation deck is open on weekend afternoons except for a few months after December. Advance tickets are sold for 30-minute intervals and tickets can be purchased either online or at the Tower City mall's information desk. Ticket prices currently are $5 with a small fee for online purchases. Typically the deck isn't busy and visitors can stay as long as desired. The deck has its original bathrooms. To buy tickets online or check the observation deck schedule and ticket availability, use the following website: http://www.eventbrite.com/org/570713222
movies have featured the photogenic, Beaux-Arts style Terminal Tower
including such hits as "The Deer Hunter" (1978), "A Christmas Story" (1983),
"Spider-Man 3" (2007), and "The Avengers" (2012).
The Terminal Tower is a landmark office building opened in 1928 which towers above the southern end of Cleveland's Public Square. Until 1953, it was the tallest building in the world outside New York City, and until 1964, it remained the tallest building in North America outside NYC. It's currently the 114th tallest building in the U.S. and the second tallest in Ohio after the Key Tower (18th tallest), located on the north side of Public Square in Cleveland. The Terminal Tower clearly is a major milestone in the rise of skyscrapers in the U.S. and elsewhere in the 20th century. Especially when juxtaposed against the massive Key Tower across Public Square, the Terminal Tower allows visitors to gauge the evolution of skyscrapers in the 20th century.
From its opening, topping a train terminal larger than Grand Central Station in New York City, the Terminal Tower was Cleveland's iconic building, only challenged in recent decades by the stunning architecture of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. That the Terminal Tower remains the "Grand Lady" of Cleveland is obvious around every July 4th, when the Cleveland Orchestra offers its free "Star-Spangled Spectacular" concert at the tower's base, as the tower changes its color schemes to accompany the music.
Lucky visitors to the observation deck might see a giant ore freighter, which can be
700-1,000 plus feet long, winding its way through river bends just below
the Terminal Tower. From Lake Erie to a steel mill just south of
downtown, as the freighter navigates the narrow river channel, bridges will be raised and
lowered to permit its progress. A visit to the Steamship Mather in
Cleveland's inner harbor will demonstrate how these massive freighters
using "thrusters" can navigate the Cuyahoga River on their own without tugs.
III, a large tour boat, more regularly travels the river and also necessitates the raising and lowering
of the Cuyahoga River's bridges.
Visitors also can see lake freighters enter the Cleveland harbor and head to docks west of the river mouth.
Observation deck visitors have a good view of Cleveland's lakefront, including the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame and Museum. Bring binoculars to view the details of the
Cleveland Clinic, University Circle, the Garfield Monument, and
Gildersleeve Mountain and other features to the East, as well as landmarks to the south and west. On a clear day, reportedly Canada can be
viewed across Lake Erie. The views are enhanced because the Terminal
Tower is built on a higher elevation significantly above Lake Erie and
much of the area viewable from the observation deck.
The Terminal Tower is part of Tower City Center. At the time of its construction, Tower City (originally known as the Union Terminal Group) reportedly required the destruction of over 2,000 buildings and was the largest excavation project ever undertaken after the Panama Canal. The Union Terminal Group also included what now is known as the Landmark Office Towers, connected to the main Tower City Center by tunnels, as is the Tower City Center Post Office Plaza.
Tower City today additionally includes Greater Cleveland's rail mass transit hub station, a retail mall built inside the old train terminal, the Ritz-Carlton and Renaissance hotels, the Horseshoe Casino, several restaurants, a food court, and several large office buildings connected by underground tunnels to the rest of Tower City.
Tower City and the Terminal Tower were developed by "The Vans" -- O.P. Van Sweringen and M.J. Van Sweringen -- reclusive brothers who together were Cleveland's Donald Trump, although with polarly opposite personalities than Trump. They also became railroad magnates, at their peak controlling 30,000 miles of U.S. railroad mileage.
University Circle -- One of the nation's greatest cultural centers, several renown institutions are located within shorts walks of each other. The "Circle" also is the home of Case Western Reserve University, ranked 37th among major U.S. universities by U.S. News and World Report.
As the home of both the world-renown Cleveland Clinic and the exceptional University Hospitals/Case Medical Center, University Circle also is one of the nation's premier medical centers. The Dittrick Museum of Medical History is on the Case Western Reserve University campus. The museum allows visitors to see how medicine has progressed over the last two centuries, including doctors' offices from various periods.
Cultural institutions in University Circle include the Cleveland Museum of Art (see discussion above), one of the best in the U.S.; the Cleveland Orchestra, one of the world's best and which performs in Severance Hall, often considered the most beautiful concert hall in the U.S.; the excellent Cleveland Botanical Garden; the Cleveland Museum of Natural History; the Western Reserve Historical Society and the Crawford Auto Museum; the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (see Visual Art Attractions below); the Cleveland Institute of Music; and the Cleveland Institute of Art.
University Circle is connected to downtown Cleveland by the 24/7 RTA Healthline bus rapid, which has several stations in University Circle.
The acclaimed Cleveland Institute of Music annually offers over 100 programs and 300 recitals, often with no admission charge. The Cleveland Institute of Art has a well-regarded Cinematheque and offers exhibitions, typically in its Reinberger Galleries.
Live music venues in University Circle or very nearby include The Barking Spider, Nighttown (Cleveland's best jazz dinner club) on Cedar Road hill, and the Grog Shop in the Coventry district of Cleveland Heights.
Visual Art Attractions -- Apart from the Cleveland Museum of Art (see separate discussion), Cleveland offers several other attractions for visual art lovers.
These include the new Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, located at the intersection Euclid Ave. and Mayfield Road in the new Uptown neighborhood, a large mixed-use development on the eastern end of University Circle, just south of the Little Italy neighborhood. It's a short walk from the Cornell Road Healthline bus rapid station.
The MOCA's best permanent attraction is its building, the first U.S. commission of the acclaimed London-based Iranian-born architect Farshid Moussavi. MOCA doesn't feature a significant permanent collection, but offers engaging special exhibits, often featuring regional artists as well as acclaimed contemporary artists.
The Transformer Station, located in Ohio City (see West Side Market, Market District, & Ohio City discussion below), offers a contemporary art space, featuring especially photography, in cooperation with the Cleveland Museum of Art. Admission is free.
The acclaimed Cleveland Institute of Art in the University Circle district (see separate discussion), not affiliated with the Cleveland Museum of Art, also offers exhibitions, typically in its Reinberger Galleries.
For outdoor sculpture, the Cleveland Museum of Art offers its Wade Park Fine Arts Garden outdoor gallery around the beautiful Wage Lagoon located adjacent to the museum. It is a top photography location in Cleveland.
The Cleveland Cultural Gardens, uniquely celebrating Cleveland's eclectic ethnic heritage and world peace, are accessed off East Blvd. north of University Circle and contain considerable statuary among the various gardens. There are both upper gardens off East Blvd. and lower gardens along Martin Luther King Blvd., which runs through Rockefeller Park between University Circle and the Shoreway (route 2/I-90). The Rockefeller Park Greenhouse, a worthwhile attraction also with free admission, is a good parking location for visiting the Cultural Gardens if visitors don't mind walking a quarter mile to reach the gardens. Rest rooms also are available at the Rockefeller Park Greenhouse.
neighborhood, located south of Ohio City, has several art galleries and
is a popular destination on Sundays for art lovers and those attracted
to the neighborhood's very robust dining scene (see discussion in travel
article linked at DINING below). The Tremont Art Walk is scheduled for the second Friday evening of each month.
The 78th Street Studios in the Gordon Square Arts District, part of the larger Detroit Shoreway neighborhood and located west of Ohio City, is the largest art gallery complex in northeast Ohio. In many months, it has a Third Fridays open house, which is incorporated into a larger celebration in the Gordon Square Arts District, featuring free bus shuttles and special dining and entertainment opportunities.
This New York Magazine article is limited, but it lays out a very enjoyable art escape for contemporary art and art gallery lovers wanting to explore Cleveland. It offers some great tips at the end of the article for both contemporary rock music and art lovers.
Wendy Park uses the same access road from the Shoreway as Edgewater Park (see discussion above), but is located to the east (first right just north of the Shoreway) beyond the Whiskey Island Marina. The park is a good birding area and offers great views of Cleveland Harbor, the Cuyahoga River and the downtown skyline. Wendy Park visitors can walk out to the old Coast Guard station on a pier north of Whiskey Island, where visitors may see mammoth lake freighters entering or leaving Cleveland Harbor, or navigating the Cuyahoga River, not an uncommon occurrence. The seasonal Sunset Bar and Grille inside the Whiskey Island Marina offers a unique lakefront dining opportunity in Cleveland. It offers entertainment on most weekend evenings.
West Side Market, Market District, & Ohio City -- This market is well over a century old, but it is housed in a century-old, custom-built market building that is one of the last and best public indoor food markets in the U.S. It not only is historical but a living history adventure, as it provides a glimpse into urban life before the advent of cars and supermarkets when city residents headed by street car to a local market for their food.
This is a food market, do not expect to find many crafts products. The market and its prepared food stands, such as Steve's Gyros, have been popular destinations for the nation's cable food network shows.
The market supports the city's acclaimed foodie scene, including a burgeoning number of restaurants in the rapidly developing Market District surrounding the West Side Market, part of the Ohio City neighborhood, which is both a larger dining (see discussion in the travel article linked in DINING below) and arts district (see Arts Attractions above). The district also features excellent breweries, particularly Great Lakes Brewing Company and the Market Garden Brewery adjacent to the West Side Market.
Even though the West Side Market is only open on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, the Market District has taken on a life of its own and is worth a visit for those seeking good food and good beer.
The Market District also is home to the Cleveland Hostel, Greater Cleveland's only hostel and conveniently located to the District's attractions and mass transit connections to downtown.
Here's a thread discussing running/jogging options downtown.
MOVIE FILMING LOCATIONS
The most popular film location in Cleveland is "A Christmas Story" House in the Tremont neighborhood, located southwest of downtown across the Cuyahoga River. See a "Leg Lamp" in its natural setting. Although the house only was used for external shots in the movie, the house has been rebuilt to resemble the movie sets used for filming scenes in the house's interior, allowing the film's many fans to immerse themselves in the film, aided by many available props such as a bunny suit. For those who want their own leg lamp or bunny suit, there's a gift shop/museum across the street from the house. Parking can be an issue, escpecially during the Christmas holiday season.
The following links describe filming locations for other movie classics or popular films, such as "The Deer Hunter," and more recently action blockbusters such as "The Avengers," "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," and "Spider-Man 3."
The Cleveland Play House often produces the play, "A Christmas Story," during the holiday season. See "PlayhouseSquare" in the above attraction listings.
Mark Klaus' Castle Noel in nearby Medina has a recreation of the famous department store slide from "A Christmas Story," a slide that even adults can experience. In addition, Castle Noel features props from other Hollywood movies, a large collection of holiday department store windows from New York City, historic Christmas toys, and many other Christmas-related exhibits and activities. Castle Noel is located near Medina's public square, one of the best of the New England-inspired, "Western Reserve" public squares in northeast Ohio. The square is exceptionally well decorated for the holiday season. Reservations are advisable during the holiday season. Christmas Noel has a Christmas in July event complete with an onsite Santa for the kids.
ATTRACTIONS IN GREATER CLEVELAND AND REGIONALLY
Cleveland proper no longer has a very large population for a city of such stature. The city's population currently is less than 400,000, compared to just over 900 thousand at its peak in the first half of the 20th century, when it once was the nation's fifth-largest city in population. Yet Cleveland remains the professional sports and cultural center of the larger Cuyahoga County (1.28 million population) and the Cleveland-Akron-Canton combined statistical area (3.5 million population), still the 15th largest CSA in the nation.
The following travel article discusses attractions outside of Cleveland. For attractions within 30-45 minutes of downtown, check out in the travel article Kirtland, Mentor, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and Blossom Music Center. Akron's Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens is one of the largest and best historic residences in the U.S. and is less than an hour from downtown Cleveland.
Kirtland offers both Holden Arboretum, one of the largest and best in the U.S. and containing National Natural Landmarks, and major Mormon historical attractions, including the Kirtland Temple, the first Mormon temple, and the excellent Historic Kirtland, and Lake Metroparks Farm Park, one of the best in North America.
Mentor offers the very good James A. Garfield National Historic Site, Mentor Marsh (a National Natural Landmark), and the very good Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers some excellent hiking/jogging trails and superb biking experiences; there is no admission charge. Blossom Music Center, located inside the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, is a seasonal attraction and is perhaps the best classical music summer venue in the nation and also offers other genres of musical concerts through livenation.com.
Major attractions outside of Greater Cleveland, but still within easy day trip distance of downtown, include Cedar Point, Ohio Amish Country, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
Here's a downtown and University Circle (see discussion in ATTRACTIONS above) hotel map:
Cleveland has a very compact downtown and most hotels are within a 15-minute walk of downtown attractions, such as the three pro sports venues, and often much closer to any particular attraction. See the discussion of specific attractions, such as the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame and Museum in the ATTRACTIONS section above for a more detailed lodging discussion of that specific attraction.
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is connected with the Tower City RTA rail rapid hub by the Red Line rail rapid (see the Public Transportation travel article linked below under TRANSPORTATION AND PARKING). Tower City is a gigantic complex that includes two hotels. The Renaissance and Ritz-Carlton Hotels are attached to Tower City, as is the Horseshoe Casino. Guests arriving by air could go from the airport to these hotels without ever stepping outside.
Public Square in front of Tower City also is a hub for Cleveland's free downtown bus trolleys (which idle on their routes in front of the Horseshoe Casino), and for the 24-7 Healthline bus rapid. The Healthline connects Public Square and Euclid Ave. attractions such as PlayhouseSquare and Cleveland State University with University Circle, Cleveland's cultural and medical center.
An enclosed pedestrian walkway from Tower City provides direct access to Quicken Loans Arena and easy access to Progressive Field.
The RTA Waterfront rail line operates between Tower City and lakefront attractions such as FirstEnergy Stadium, Great Lakes Science Center (which includes the Steamship Mather), and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The U.S.S. Cod museum ship is a short walk east from the Rock Hall.
The West Side Market and the Market District is one stop west of Tower City on the Red Line. The Blue and Green rail rapid lines provide connect Tower City with Shaker Square, and even can provide access to Beachwood Place Mall and Legacy Village by bus connections (see SHOPPING below).
Of course, all downtown hotel guests can use the Tower City rail rapid hub when it would save time. Hotels particularly close to Tower City include the Marriott, Hyatt, Radisson, Holiday Inn Express and the Embassy Suites. The Marriott is located closer to the Convention Center, FirstEnergy Stadium and the Warehouse District. The other hotels above are located closer to the East 4th St. entertainment and dining district, Progressive Field, and Quicken Loans Arena. East 4th St. and the Warehouse District entertainment and dining district are separated by about a 5- to 10-minute walk through Public Square.
The Hyatt is located in the historic The Arcade (see attractions above), which during the day provides pedestrian access between the East 4th St./Euclid Ave. intersection and Superior Ave. The Arcade's Euclid Ave. entrance is closed in the early evening, but Hyatt guests can use their room keys to access Euclid Ave. Healthline and trolley stops, East 4th St. and use East 4th St. for easy access to Quicken Loans Arena and Progressive Field.
The Aloft is close to FirstEnergy Stadium and the Warehouse District. A Waterfront rail rapid station is located by the hotel.
The Hampton Inn and the Westin are centrally located downtown.
The Wyndham is in PlayhouseSquare and also has close-by Healthline and bus trolley stops.
TRANSPORTATION AND PARKING
Here's a thread on alternatives to hotel parking or valet service downtown.
Here is additional information on Cleveland taxi service:
VISITING WITH KIDS
These threads discuss activities likely to please young kids:
Here's a link to the "This Is Cleveland" convention and visitors bureau, where visitors can obtain a Cleveland visitors guide.
The downtown Cleveland maps available here may be useful.
For AAA members, a very useful Cleveland map covering downtown, Ohio City, Tremont, and University Circle is available on the back of the Northeasteastern Ohio map. It's far more useful for most visitors than the crowded Cleveland map which covers the entire city.
Here are links to websites providing information about Cleveland, including events and history.
Here are links for Cleveland history, walking tours, etc.
This thread has a lengthy discussion of history museums, antiques, flea markets, and gemstone shopping in Greater Cleveland.
The following websites can be viewed using either Fahrenheit or Centrigrade scales (see upper right corners).
Weatherspark offers detailed average weather information for individual months, or for specific days of months, in the right margin.
Accuweather allows users to check historical records as well as very extended (obviously subject to change) forecasts here: