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Fun things to do in Cleveland

3 Days of Fun in and around Cleveland

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Where can you find the thrill of the country’s best roller coasters, the history of rock music from its very beginning and a celebration of many of our country’s top athletes? Well, as my family learned when we started our research for a road trip this summer, you can find all of these fun things to do in Cleveland and its surrounding areas!

Cleveland was an easy six-hour drive from the Washington, D.C. area. We left on a Saturday afternoon and went directly to our hotel so that we could be ready to go the next day for some fun in downtown Cleveland. We stayed at Hampton Inn & Suites Cleveland/Independence which was a central location for this 3-day itinerary.

Day 1: Downtown Cleveland Attractions

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Head downtown in the morning and park at the East Ninth Street pier for scenic views of the great Lake Erie before making the short walk to the museums. The pyramid-shaped Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum designed by I.M. Pei will be the first major icon that you notice. Once you enter the museum, start at the lower level to begin your visit.

There are literally thousands of rock and roll artifacts to enjoy, including instruments, costumes, albums and more from the Roots of Rock (blues, R&B, folk music, etc.) to the lyric notes and concert outfits of current artists in the Right Here, Right Now exhibit. My suggestion is that if you have particular artists’ items that you want to see, ask the very helpful museum docents who are usually easy to find.

In addition to finding artifacts and listening to the music of our favorite musicians, here are some of the other areas we loved within the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum:

Dick Clark’s American Bandstand – This 19-minute film strings together segments from the show, the longest-running music program on TV, from 1952 to 1989. Watching this movie is like living rock and roll history and your kids will actually be able to see many of the artists you used to watch. I loved it!

Evolution of Audio Technology – See the Walkman and boom boxes you remembered as a kid and let your children giggle at how old you are.

Herb Ritts: The Rock Portraits – We loved this amazing gallery of photos of our favorite legends, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Elton John and so many more. Plus, it was very interesting to learn about Ritts’ entry into music videos and his close relationships with several artists.

Pink Floyd: The Wall – As a huge fan, my husband enjoyed this tribute to the band and their classic concept album and the accompanied concert tour and movie. There is an interesting and enlightening quote from Roger Waters on the back of The Wall on why he wrote the album.

Fun things to do in Cleveland - Pink Floyd The Wall at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Pink Floyd fans won’t want to miss The Wall exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, one of the fun things to do in Cleveland.

Kids’ Favorite: Interactive digital jukebox – Near the Right Here, Right Now exhibit are two interactive jukeboxes where kids can select to watch their favorite modern-day music videos when they get tired of all your nostalgia.

There are also several theaters throughout the museum that you can just walk into and enjoy part of a concert or induction ceremony whenever you like. Just note that sometimes explicit language may be used on these videos.

Great Lakes Science Center and Steamship William G. Mather

Right next door to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is the Great Lakes Science Center. While we didn’t have time to explore the science museum, it looked like a lot of fun. My husband and 11-year old son spent about 30 minutes exploring the Steamship William G. Mather, a ship which transported large cargo such as steel and coal on the Great Lakes and helped Northeast Ohio become a great industrial center.

Day 2: Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH

Where do you take a thrill-seeking 13-year old for his birthday? To the Roller Coaster Capital of the World! Truth be told, we actually planned this trip to Cleveland around my son’s obsession with roller coasters. When you look up the highest, fastest, longest steel coasters, you will find that Cedar Point has a couple on every list and he just had to go there. Once we learned we could: get there in about six hours, find other fun things to do in Cleveland and plan it around his birthday, we were sold!

Cedar Point is just a little over an hour away from Cleveland so you could use the city as your base as we did or stay close by in Sandusky, OH and visit some of the Lake Erie islands on another day. We visited on a Monday in July so the lines and crowds were manageable. Cedar Point also does a nice job of keeping the waiting areas as shaded and cooled by fans as possible.

My advice is to arrive early enough at Cedar Point so that you can walk in the gates as soon as they open and head immediately to your first choice ride. Millennium Force (my 13 year-old’s favorite) was about a 45-minute wait in the morning, but the line died down at the end of the day so we rode it again. Maverick (11-year old son’s favorite) was the only other ride with a longer, 45-minute wait. All of the other rides we went on had waits of 15-30 minutes or even less.

We tried to hit most of the steel roller coasters, adding Gatekeeper, Raptor, Rougarou (their newest ride and the line was short – the kids rode it twice!), Corkscrew and Wicked Twister to our list. My husband and I liked the Top Thrill Dragster best; it’s short and scary and you leave with a rush of “I can’t believe I just did that!” We left the park feeling like we rode everything we wanted to, tired and happy.

Fun things to do in Cleveland and nearby - Cedar Point Top Thrill Dragster

The Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point lives up to its name as you are blasted straight up and then dropped straight down.

Day 3: Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH

On our way back home, my sports-loving boys just had to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, which is about an hour south of Cleveland. The museum not only has thousands of artifacts showcasing the history of professional football, the NFL and current player greats, but it also offers plenty of educational and interactive experiences that my family really enjoyed.

To start, within the museum there are models of players’ hands and legs to compare to your own. Man, are they huge!

Fun things to do in Cleveland and nearby - Pro Football Hall of Fame

Compare your guns to the strongest football players in the league at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

There are also computer simulations where kids can “call the play” and design their own Super Bowl rings. And, of course the Madden XBOX games are wildly popular. We also enjoyed the show in the Super Bowl Theater, which recalled the moments leading up to and throughout the most recent Super Bowl, but we’re Patriot fans so we would enjoy that.

In addition, throughout the day, volunteers for the Pro Football Hall of Fame offer short seminars on a variety of topics in the Research and Preservation Center. We listened to ones on Unique Artifacts; the History of Helmets, where we got to try on some of the older helmets as well as new ones; and Existing Teams or Not? in which we played a game where we had to guess if older teams were still in existence as current franchises. The prize for a correct answer? Football cards, of course!

For our last experience of the day, we went out with a volunteer who helped us reenact several famous football plays, including the Immaculate Reception, on the Hall of Fame field. It was so fun to watch the recent Pro Football Hall of Fame game and know our boys had caught their own passes on that field.

I received tickets for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cedar Point and the Pro Football Hall of Fame from these attractions, but we would have visited them no matter what. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame currently offers two combo ticket options to save some money, one with Cedar Point and one with the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Do a little research to figure out which deal is best for your family and enjoy these fun things to do in Cleveland and close by!

Ellen B is the editor of Hilton Mom Voyage. Her family’s travel adventures began with annual trips to Disney World or Disneyland and have recently graduated to vacations in Ecuador, the Galapagos, Costa Rica, Panama and road trips throughout the U.S.

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Cedar Point photos: Main Cedar Point photo credit: Jeremy Thompson / CC BY 2.0; Top Thrill Dragster photo credit: Wikipedia. Rock Hall photos © The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum; External PFOHF Photo credit Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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