25 Best Things to Do in Cleveland (Ohio)

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Rock and roll your way to Cleveland and visit some of the quality attractions there. You won’t be disappointed by the legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which was brought to the city in an attempt to bring more tourists to the area.

Other efforts to increase the appeal of Cleveland to visitors include cleaning up the polluted areas of the city and increasing the amount of trendy hotels and restaurants downtown. All of this effort has indeed made Cleveland a place to visit and a city that you will enjoy being in.

Here are the 25 best things to do in Cleveland:

1. Admire some contemporary art

MOCA ClevelandSource: YUKiO_CLE / shutterstock
MOCA Cleveland

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland also known by its initials (MOCA) houses some of the best contemporary art in the world produced by both local and international artists.

The building itself, which was completed in 2012, is very modern looking, built in an  unusual shape entirely out of tinted glass.

The building starts off as a hexagon at ground level but at its roof it is a square shape. The glass walls provide a mirrored finish.

2. Watch something at the Playhouse Square Center

Playhouse Square CenterSource: Kenneth Sponsler / shutterstock
Playhouse Square Center

Right at the very heart of Cleveland’s well known and much loved performing arts scene, the Playhouse Square Center is home to an impressive nine theaters including The State and The Palace theaters.

Most of the theaters were built at some point in the 1920s and, after becoming run down, had to be saved from destruction by locals who were willing to work on restoring the buildings.

The restorations took place in the 1990s and were a great success, restoring the buildings to their former glory and saving them from demolition.

3. Stroll around the city’s outdoor museum

Garfield Memorial, Lake View CemeterySource: NaughtyNut / shutterstock
Garfield Memorial, Lake View Cemetery

Often referred to as an outdoor museum, the Lake View Cemetery covers a large expanse of land and holds more than 100,000 graves.

The cemetery started its life in 1869 and is still used for around 700 burials each and every year. Notable graves here include those of James Garfield and John Rockefeller.

There are monuments here in honor of these men and the Wade Chapel, built in remembrance of J Wade, is also worth viewing.

4. See the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Cleveland Metroparks ZooSource: Antiquenebula / shutterstock
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Just outside of the city center of Cleveland, is the much loved Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. The zoo is one of the oldest in the United States.

The animals range from great apes such as the Western Lowland Gorilla to aquatic species and fishing cats. There is even an insectarium for those of you who don’t get squeamish easily.

The zoo boasts the largest collection of primates in North America and a year round botanical garden.

5. Get aboard a submarine

USS Cod Submarine MemorialSource: flickr
USS Cod Submarine Memorial

The imposing but iconic sight of the USS Cod Submarine Memorial greets you from the shores of Lake Erie.

The submarine was used in the Second World War and, as you might expect, has had an eventful history during its active years. Most famously, it is noted for being the first submarine vessel used in a submarine to submarine rescue in 1945.

During the summer, you can board the vessel via the original hatches and tour the various areas of the submarine.

6. Visit Japanese and woodland gardens

Cleveland Botanical GardensSource: Alexander Pronin / shutterstock
Cleveland Botanical Gardens

The Cleveland Botanical Gardens showcases an incredible variety of plant species.

The garden is made up of several impressive themed areas with carefully selected flowers including the Inspiration Area which aims to inspire people with ideas for their own garden.

Other areas are the Japanese Garden, Woodland Garden and Butterfly Garden with its collection of plants that are known for attracting butterflies.

7. Grab a bargain at the West Side Market

West Side MarketSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
West Side Market

The West Side Market in Cleveland has been running since 1912 making it the city’s longest running market.

After undergoing a much needed restoration in 2002, the market has regained its popularity and regularly attracts bargain hunters, gourmets and souvenir shoppers.

The market house itself remains much of its 1912 charm and is arguably the main attraction for visitors. The market takes place five days a week and has over 100 vendors to buy from.

8. Learn at the Great Lakes Science Center

Great Lakes Science CenterSource: Checubus / shutterstock
Great Lakes Science Center

The Great Lakes Science Center offers a hands on learning experience right on the edge of Lake Erie. The large range of exhibits at the center include the NASA Glenn Visitor Center and the Science Phenomena Zone that explores unusual occurrences that can all be explained via hands on scientific experiments.

The center is also home to the Omnimax state of the art theater system which shows various educational films that look and sound stunning.

Check out the center’s calender before you go to see what events are taking place.

9. Visit the city’s best museum

Cleveland Museum of Natural HistorySource: Kenneth Sponsler / shutterstock
Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Arguably the best museum in the city of Cleveland is the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Fascinating exhibits here include a three million year old direct ancestor of a human. The remains which are affectionately known as “Lucy” were a major discovery and a really big deal in the world of anthropology. Most peoples favorites however are the visually impressive dinosaur skeletons.

As well as living creatures, geology and precious gems can also be learned about.

10. Admire art from around the world

Cleveland Museum of ArtSource: Kenneth Sponsler / shutterstock
Cleveland Museum of Art

Home to a vast collection of American art as well as a variety of medieval, European and Asian art, The Cleveland Museum of Art has a taste of cultural pieces from around the globe.

Expansions in recent times have seen the introduction of Japanese, Chinese and Indian artwork and extra galleries covering a range of Asian countries.

Host to changing Exhibitions and events as well as a fantastic permanent collection, the Cleveland Museum of Art is no one hit wonder.

11.  Rock out at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Rock and Roll Hall of FameSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Probably the most famous of all of Cleveland’s attractions is the Rockand Roll Hall of Fame. The unusual building was designed by the architect I M Pei and houses an extensive collection of music memorabilia.

You will journey through the history of the music genre whilst admiring holy grails such as Jimi Hendrix’s written lyrics for Purple Haze.

If you are a fan of Rock and Roll you can easily spend a full day (or possibly more) here.

12. Hang out on the East or West Bank

The Flats, East BankSource: Mikhalis Makarov / shutterstock
The Flats, East Bank

The Flats is the name given to an area of Cleveland that was once an industrial area of the city but is now best known for its lively nightlife. The area is on the banks of the Cuyahoga River and was neglected for a while before being injected with life.

The East Bank area is now home to a boardwalk with plenty of quality restaurants, bars and even an outdoor concert pavilion.

The West Bank is equally as exciting but a little bit more rough and ready. It is home to a skatepark, brewery and old school dive bars.

13. See the biggest rubber stamp in the world

Stamp Sculpture in ClevelandSource: Kenneth Sponsler / shutterstock
Stamp Sculpture in Cleveland

Located in Willard Park is the largest rubber stamp in the world. It says “free” on its base and was designed by the sculptor Claes Oldenburg.

The stamp is a great place for a souvenir photo and is also a gathering point for various food trucks. On Fridays there are even live music performances.

Go here for a photo, stay for some food and music.

14. Visit a film set

"A Christmas Story" HouseSource: Juli Scalzi / shutterstock
“A Christmas Story” House

Remember that film from 1983 “A Christmas Story”? Well, if you do then you are in for a treat.

The very house in which the film was made can be visited in Cleveland complete with leg lamp and other genuine props.

If you are a fan of the film, you will love the place if not it is probably best to steer clear as you will not get the references or appreciate any of the items on show.

15.  See the biggest outdoor chandelier in the world

Playhouse Square ChandelierSource: mkfeeney / Flickr | CC BY
Playhouse Square Chandelier

If the world’s biggest rubber stamp whet your appetite for seeing even more of the world’s biggest stuff then you are in luck!

Also in Cleveland is the biggest outdoor chandelier in the world. You will find it above Playhouse Square.

It is a very popular spot for a photo opportunity and is most impressive seen at night time.

16. Visit the Greater Cleveland Aquarium

Red-bellied PiranhaSource: Tatiana Belova / shutterstock
Red-bellied Piranha

Located in the First Energy Powerhouse building, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium is home to more than 50 exhibits that explore all of the world’s oceans and the inhabitants within.

The aquarium also teaches visitors about freshwater fish that dwell in the worlds lakes and rivers.

The mission of the aquarium is to teach people about marine life and how to preserve it.

17. Get lucky at the Jack Casino

Jack Casino ClevelandSource: thanasarn / shutterstock
Jack Casino Cleveland

In 2012 the Jack Casino opened and became the first casino in the state of Ohio.

Inside the casino, you may well forget that you are in Ohio and think you have been whisked away to Las Vegas. The casino is the biggest and best place to gamble in the city with the highest limits and the biggest jackpots.

There is also a variety of bars to choose from and several restaurants including the Spread Buffet.

18. Learn about the city and state

Western Reserve Historical SocietySource: Tim Evanson / Flickr | CC BY-SA
Western Reserve Historical Society

Founded in 1867, the Western Reserve Historical Society is dedicated to preserving, and educating people about, the cultural roots of Ohio. The history explored within the society include the Cleveland garment industry, fashion and entrepreneurs within the state.

One exhibit dates back as long ago as 10,000 years to explore the Native Americans that dwelled in the area at the time.

There is also an impressive collection of old vehicles in the Crawford Auto Aviation  Museum.

19. Get excited by the Cleveland Children’s Museum

Cleveland Children's MuseumSource: CMCleveland / Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 4.0
Cleveland Children’s Museum

Located in the University Circle area of the city (although a relocation to Midtown is planned), the Cleveland Children’s museum is a great place for young children to learn whilst having fun.

Exhibits include one themed around magic and another exploring the different lives children have lived throughout the ages.

20. Learn about the women of the air and space world

International Women Air and Space MuseumSource: Michael Barera / Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 4.0
International Women Air and Space Museum

The International Women Air and Space Museum in Cleveland aims to preserve and celebrate the history of the great women that have contributed to the air and space industry throughout the years.

The museum was created in 1998 and, as it is housed within a public building, entry is free. Exhibits include information about North Carolina’s first female pilot Viola Gentry, Amelia Earhart and Jackie Cochran.

The museum is constantly changing its exhibits so even if you have already visited in the past, it is well worth going again (especially as it is free).

21. Get the best views of the city

View from Terminal TowerSource: Mikhalis Makarov / shutterstock
View from Terminal Tower

Arguably the best views of the city are from the observation deck of the Terminal Tower. The building is 52 stories (over 250 meters) tall. Although not open everyday, a trip to the top is relatively easy to arrange.

Simply show up, buy your tickets for $6 and pass through security before riding the elevators to the top of the building. The views are impressive day or night.

22. Visit the Cathedral of St John

Cathedral of St John in ClevelandSource: Leonid Andronov / shutterstock
Cathedral of St John in Cleveland

The Cathedral of St John was completed in 1852 and the architecture both inside and out is worth seeing.

The theater currently sits right in the center of a thriving performing arts district and serves around 1100 members.

23. Tour Gotta Groove Records

VinylSource: Marianne Catafesta / shutterstock

Gotta Groove Records has three locations across the United States with bases in Cincinnati and Columbus as well as Cleveland.

The vinyl press in Cleveland has been around since 2009 and has the capacity to press 70,000 records each and every month. Tours of the facility are available and offer an insight into a lesser known aspect of the record business.

24. Watch baseball at Progressive Field

Progressive FieldSource: Adam McCullough / shutterstock
Progressive Field

Progressive Field in Cleveland is home to the Cleveland Indians Major League Baseball team.

It is a great place to see a game of baseball whether you are new to the sport or a long time fan. Tours of the stadium are available too between May and September.

Tours last for about an hour and include access to backstage areas of the stadium such as the press box and party suite.

25. See a Playoff game

Cleveland BrownsSource: Adam Derewecki / shutterstock
Cleveland Browns

Whilst we are on the topic of sport it is worth mentioning the basketball (Cleveland Cavaliers) and football (Browns) teams. During your time in the city, you may have the opportunity to see one of these teams in a playoff or championship games.

If you do get the chance, take it. It is a great experience and you will soon learn just how much these sports and the local teams mean to Americans.

25 Best Things to Do in Cleveland (Ohio):

  • Admire some contemporary art
  • Watch something at the Playhouse Square Center
  • Stroll around the city's outdoor museum
  • See the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
  • Get aboard a submarine
  • Visit Japanese and woodland gardens
  • Grab a bargain at the West Side Market
  • Learn at the Great Lakes Science Center
  • Visit the city's best museum
  • Admire art from around the world
  • 11.  Rock out at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  • Hang out on the East or West Bank
  • See the biggest rubber stamp in the world
  • Visit a film set
  • 15.  See the biggest outdoor chandelier in the world
  • Visit the Greater Cleveland Aquarium
  • Get lucky at the Jack Casino
  • Learn about the city and state
  • Get excited by the Cleveland Children's Museum
  • Learn about the women of the air and space world
  • Get the best views of the city
  • Visit the Cathedral of St John
  • Tour Gotta Groove Records
  • Watch baseball at Progressive Field
  • See a Playoff game