Cleveland, Ohio, a quick 3 ½ hour drive from Buffalo, has a number of family-friendly attractions, making it a perfect one-tank day trip or weekend getaway destination. I’ve had the opportunity to visit Cleveland a couple times in the past year, most recently at the end of May.
Learn about Rock and Roll
Probably the best-known attraction in the city is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, located along the waterfront in downtown Cleveland. This glass-walled, pyramid shaped museum, which opened in 1995, houses many rare artifacts from the early days of rock and roll, along with items on loan from today’s artists.
Some of the items on display in the seven level museum include John Lennon’s jacket worn on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band, Grace Slick’s vest worn on stage at Woodstock, Mick Jagger's American/Union Jack cape and Neil Young’s fringe jacket. I was there on a group tour, so we only had about 1 ½ hours at the museum, which I felt wasn’t really enough time.
One could easily spend all day touring this 150,000 square foot facility. There are an overwhelming number of permanent exhibits focusing on everything from the history of rock and roll to today’s popular artists. There are also rotating exhibits, as well as interactive listening exhibits and five different films shown throughout the day.
Our tour group consisted of young teenagers, so while myself and the other adult chaperones remembered many of the featured artists actually performing, such as Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Elvis, many of our young charges viewed these rock icons as people who died before they were born! However, the kids still enjoyed the museum and thought it was really cool.
On display on the 5th and 6th floor of the museum until spring 2010, is From Ashbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen. A must see exhibit for any fan of “The Boss.”
Note that due to an agreement with the artists, photography and video is not allowed inside the museum; they actually make you check your cameras at the door. Be sure to visit their large gift shop, which has a lot of neat merchandise for the rock and roll fan. A café on the museum’s third floor serves light meals and beverages.
Next door to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the Great Lakes Science Center, which has over 400 interactive exhibits on three levels. The museum, a non-profit education institution, has a mission to stimulate interest and understanding of science.
The exhibits actually begin outside, with a 150 foot wind turbine that supplies 6% of the building’s energy needs, as well as 156 solar panels, which produce enough power to light all 65,000 square feet of exhibit space.
The first floor of the facility focuses on the environment of the Great Lakes Region. On the second floor, exhibits focus on bio-medical technology like DNA, stem cell research, and medical imaging. There are also exhibits on transportation, information technology, and even an outdoor observation deck. The third floor has a variety of exhibits on sound and shape, as well as a van der Graff generator, where visitors can have a “hair raising” experience. There is also the Polymer Playhouse, for museum visitor’s age seven and under, which has 90 interactive exhibits and activities.
An upcoming traveling exhibit at the science center is Darwin, which runs June 27 to September 18. This exhibit, which coincides with the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publishing of The Origin of Species, focuses on Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution.
For additional fees, museum visitors can view a film in the museum’s Omnimax theater or tour the 618 foot long steamship, William G. Mather, a restored 1925 Great Lakes freighter where visitor’s can see what life was like aboard a ship during the golden ear of steam boating. The ship is open May-October.
Tour the waterfront
Another fun thing to do when visiting Cleveland’s waterfront is taking a tour on the Nautica Queen Tour boat. The dock is located on the Cuyahoga River in the “Flats” area of Cleveland. All cruises include a buffet meal and musical entertainment. This tour offers a great view of the Cleveland skyline, including the Cleveland Browns football stadium, the Great Lakes Science Center, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Our group of teens really enjoyed the cruise, especially since it was a kid’s buffet lunch cruise, complete with a DJ and a pizza party.
Museums and more in University Circle
Last fall my family visited the Western Reserve Historical Society, located in Cleveland’s University Circle District. This district, located on the east side of Cleveland by Case Western Reserve University, is the cultural, educational, and medical center of the city.
The historical society focuses on the history of northeast Ohio. The Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum, located within the historical society, has about 200 antique and classic automobiles and aircraft. The historical society also operates several other historical properties in northeast Ohio.
Nearby, there are several other museums and attractions, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, which is currently undergoing a multi-year major expansion. Its collection features works by European Masters as well as American artists. Cleveland also has a Museum of Contemporary Art.
The Children’s Museum of Cleveland is of special interest to families with children under age 8, with many hands-on interactive exhibits, like Splish, Splash, where kids can learn about the water cycle and more. The Big Red Barn exhibit was inspired by the book of the same name by Margaret Wise Brown.
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, founded in 1920, is considered one of the finest institutions of its kind in the country. The Cleveland Botanical Gardens, as well as the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Rainforest are also in this district. The botanical gardens features a 18,000 square foot glass conservatory plus ten acres of outdoor gardens, while the 168 acre zoo features 3,000 animals from 6 continents, as well as a tropical rainforest.
For many years, Major League Baseball fans from Buffalo have flocked to see the Cleveland Indians in action. This team, which was founded in 1901, has played at Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland since 1994.
They are the closest major league team in the United States to the Buffalo area. If you catch a Sunday afternoon game, you can easily travel back to Buffalo before dark. If you happen to be traveling to Cleveland on a non game day, behind the scenes tours of Progressive Field are available for a nominal charge.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (888-764-ROCK; www.rockhall.com ) 1100 Rock and Roll Blvd., Cleveland, Ohio.
Great Lakes Science Center (216-694-2000; www.greatscience.com ) 601 Erieside Ave., Cleveland, Ohio.
Nautica Queen (216-696-888, 800-837-0604; www.nauticaqueen.com ) 1153 Main Ave. Cleveland, Ohio.
Western Reserve Historical Society (216-721-5722; www.wrhs.org ) 10825 East Blvd., Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland Museum of Art (216-421-7340, 887-262-4748; www.clemusart.com ) 11150 East Blvd., Cleveland, Ohio.
Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art (216-421-8671; www.mocacleveland.org ) 8501 Carnegie Ave., Cleveland, Ohio.
Children’s Museum of Cleveland (216-791-7114; www.clevelandchildrensmuseum.org ) 10730 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland Museum of Natural History (800-317-9155; www.cmnh.org ) 1 Wade Oval Drive, Cleveland, Ohio.
Cleveland Botanical Gardens (216-721-1600, 888-853-7091; www.cbgarden.org ) 11030 East Blvd., Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland Zoo (216-661-6500; www.clemetzoo.com ) 3900 Wildlife Way, Cleveland, Ohio.
Cleveland Indians (216-420-HITS; www.indians.mlb.com ) Progressive Field, 2401 Ontario Street, Cleveland, Ohio.
Take the NYS Thruway (I-90) west from Buffalo, traveling through Pennsylvania to Ohio. Cleveland is about 31/2 hours from Buffalo. Watch for the exit signs for Downtown Cleveland or University Circle, depending on your destination.