Set on the shore of Lake Erie in northeast Ohio, Cleveland is a vibrant city known for excellent food, lots of urban greenery, and great museums. It’s one of the biggest cities in the midwest, and as such offers a wide variety of attractions and landmarks to all visitors.
If you’re traveling to Cleveland and you’re not sure how to spend your time in the city, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll tell you all about the best things to do in Cleveland, from the city’s mesmerizing natural landmarks to its most bizarre museums.
The best thing about this city is that it has something to offer to everyone, whether you’re into historic landmarks or amusement parks. War memorials, excellent art museums, and stunning waterfalls are all in Cleveland and its surroundings, and you can easily explore them during your trip.
Best Of Cleveland Quick Guide
Must See: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland Public Square, The Arcade, West Side Market, Little Italy Where To Stay: Courtyard by Marriott, Hilton Cleveland Downtown, The Ritz-Carlton Cleveland Fun To Do: Cedar Point, Brewery Hopping Tour, Rocky River Reservation, Edgewater Park Day Trips: Niagara Falls, Cedar Point, Cuyahoga Valley National Park Must-Try Foods (And Drinks): Corned beef sandwiches, Buckeyes, Craft beer
Best Things To Do In Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland’s attractions are as diverse as its culinary scene. The city has everything from iconic 19th-century buildings to sandy beaches, so there’s something for everyone. Whether your idea of a fun trip to Cleveland includes learning about its traditions and culture or exploring the best bars and restaurants, I’ve got plenty of suggestions on which places you should visit.
1. Visit The Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Set on the western side of the Wade Oval, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History is one of the city’s best and most popular museums. Come here if you’re interested in the flora and fauna of Cleveland and northern Ohio, and how they changed over the years.
The museum collection is extensive and features everything from fossils to geological findings. It’s an excellent museum to visit if you want to know more about the history of the area. Also, it’s a very fun museum to tour even with kids who are often wowed by the massive dinosaur skeletons.
This museum also houses the Perkins Wildlife Center in the museum garden, where you can observe wild animals roaming around the spacious enclosure. A planetarium and observatory are also available at the Cleveland Museum.
Cleveland Museum of Natural History is in University Circle, approximately half an hour from downtown Cleveland. The museum is open from 10 AM to 5 PM every day except Monday, and tickets are $10.
2. Stand At The Center of Cleveland Public Square
Cleveland Public Square is a sprawling public plaza in the city center. It features statues, a small green park, and pretty views of the surrounding skyscrapers. Many of the city’s best hotels are near the plaza, and if you’re planning to stay at a mid-range or an upscale hotel in the city, chances are you’ll be in this area.
The plaza hosts many outdoor events in the city. An ice-skating rink is set up there in the winter, while a splash pad allows locals and visitors to cool off a bit in the warmer months. There’s not much to do here on a regular working day, but if you happen to be in Cleveland when there’s an event at the Public Square, it’s worth it to come here and check out just how drastically everything changes.
Cleveland Public Square is in the city center, accessible by public transport and roads from almost everywhere else in the city. It can be visited any time of day or night.
3. Tour The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Rock & Roll is my favorite genre of music, so I wasn’t surprised that this was my favorite thing to do in Cleveland. Come here to see the best exhibit in the world on the history of rock and roll music, featuring some iconic memorabilia. From Michael Jackson’s Thriller jacket to Kurt Cobain’s guitar, the Hall of Fame is a must for any music lover.
The collection spans six floors, and it takes at least 2-3 hours to see everything. The museum often has temporary exhibits, and it’s best to check their website for up-to-date information because these change every few months.
Also, the Hall of Fame exhibit isn’t focused solely on rock stars. Prominent artists from other genres are also included in the exhibit, so there’s merit to visiting even if you’re not a massive fan of Rock & Roll but love music in general. A gift shop is available and offers all sorts of memorabilia and souvenirs, from basics like mugs to signed guitars.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is situated in North Coast Harbor. It’s open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM, and tickets are $35 for adults.
4. Admire The Views at Mill Creek Falls
Mill Creek Falls is one of the best natural landmarks in the city of Cleveland. The dramatic cascade is situated in a large park approximately 6 miles from downtown.
At 48 feet, this is the tallest waterfall in Cuyahoga County, so it’s definitely worth the trip. Several observation decks are available at the park, and each offers a beautiful view of the falls.
It’s best to visit the cascade shortly after rainfall to experience it in full glory. If you happen to be in Cleveland during a particularly dry period, you might as well skip this attraction because the sight of the waterfall won’t be anywhere near as dramatic as it should be.
Insider Tip: It is necessary to pass through a somewhat shady neighborhood to get to Mill Creek Falls. Don’t go there alone and try to visit earlier in the day as opposed to late afternoon for the best experience.
Mill Creek Falls is accessible by car and local bus from Cleveland city center. The bus ride is approximately half an hour long.
5. Explore Cleveland Botanical Garden
Cleveland Botanical Garden is a huge green space next to Wade Oval. It’s close to both the Cleveland Natural History Museum and the Lake View Cemetary, and you can visit it on the same day as the other attractions in this part of the city.
The botanical garden features a greenhouse, outdoor gardens, and an education center. My favorite part at the outdoor gardens, especially the Japanese Garden area with the statutes.
Additionally, the Cleveland Botanical Garden hosts many temporary exhibits throughout the year, which offer the chance to see some stunning and unique flowers. Although the space is open year-round, parts of its exhibit are seasonal and change every few months so there’s merit to coming back even if you’ve visited previously.
The botanical garden is open year-round every day except Monday from 10 AM to 5 PM. Tickets are $20 for adults.
6. Brewery Hopping Tour
Beer lovers rejoice because Cleveland has a surprising number of breweries. Well, I was surprised to learn that the city’s craft beer scene has evolved so much, and delighted at the opportunity to try and find the best and tastiest local craft beer.
Some of the city’s most popular breweries are Great Lakes Brewing Company, Collision Bend Brewing Company, Noble Beast Brewing Co., and Masthead Brewing Co. But there are dozens of breweries in town, and if you’re new in Cleveland, it’s best to just arrange a guided brewery hopping tour.
Let someone else take care of reserving the tables and arranging transportation, and you just focus on the craft beers! You’ll get to try multiple types of beer at each brewery you visit, and – if you book a good tour – you’ll get to eat lunch at one of them.
There are many breweries in Cleveland and they’re scattered around the entire city. Some of the most popular breweries are in downtown Cleveland, but they’re certainly not the only ones.
7. Visit a President’s Grave at Lake View Cemetery
Touring cemeteries is not for everyone, and feel free to skip this one if you generally don’t like seeing graves and tombstones. But the Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland is the resting place of several famous people, the most notable of which is President James A. Garfield. Come here to pay your respects and see the landmark tomb of the 20th president of the United States.
Many other notable Ohio natives are buried at this Cleveland cemetery, including Alan Freed. The iconic radio host coined the phrase rock and roll, and he remains one of the most important figures in the history of the genre.
Lake View Cemetery is also known for landscaped walking paths, ponds, and a few other landmark statues. Touring the place doesn’t have to be morbid at all; come here to pay your respects to the former US president, see the famous statues and gravesites of notable people, and then head to Little Italy for lunch.
Lake View Cemetery is close to the University Circle and Little Italy, and it’s best to visit all three places on the same day. Access to the cemetery is free of charge, and it takes about 30-40 minutes to travel there from Downtown Cleveland.
8. Hiking at Rocky River Reservation
Rocky River Reservation is a nature park close to the Cleveland Hopkins Airport. It’s one of the best and largest woodland areas close to Cleveland, and it’s by far the best destination for travelers who are staying in the city and want to spend a day out enjoying nature.
The park features hiking trails, fishing spots, observation decks, and even a few historic landmarks. It’s best known for the Fort Hill Stairs, which take visitors up to Fort Hill for a pretty panoramic view. There’s a total of 155 steps from the visitor’s center in the valley to the clifftop observation deck. The view of Rocky River and park foliage is gorgeous, especially in the fall when many of the tree tops turn red and orange.
In addition to the panoramic views, the Rocky River Reservation is also popular for hiking, fishing, picnics, and even cross-country skiing in the winter. Swimming is not allowed in the river for safety reasons.
Rocky River Reservation is close to the Cleveland Hopkins Airport, approximately 20 minutes from the city center. Entrance to the nature park is free of charge.
The Arcade is a historic building in Cleveland worth visiting even if you’re not at all interested in shopping. It was the first shopping center to open in the United States back in 1890, as well as the first Cleveland building to be inscribed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Over the years, the building deteriorated severely and it took $60 million to restore the national historic landmark to its old glory. The renovation was done in 2001 by Hyatt, and the building was transformed into the first Hyatt Regency hotel in the city.
The lower floors still feature retail shops and a food court, but the upper floors are reserved for the hotel. The Arcade is a popular destination for weddings in Cleveland, as it should be since it’s one of the oldest buildings in the city.
The Arcade is near the Cleveland Public Square in the city center. Entrance to the building is free of charge and possible every day from 7 AM to 7 PM.
10. Feel Like A Local at West Side Market
The West Side Market is where the locals in Cleveland come to get their fresh produce and meat. The indoor market is one of the best places for food shopping in Cleveland and a must-stop on any culinary tour of Cleveland.
And it’s not just fresh groceries that are sold here. The West Side Market Cafe has a full-service restaurant where you can get excellent service and delicious food, plus there are many bakeries in the market that sell pastries and desserts.
When you’re done exploring the local market, exit onto Market Square Park. It offers nice views of the market building and its murals, as well as plenty of benches where you can take a short break before you continue your exploration of Cleveland.
West Side Market is in the Ohio City neighborhood, just 15 minutes away from Downtown Cleveland by public transport. It’s usually open from 8 AM to 5 PM and entrance is free of charge.
11. Visit A Christmas Story House
If you’ve seen the film A Christmas Story, you’ll recognize the house from the pictures. It’s the house that was featured in the movie as Ralphie Parker’s home, and it’s been turned into a museum dedicated to the film. The house was renovated to appear exactly as it did in the film both inside and out, and visiting it feels like being in the movie.
The yellow house is one of four buildings that make up the museum. Visit each house to see various props used in the movie, and to relive some childhood memories.
In case you’ve not already seen the movie, I hope you have plenty of time before your trip to Cleveland to watch at least one film in the series. Apart from the outdated furniture from the 80s, I don’t think there’s much else to admire at the museum for those unfamiliar with the iconic film.
A Christmas Story House is in Tremont, approximately half an hour from downtown Cleveland by public transport. The museum is open from 10 AM to 5 PM daily and tickets are $18.
12. Walk Around a Castle at North Chagrin Reservation
North Chagrin Reservation is an expansive green space about half an hour from downtown Cleveland. It’s a great place to visit if you want to spend a few hours out in nature, exploring hiking trails and marveling at natural landmarks.
The reservation is best known for Squire’s Castle, a castle home dating back to the 19th century. Although the castle is mostly empty, it’s still interesting to tour the building and enjoy the scenic views from its many windows.
Apart from the historic building, the reservation also boasts waterfalls, walking paths, picnic areas, and a wildlife sanctuary. It’s a peaceful place where you can feel at one with nature, and it’s great for travelers who want to get out of the city. North Chagrin Reservation features many facilities for children, which makes it popular with families in Cleveland.
North Chagrin Reservation is approximately 30 minutes from the city center of Cleveland by car. Public transport is not available to the nature park, so Uber, Lyft, and taxis are the only ways to get there without a personal vehicle.
13. Get Inspired at The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland
If you’re an art lover who enjoys modern art and all the quirky mediums used to express it, you will have an excellent time at this museum. But if you’re not into bizarre art installations, I think you can skip this museum and go to one of the classic art museums instead.
Various modern and contemporary works by established and up-and-coming artists are exhibited at this museum. Interesting art installations are set up even on the lawn before the building, so there’s a lot to explore.
The Museum of Contemporary Art is in the University Circle, 30 minutes from the city center by bus. Admission to the museum is free.
14. Walking Tour of Little Italy
Little Italy is a small neighborhood in Cleveland in between Lake View Cemetary and the University Circle. It’s on the way if you’re heading to either of the two other areas, and the best place for lunch in this part of Cleveland.
All of the city’s best Italian restaurants are here, which means pizza and pasta galore. There’s even the Italian American Museum of Cleveland that explores the history of Italian immigrants in Cleveland and how they helped shape it into the city that it is today. It’s a very small museum and seeing the exhibit should take up to 20-30 minutes.
In addition to excellent restaurants, Little Italy is also known for its fabulous bars that serve delicious Italian wine and local art galleries. The neighborhood is lively, and it’s one of the best parts of Cleveland, at least for foodie tours!
Little Italy is just 20 minutes from downtown Cleveland by the Red Line train.
15. Unwind at Edgewater Park
Come to Edgewater Park if you need an escape from the busy streets of Cleveland’s city center, but don’t really want to go to a forest. The public park is just a 10-minute drive from the heart of Cleveland, and it features beaches, picnic areas, a fishing pier, and a yacht club.
This is the only beach in Cleveland that is safe for swimming, so by far the best place to be if you want to have some fun on Lake Erie. Kayaking is also popular here, and the westernmost area of the beach is even dog-friendly.
The Cleveland sign is also at this park. It’s a popular destination for first-timers in Cleveland and it’s a great spot for photographs. The skyline of downtown Cleveland is visible in the backdrop, with the lovely Lake Erie in between you and the skyscrapers.
Edgewater Park is approximately half an hour from central Cleveland by local bus.
16. Culinary Tour of Cleveland
I think it’s interesting that there are very few dishes Cleveland is known for. Corned beef sandwiches are one dish that the city is famous for, but nothing else comes to mind as distinctive of the city. But there’s a reason for that.
Cleveland might not have its own version of a deep-dish pizza or a bagel, but that’s precisely the beauty of this city. Its culinary scene is so incredibly diverse that you can have virtually any dish in the world here. From Polish pierogi to Turkish baklava, Cleveland allows you to try many different cuisines and dishes on the same day.
French pastries for breakfast, Italian for lunch, and Chinese for dinner sounds like a dream to me. Book a food tour of Cleveland and you’ll get to visit all the best restaurants in the city and understand how the diversity of its population has influenced its culinary scene.
Downtown Cleveland, Ohio City, and Little Italy are home to most of the city’s best restaurants.
17. Scenic Views at The Holden Arboretum
The Holden Arboretum is one of the largest botanical gardens in the US and a great place to visit if you love exploring nature. It spans an area of 3,600 acres with walking trails and viewpoints that offer scenic vistas of endless treetops. The scenery at the arboretum is particularly gorgeous in the fall when many of the treetops turn red and orange.
Some 600 acres of the Holden Arboretum are reserved for gardens and plant collections. You’ll see all sorts of beautiful plants here, many of which were imported from other countries and otherwise would not exist in the United States.
The Murch Canopy Walk is a popular walking trail in the arboretum. Cross an elevated walking path sitting 65 feet above the forest floor. The Kalberer Emergent Tower is popular for its panoramic views, which stretch all the way to Lake Erie.
The Holden Arboretum is approximately a 40-minute drive from Cleveland. The admission fee is $11.
18. See Something Bizzare at Buckland Museum of Witchcraft & Magick
The Buckland Museum of Witchcraft & Magick is situated 6 miles outside the city center, close to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Come here to see Raymon Buckland’s collection of bizarre objects, which he had begun collecting in 1966.
When the museum was first founded, the collection was displayed in Buckland’s basement and could only be visited by appointment. As the collection grew the museum was relocated several times, and at one point it was entirely disbanded and all the items were put in storage. But it eventually opened up again in Cleveland and has since become one of the city’s most popular.
You don’t have to believe in witchcraft to enjoy this museum, you just need to have a thing for the bizarre. The objects displayed are weird and often morbid – for me, they were fascinating.
The Buckland Museum of Witchcraft & Magick observes seasonal opening hours, usually from 12 PM to 5 PM. Tickets are $8.
19. Have a Fun Day At Cedar Point
If you really want to have fun on Lake Erie, go to Cedar Point. You’ll need a car, but it takes only an hour to drive from Cleveland to North America’s second-oldest amusement park. Come here to ride rollercoasters, lounge on the beach, and try parasailing.
Cedar Point is a very popular destination for fun vacations in Ohio. The amusement park even has a resort on the grounds, as well as lots of mobile homes and a big campsite. It’s particularly popular among families because of the many rides that children absolutely adore.
There are many different rollercoasters and rides here and you could spend the entire just going around the park and exploring all the ways to have fun. Live entertainment is also often provided at the park, especially during the busiest seasons.
Insider Tip: Food and drinks at Cedar Point are very pricey. Get the food pass if you’re going to be at the park all day and eat at least two meals – it will pay for itself.
Cedar Point is approximately 60 miles west of Cleveland. A day ticket for the amusement park is $50. The amusement park is closed in the winter.
20. Drive to Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls isn’t the easiest day trip you can do from Cleveland, but is certainly the most rewarding. Public transport is available but it takes forever (6-7 hours by bus), so consider this day trip from Cleveland only if you’ve got access to a car and are willing to drive for about three hours in one direction.
It will all be worth it once you’re standing there and seeing the dramatic cascades. Horseshoe Falls is the tallest of the three and straddles the border between Canada and the US. American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are smaller but lie entirely on the US side. With more than 12 million visitors every year, this is one of the most popular natural landmarks in North America.
Niagara Falls State Park is approximately three and a half hours from Cleveland by car. Admission to the park is free.
21. See The Exhibit at the International Women’s Air & Space Museum
The International Women’s Air & Space Museum is set in the Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport, close to both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Submarine Memorial. It offers an exhibit that details the history of women in the space and aviation industries, and I found it fascinating.
I think the museum is a must for all ladies in Cleveland who want to see something inspiring. An entire section of the museum is dedicated to women who have been in space, and there’s even a Lego figure of Sally Ride, which I absolutely loved. Other items exhibited at the museum include aircraft and flight simulators.
International Women’s Air & Space Museum is open daily from 8 AM to 8 PM. Admission to the museum is free.
22. Visit the USS COD Submarine Memorial
The USS COD Submarine Memorial is in the North Coast Harbor. You can visit it on the same day as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the International Women’s Air & Space Museum since the two landmarks are very close to one another.
The submarine is from World War II and it is an homage to all the submarines who died in the war. Visitors get to go inside the submarine and tour all its areas, as well as see some other statues in the harbor.
The Submarine Memorial is open for visits from May to September. The admission fee is $14.
23. Day Trip To Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park spans an area of 33,000 acres. It’s popular for hiking, cycling, waterfalls, and picturesque nature. In the winter, locals come to the national park for skiing and snowboarding.
Cycle alongside the winding river to enjoy the views of the park’s landscapes. And if you’re not really in the mood for hiking, you can still tour the park on a train that follows the Towpath Trail. The national park also offers several fishing spots and horseback riding.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a 30-minute drive from Cleveland. Public transport is available but takes at least 2 hours.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Cleveland Known For Anything?
Cleveland is best known for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The city is regarded as the birthplace of Rock & Roll and it was the location of the first Rock concert.
What Food Is Cleveland Ohio Famous For?
Cleveland is famous for corned beef sandwiches. But, more than any one single dish, Cleveland is known for culinary diversity.
What Is The Famous Street in Downtown Cleveland?
Euclid Avenue is the most famous street in downtown Cleveland. It stretches from Cleveland Public Square to Willoughby.
Is it Worth Going to Cleveland?
Yes, going to Cleveland is worth it. The city offers many interesting attractions, from fabulous art museums to the iconic Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Where To Stay In Cleveland
It’s best to be in the center of all action in Cleveland and it doesn’t get more central than the Downtown district. Ohio City is also close to the center with good public transport connections. Personally, I’d probably choose to stay in Little Italy the next time, because I just can’t resist the promise of homemade pasta for dinner. Here are some of the best hotels in Cleveland for all budgets.
Courtyard by Marriott is a three-star hotel that feels like a four-star hotel in Cleveland’s University Circle. Stay here to be close to all the city’s best museums and Italian restaurants. Hilton Cleveland Downtown is a four-star hotel with an excellent location in the city center and an affordable nightly rate. The Ritz-Carlton Cleveland is the top option for travelers looking for luxury hotel stays.
Tips And Information For Visiting Cleveland
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit Cleveland is either spring or fall. It gets unbearably hot and humid in the city in the summer, while the winters are harsh and cold. So, spring and fall are the best seasons to visit for mild weather and an enjoyable stay.
However, I must also point out that the best time for you to visit Cleveland depends on what you want to do. If you’re going to the city just for the museums and landmarks, any time of the year is good. Spring and fall are the best for exploring Ohio’s wonderful nature, and summer is a good time for fun on Lake Erie.
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is the closest one to the city. Well, it’s the closest international airport; there’s actually a smaller regional airport in the harbor in downtown Cleveland, but it’s off-limits for commercial flights.
You’ve got several options for traveling from the airport to downtown Cleveland. The RTA train is the cheapest option with $2.5 tickets. The train takes you to the Tower City Center station in under half an hour.
Car travel is faster and more expensive. Uber, Lyft, taxi, and shuttle services are all available at the Cleveland Airport. The standard cost of Uber and Lyft rides is $30-40 depending on traffic and time of day, while taxis and airport shuttle are twice as expensive. It normally takes about 15 minutes to get from the airport to downtown Cleveland in a car, as long as the traffic isn’t too bad.
The downtown area is mostly walkable and a large part of central Cleveland can be explored on foot. This is mostly the area from Euclid Avenue to Lake Erie, where you can find many of the city’s best hotels, bars, and restaurants.
Many attractions and landmarks are outside central Cleveland, and you’ll need to travel there either in a car or by public transport. Buses and trains can help you get around Cleveland and they’re inexpensive but are significantly slower than car travel. However, sometimes the traffic jams can be bad enough that the train is the fastest way of traveling.
For day trips to nearby nature parks and destinations that are farther outside the city, car rental is the best option. It’s cheaper to just rent a car and pay for parking than to Uber everywhere, not to mention how much more convenient is to have access to a personal vehicle in a new city.
How Much Time Do You Need
You need at least two days in Cleveland. Ideally, you’d stay in the city for three days to discover its top sights, but it’s doable in two days if you sleep very little and walk very fast. Three days give you enough time to see the best of Cleveland and do a day trip to popular nearby destinations.
Cleveland has many excellent museums that take up a lot of time. Even if you only want to visit one or two, they’ll take up almost half a day. A lot of time is also spent in transit, whether it’s walking from one downtown landmark to another, or riding the local bus to one of the nature parks outside the central city area.