Cleveland’s wide variety of kid-friendly attractions, plus its affordability and easy access, equals an outstanding package of experiences for all ages.
A Christmas Story House and Museum
Stroke the leg lamp like Ralphie did or crawl under the kitchen sink like Randy — or mimic any number of scenes from the iconic movie at the house where it was made. “There’s even Lifebuoy soap in the bathroom,” says owner Brian Jones. “People are welcome to put the soap in their mouths, but it tastes awful.” Although a nearby museum displays Randy’s snowsuit and other authentic costumes and props from the beloved film, fans can give themselves a Major Award with an overnight stay — tuck the kids into Ralphie’s and Randy’s beds, or sleep next door in the Bumpus House’s Hound Dog Haven and Stolen Turkey suites.
Children’s Museum of Cleveland
The museum is a learning center for little ones where infants to 8-year-olds can make believe or make a splash. It’s currently closed to the public, but has plenty of online programs until its Wonder Lab, Adventure City, or Arts and Parts spaces can open once again.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
While their eyes go wide when tigers walk above their heads at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, nothing wows youngsters more than hand-feeding lettuce to 16-foot-tall giraffes. Tip: Unlock educational animal information with KeyBank ZooKeys at more than two dozen information boxes around the zoo.
Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s Learning Center and Money Museum
Get a crash course in cash at the Money Museum, located inside the Cleveland Fed’s venerable building. The visit is free, but shells out priceless activities — including Barter Island and a Money Tree — that teach the value of a dollar.
Great Lakes Science Center
Great Lakes Science Center excels in developing interactive exhibits that boost kids’ confidence in their abilities and even engage the entire family. “The entire center is designed with multi-generation experiences in mind,” says Kirsten Ellenbogen, president and CEO. Signature attractions include the Derby Dash, where you can build and race cars; the Rocket Pod, which tests your skills at making and launching paper projectiles; and NASA Glenn Visitor Center, where your whole crew will have a blast peering inside an Apollo Command Module or getting their photos taken inside a space suit. Tip: The Center sits along Lake Erie and has picnic areas perfect for lunches with waterfront views.
Greater Cleveland Aquarium
A repurposed powerhouse sets a unique stage to provide small fry with eye-level views and awesome perspectives on fish from around the world at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Walk underwater and watch sharks swim in the seatube. Pet stingrays in the touchpool. Marvel at plankton-eating eels popping out of their burrows. Then meet Toby, a giant-lipped gourami with a reputation for puckering up to visitors. “Toby definitely seems to like to engage with people, and guests just love him,” says the aquarium’s marketing director, Samantha Fryberger.
Hershey Children’s Garden at Cleveland Botanical Garden
Nurture a love of nature at Hershey Children’s Garden, a cool, kid-sized place with butterfly-shaped gates and a lofty treehouse. Look for living fossils like the ginkgo tree; listen to croaking frogs; touch silky lamb’s ear leaves; and explore the wonders of sunflowers, earthworms, and seeds.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
The Rock Hall is more than a world-class collection of artifacts and a high-energy homage to rock music. It’s also a place for you and your future rock stars to make your own music in The Garage, an interactive exhibit that recalls the humble origin of many famous bands. Just select a guitar, keyboard, or other instrument to get a lesson or play with family and friends. Tip: Try singing backup for The Mechanics, the Rock Hall’s jam band.
Sweet Moses Soda Fountain and Treat Shop
The nostalgia of an authentic 1940s soda fountain combined with homemade ice creams, toppings, and even root beer are the recipe for pure enjoyment at Sweet Moses, an old-school shop named for Cleveland founder Moses Cleaveland (spelled with an extra “a”). “It’s really great when it becomes a multi-generational experience and grandparents get to show their grandchildren a treat from their own childhood, such as a chocolate soda,” says owner Jeffrey Moreau. Also on the menu are hand-carbonated floats, malts, phosphates, and the Terminal Tower, a 10-scoop-tall sundae featuring house flavors such as Belgian Chocolate and Bananas Foster.
Be COVID cautious before you go
Since the pandemic is unpredictable, always call ahead or check attractions’ websites for updates on hours, reserving arrival times, pre-purchasing tickets, wearing masks, and health and safety guidelines.