Most Popular Things to Do in Cleveland, Ohio

Planning your getaway to Northeast Ohio? Discover all the best things to do in Cleveland, Ohio! From a vibrant music scene to historical markets & squares to first-rate museums, a Cleveland vacation may be just what you need.

Boogie down to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for immersive exhibits about the world’s great musical legends. Hop into your swimsuit and visit Edgewater Park along the Lake Erie shoreline for fun in the sun. Or bring the family to kid-friendly tourist attractions like the Great Lakes Science Center to let your little scientists experiment the day away.

Looking for the best places to visit in Cleveland? Plan your ultimate trip by following along with this complete guide for what to do in Cleveland, Ohio!

Must-see places to visit in Cleveland, OH

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Calling all Rock and Roll fans! Cleveland has a strong reputation as the “Rock and Roll Capital of the World.” For proof, groove on over to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Delve into the histories of the 351 inductees like The Rolling Stones, ABBA, Alice Cooper, and Eddie Van Halen. 

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Browsing the floor of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, you’ll find the psychedelic recreation of Pink Floyd’s 1990 Berlin stage setup of “The Wall.” Find your favorite star’s signature on the Wall of Inductees, and appreciate artifacts like their guitars, drumsticks, and hand-written lyrics.

Jam out in The Garage. Instruments, wires, and chords are strewn around a cozy room designed to make you feel like you’re practicing in, well, a garage!

Wrap up your trip to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by stopping at Nuevo Modern Mexican and Tequila Bar. Sip a cucumber mezcal margarita and munch on fresh guacamole, chips, and authentic dishes as you enjoy the lovely views of Lake Erie. 

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Are you an animal lover? The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is one of the most unique points of interest in Cleveland. Its sprawling 24,000 acres include 18 reservations, peaceful parks, green forest trails, and exhilarating outdoor activities.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Swing by the primate exhibit at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo to discover one of North America’s largest groups of monkeys and gorillas. Bounce to the Australian Adventure area to see some kangaroos and animals from down under. Then, stomp over to the African Elephant crossing to admire these giant beasts. 

Make a trek to Brecksville Reservation to practice your aim with some archery, then work on your swing at one of their golf courses.

Wander through Garfield Park Reservation, and you’ll hear the roaring of the country’s largest waterfall. In the Hinckley Reservation, rent a kayak for a calm afternoon of paddling around Hinckley Lake. 

Set aside an entire day to explore the Metroparks Zoo. Just don’t forget to wear your most comfortable shoes as you’ll be doing a lot of walking!

Admission to the zoo is $19 for adults with concessions available for seniors and children. Locals from Cuyahoga County and Hinckley Township can visit the zoo for free on Mondays.

The Cleveland Museum of Art

Art connoisseurs, listen up! The Cleveland Museum of Art is a magnificent cultural institution with over 61,000 masterpieces dating back over 6,000 years of history. Known for its varied and expansive collection of artwork, this art museum is one of Cleveland’s must-see museums. Make your way to the tranquil University Circle neighborhood to immerse yourself in an art-filled wonderland and add a dash of culture to your holiday.

The Cleveland Museum of Art

The worlds of art and history intertwine through each exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Be transported around the globe as you gaze upon Japanese scrolls from the 1300s and the intricate golden Table Fountain from 14th-century France.

Travel to Egypt to admire Nesykhonsu’s ancient and incredibly preserved coffin from 945 BC, then back to the US to be dazzled by the 1941 Hinds House stained glass window. 

The Cleveland Museum of Art is adjacent to Little Italy, making it a perfect opportunity to stop by the neighborhood for a nosh at one of its many cafes and restaurants. Indulge in fresh homemade pasta at Etna’s, then compare the cannolis and pastries from Corbo’s Bakery and Presti’s Bakery. Mangia, mangia! 

Greater Cleveland Aquarium

Turtles, sharks, and a giant Pacific octopus, oh my! A day of interactive, educational, and aquatic fun awaits at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Here, you’ll learn about local fish species from The Great Lakes and types of sea life and animals from around the globe. It’s a smaller boutique aquarium, so you can take your time looking around.

Try not to watch Jaws before your Cleveland vacation; as you stroll through the shark tube at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, you’ll be surrounded by a variety of sharks swimming all around. In the tropical fish corridor, the rainbow colors of fish are mesmerizing. Can you find the striped Emperor Angelfish or the polka-dotted Harlequin Sweetlips? 

Roll up your sleeves, pet the stingrays, and even feed them with the help of trained guides. The sting ray touch-tank is especially popular among families with children or anyone interested in a firsthand aquatic life experience.

West Side Market

Experience more than a century of Cleveland history at the West Side Market, known as the city’s original public market. Here, you can taste fine fruits, artisan meats, cheeses, handmade pasta, and a variety of baked goods.

West Side Market

The West Side Market has delicacies to suit every appetite. If you’re taking a road trip to the city, consider bringing a cooler to take fresh foods home! 

Entering the hall, you’ll be greeted by rows upon rows of diverse food stalls offering ethnic and local cuisines. Pick up some traditional Polish pierogies or genuine Italian ravioli and sausages. Craving French cuisine? Order a crepe or try out the gourmet macarons with enticing flavors like spiced pear or cranberry apple. 

After your food tour, visitors can ditch the foodie crowds to explore one of West Side Market’s hidden gems: its historic clock tower. Soar up 130 feet to enjoy dramatic views over the city skyline and Lake Erie.

Take a spin through the nearby Ohio City neighborhood for a post-market refreshing beer brewery tour and get a taste of its fun nightlife. The Great Lakes Brewing Company is housed in an old grain and feed factory and is now an iconic spot for tasty craft beer in a historical atmosphere. Other popular breweries in the area include Market Garden Brewery and Hansa Brewery.

Cleveland Museum of Natural History

If you’re interested in the natural world, you’ll love the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. As one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cleveland for over 100 years, the museum offers in-depth explorations into the ancient and modern natural wonders of our world. Get a lesson in the Earth’s formations, the animals who inhabit it, and the galaxies beyond our big blue planet. 

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History will inspire your inner child’s curiosity to run wild as you enter the dinosaur and archaeology exhibit. Look up at the towering dinosaur statues and life-like recreations of their environments in wonder, imagining the days they used to roam the Earth. 

Take a tour of the universe to view 3D detailed and textured images of the planets in the Shafran Planetarium. At the Mineralogy exhibit, the brilliant hues of turquoise, sapphire, and emerald of the gems and stones will leave you amazed that nature can create such beauty. 

Cleveland Public Square

Need a break from the concrete and brick of the city? The Cleveland Public Square is a welcomed change of scenery. The grassy lawn, scenic views, and splash pad for little ones (or you—no judgment!) make this a pleasant spot in Downtown Cleveland.

Cleveland Public Square

Pack a picnic or go to Cleveland Public Square during lunchtime to catch the food trucks, then perch yourself on a bench by the bubbling tranquil fountain.

If you’re in the area on a weekend, pick up some local sweets and treats from the pop-up farmer’s market. Dabble in a bit of people-watching, munch on your food, or sip your latte from the REBol coffee shop and cafe.

As you stroll through one of the city’s most popular destinations, stop to appreciate the Civil War memorials and monuments and the gardens full of flourishing flowers. Passing the small pond in the square, you’ll hear gentle flutters and ripples as swans or geese splash about the water.

Love checking out cities from above? Don’t miss out on the observation deck at The Terminal Tower. Soaring up 52 floors and 771 feet, the Terminal Tower is the second-tallest building in Cleveland. From its observation deck on the 42nd floor, tourists will marvel at 360-degree panoramic views over Downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie.

While you’re there, pop into the Tower City Center for some shopping and dining. Opened in the 1920s, this retail complex features a selection of dozens of shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, and even a casino. Tower City also hosts a variety of fun events, from lunchtime concerts to pop-up food vendors. Check the events schedule to see what’s on during your visit.

The Cleveland Public Square is just what you need for some mid-holiday rejuvenation. 

After checking out the square, wander over into the nearby Warehouse District. Once a vital industrial center for the city, Cleveland’s revitalized Warehouse District has become one of downtown’s dining and entertainment hubs. Check out the area’s variety of art galleries, restaurants, cafes, and bars hidden within its beautiful heritage buildings.

Great Lakes Science Center

Traveling to the region with kids? Keeping youngsters entertained on a vacation can be a challenge at times; thankfully, the Great Lakes Science Center has a solution. Your little budding scientist will be immersed in the interactive exhibits and STEM experiments. 

Great Lakes Science Center

Ever wonder what it’s like to land a space rover or spaceship? Your mini astronaut can steer the spacecraft back to Earth, check out a real space suit, and climb inside a space capsule.

Making your way to Tornado Alley, you’ll be dropped right in the middle of a raging storm during the show in the DOME. The wind effects are exhilarating!

Is your child destined to be the next Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee? In the Science of Rock and Roll exhibit, he or she can jam out on instruments, adjust the sound levels, and discover how sound waves travel. Endless fun can be found at the Great Lakes Science Center!

A Christmas Story House

Movie buffs coming to Cleveland should visit A Christmas Story House. The nostalgia of this 80’s cult classic movie will all come rushing back when you step into the restored home of Ralphie Parker just as it was when filming the movie.

A Christmas Story House

Step inside, and you’ll practically smell the Christmas Turkey roasting in the 1940s oven. Make your way into the living room and notice the glowing Christmas tree decked with ornaments and strings of popcorn. As you look around the room, you’ll chuckle at all of the comical details, like the overloaded plug socket and the iconic “fragile” box. 

Hop across the road to A Christmas Story Museum for original memorabilia and props from the movie. Browsing the gift shop, could you think of a better souvenir than the leg lamp from A Christmas Story? Well, maybe a Red Ryder Range 200 BB gun. But you’ll shoot your eye out, kid! Best to go with the “Italian” leg lamp. 

Edgewater Park

Who needs the ocean when you’ve got Lake Erie? Edgewater Park has 9,000 feet of shoreline, swimming, boating, and fishing galore. This park is a great addition to any itinerary, no matter what time of year you travel to Cleveland. In the summer, you can enjoy outdoor activities amid the sunny summertime weather, and in the winter, you’ll be amazed by the natural ice formations on the lake. 

Edgewater Park

Gallivanting through Edgewater Park, you can find countless photo ops, like the famous Cleveland sign and the city skyline. At the pier, meet local fishermen and fisherwomen. Come for the swimming and gather everyone up to stay for the sunset by the pier.

Have a cookout with their public grills or head to a nearby eatery. If you’re on the western side of the park, the Edgewater Beach House serves up expertly crafted cocktails and local beers on draft.

The eastern side of one of Cleveland’s most popular beaches is home to the famous Whiskey Island Still and Eatery. Indulge in delicious beach food like flaky battered fish and onion rings. 

Playhouse Square

Playhouse Square gives Broadway a run for its money. Home to immaculately restored theaters in Cleveland’s colorful and historic Theater District, Playhouse Square hosts Broadway-level productions alongside local plays, concerts, and comedy shows. 

Playhouse Square

The graceful leaps and elegant spins of the Cleveland Balet will leave you speechless. If you need a laugh, go see celebrities like Chris Rock at Connor Palace. Score some tickets to My Fair Lady at the KeyBank State Theater. Before entering the venue, take your time soaking in the broadway-esque glitter and glitz of the square. 

After your show, head to Bin 216. This small restaurant serves up small tapas, dishes, and cocktails and is known for its intimate atmosphere.

If you want to keep the show going, stop at Hofbrauhaus Cleveland. This German-themed restaurant is inspired by the Munich original, and they’ve recreated the festive ambiance with German decor and music. You’ll have a blast drinking from your stein all night long!

Willard Park

On the way to your next destination, you’ll likely pass Willard Park. It’ll be a quick stop on your way to or from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or the Cleveland Science Center. Willard Park is an essential landmark in Downtown Cleveland.

Willard Park

Walking from East Ninth Street towards Willard Park, you’ll stumble upon lush greenery and flowers. In the distance, you can vaguely make out the sparkling waters of Erie Harbor.

Look to your left, and you may notice a staggeringly large pop-art sculpture called Free Stamp. It looks as if a giant tossed it onto the lawn.

Snap a selfie with this interesting piece, then continue on your way across the Cleveland Memorial State Highway overpass to Rotary Park.

For a tour of Cleveland, the nearby City Brew Tours Cleveland lets you sip your way around Cleveland’s historical sites and discover the area’s craft beer scene. 

Euclid Beach Park

A day at the beach with a dash of history is exactly what you’ll find at Euclid Beach Park. The fascinating remnants of the antique theme park are still present throughout the 650-foot beach. You’ll also find gardens, picnic areas, and a pier.

Euclid Beach Park

Suit up and hit the waters at Euclid Beach Park for a relaxed beach day, enjoying the cool and fresh waters of Lake Erie. Hit the pier for scenic views of the shoreline. After a picnic lunch, get a taste of urban exploration throughout the park.

After over 74 seasons of operation, the original Euclid Beach Park amusement park ran its roller coasters and powder-sugared its fried dough for the last time. Today, remnants of the shuffleboard attraction, the Flying Turns roller coaster, and the famous archway remain. They’re especially interesting to inspect if you find an old photo of the park’s glory days to compare with.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Ohio’s parks and reservations are top-notch. Head inland to enjoy one of the most popular day trips from Cleveland and one of the area’s best parks: Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Outdoor activities abound in this park, from biking to hiking or kayaking. You could easily spend one or two days in the great outdoors of Cuyahoga Valley. 

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Take a leisurely stroll or buckle your helmet and hit the trails to go biking down Towpath Trail. Breathe in the fresh forest air and enjoy the greenery until you reach the historic Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Exploring Brandywine Gorge Trail, peer down at the rocks and streams below as you pass over the three sections of glass bridges. 

Need a place to stay overnight? The Stanford House Bed and Breakfast is a great option to begin and end your day near some of the best trails in the park. One of which is the 1.5-mile loop of Brandywine Falls trails. Trekking through this path, hear the peaceful babbling brooks growing into roaring falls.

Severance Hall

You can find the best of the best in each genre in Cleveland, from rock and roll to opera and even orchestral performances. Severance Hall is at the forefront of the orchestral music scene and is widely considered to be one of the most impressive and beautiful music halls of all time. The grandeur of the architecture and the incredible performances hosted here make it a popular point of interest in Cleveland. 

Severance Hall

Catch an awe-inspiring Cleveland Orchestra concert at Severance Hall. Their music tells a story with melodies of the strings, rumbles, and clashes of percussion, bellowing of the brass, and the crooning of wind instruments. You’ll be amazed at the skill and sheer beauty of this world-class orchestra in this magnificent hall. 

Whether you’re well-versed in music theory or simply like to listen, an evening at Severance Hall will be a memorable Cleveland experience.

Lake View Cemetery

You might not expect a cemetery to be a holiday destination, but one of Cleveland’s top attractions is Lake View Cemetery. The 285 acres include Victorian and Edwardian-style gravesites, vibrant gardens, and memorials.

Lake View Cemetery

Spend an afternoon discovering the history and cultural significance of Lake View Cemetery. Meander through winding pathways and under tree-shaded areas that open up into rolling hills dotted with tombstones, big and small, simple and ornate.

In the springtime, you’ll notice pink buds blossoming on trees, and in autumn, the fiery reds and bright yellow foliage are stunning.

Discover the impressive James A. Garfield Monument, dedicated to the 20th president of the US. Take a tour for some extra insight into the history of this cemetery. 

The location along Euclid Avenue and bordering Little Italy makes it convenient to grab a bite after exploring Lake View Cemetery. Check out Mia Bella for a mix of authentic Italian cuisine with vegan and vegetarian options as well. 

Cedar Point

If you love thrilling amusement parks, set aside a day for Cedar Point in nearby Sandusky. This classic Northeast Ohio theme park features over 70 rides, from heart-pumping roller coasters to relaxed antique car rides.  

Cedar Point

If you’re ready for an adrenaline rush, seek out the Corkscrew Coaster. As you approach, you’ll hear screams whizzing by you as the cars whip their passengers along the tracks. If you prefer to take it easy, you’ll be excited to hop aboard the Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad for a slow-paced spin around the area. 

Just across from Cedar Point is Cedar Point Shores, the best way to cool down on a hot summer day. Zip down water slides, drift along Cedar Creek in an inner tube, and bob up and down in the wave pool. If you’ve got little kiddies in tow, the shallow kid-sized pool is ideal for wading in.

Recommended places to stay in Cleveland for sightseeing

For most travelers, the most popular places to stay in Cleveland are in its downtown core. Downtown Cleveland offers plenty of accommodation options, including most of the city’s top hotels. If you’re looking to save, you’ll also find a handful of great hotels and vacation rentals at more budget-friendly prices in areas and neighborhoods outside the city center, like Ohio City and University Circle.

Drury Plaza Hotel Cleveland Downtown

Drury Plaza Hotel Cleveland Downtown

It’s hard to find better value downtown than the Drury Plaza Hotel. Located in the heart of downtown, this elegant hotel puts the city’s most popular attractions at your fingertips while giving you a comfortable place to lay your head. Besides the comfortable modern rooms, guests will also enjoy a slate of excellent amenities, including an indoor pool, hot tub, and fitness center.

Kimpton Schofield Hotel

Kimpton Schofield Hotel, an IHG Hotel

Occupying a beautiful Victorian building near Playhouse Square, this boutique-style hotel offers an extra dash of grace and charm on your Cleveland vacation. Get the sleep of your dreams in the retro-chic rooms, fitted with designer Italian linens and offering in-room spa services. Start your morning with a bike rental to explore the city to its fullest. Before you leave, be sure to sit down for a delicious meal and cocktails at the hotel’s on-site restaurant, featuring classic American dishes in an industrial-chic setting.

The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland

The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland

If you want to push the luxury to the next level, book a stay at Cleveland’s top luxury hotel. Settle down in the plush rooms featuring panoramic views and luxurious marble bathrooms. Splurge on a Club Level room to enjoy private lounge access, complimentary food & drinks, and a dedicated hotel concierge.

Treksplorer

Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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