15 Unique Things to Do in Cleveland

Pack your bags and head to The Land, the only place in the US where you can learn about the history of rock 'n' roll, see one of the "Big Five" symphony orchestras and take a scenic train ride in a single weekend.

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November 21, 2019

Photo By: Dan Ham for Hyatt Regency Cleveland

Photo By: Destination Cleveland

Photo By: Cody York for Destination Cleveland

Photo By: Destination Cleveland

Photo By: Kyle Lanzer for Cleveland Metroparks

Photo By: Larry E. Highbaugh Jr. for Destination Cleveland

Photo By: Jacob Koestler, Courtesy of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and Library Street Collective

Photo By: Roger Mastroianni for The Cleveland Orchestra

Photo By: The Water Creative

Photo By: Destination Cleveland

Photo By: Cody York for Destination Cleveland

Photo By: Robert George for Destination Cleveland

Photo By: Destination Cleveland

Photo By: Kyle Lanzer for Cleveland Metroparks

Photo By: Drew Shipley for Destination Cleveland

Stay at The Arcade

Make no mistake: Cleveland is cool these days. After experiencing a major "restaurant renaissance" in the last few years, this city on the southern shore of Lake Erie is finally getting the attention it deserves for its unique architecture, world-class attractions and culturally diverse food options. If you're thinking about visiting soon, these are all the things you'll want to see and do, starting with where to book your hotel room.

Arcades might be fairly common in the Midwest, but few can compete with the grandeur of Cleveland's "Crystal Palace." Modeled after the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy, this historic landmark features a five-story glass atrium with sweeping, wrought iron balconies. Though you can certainly shop along The Arcade's lower two floors or eat in the food court, we suggest you instead check into the Hyatt Regency Cleveland on the upper two levels to get the full "historic hotel" experience.

BOOK NOW: TripAdvisor, Starting at $109 per night

Tour The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum

When in Rome, no? If you're going to visit Cleveland, then you can't miss the city's most popular attraction. Since it opened in 1995, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum has welcomed more than 12 million visitors from around the world, not to mention chart-topping musicians for the annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Here, you can learn all about how Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed coined the term "rock 'n' roll" back in the '50s and trace the genre's history from blues and R&B to today's mainstream. You can also explore a variety of permanent and temporary exhibits that contain artifacts from Woodstock, the Beatles, the Supremes, Guns N' Roses, etc.

Sip Wine and See the Rotunda at Heinen's

Truth be told, Cleveland is a gold mine for gorgeous buildings. In addition to The Arcade and the iconic I.M. Pei-designed Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum, this city is home to Key Tower, the tallest building in all of Ohio, and Terminal Tower, a stunning, 52-story skyscraper from the 1930s. That said, there's only one place in the city where you can enjoy a glass of wine beneath an enormous stained glass rotunda, and that's Heinen's Grocery Store (pictured). To see this hidden gem for yourself, visit their location in the historic 1908 Cleveland Trust Company Building. If you head upstairs to the wine and beer department, you'll find The Balcony Bar, where you can sip your favorite white or red with views of this jaw-dropping ceiling.

Eat Your Way Through West Side Market

If you even remotely consider yourself a foodie, then you pretty much have to visit West Side Market. Located in the historic Ohio City neighborhood, this brick building largely catered to Cleveland's immigrant population in the early 20th century. As a result, West Side Market now boasts over 100 culturally diverse food vendors, with goods that range from fresh produce, bread and herbs to Middle Eastern pastries and French macarons. You'll want to sample your way through the stalls, stand back and admire the market's domed ceiling and clock tower and then head outside to see the surrounding boutiques. Ohio City has become incredibly hip in the last few years, so you can expect to find plenty of street art, including the Greetings From Cleveland mural, nearby as well.

Stay Overnight at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Did you know that the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo boasts one of the largest primate collections in North America? That's pretty impressive, and it's just one of the many reasons why you should visit. Situated on 183 acres of land in the "Emerald Necklace" (aka, The Cleveland Metroparks System), this zoo is easily one of the most beautiful in the country and contains everything from anteaters and bats to giraffes, lions and zebras. (Not to mention gorillas, orangutans, lemurs, etc.) You can even stay the night and track Amur tigers as part of their conservation program! If you visit between now and January 5, 2020, you can catch their annual Wild Winter Lights display.

Explore CMOA & MOCA

That's right. Cleveland has not one, but two incredible art museums that you can visit for free year-round. In the white marble halls of the Cleveland Museum of Art, you'll find more than 61,000 works from around the world, including pieces from Picasso's "Blue Period" and Monet's water lilies series. And at the glass-and-steel Museum of Contemporary Art? Well, the exhibits change pretty frequently, so you could very well see anything from Liu Wei's first solo museum exhibition in the US, Invisible Cities, to works by Andy Warhol.

Check Out Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse

You definitely don't have to be a Cleveland Cavaliers fan — or someone who follows basketball at all, for that matter — to enjoy this one-of-a-kind contemporary art exhibit at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. After an extensive, two year-long renovation, the old Quicken Loans Arena has been completely transformed with an art program curated by Library Street Collective. Now, you'll find over 100 original pieces that convey a spirit of sportsmanship and the power of resilience. Come to see large-scale murals by Nina Chanel Abney and Shepard Fairey, neon light installations by Thrush Holmes and a 20-foot sculpture by KAWS, then consider sticking around for a concert or sporting event.

See the Cleveland Orchestra in Concert

We can't think of a better place to attend a classical music concert than Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra — aka, one of the country's "Big Five" (the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra). Step inside the grand foyer and get swept away by the building's gilded splendor, from the sweeping brass staircases to the glittering terrazzo floors laid like lotus blossoms. Then enter the main concert hall and settle in for an evening performance of either Hummel and Haydn (from Nov. 21-23), Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty (from Dec. 5-7) or the Cleveland Orchestra's annual Christmas Concert (from Dec. 13-22).

Try Something New at Forest City Shuffleboard

Darts and pool are old news. In Cleveland, the hip thing to do is drink your craft cocktail while playing shuffleboard. If you're eager to try the offbeat sport and enjoy some of the city's best food and beverages while you're at it, hightail it to Forest City Shuffleboard Arena & Bar in Ohio City. Here, you'll find five indoor shuffleboard courts, two outdoor courts, regulation shuffleboard tables and a picture-perfect back patio. Each court or table rental comes with a free lesson too, so you can play no matter what your skill set is. And, because FCS has a rotating kitchen, you can also try bites from up-and-coming chefs, food trucks and other local businesses. This month's partner is A Taste of Me, so do yourself a favor and order the bacon-wrapped kielbasa or Cajun cheese balls.

Visit President Garfield's Grave at Lake View Cemetery

Pay your respects to notable figures like former President James A. Garfield and John D. Rockefeller when you step inside the breathtaking, Louis Comfort Tiffany-designed Wade Memorial Chapel. At the chapel you'll see sculptural gravestones that rival works in a museum, all at Cleveland's Lake View Cemetery — which looks less like a final resting place and more like a lavish garden. That's because Lake View, established in 1869, was actually built in the same garden cemetery style that was popular throughout Europe during the Victorian-era. Today, it continues to appeal to the public with its gently rolling hills, meticulously maintained flower beds, grand mausoleums and long list of famous residents including Carl B. Stokes, the first African-American major of a major US city (Cleveland) and the founder of the Sherwin-Williams paint company Henry A. Sherwin.

Hike at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Little-known fact: There's only one national park in all of Ohio, and it's just outside of Cleveland. When you need a breath of fresh air and a break from the skyscrapers, we suggest you head to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which sits along the Cuyahoga River between Cleveland and Akron. Here, you'll find more than 125 miles of hiking and biking trails that cut through deep forests, farm and marsh or that lead to some seriously spectacular waterfalls. If you look carefully, you could even spot a bald eagle, peregrine falcon or beaver along the way. Best of all? The park has no admission fee, so you can enjoy the sights and sounds for free.

Ride the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

Oh, and did we mention that Cuyahoga Valley National Park just so happens to have a scenic railroad? CVNP is actually the only national park in the country with a non-profit, educational heritage railroad running through it. (Year-round, at that.) Climb aboard from one of the many stations throughout the park and get a feel for what it's like to travel by train. Or plan your trip for Nov. 8-Dec. 21 to catch The Polar Express, an enchanting, real-life adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg's children's book. Passengers are invited to don their comfiest pajamas, drink hot chocolate and listen to the tale as they journey to "The North Pole." Tickets will cost you anywhere from $46-$98 per person this year, but we think the magical experience is worth the price tag.

Visit the A Christmas Story House

If we had to guess, you're probably thinking "You'll shoot your eye out!" right about now. Yes, much of Bob Clark's classic comedy A Christmas Story was shot in Cleveland, and you can, in fact, visit Ralphie Parker's house in person. The home was restored to its cinematic status back in 2006, and today features an official A Christmas Story museum across the street where you can see behind-the-scenes photos of the film, plus original costumes and props like Randy's snowsuit and the family car. You can even purchase a leg lamp from the gift shop! And don't worry if you can't make the trip in December; the house and museum are open year-round.

Go Tobogganing at the Chalet

Sure, you've gone sledding before, but you haven't really lived until you've experienced the icy thrill of tobogganing in The Cleveland Metroparks. Slide into winter (and cross a cool item off your bucket list) by taking a ride on one of the twin, 700-foot refrigerated ice chutes at the Chalet in Mill Stream Run Reservation. An all-day ticket costs just $12 for adults and $10 for kids 11 and under, or you can opt for a one-ride ticket for $6. The chutes operate with or without snow from now until early March.

Snap a Photo With a Script Sign

What better way to commemorate your trip to Cleveland than with a photo in front of one of the iconic script signs? Unveiled by Destination Cleveland back in 2016, the six signs were purposefully placed in some very scenic locations, including Edgewater Park, Tremont and North Coast Harbor (pictured). Before you head home, be sure to track one down and tag your photo with "#ThisIsCLE" on Instagram.

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