Thursday, August 22, 2013

Traveling the Midwest? Cleveland's Calling!

Living just 40 minutes outside of Chicago, one of the greatest cities in the world (FACT - Not opinion*), my family is blessed to be able to enjoy fantastic museums, zoos, parks and natural beauties... But everyone needs an occasional change of pace, regardless of how much they love where they live.

The Midwest is awesome in that there are several beautiful cities within reasonable driving distance from each other. This summer, my family took a weekend trip to Cleveland, OH and had a WHIRLWIND of awesome awesomeness.


Staying at a hotel is always a good time for our kids, but throw in a pool with a waterslide and it becomes an adventure! The Fairfield Inn and Suites was clean and courteous and had a full breakfast every day, which saved us time and money so that we could spend BOTH on other activities downtown.

The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, to be honest, was my main reason for revisiting Cleveland. When you're married to a musician, the RRHOF is a MUST. Hours were spent guffawing over the handwritten lyrics by Jim Morrison...

and outfits worn by Jimi Hendrix...

 RRHOF one of his favorite places I've ever taken him. (He took about 200 pictures. I am not exaggerating.) After 3 hours in the museum, the kids were getting hungry, so he turned to me while standing beside "The Wall" and said, "I'm good. I am happy and content and we can go now." I think he was drooling a little bit...

Play Me; I'm yours...

Listening to the history of early jazz and R&B
Hello? Is there anybody IN there? Just nod if you can hear me...
 I think seeing the vast collection of the Doors and Pink Floyd sealed the deal for Patrick, making the RRHOF one of his favorite places that I've ever taken him to.

Husband satisfied, we grabbed a snack and then strolled next door to the Great Lakes Science Center, admiring the views of downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie.
 I am always happy to incorporate education into our trips. My 7 year old whined as we walked into the museum ("Why do we always have to do LEARNING THINGS?!?") but quickly changed her tune once she beheld the huge assortment of hands-on activities. BEST PART?!? There was hardly anyone at the museum on a SATURDAY! Each of us was able to try all of the experiments and my 14 year old even VOLUNTARILY did Algebra. On vacation. Did I mention it was VOLUNTARY?

Flying a space module... Major Tom to Ground Control?

ALGEBRA. On vacation
An entire music section upstairs! Sounds and rhythms are found in science all around us...
Always fun.
The unique exterior of the RRHOF, located next door to the Science Center, right on the shores of Lake Erie.
 We took a break from museums and what-not for some absolutely delicious pizza at the 4th Street Bar & Grill found in downtown Cleveland, just a few blocks away from the RRHOF and Science Center. 4th Street has an entire collection of cool bars and restaurants, if you're looking for some good grub in a beautiful and safe location.

So cute. Him, not me. Though I won't say "no" to a compliment...
4th Street at night on a weekend is WHERE IT'S AT. During the day on a Saturday, it's still pretty awesome.
Totally full, we packed up the troops and headed towards the flats for our next bit of the adventure.
(Side note: Ever try to take pics without a flash in a dark aquarium?)

The Greater Cleveland Aquarium is a lovely facility with great exhibits. We spent about an hour and a half here and left feeling thrilled that we were able to see and explore so many beautiful aquatic animals. Again, it's a smaller building than what I'm used to in Chicago, but the size isn't what matters; it's the quality of the animal care, which seemed phenomenal. My kids wanted to rush back to see the shark tank, which is an obvious must-see but be sure to take your time - don't miss the opportunities to touch a tortoise or stroke a stingray!
We had just studied the tortoises of the Galapagos Islands, so it was a real thrill to touch a live one...
The stingray exhibit allows you to pet the animals as they swim and also had hermit crabs and other small critters available for an up-close investigation.
Anybody else getting a little creeped out?

And definitely be sure to admire how an abandoned Powerhouse was rescued and then transformed into a  truly unique and beautiful aquarium. It was FASCINATING!

Fun with photo editing!
Moments after Evan regaled the on-site marine scientist with his insane knowledge of sharks, including the prehistoric Megalodon.

We headed back to the hotel for several hours of swimming and family bonding by the pool and waterslide before we were finally able to drag the kids back to bed. They were so exhausted, they passed out almost before we did (Almost).

(Totally not tired. Mom is cray cray.)

The 1st time I visited Cleveland, we visited the MetroParks Zoo. Back then, the elephant enclosure was under construction and I was able to walk where several African elephants are now happily living. It was pretty cool to see how much work they accomplished with such a fabulous outcome. (Here is where a picture of the exhibit would be helpful... I sure do wish I had taken a picture of it. Use your imagination!)

We strolled the zoo at our own pace and just enjoyed the exhibits. It's a large space, and laid out with long and winding trails, so if you are visiting on a hot day, be prepared with plenty of water and a well-charged camera, because there are photo ops around every corner!

 Dinosaurs may be extinct, but they still exist at the special exhibit at the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo (until September 15 for an extra charge).
 Being paleontologists...

 A fact you may not know about my kids: they love ants. Ants are awesome and have been involved in many discussions in our everyday lives. We watched these leaf cutter ants carrying "enormous" shreds of leaves through long and winding tunnels so that they could provide food and shelter for the babies at the nest. My kids were FASCINATED.
 A KOALA! I wish I could have gotten a better picture, but there was a KOALA at the zoo! And he was awake! And he looked at me and we BONDED and I wanted to take him home, but there are rules against stealing animals from zoos, so I refrained... BARELY.
 Yay for turtles! Don't they rock? So prepared, all the time. Like little Boy Scouts only without the badges or annoying popcorn sales...
When you look through binoculars at a zoo, you're going to make some pretty interesting discoveries...
The Rainforest is ABSOLUTELY worth the trip and is actually a separate fee; if you are visiting with only an hour or two to spend, you can purchase tickets to just this exhibit and leave having seen some of the most beautiful animals of the entire zoo.

One of my favorite critters of all time...

Overall, Cleveland a CITY, which means activities and festivals; museums and zoos. It may not be on your list of vacation spots... but maybe it should be!

Check out these fantastic events coming to Cleveland this fall! There's something for everyone, including YOU!

August 30-September 2 – Cleveland Labor Day Oktoberfest: Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds
Enjoy exciting German traditions at the Cleveland Labor Day Oktoberfest. With all things German and much more, there is something for everyone. Guests can spend their time enjoying sidewalk chalk art, wiener dog races and a car show. For those looking for more of a traditional German experience, there will be polka bands, wiener schnitzel, and an abundance of delicious bier.

September 20-22 – IngenuityFest
Held on Cleveland's lakeside docks, Cleveland’s IngenuityFest brings together artists, engineers, programmers and creators who showcase art based on yearly themes. The festival brings art and science together while highlighting the creativity and innovation taking place at the edge of both worlds.
September 21-22 – Cleveland Museum of Art Chalk Festival
The Cleveland Museum of Art presents its annual Chalk Festival, an art that is a 16th century Italian tradition.  Great for kids and adults, the festival allows visitors to adorn a patch of the sidewalk with their own Monet or Renoir-like art, ultimately creating a beautiful landscape of chalk masterpieces.

September 7-8 – Fourth Annual Cleveland Garlic Festival: Shaker Square
Ground zero for “all things garlic” in the Midwest, the Fourth Annual Cleveland Garlic Festival in Shaker Square is located just east of downtown Cleveland. Attendees enjoy garlic-themed food prepared by local chefs including everything from ice cream to oysters, an onsite celebrity chef Grill-Off, live music, cooking demonstration, wine tasting, taste and grow tents for children and much more.

September 14-15 – Village Peddler Festival: Kirtland
More than 175 craftsmen gather in Kirtland each year for the Village Peddler Festival. Guests can experience an outdoor marketplace with folk art, herbs and flowers, pottery and much more. There are also various delicious food selections to choose from as well as folk musicians and wagon rides.

September 21-22 – Tremont Arts & Cultural Festival: Tremont
Celebrate the ethnic and cultural diversity of Tremont by attending the west side Arts & Cultural Festival featuring vendors showcasing fine art, jewelry, sculptures, children's activities, musicians, performers and food from local Tremont restaurants.

September 21 – Cleveland Dragon Boat Festival
Dozens of teams race in colorfully painted dragon boats along the Cuyahoga River during the Cleveland Dragon Boat Festival, a free annual event celebrating dragon boat history and promotes the people and unique cultures of Cleveland's Asian community.

For more information visit


 *as long as we aren't talking about crime rates and school quality

**disclaimer: though hotel stay and activity tickets for my family were comp'd by Positively Cleveland, all opinions remain my own. No compensation was received in exchange for this post.**

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