Cleveland and Northeast Ohio are filled with free activities for kids and adults to enjoy together. There's no excuse not to get out and explore Cleveland museums, parks, and other wonders any time of year. From walking through stunning art galleries to spending the day fishing at nearby Lake Erie, there's no shortage of free activities and attractions in the area you and your children can enjoy during your trip.
Cleveland's best free attraction is not just for adults. The Cleveland Museum of Art, located at University Circle, is filled with more than 43,000 works of art from virtually all periods and genres. Of particular interest to kids is the armor court, a light-filled interior courtyard filled with medieval suits of armor, weapons, and tapestries. The museum's permanent collection is free every day for kids and adults alike, but donations are accepted and encouraged.
The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo rewards Cuyahoga County residents each (non-holiday) Monday with free admission to the zoo (not including the Rainforest). However, tourists can also enjoy free admission to the zoo on select days throughout the year, and parking is free during these events. Be sure to check the official website for exact dates and special free nights for military service members, senior citizens, kids, and adults.
Located on 83 acres just four miles south of downtown Cleveland, the zoo exhibits include African elephants, the "Wolf Wilderness" exhibit, and the "Australian Adventure."
The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, founded in 1966, is a peaceful green space nestled among the gracious houses of Shaker Heights, just east of Cleveland. The facility features a variety of trails that illustrate six natural habitats as well as a nature center with exhibits about the Northeast Ohio landscape, all of which are free to enjoy.
The Federal Reserve Bank Museum of Money, opened in 2005, features 30 exhibits about the history and the power of money. The most striking feature is a 23-foot tall money tree located across from the museum's entrance. Interestingly enough, this museum dedicated to money is completely free to enjoy.
Address750 E 88th St, Cleveland, OH 44108, USA
Cleveland's Rockefeller Park Greenhouse, located just off of Martin Luther King Blvd near University Circle, houses a beautiful collection of exotic and native plants. This peaceful and fascinating place is rarely crowded, and exhibits include the large orchid and tropical plant exhibits as well as the spring bulb and December holiday plants displays. Of particular interest to kids is the room full of cacti and other southwestern plants.
Each spring, usually in early May, the state of Ohio treats residents to two days of "free" fishing (no license required) on Lake Erie and in the state's numerous lakes and streams. However, non-residents are not allowed to participate in this event.
Fortunately, kids under the age of 16 are not required to have a fishing license, so you're more than welcome to take your kid fishing if you get a temporary non-resident fishing license for yourself from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Learn About Women's Roles in Air and Space
Located inside the lobby and west wing of downtown Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport, the International Women's' Air and Space Museum celebrates the contribution of women in air and space flight with a rotating schedule of temporary exhibits, including airplanes, flight suits, and memorabilia from the likes of Amelia Earhart and others. The museum is open seven days a week during airport hours.
For about six weeks, from late July to the beginning of football season, Cleveland Browns fans have the opportunity to view the team up close for free during the training camp workouts in Berea. While the event itself is free to attend, concessions are also available for purchase during the training camp. The team also hosts a family night once a year where kids can get autographs from their favorite players for free at no additional cost (as long as you bring your own souvenir to sign.
AddressAshtabula County, OH, USA
Ashtabula County, in far northeastern Ohio, is home to 17 authentic and reconstructed covered bridges, including the longest and shortest covered bridges in the United States.
These reminders of the past are all slightly different and situated in beautiful settings. Take a self-guided tour with maps that are available online or at the Ashtabula County Courthouse in Jefferson, and while the gas isn't free, you can view the bridges and perhaps have a picnic lunch to save on costs for this excursion.
Attend a Local Festival
Cleveland and Northeast Ohio love festivals and many of them are free. From April through October, the region celebrates the seasons, its diverse ethnic heritage, the arts, and the summer and fall harvest with a number of special events. Among the best free festivals are University Circle's Hessler Street Fair, Little Italy's Feast of the Assumption, and Geneva's Grape Jamboree.
The Lake Erie Nature and Science Center, located east of Cleveland in Bay Village, is a great spot for kids and adults alike to learn about wildlife and nature. The center, founded in 1945, houses an animal rehabilitation clinic as well as a variety of indoor and outdoor animal exhibits.
Lake Erie isn't necessarily known for its beaches, but a notable exception is the beach at Mentor Headlands Park, which is east of Cleveland in Lake County.
This long stretch of white sand is ideal for getting lost in a good novel, watching the waves lap up at the shore, or combing the shoreline for seashells. There's even a picturesque lighthouse, and the park has ample free parking just off the beach.
Another good choice is Breakwater Beach at Geneva State Park in Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio. This large cove beach has lifeguards, picnic tables, and restrooms, and parking is free here, too.
Check Out a Book
The main branch and 28 neighborhood branches of the Cleveland Public Library house more than 10 million books, tapes, DVDs, and CDs—all available to loan to Cleveland area residents. If you're in town for more than a few weeks (perhaps visiting for the summer), you can get a temporary library card and check out books on a short-term basis.
Otherwise, many of the Cleveland Library branches are home to stunning architecture and a variety of quiet places where anyone is welcome to enjoy a good book. While you can't check out a book from the library, libraries are open to the general public regardless of residence. Visit the historic main library on Superior Avenue, between East 3rd and East 6th streets for its classic architecture and peaceful, outdoor reading courtyard..
Located right on the square in the center of Medina, the Medina Toy and Train Museum features dozens of model train set-ups, interactive children's exhibits, model cars, and airplanes dating back to 1900 as well as lots of dolls and toys. There's even an on-site library with books for loan about toys and trains, but this check-out service is only available to residents of Ohio.
Learn About the Fascinating World of Rubber
Learn about Akron's history of rubber production at the Goodyear World of Rubber museum for free. Exhibits include a replica of Charles Goodyear's workshop, depicting his discovery of vulcanization; a model of a rubber plantation; displays of tires; a film about the process of tire production; and other Goodyear memorabilia.