There’s no way around it—winter in Cleveland can be brutal. The skies are overcast, temperatures are frigid (at least once every winter, the area known as America’s North Coast is good for a cold snap that cancels schools and leads to tips on the news to keep your pipes from freezing and bursting), and depending on where in the area you are, there’s lots of snow too.
But one of the perks of living in an area used to the cold is that people are used to dealing with the cold. Roads get salted and plowed, most businesses stay open unless there are extreme snowfalls or blizzard conditions and people generally go about their daily business.
And after the winter, there’s usually a relatively temperate spring, a warm (but usually not oppressively hot) summer, and a pleasant fall.
Fast Climate Facts:
- Hottest month: August (average high 80 degrees)
- Coldest month: January (average low 23 degrees)
- Rainiest month: September (3.8 inches)
- Snowiest month: January (18.7 inches)
- Lake Erie: Coldest month: February (average water temperature 34 degrees); Warmest month: August (average water temperature 74 degrees)
Spring in Cleveland
Temperatures are most volatile in the spring. It’s not uncommon for it to be sunny and 70 one day and then near freezing the next. But after winter, people are usually delighted at anything that isn’t snow – although that occasionally happens in March and April. (In March, people will treat a 50 degree day as downright tropical.)
Everything and everyone starts to come alive in the spring, and people look for an excuse to be outside, from the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade to opening day for baseball season to Dyngus Day on the Monday after Easter.
What to pack: A warm jacket, because even if it’s a warm day in the spring, it usually gets noticeably colder after the sun goes down – particularly if you’re near the lake.
- March: High of 46 degrees F /Low of 31 degrees F
- April: High of 57degrees F/Low of 42 degrees F
- May: High of 68 degrees F/Low of 53 degrees F
Summer in Cleveland
It does get warm in the summer, which makes it the most opportune time to enjoy Lake Erie, either on one of the public beaches dotting the coastline or on a boat ride. But if you’re going out on, say, a fishing charter, dress warmer than you think you have to. It can get cold on the open water of the Great Lakes.
There are plenty of weekend festivals, from county fairs to the Feast of the Assumption (August) in Little Italy to a festival devoted to Duck Tape in nearby Avon. There are also outdoor bars and concert venues throughout the area, most prominently on the banks of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River.
And there are plenty of climate-controlled attractions, from the museums in University Circle to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, if it gets too hot. Tickets are usually easy to come by if you want to watch the Indians, and almost as plentiful (and a little cheaper) for the minor-league or independent teams around the area. The Fourth of July is a big holiday, and depending when in the week it falls, there can be opportunities to see fireworks three or four days in a row in different but relatively close-by municipalities.
What to pack: Shorts, T-shirts, sandals or tennis shoes. And bug spray. Lots of bug spray.
- June: High of 77 degrees F /Low of 63 degrees
- July: High of 81 degrees F/Low of 68 degrees F
- August: High of 80 degrees F/Low of 67 degrees F
Fall in Cleveland
The leaves on the trees change colors and for the most part, temperatures cool. Labor Day is seen as the unofficial end to summer, but it’s still not uncommon to see days with summer-type temperatures through September. But there’s nothing like a football game – be it high school on Friday, college on Saturday, or the Browns on Sunday – with a little bit of that fall bite in the air.
In a lot of ways, Ohio is a rural state, and even in a city like Cleveland, you’re usually not that far away from farmland and the growing field of what’s called agritourism, with inns and beds and breakfasts in the woods and opportunities for day trips like pumpkin and apple picking and walking through corn mazes.
What to pack: A little bit of everything. Layers are key, since a warm sunny day occasionally gives way to a cold night. You might still need the bug spray, too, as the midges swarm. They don’t bite, but they are annoying.
- September: High of 74 degrees/ Low of 60 degrees F
- October: High of 63 degrees F/Low of 50 degrees F
- November: High of 52 degrees F/Low of 39 degrees F
Winter in Cleveland
It’s not uncommon to see snow anytime between the end of October (the Indians famously had a World Series game snowed out in 1997) and April (they’ve had Opening Day snowed out too), but it really starts in earnest in December. The city averages about 68 inches of snow annually, but depending where you live, the total may not be that bad. Because of its geography, Cleveland gets lake effect snow, where cold fronts cross Lake Erie, picking up moisture and then dropping it in the form of snow on the east side and suburbs. In fact, it’s entirely possible to live on the west side and get a dusting, while school districts on the east side are canceling classes because of several inches of accumulation.
December is festive, with Christmas upcoming and an abundance of light displays and other outdoor activities like tree lightings and ice skating rinks, but January and February can be a chore. The city’s annually regarded as one of the cloudiest in the country, and the combination of gray skies, cold temperatures and precipitation can put a damper on anyone’s cheerful disposition.
What to pack: Anything warm – sweaters, sweatshirts, stocking caps, boots, hunting socks. And maybe some Vitamin D.
- December: High of 40 degrees F/Low of 29 degrees F
- January: High of 34 degrees F/Low of 23 degrees F
- February: High of 37 degrees F/Low of 24 degrees F