Things to Do With Kids in Cleveland

From the Cleveland zoo to the Cleveland Children's Museum to attending a Cleveland Indians game, Northeast Ohio has a wealth of fun things to do for kids -- and their parents. Learn more about what to do with kids in Cleveland.
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    Cleveland Children's Museum, Cleveland Ohio
    ••• (courtesy of the Cleveland Children's Museum)

    Also located at University Circle, the Children's Museum gives kids the opportunity to learn by doing fun things. Permanent exhibits include Splish! Splash!, which is all about water transportation; Bridges to the Community, where kids can push their own grocery carts, go through the check-out line, "bank" with play money, and pump their own "gas," among other activities; and The Big Red Barn, based on the book by Margaret Wise Brown and designed for the youngest kids (ages 0-4) and their caregivers, featuring a working silo, a barn slide, and an apple orchard.

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    Rain Forest Pavilion at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Cleveland Ohio
    ••• (courtesy of travelcleveland.com)
    The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is set amidst 165 wood acres, off of Fulton Avenue, just four miles south of downtown. It's a fascinating collection of animals from all over the world, many residing in natural-like, open-air settings. Favorite exhibits include the African elephants, the "Wolf Wilderness" exhibit, and the latest addition, the "Australian Adventure." A two-acre, enclosed Rain Forest features some of the myriad of wildlife found in the tropical jungle.
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    ••• (© 2006 S. Mitchell; Licensed to About. Inc.)

    The Great Lakes Science Center, at Cleveland's Northcoast Harbor, just down the road from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, invites visitors of all ages to "learn by doing" with their 400 hands-on exhibits. You'll find features on technology, the environment, the body, and the Great Lakes. There are also interesting temporary shows and an adjacent OMNI-MAX theater.

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    Cleveland Museum of Natural History
    ••• (Gnu free license)

    The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, located in Cleveland's University Circle area, is a treasure trove of more than four million specimens. Exhibits include Dinosaur bones, natural gemstones and fossils, and a huge section on Ohio birds, plant life, insects, and archaeology. A planetarium teaches kids and adults all about the moon, the stars, and the galaxy.

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    Lake Farmpark, Kirtland Ohio
    ••• (© pixielauren/cc license)
    Lake Farmpark is a delightful working farm and learning center, just 25 miles east of downtown Cleveland. See 50 different breeds of livestock, marvel at honey and maple syrup being made, and enjoy one of the many special events, such as the annual Holiday lights display at the park. It's fun for the whole family.
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    ••• (courtesy of Do Toledo)

    The Greater Cleveland Aquarium, located in the Powerhouse on the west bank of the Flats, opened in 2012. This Cleveland attraction features more than one million gallons of water and marine life than ranges from local Lake Erie fishes to exotic fish from around the globe.

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    ••• (© Simply Jake/cc license)
    Memphis Kiddie Park has been delighting young children -- and their parents -- since 1952. The park boasts miniature rides, old-style concessions, and an arcade -- all geared towards children 1-8 years old. An adjacent 18-hole miniature golf course is rated one of the best in the state.
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    USS Cod
    ••• (© S. Mitchell; Licensed to About. Inc.)
    The USS Cod is a retired World War II SS-224 submarine, moored at Cleveland's North Coast Harbor, near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The USS Cod, a National Historic Site, is the only such vessel to be kept intact and visitors can climb the vertical ladders through its hatches, just as the sailors did during active duty.
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    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

    ••• (Courtesy of the Cleveland CVB)
    Cleveland's most popular attraction is fun for visitors of all ages. The museum's massive permanent collection features profiles of all of the Rock Hall inductees, with headphones that give you the chance to listen to the artist's music. There's also hand-written lyrics, stage costumes, and thousands of pieces of memorabilia, donated by the artists and their families. Make sure to visit the frequent temporary exhibits in the top floor gallery. Recent shows have featured The Doors, Bob Dylan, and the Beach Boys.
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    The Hershey Children's Garden at Cleveland Botanical Garden

    ••• (© 2006 S. Mitchell; Licensed to About, Inc.)

    The Botanical Garden's Children's Garden is a magical place. Located at University Circle, nestled behind the Rose Garden and down from the Woodland Garden, it is a variety of flower and vegetable gardens with kid-size signs, gates, and fences. Fun features include a wheelchair accessible tree house, a cave, worm bins, a watery bog, and a scrounger's garden. It's one of the few Children's Gardens in the United States.

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    ••• (© 2006 S. Mitchell; Licensed to About, Inc.)
    What's more fun than seeing dozens of shiny antique cars, trucks, racing cars, and airplanes? The Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum is home to score of these vehicles, all simply and accessibly displayed. Located in the lower level of the Western Reserve Historical Society building, the musuem is fun for car lovers of all ages. The Crawford has a sizeable collection of early Cleveland-made autos.
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    Cedar Point - Sandusky Ohio
    ••• (courtesy of the Ohio Dept. of Travel and Tourism)

    Cedar Point, the second oldest amusement park in the country, sits at the end of a slender strip of land, at the edge of Lake Erie. Located about an hour and a half's drive from downtown Cleveland, the park boasts the largest number of roller coasters in the world, ranging from the venerable, wooden "Blue Streak" to the 420 foot tall "Top Thrill Dragster."

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    ••• (Courtesy of Ohio Dept of Travel and Tourism)

    The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad runs through Ohio's only National Park, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, from Cleveland to Akron and Canton. A variety of excursions are offered year-round and each trip is a different adventure filled with fun, history and beautiful scenery.

    Popular excursions for kids include the "Thomas the Train" theme rides, the Halloween trick or treat events, and the holiday "Polar Express."

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    Goodtime III - Cleveland Ohio
    ••• (© 2007 S. Mitchell; licensed to About, Inc.)

    he Goodtime III is Cleveland's largest sightseeing vessel. The spacious, four-deck ship operates a regular schedule of Lake Erie and Cuyahoga River narrated sightseeing cruises from June through September as well as periodic theme cruise and kids cruises. It's a favorite of all ages.

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    Visit Preston's H.O.P.E Playground

    Preston's Hope Playground, Beachwood Ohio
    ••• (© 2007 Cindy Orley; licensed to About, Inc.)
    Preston's H.O.P.E. (Helping Others Play and Enjoy), located in Beachwood, is a playground designed to allow children with a variety of disabilities to play with their families and other children, the first such playground in Northeast Ohio. The 60,000 square feet playground is packed with play structures on multiple levels connected by ramps. Activity panels with lively motion activated music are found throughout on walls, pathways, and on play structures.
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    ••• (© laffy4k/creative commons license)

    Baseball is fun for the entire family. It's affordable (bleacher seats start at just $12); the atmosphere is exciting; and the Indians are winning. What's more: Progressive Field has a playground for kids and kid favorite "Slider" is always around to greet the little ones.

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    A Christmas Story House - Cleveland Ohio
    ••• (courtesy of travelcleveland.com)
    "A Christmas Story House," located in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood, was the main set for the well-loved 1983 Christmas movie, "A Christmas Story." The house is newly restored and is open year-round as a tourist attraction and museum.
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    Wildwater Kingdom

    Geauga Lake
    ••• (Courtesy of the travelcleveland.com)
    Wildwater Kingdom Water Park, located southeast of Cleveland in Aurora Ohio, is a 690 acre family-fun complex, complete with all kinds of water slides and other water features. The park complex, the former Geauga Lake, first opened in 1888 and is one of the country's oldest amusement parks.
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    Amazone Family Entertainment Center - Medina Ohio
    ••• (courtesy of Amazone)
    Amazone, in Medina, is a jungle full of excitement for children as they venture through two indoor playgrounds themed as the Amazon and equipped with all of the climbing, mazes and slides a kid could only dream of, and the Laser Tag facility runs deep into the Amazon Jungle with the best laser tag system available. Get lost in the Arcade room that has all of your favorite arcade video games.
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    ••• (courtesy of the Shaker Lakes Nature Center)
    The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, founded in 1966, is a peaceful green space nestled among the gracious houses of Shaker Heights, just each 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. Best of all, admission is free.
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    Lake Erie Science Center

    The Lake Erie Nature and Science Center, located east of Cleveland in Bay Village, is a place where young and adults can 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.

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    ••• (Courtesy of Ohio Dept of Travel and Tourism)

    Lake Erie isn't necessarily known for its beaches, but one notable exception is the beach at Mentor Headlands Park, east of Cleveland in Lake County. This long, family-friendly stretch of white sand is ideal for getting lost in a good novel, watching the waves lap up at the shore, or combing for seashells. There's even a picturesque lighthouse. 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. Parking is free here, too.

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    Exploring Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art Kids' Class
    ••• Exploring Art. (© AZ Sawyer)

    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 tapestry. Admission to the museum's permanent collection is free every day.

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    Federal Reserve Museum of Money

    Money Museum, Federal Reserve, Cleveland Ohio
    ••• The Money Museum. (© Stu Spivack/cc license)

    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 (pictured at left). This interesting museum is located in the Federal Reserve Building on E. Sixth St. in downtown Cleveland and open Monday through Thursday from 10am to 2pm.

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    Ferns at the Cleveland Greenhouse
    ••• Ferns at the Cleveland Greenhouse. (© 2006 S. Mitchell; Licensed to About, Inc.)

    Cleveland's Rockefeller Park Greenhouse, located just off of Martin Luther King Blvd near University Circle, houses a wonderful collection of exotic and native plants. This peaceful and fascinating place is rarely crowded and exhibits include the extensive 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.

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    Hale Farm
    ••• Hale Farm. (courtesy of the Akron CVB)

    Located south of Cleveland near Bath, Hale Farm is a working museum, situated adjacent to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Once the home of early Western Reserve settler, Jonathan Hale, the museum features livestock, 19th century working artisans, and the original red brick farmhouse. The site offers visitors a unique look at life in the Western Reserve during the time shortly after the War Between the States. A working farm with artisan workshops including a glass-blowing and a pottery studio, Hale Farm features volunteers in period dress, period music, and a blacksmith shop, spinning and weaving workshop, candlemakers, and more.

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    ••• public domain; US Dept of Trans.
    A part of the Great Lakes Science Center, the William G. Mather is an authentic 1925-circa Great Lakes bulk freighter, permanently moored at North Coast Harbor in downtown Cleveland. The 618-foot, 14,000-ton vessel is now a museum and visitors can climb aboard and get a glimpse at what live on Lake Erie was like in the early 20th century. The William G. Mather is open from May through October on Saturdays and Sundays.
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    ••• (courtesy of Holden Arboretum)
    Located about 45 minutes east of downtown Cleveland in Kirtland, Holden Arboretum is a 3000+ acre showplace for indigenous Ohio plants, flowers, trees, and wildlife. The beautiful park features specialty gardens, miles of hiking trails for all skill levels. The garden hosts also hosts a full schedule of special events, many of which are geared towards younger visitors. During the summer and fall months, they also operate "Buckeye Bud's Adventure Woods," a zip line tour designed for families with children ages 3-10.
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    ••• (Courtesy of the Cleveland CVB)

    The West Side Market is fascinating for kids of any age. The neo-classical structure at Lorain Avenue and West 25th Street in Ohio City just celebrated its 100th anniversary, but the market is as vital as it ever was. Produce stands line the outer courtyard, offering everything from berries to cucumbers to fresh herbs and flowers. Inside, meat and cheese vendors vie for your attention. There are even a few food stands where you can grab a quick (and inexpensive) bite to eat.

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    International Women's Air and Space Museum

    International Womens Aerospace Museum - Cleveland Ohio
    ••• International Womens Aerospace Museum. (© 2006 S. Mitchell; licensed to About.com)

    The International Women's Air and Space Museum (IWASM), located inside the lobby and west wing of downtown Cleveland Ohio's Burke Lakefront Airport, celebrates the contribution of women in air and space flight with a rotating schedule of temporary exhibits. The museum is open seven days a week and admission is free.

    The many exhibits are the IWASM illustrate the contribution of women to aerospace history, beginning with early 19th century European hot air baloonists and continuing through to contemporary women astronauts. Items on display include Amelia Earhart's flight suit, the tail of Ruth Nichol's Lockheed Akita, and biographies of scores of women who contributed to flight and space history.

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    Jacob's Field
    ••• (Courtesy of Ohio Dept. of Travel and Tourism)

    Nothing beats watching baseball on a sunny summer's day -- for kids and adults too. Progressive Field offers a number of activities for kids in addition to baseball. There's the fun ballpark food and Kidsland, a special area that gives kids the opportunity to play with a variety of toys and visit with the team mascot, Slider. There's even a kid's concession and kid's team shop.

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    Pro Football Hall of Fame
    ••• Pro Football Hall of Fame. (courtesy of travelcleveland.com)
    Located in Canton Ohio, The Pro Football Hall of Fame was opened in 1963 with 17 charter inductees. Today, the museum features scores of players, coaches, and owners as well as exhibits about football, the super bowl, and the history of the game. In addition to profiles on the more than 200 inductees, there is a dazzling display of Super Bowl rings and a "behind the scenes" film about a team preparing for game day. A must-see for any football fan in your family.
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    Toboggan Chutes at the Cleveland Metroparks

    ••• (courtesy of the Cleveland Metroparks)

    The two toboggan chutes in the Cleveland Metroparks are open Thursdays through Sundays between late December and the end of March, weather permitting. The chutes are 700 feet long with a vertical drop of 70 feet, plenty for exciting dips and thrills. Riders are required to wear mittens or gloves and must be at least 42” tall to ride. Located in the Mill Stream Reservation in Strongsville, they provide winter fun for the whole family. There's also a snack bar and warm-up chalet.

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    Honey Hut Ice Cream Shoppe

    Honey Hut Ice Cream
    ••• Honey Hut Ice Cream. (© Stu Spivack/cc license)
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    NASA Glenn Reseach Center, Cleveland Ohio
    ••• public domain

    The NASA Glenn Research Center is a vital part of the NASA space research system. Though most of the exhibits have moved to the Great Lakes Science Center, the facility near the airport on Brookpark Road offers montly tours of the research center once a month from April through October. The tour is free. (For security reasons, admission is restricted to US citizens and legal US residents with a government ID.) For current dates, check the center's Web site.

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    Cheer on the Cleveland Browns

    ••• (Greg Shamus/Getty Images)

    Though tickets aren't as affordable to Browns games as they are to Cleveland Indians or Cavs games, cheering on the Cleveland Browns each fall is a north coast tradition. Cleveland Browns Stadium has a Family Zone, an alcohol-free area with mascots and kid-friendly food options, in sections 541-543.

    If a Browns game out of your budget, get an insider's look at the season's team for free at the summer Cleveland Browns Training Camp in Berea. The camp runs from late July to the first regular season game.

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    ••• (© Andrew DeFratis/WikiCommons)
    President James A. Garfield's home, Lawnfield, is located just off route 20 in the heart of Mentor. The 7.82-acre estate, once owned by our 20th president and his family, combines history, design and a glimpse at what life was like in northeast Ohio at the end of the 19th century.

    The Lawnfield property, now administered by the National Park Service, includes spacious main house, several out buildings, and a visitors' center with changing exhibits about Garfield's life, presidency, and death. The James A. Garfield Historic Site is open daily from May 1 through October.
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    Eddie's, Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio
    ••• Eddie's, Geneva-on-the-Lake. (© Flickr user: brainbutko/cc license)

    Geneva-on-the-Lake, located on the shores of Lake Erie about an hour's drive east of Cleveland, was one of Ohio's first lakeside resorts. The resort area's mile-long strip features something for kids of all ages, including a giant slide, a miniature golf course, wineries, antique stores, a sparkling beach and a variety of restaurants. Spend the day or stay overnight in one of the area's hotels or cozy cottages.

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    Lake Erie Coastline from Cleveland's Edgewater Park
    ••• Lake Erie Coastline. (© istockphoto; Licensed to About, Inc.)

    Located along Lake Erie between Lakewood and downtown Cleveland, Edgewater State Park features biking and hiking trails, a playground, picnic facilities and a 900-foot swimming beach--all just minutes from downtown. The spot also offers one of the best views of the Cleveland skyline.

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    ••• (© C. Valentine/cc license)

    Ever since Johnny Appleseed wandered Ohio's countryside, Cleveland and northeast Ohio have been known for their juicy and delicious apples. Each autumn, from around mid-August to November, many apple farms open their doors to visitors and offer a variety of apple treats, hayrides, bushels of apples, and other apple events.

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    ••• (© Jack Vinson/Flickr.com)
    From September through November, farms throughout northeast Ohio carve out mazes in their cornfields and welcome the public to try their luck at finding their way to the end. It's a good, inexpensive way to enjoy the fall landscape.
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    ••• (© istockphoto)
    Remember piling into the car when you were a kid and heading to the drive-in? Did you know that northeast Ohio had one of the first drive-in theaters with the debut of Akron's Starlight Auto Theater in 1937? A few of these iconic theaters since exist in northeast Ohio, from Sandusky to Mayfield Heights.
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    Dine at the Hard Rock Cafe

    Hard Rock Cafe, Cleveland Ohio
    ••• Hard Rock Cafe. (© Katie Armstrong/cc license)
    What better way to cap off a day of sightseeing in the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame than with a deal at the Hard Rock Cafe? Located in Tower City Center at Public Square, Cleveland's Hard Rock is loaded with music memorabilia and up-beat vibes. The menu features a predictable selection of kid favorites, like burgers and chicken fingers.
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    ••• (courtesy of the NBA)

    LeBron may be gone, but the Cleveland Cavaliers still know how to entertain a crowd. From October through April, you can see the home team compete with stars from around the NBA at Quicken Loans Arena. Plus, the Cavs remain one of the few affordable sporting events left in Cleveland. Tickets start at just $10.

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    Silver Spartan Diner
    ••• Silver Spartan Diner. (© 2006 S. Mitchell; Licensed to About, Inc.)
    Eating at a diner is fun for all ages...whether you remember the 1950s or not. The Greater Cleveland area offers a number of such eateries. There's Mary's Diner on Route 20 in Geneva, the Silver Spartan Diner (pictured at left) on the campus of Case Western Reserve University, and John's Diner in Lakewood, just to name a few.
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    Brandywine Falls in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park
    ••• Brandywine Falls. (courtesy of the Ohio Dept. of Travel and Tourism)
    The 33,000-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park, located between Cleveland and Akron, offers 125 miles of hiking trails, designed for all skill levels. The park also has a junior ranger program, where kids can learn more about the plants, trees and animals that call the park home as well as the history of the early Western Reserve. The park is open daily year-round.
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    Go to the Circus

    ••• (Courtesy of Feld Entertianment Inc.)
    Clevelanders love the circus and several stop in and around the North Coast during the year. The Ringling Brothers/Barnum Bailey show plays Quicken Loans Arena each fall. The Carson and Barnes Circus sets up around greater Cleveland in the middle of the summer. (This year, they played Geneva, Wooster, Medina and North Olmsted.) And, smaller companies, like the Kelly Miller Circus play small, rural communities during the summer.

    Greater Cleveland has a circus connection. Geneva was once home to the Walter Main Circus, a popular, traveling show in the late 19th/early 20th century.
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    Attend a Kids Performance at Playhouse Square

    Cleveland has the largest theater district between New York City and Chicago. The theaters of Playhouse Square host a full year-round schedule of theater, dance, music and other performances...and not all of them are geared towards adults. There are puppet shows, kid-friendly matinees and kid-favorite performers. What's more: Playhouse Square's SmartSeat program lets you buy tickets for selected events for just $10. For the current schedule, visit the Playhouse Square Web site.

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    Get Wet at Great Wolf Water Park

    Great Wolf Lodge, Sandusky Ohio
    ••• Great Wolf Lodge, Sandusky Ohio. (© Flickr user: Brandon Cirillo/cc license)
    Northern Ohio can get pretty steamy in the summer...and pretty desolate in the winter months. Great Wolf Water Park in Sandusky offers a family-friendly solution to both weather situations. One of a chain of family resorts, Great Wolf is located just off of the Ohio Turnpike. It was the first Ohio indoor water park and is still one of the best. The highlight of the resort is the 33,000-square foot indoor water park that features an interactive water fort with 12 levels, a zero-depth Cub Paw pool, and lots of slides, swings, and other fun water toys.

    Other facilities at the resort include a variety of family-friendly rooms, include the kids cabin suites and family suites with fireplaces; two restaurants; a fitness center; a huge arcade; and the Cub Club children's activity center.
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    The Cleveland Police Historical Museum, located on the first floor of Police Headquarters in the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland, displays an array of artifacts relating to Cleveland crime and police history. Among them are memorabilia from Eliot Ness' tenure as Cleveland Safety Director, death masks of the Kingsbury Run murder victims, the first police call box (a Cleveland invention), and information on the training of the K-9 unit. Not suited for very young children, but interesting for older ones. The museum is open Monday through Friday year-round.

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    I-X Indoor Amusement Park, Cleveland Ohio
    ••• I-X Indoor Amusement Park. (Courtesy of the I-X Indoor Amusement Park)
    The I-X Indoor Amusement Park, held for a month each spring in Cleveland's I-X exposition center, is 20 acres of fun for the whole family. There are dozens of rides, live entertainment, fair food, and special events and celebrity appearances. The event features dozens of rides, all for one admission price. One of the highlights of the I-X Indoor Amusement Park is the 35' tall permanent Ferris wheel with its own glass atrium. On a clear afternoon, you can see all the way to downtown Cleveland.
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    ••• (courtesy of Discover Ohio)
    Each spring, state of Ohio residents are treated to two days of "free" fishing (no license required) on Lake Erie and in the state's numerous lakes and streams. It's a great time to show your grandkids or kids the joys of fishing.
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    Go to the Cleveland Library

    ••• Fleet Avenue Branch. (© 2006 S. Mitchell; Licensed to About, Inc.)
    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. Visit the historic main library on Superior Avenue, between E 3rd and E 6th Sts for its classic architecture and peaceful, outdoor reading courtyard. Many branches also have childrens' sections and host special reading hours and other kid-friendly events. In addition, the Clev-Net system of regional libraries extends from Lorain to Madison to Medina and allows you to order any book in the system and have it delivered to your local branch. It's one of the best such systems in the US.
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    ••• (© Ann Fisher/cc license)

    Big Fun, located on Cleveland Heights' eclectic Coventry Road, is a combination of vintage toy store, part candy store and part monument to pop culture. The store, which is packed to the rafters, has been called one of the "coolest stores in America" and for good reason. You'll find toys here that you had as a child as well as vintage collectibles and more quirky, fun toys. It's a whimsical place that's sure to delight kids of all ages.

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    Peninsula, located between Akron and Cleveland just outside of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, has long been home to an interesting collection of art galleries and craft shops. What many don't know is that the Peninsula Arts Center, located just off of Route 303, is a brilliant combination of art gallery space, art classrooms and even a culinary arts center. They offer a full calendar of art classes for adults and children. Some you can even take together.
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    For More Things to Do with Kids in and around Cleveland

    Read about more things to do with kids in and around Cleveland: