Cleveland is located along the southern shores of Lake Erie and is home to nationally-recognized cultural attractions such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art, a free-admission museum which holds world-class collections of Egyptian and Asian artworks. For lower-cost transportation, visitors can find free parking at the city's downtown parking meters after 6:00pm and on weekends, or can travel to many area attractions on the GCRTA's commuter bus and rail lines. Some attractions are free only on certain days – please check before you go.
1.The Cleveland Museum of Art
© The Cleveland Museum of Art
The Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the most-visited fine arts museums in the world, attracting an annual visitorship of over 700,000 people. The museum is located in Cleveland's University Circle neighborhood and is the last of the United States' top art museums to offer free admission every day, though some special temporary exhibitions require a ticketed upcharge. It was originally founded in 1913 by a group of prominent Cleveland industrialists and is housed within a Beaux Arts-style building along the southern end of the National Register of Historic Places-listed Wade Park. A collection of more than 45,000 artworks showcases pieces from around the world, including world-renowned collections of Egyptian and Asian art. The museum's Ingalls Library, one of the United States' largest art libraries, houses more than 500,000 volumes related to fine art. Educational and public programming is offered regularly, including film and performing arts series and public lectures. The museum is open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays during the morning and afternoon hours, with extended evening hours on Wednesdays and Fridays.
11150 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106, Phone: 216-421-7350
2.The International Women's Air and Space Museum
© The International Women's Air and Space Museum
The International Women's Air and Space Museum was originally opened in 1986 in Centerville, Ohio, founded by aviator and Mercury 13 project participant Bernice Steadman and intended to celebrate the contributions of women aviators and astronauts throughout history. In 1998, the museum was relocated to the terminal building of Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport. Today, it offers daily free public admission and preserves substantial collections of artifacts related to female air and space pioneers, including the Margot DeCarie Collection of Amelia Earhart Photographs and significant collections of artifacts related to the life and career of aviator Ruby Wine Sheldon. Miniature replicas of historic planes are also showcased, along with interactive exhibits allowing visitors to try on historic aviation gear. The museum is also home to the Fay Gillis Wells Research Center, which is open to the public on weekdays during the morning and afternoon hours.
Burke Lakefront Airport, Rm 165, 1501 N. Marginal Rd, Cleveland, OH 44114, Phone: 216-623-1111
3.Cleveland Learning Center and Money Museum
© Cleveland Learning Center and Money Museum
Cleveland Learning Center and Money Museum is operated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, offering a variety of permanent and temporary rotating exhibits related to the history, production, and uses of American currency. The museum is home to more than 25 hands-on exhibits for visitors of all ages, including a 23-foot money tree and exercises to identify counterfeit bills. Special rotating exhibits focus on a variety of topics related to American and world history events and their interplay with currency, as well as traveling exhibitions of contemporary artworks. The museum is open to the public for free Mondays through Thursdays during the morning and early afternoon hours, with free guided tours available with advance reservation for groups of 10 or more participants. Visitors should note that the museum does not offer free parking, though it is accessible via the city's RTA bus system at the 4th and Walnut Street stop.
PO Box 6387, Cleveland, OH 44101-1387, Phone: 216-579-3188
4.NASA Glenn Research Center Tours
© NASA Glenn Research Center Tours
NASA Glenn Research Center Tours allow visitors to explore the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center, located at Lewis Field near the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. As one of 10 primary NASA field centers, the center was established in 1942 and is home to a B-2 Spacecraft Propulsion Research Facility, which houses the largest space-environment vacuum chamber in the world, and a National Historic Landmark-designated Zero Gravity Research Facility. Between April and October, the center offers free guided public tours once a month, lasting approximately 45 minutes and offering participants a chance to explore the center's primary facilities. Visitors must sign up in advance for tours by emailing the center with participant information and must receive a confirmation email to guarantee tour spots.
21000 Brookpark Rd, Cleveland, OH 44135, Phone: 216-433-4000
5.The Reinberger Gallery
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The Reinberger Gallery is a free public exhibition gallery at the Cleveland Institute of Art, one of the United States' leading independent art and design colleges. The college was originally founded in 1882 and began offering Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in 1947, housed today within the 80,000-square-foot George Gund building located near Cleveland's McCullough Center. As the college's premiere public exhibition venue, the gallery showcases works by CIA students, faculty, and regional professional artists, featuring a variety of temporary rotating exhibits throughout the year, including traveling exhibitions by world-renowned contemporary artists. The gallery is open to the public seven days a week, with extended evening hours on Fridays.
11610 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44106, Phone: 216-421-7000
6.The Rockefeller Park Greenhouse
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The Rockefeller Park Greenhouse is a greenhouse and botanical garden facility that is operated by the City of Cleveland, located near the University Circle neighborhood on East 88th Street. The garden was originally constructed in 1905 on land owned by famed industrialist John D. Rockefeller, planned to care for plants intended for use in the city's parks. Throughout the 20th century, the greenhouse added public displays of native and exotic plant collections, along with a number of themed gardens and seasonal floral displays. Today, the greenhouse and gardens showcase a formal Japanese garden, a Latin American garden, and an outdoor Peace Garden. Special seasonal displays and events include a holiday festive plant display in December and a spring bulb exhibition. The greenhouse is open to the public daily from 10:00am to 4:00pm.
750 E 88th St, Cleveland, OH 44108, Phone: 216-664-2512
7.Cleveland Cultural Gardens
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Cleveland Cultural Gardens showcase more than 30 individual botanical gardens that are intended to represent the city's diverse ethnic populations. The gardens are located within a 50-acre portion of the city's Rockefeller Park, originally developed as a Shakespeare Garden in 1916 before being converted into ethnic-focused gardens in 1926 following a suggestion by Jewish Independent editor Leo Weidenthal. Today, the gardens honor the city's African-American and indigenous populations, along with country-specific gardens for the city's European, Asian, and Middle Eastern immigrant communities, recognizing the contributions of each group to the city's cultural and civic fabric. The gardens are free and open to the public, with a free parking lane available alongside the gardens' main strip.
750 E 88th St, Cleveland, OH 44108, Phone: 440-946-6549
8.Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve
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Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve is an 88-acre nature preserve located along the city's Lake Erie shoreline that was formed as a result of landfill dumping throughout the 1970s at the city's walled-off Dike 14, located near Gordon Park. After a United States Army Corps of Engineers dredge at the site was filled in 1999, the area's sand, soil, and clay sediments in Dike 14 began to sprout with diverse flora and fauna. Since 2012, the site has been protected as a natural reserve, showcasing grassland, forest, meadow, wetland, and shrubland ecosystems that are home to more than 280 species of birds and a number of native Ohio mammals, reptiles, and plants. Three visitor trails span 2.5 miles throughout the preserve, which is open to the public seven days a week from dawn to dusk.
8701 Lakeshore Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44108, Phone: 216-377-1348
9.Cuyahoga Valley National Park
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Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a 32,000-acre national park that preserves the natural landscape of the Cuyahoga River, spanning between the cities of Cleveland and Akron. The park was originally preserved in 1974 as a National Recreation Area before being converted into a national park in 2000 and is Ohio's only national park. The park's centerpiece is the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, which spans more than 80 miles throughout the park's length along a restored area of the canal's original towpath, open to hikers and cyclists. Other stunning landmarks include the 65-foot Brandywine Falls and the 2.2-mile Ledges Trail, which offers sweeping panoramic views of the Cuyahoga Valley at its rocky apex. For an additional fee, visitors can ride the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which offers scenic tours and specialty excursions traveling between Akron and Independence.
15610 Vaughn Road, Brecksville, OH 44141, Phone: 330-657-2752
10.Headlands Beach State Park
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Headlands Beach State Park is Ohio's longest natural beach, spanning over a mile of natural sands along the state's Lake Erie coastline. The beach has been named as the best beach in the state by The Cleveland Plain Dealer and attracts over two million annual visitors, ranked as a popular tourist spot by visitors from both the American Midwest and Canada. Popular summer recreational activities include fishing, swimming, and picnicking, with a shelter house, barbecue grills, and a children's playground provided for visitor use. Two nature trails are offered throughout the park, including the 1.5-mile ADA-accessible Buckeye Trail. During the winter months, the park is a favorite spot for cross-country skiing and sledding.
9601 Headlands Rd, Mentor, OH 44060, Phone: 440-466-8400
11.The Cleveland Police Museum
© The Cleveland Police Museum
The Cleveland Police Museum was the vision of Cleveland detective Robert Bolton, who formed the Cleveland Police Historical Society in 1983 following a visit to London, England's Scotland Yard Black Museum. The museum is open to the public on Wednesday and Thursday mornings and afternoons, with the exception of days that the Cleveland Municipal School District is closed, offering free admission for all visitors. Since its inception, the museum has grown to encompass more than 4,000 square feet of exhibit space, highlighting the evolution of Charlotte's police system and the relationship between law enforcement and the public. Group tours are also available for small groups and organizations by appointment with advance reservation.
1300 Ontario St, Cleveland, OH 44113, Phone: 216-623-5055
12.Cleveland Public Library
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Cleveland Public Library is the main public library system for the greater Cleveland region, operating 27 branches throughout the city and greater suburban area, including a main library branch housed within an historic five-story building constructed in 1925. The library circulates one of the nation's largest library collections, housing more than 10 million volumes and multimedia items. Major collections held at the main library branch include the Cleveland Theater collection, the baseball-themed Mears and Murdock collection, and a 74,000-item collection of rare books, with a permanent art collection also showcased within the library's corridors and outdoor garden. In addition to the library system's 27 branches, the library also operates the Ohio Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, offering collections and library access for visitors of all abilities and mobility levels.
325 Superior Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44114, Phone: 216-623-2800
13.Lake View Cemetery
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Lake View Cemetery is a 285-acre cemetery and public arboretum, interring more than 104,000 Cleveland residents, including national luminaries such as industrialist John D. Rockefeller, disc jockey Alan Freed, and Cleveland Mayor Carl B. Stokes, the first African-American mayor of a major American city. The cemetery was originally founded in 1869 and is colloquially referred to as "Cleveland's Outdoor Museum" for its beautiful memorial monuments, including the James A. Garfield Memorial, which inters and honors the United States' 20th president and his wife, First Lady Lucretia Garfield. The cemetery has been featured in major films and television series, including Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and is noted for its beautiful horticultural elements, highlighting plantings of Moses Cleaveland trees, Japanese maples, and Lake View ginkgo bilobas. It is open to the public and may be explored for free every day of the year, with interpretive guides staffed on site at its Garfield Monument and Wade Chapel between April and November.
12316 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44106, Phone: 216-421-2665
14.The Cleveland Shakespeare Festival
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The Cleveland Shakespeare Festival brings classic Shakespeare performances to Cleveland's parks and public spaces throughout the summer, offering free outdoor performances at a variety of venues throughout the city during the months of June and July. The festival company strives to produce high-quality, accessible performances of the master playwright's works to the Cleveland public free of charge. Since 2014, the company has presented performances at rotating venues throughout the city, including Peace Park, Bedford Public Square, Lincoln Park, and Garfield Historic Site. Periodic educational outreach programs are also offered, along with collaborative performances presented in conjunction with other regional theater groups.
2843 Washington Blvd, Cleveland OH, 44118
15.Cuyahoga County Public Library
© Cuyahoga County Public Library
Cuyahoga County Public Library has been ranked as the number-one public library system in the United States among major urban library systems, offering 27 branches throughout the Cuyahoga County region. The library system circulates a collection of more than 19 million items, many of which are made available through the OhioLINK public library consortium, which allows access to materials held by Ohio's colleges and universities. All branches are free and open to the public, offering resources such as K-12 homework centers, genealogical research access, and children's library collections and public special events. Branches are offered throughout Cleveland suburbs, including Berea, Parma, and Independence.
2111 Snow Rd, Parma OH 44134, Phone: 216-398-1800
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Stearns Homestead is Parma's last operational educational farm, spanning more than 48 acres throughout the Cleveland suburb. The homestead is open to the public during the afternoon hours on weekends between May and mid-October, offering free admission to all visitors. It showcases the 1855 Stearns House, a Greek Revival-style farmhouse constructed by Lyman Stearns that is one of Ohio's oldest extant wooden houses. The 1919 Gibbs House, also located on the property, is preserved as a living history museum, showcasing early-20th century artifacts of vintage home technologies. Other buildings include a Yankee-style barn constructed between 1836 and 1855, a Country Store selling historic items and local arts and crafts, and a rental cabin originally constructed by the Parma Kiwanis.
6975 Ridge Rd, Parma, OH 44129, Phone: 440-845-9770
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17.Rocky River Nature Center
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Rocky River Nature Center is a publicly-operated nature and visitor center that offers spectacular 360-degree views of the Rocky River Valley, which is home to beautiful shale cliffs formed from erosion over a million years ago. The center is open to the public for free daily during business hours, with the exception of major national holidays. Exhibits showcase the region's natural and biological history, including displays on the region's ancient Dunkleosteus giant fish and its current flora and fauna species. Prehistoric, indigenous, and pioneer cultures of the region are also highlighted in several exhibits. Outside, a five-mile network of nature trails provides access to indigenous sites, wetland forest areas, and the Fort Hill Stairs. Children can also play at the HideAway Hollow playplace, which recreates an interactive giant oak tree play area.
24000 Valley Pkwy, North Olmsted, OH 44070, Phone: 440-734-6660
18.Cleveland's RTA Trolleys
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Cleveland's RTA Trolleys provide a fun, free option for travel throughout the city's downtown, offering four line routes that extend throughout the city's major downtown neighborhoods and past major landmarks. Routes include the B-Line Trolley, which operates every 10 minutes Mondays through Fridays and traverses the city's major business centers, including Cleveland City Hall, Public Square and Tower City, and the Cuyahoga County offices. Major cultural attractions are accessible via the city's weekday E-Line Trolley, including entertainment, shopping, and dining venues along Euclid Avenue, while the C-Line Trolley operates seven days a week and connects the city's Convention Center and Horseshoe Casino. Lakefront attractions such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center are accessible via the L-Line Trolley, which runs every 15 minutes on weekends.
1240 West Sixth Street, Cleveland, Ohio 44113-1331, Phone: 216-621-9500
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19.The Star-Spangled Spectacular
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The Star-Spangled Spectacular is an annual Fourth of July concert presented by the Cleveland Orchestra, hosted in conjunction with Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. The concert is presented each year on July 4th at downtown Cleveland's Mall B and is hosted by anchors from local television station WKYC-TV3. Pre-concert festivities include food trucks, jumbotron presentations, and family activities, with a roster of local musicians and performers taking the stage at 7:00pm prior to the concert's start. At 9:00pm, the Cleveland Orchestra takes the stage, performing traditional patriotic music such as Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, John Philip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever, and Francis Scott Key's The Star-Spangled Banner.
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20.Take a Hike Tours
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Take a Hike Tours are presented by the Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corporation, encouraging Cleveland residents and visitors to explore the beautiful architecture and historic landmarks of the city's iconic neighborhoods. Tours are presented each season between mid-May and mid-September, beginning at 10:00am on Saturdays at designated locations throughout the city. Tours include a Gateway District Tour, which explores the district's historic businesses and civic buildings, and the University Circle Tour, which traverses beautiful Wade Park and the city's Uptown district. Street parking is available at a number of locations near each tour, with discounts available on some nearby parking garages offering off-peak rates.
1010 Euclid Avenue, Third Floor, Cleveland, OH 44115, Phone: 216-771-1994
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© Transformer Station
Transformer Station is a contemporary cultural station operated within the city's historic 1924 Transformer Station, one of 16 stations constructed by the Cleveland Railway Company. The station is open to the public for free Wednesdays through Sundays during the morning and afternoon hours, showcasing exhibitions of upcoming and mid-career contemporary artists throughout the region, with an emphasis on photography exhibits and exhibits with social justice themes. Exhibits are presented by the Bidwell Foundation and the Cleveland Museum of Art, with the facility striving to serve as a community think tank and laboratory space for creativity and civic engagement. In addition to exhibits, Transformer Station also presents a variety of public special events throughout the year, including artist talks and live theatrical and musical performances.
1460 West 29th Street, Cleveland, OH 44113, Phone: 216-938-5429
22.Wade Oval Wednesdays
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Wade Oval Wednesdays are a free weekly concert series in University Circle's Wade Oval, offered each Wednesday evening from June through August. The series is presented by University Circle, Inc. and offers a full lineup of rock, pop, blues, R&B, jazz, and world music performers throughout the season, including artists such as Otis and the Shoreway Saints, Hubb's Groove, and Son Gitano. Food trucks and artist vendors are hosted on site before and during performances, with attendees welcome to bring their own picnic meals to events. Some dates throughout the summer offer additional activities, including outdoor film screenings, Mobile Learning Adventure stations, and Fourth of July fireworks on the concert evening closest to the holiday. Select museums in the district are also open late on event nights, with some offering free admission. For lower-cost transportation, Wade Oval is accessible via the city's Red Line and eight public bus routes.
10831 Magnolia Drive, Cleveland, OH 44106, Phone: 216-791-3900
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© Walkabout Tremont
Walkabout Tremont began in 1993 as the Tremont ArtWalk, organized by several Tremont neighborhood artists and professionals as a continuation of a 1990 multi-venue Halloween celebration. For 23 years, Tremont ArtWalk offered an opportunity to explore the city's hippest art galleries, boutiques, and specialty merchants, overseen by cultural pioneer Jean Brandt. Since Brandt's retirement, the event has transformed into Walkabout Tremont, hosted the second Friday evening of each month. Tremont's art galleries open their doors during the event, with street entertainment and musical performances offered throughout the evening for visitor entertainment. Many stores, restaurants, and bars in the area also offer specials and events in correlation with the Walkabout.
24.Cleveland Historical Mobile App Tours
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Cleveland Historical Mobile App Tours are a great way to explore Cleveland's top landmarks at a self-guided pace, presented by Cleveland State University's Center for Public History and Digital Humanities. 32 distinct tours are available for download on the app, focused around topics such as the city's music, theater, sports, and civic history. Tours also explore many of the city's most notable neighborhoods, including historic Tremont, hip Ohio City, and the Gordon Square Arts District. The city's social, political, and economic history is outlined as part of tours related to topics such as Civil War history and the city's Gilded Age millionaires. A Cultural Gardens tour also explores significant public garden sites throughout the city, including the ethnic-focused gardens of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. Tours are accessible via the Cleveland Historical app, available on the Google Play and iOS App Stores.
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25 Best Free Things to Do in Cleveland Year Round
- The Cleveland Museum of Art, Photo: The Cleveland Museum of Art
- The International Women's Air and Space Museum, Photo: The International Women's Air and Space Museum
- Cleveland Learning Center and Money Museum, Photo: Cleveland Learning Center and Money Museum
- NASA Glenn Research Center Tours, Photo: NASA Glenn Research Center Tours
- The Reinberger Gallery, Photo: Courtesy of JackF - Fotolia.com
- The Rockefeller Park Greenhouse, Photo: Courtesy of goro20 - Fotolia.com
- Cleveland Cultural Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of steffstarr - Fotolia.com
- Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve, Photo: Courtesy of wilgory - Fotolia.com
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Photo: Courtesy of Sean Board - Fotolia.com
- Headlands Beach State Park, Photo: Courtesy of minamukana - Fotolia.com
- The Cleveland Police Museum, Photo: The Cleveland Police Museum
- Cleveland Public Library, Photo: Courtesy of BillionPhotos.com - Fotolia.com
- Lake View Cemetery, Photo: Courtesy of naughtynut - Fotolia.com
- The Cleveland Shakespeare Festival, Photo: Courtesy of Dietlinde DuPlessis - Fotolia.com
- Cuyahoga County Public Library, Photo: Cuyahoga County Public Library
- Stearns Homestead, Photo: Courtesy of Bianca - Fotolia.com
- Rocky River Nature Center, Photo: Courtesy of Michael Shake - Fotolia.com
- Cleveland's RTA Trolleys, Photo: Courtesy of Africa Studio - Fotolia.com
- The Star-Spangled Spectacular, Photo: Courtesy of Chekunov Alexandr - Fotolia.com
- Take a Hike Tours, Photo: Courtesy of Shannon Workman - Fotolia.com
- Transformer Station, Photo: Transformer Station
- Wade Oval Wednesdays, Photo: Courtesy of andreaobzerova - Fotolia.com
- Walkabout Tremont, Photo: Walkabout Tremont
- Cleveland Historical Mobile App Tours, Photo: Courtesy of Sergey Nivens - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Kenneth Sponsler - Fotolia.com