There’s a lot to love about Cleveland, Ohio. Although the city doesn’t tend to make it to the top of most travelers’ bucket lists, spend a day in this up-and-coming city, and you’ll quickly realize why it should be! From its thriving arts community and buzzing craft beer scene to its world-class museums and fun annual festivals, this place really does have something for everyone.
Nature enthusiasts can spend their days kayaking down the Cuyahoga River or sunbathing on the sandy shores of Lake Erie in the summer. And in the chilly winter months, you can go tobogganing at Mill Stream Run Reservation or hit the slopes at Brandywine Ski Resort.
Sports fans will be spoiled for choice with all of Cleveland’s downtown stadiums. Whether you’re cheering on the Guardians in the summer, the Browns in the fall, or the Cavaliers in the winter, attending a sports event in Cleveland is always a blast! Or, if you’d prefer to keep things cultural, you can always catch a performance in the Playhouse Square theater district or peruse art at one of the city’s many museums and galleries.
Once you work up an appetite, you might be surprised to learn that Cleveland is widely hailed as one of the best food cities in the US! For casual meals, you’ll find iconic eateries that have long been serving up local favorites like Polish Boy sandwiches, potato-stuffed pierogi dumplings, and Cleveland-style corn beef sandwiches.
Delve a little deeper, and you’ll find that the city is brimming with swanky cocktails bars, creative craft breweries, and trendy restaurants helmed by James Beard Award-winning chefs.
With so many things to see, do, and eat, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Cleveland for you. Stick to these fun and unique Cleveland bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time in this dynamic Midwestern city!
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase or booking through one of our links we may earn a small commission (don’t worry, it’s at no extra cost to you).
15 Fun and Unique Things to Do in Cleveland
1. Marvel at the Historic Arcade Cleveland
No trip to Cleveland is complete without paying a visit to The Arcade Cleveland. This is easily one of the best sights in Cleveland, and when you step inside this historic shopping center, you’ll immediately think you’ve been transported to Europe!
Once dubbed “Cleveland’s Crystal Palace,” The Arcade was built in 1890 and was the first-ever indoor shopping center in the US. It still stands proud as the first building in Cleveland to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and one of the many highlights of The Arcade Cleveland is the spectacular glass skylight that stretches over 300 feet.
Explore the two nine-story buildings that comprise The Arcade Cleveland, and you’ll find a range of specialty shops and casual restaurants on the lower floors and the Hyatt Regency Cleveland at The Arcade on the top three floors.
Book a stay at this hotel, and you can even get a room overlooking The Arcade! Or, if you just want to enjoy The Arcade views without spending the night, you can dine overlooking The Arcade at the hotel’s 1890 Restaurant.
2. Eat Your Way Through West Side Market
Located in Cleveland’s historic Ohio City neighborhood, paying a visit to West Side Market is easily one of the most fun things to do in Cleveland. The city’s longest continuously-operating market, this indoor market first opened its doors across from its current location in 1840.
The current building that houses West Side Market dates back to 1912 and is just bursting with historic charm! It’s well worth visiting the market just to check out the building.
Explore the 100+ stalls, and you’ll find vendors hawking everything from fresh meats, cheeses, and veggies to baked goods, prepared foods, and spices. From hot dog stands to donut shops and all sorts of international food vendors, you won’t go hungry here!
Even if you’re not hungry, it’s a wonderful place to pick up picnic supplies when the weather is nice or do some grocery shopping if you’re self-catering during your trip. West Side Market is open Monday and Wednesday from 7 am to 4 pm, Friday and Saturday from 7 am to 6 pm, and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.
3. Have a Beach Day on the Shores of Lake Erie
That’s right! You might not know it, but Cleveland is actually home to quite a few lovely beaches, thanks to its location on the banks of Lake Erie. If you’re looking for things to do in Cleveland in the summer, having a beach day is always a good idea.
With its location on the west side of the city, just 10 minutes from downtown, Edgewater Beach is easily the most popular beach in Cleveland. This stretch of sand is huge, so you’ll always find a place to put your towel down and soak up the summer sun. That being said, it can get crowded here.
In the summer months, you can enjoy live music on Thursday nights, as well as beach games and pop-up events. And if you’re feeling peckish, there are often a variety of food trucks that come around and serve beach-goers gourmet treats.
If you’re looking for fewer crowds, Euclid Beach Park is set 15 minutes east of downtown and gets far fewer visitors. Rocky River Park Beach is another beautiful beach located 20 minutes from downtown. You can’t swim here, but it’s a great place to enjoy a picnic while taking in the beautiful Lake Erie views.
4. Visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
If there’s one thing that needs to be at the top of your Cleveland bucket list, it’s a trip to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
It’s well worth visiting this place for the architecture itself. Designed by architect I. M. Pei, the funky geometric building rises above Lake Erie and is an iconic piece of Cleveland’s skyline. Be sure to take some time to admire the architecture from the plaza before heading inside!
The museum itself is massive, and you can easily spend hours taking a trip through the history of rock and roll. You can peruse handwritten drafts of hit singles, check out the outfits and instruments of the world’s most legendary musicians, or watch interesting documentaries highlighting artists from a variety of music genres.
Some of the most famous artifacts that you shouldn’t miss are David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust outfits, John Lennon’s Sgt. Pepper outfit, Jimi Hendrix’s Fender Stratocaster, and so much more.
5. Tour the Cleveland Home Where ‘A Christmas Story’ was Filmed
If you’ve never seen A Christmas Story before, you have to watch it before you visit Cleveland! And once you’ve watched it, be sure to add a visit to the A Christmas Story House & Museum to your Cleveland itinerary.
This is the actual house where the 1983 movie was filmed. The only way to go inside the house is by booking a tour, which you can purchase at the gift shop or online. The first tour of the day is at 10:15 am, and they run every half hour until 4:15 pm. (Though be sure to check the website to check on tour times.)
Your tour guide will pepper you with all sorts of fun facts about the history of the film and its importance to the city of Cleveland while you check out the actual movie set. If you want to go all out, you can even rent the house for the night and sleep in Ralphie and Randy’s beds!
After you’ve toured the house, head over to the museum to check out the original props, costumes, and memorabilia from the film. There’s also an excellent gift shop where you can pick up your very own full-size Leg Lamp, as well as a bunch of other quirky souvenirs.
6. Sample All of Cleveland’s Famous Foods
One of the best things about traveling to a new city is trying all of the best local foods. And luckily, Cleveland is an excellent place for eating!
If you’ve only got time to sample one of Cleveland’s most famous foods, make it a Polish Boy. This local favorite consists of a kielbasa sausage that’s placed in a bun and sprinkled with French fries, slathered with barbeque sauce, and topped with coleslaw. For one of the best Polish Boys in the city, hunt down the Seti’s Polish Boys food truck!
Pierogis are a big deal in Cleveland, and it’s rumored that the first-ever pierogi to be served in the US was served at Cleveland’s Marton House Tavern in 1928. Today, you’ll find these potato- and cheese-stuffed dumplings on the menus of restaurants all over town. For some of the best traditional pierogis, try them at the Little Polish Diner, or for creative meaty and vegan versions, head over to Jukebox.
From overstuffed corned beef sandwiches at Slyman’s to the Friday Fish Fry at Union House Bar & Restaurant and hot dogs topped with Bertman’s Ballpark Mustard at FirstEnergy Stadium and Progressive Field, you won’t go hungry in Cleveland!
7. Take in the Views from the Terminal Tower Observation Deck
For the best views in town, you’ll want to pay a visit to Terminal Tower. Comprised of 52 stories and rising 771 feet above Public Square, this skyscraper was the second-tallest building in the world when it was built in the 1920s!
While it no longer holds that title, it’s still one of the coolest Cleveland attractions. Head up to the Observation Deck on the 42nd floor, and you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of the Cleveland skyline and Lake Erie.
If you’re visiting Cleveland during the Christmas holidays, it’s well worth heading down to Public Square, where you can not only check out the thousands of twinkling lights but you can marvel at Terminal Tower as it’s all lit up. There’s also a huge tree, festive light tunnels, an ice skating rink, and more!
8. Go Kayaking on the Cuyahoga River
If you’re looking for outdoorsy things to do in Cleveland in the summer, then take a kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding excursion along the Cuyahoga River. This river snakes its way through the city, making for an excellent opportunity for urban kayaking!
If you don’t have your own gear, there are plenty of places scattered around town where you can rent kayaks, paddleboards, and more. If you want to launch in The Flats neighborhood, Great Lakes Watersports is located on the west bank and is a prime jumping-off point for taking in views of the city’s skyline from the Cuyahoga.
For a more nature-filled excursion, Crooked River Adventures will drop you off in Eldon Russell Park. From here, you’ll have the chance to kayak or canoe five miles down the Upper Cuyahoga while taking in beautiful nature views.
9. Tour Cleveland’s Best Craft Breweries
If you haven’t noticed by now, Cleveland is very much an up-and-coming city. And like all cool cities, this place has a seriously thriving craft beer scene. If you’re looking for fun Cleveland activities, it’s well worth taking some time to tour some of Cleveland’s best breweries.
Cleveland’s Ohio City is brimming with breweries, and it just happens to be home to local institution, Great Lakes Brewing. Great Lakes Brewing opened its doors back in 1986 and has been going strong ever since!
From hazy IPAs to citrusy wheat brews and amber lagers, there’s something to suit all tastes. After you sampled a few, head across the street, where you’ll find Market Garden Brewery. This is another great spot to sip creative beers like Old Zahm Oktoberfest, Hellmango IPA, and Hyper Haze IPA.
If you’ve got the tolerance for more, Brick and Barrel, Platform Brewing Company, Terrestrial Brewing, and Masthead Brewing Company are other popular places for craft beer. Or, if you don’t know where to start, there are plenty of boozy tours on offer that will lead you to Cleveland’s best breweries!
10. Get Artsy at the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art
Spending some time at the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art (moCa) is easily one of the top things to do in Cleveland. Even if you don’t consider yourself an art aficionado, this place is sure to impress with its ever-changing displays. Plus, it’s totally free to enter, so why not give it a go?
What makes moCa stand out from the rest is that it’s a non-collecting museum that focuses entirely on displaying the work of contemporary artists. You won’t find any permanent exhibits here!
No matter when you visit, expect to find a carefully curated selection of fresh and innovative works and exhibitions by contemporary artists. The museum usually changes its exhibitions a few times a year, so even if you’ve visited before, you can always find something new here.
Plus, it’s well worth visiting moCa to admire the building, which is a work of art itself!
11. Cheer On Cleveland’s Local Sports Teams
Cleveland is a sports-loving city, and one of the most fun things you can do in Cleveland is to get tickets to a game and cheer on one of the city’s local teams. Whether you’re a diehard football fan or a baseball addict, all three of Cleveland’s world-class stadiums are located right downtown, so they’re super easy to reach.
If you’re in town in the summer, you can watch a Cleveland Guardians game at Progressive Field. Even if you’re not a huge baseball fan, getting into the team spirit while taking in the city’s skyline views from your seat is a pretty cool experience!
If you’re not in town in the summer, you can always attend a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball game at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse from mid-October to mid-April. Or, if you really want to get into the city’s sports fanaticism, go to a Cleveland Browns football game at FirstEnergy Stadium. The NFL season runs from September through January.
12. Learn All About Cleveland at the Cleveland History Center
If you want to learn all about the history of this fascinating city, spending some time at the Cleveland History Center is one of the top Cleveland activities. This fascinating museum highlights the history of Northeast Ohio through a variety of exhibits and artifacts.
Located in the University Circle neighborhood, this unique space will take you through 200 years of history. From architecture and fashion to aviation and automobiles, there’s a lot to unpack here!
Plus, you’ll have the chance to wander through the two on-site mansions, ride on the historic Euclid Beach Park grand carousel, peruse the 140 antique cars and 10 aircraft in the Crawford Auto Aviation Collection, and so much more.
There are always fun events going on, too, including the Cleveland Stories Dinner Parties, a weekly themed dinner that combines a three-course dinner with interesting stories about the city’s history.
13. Escape the City in Lake View Cemetery
One of the most unique things to do in Cleveland, a visit to Lake View Cemetery is a must if you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. This historic cemetery dates back to 1869 and is set on 285 beautiful acres of land near Cleveland’s Little Italy.
A great place to just meander around, you’ll find all sorts of winding paths that will lead you past beautiful gardens and tree-studded landscapes. Of course, the main attractions of Lake View Cemetery are the grandiose monuments and mausoleums.
There are over 100,000 graves here, including the burial sights of notable figures, including former president James A. Garfield and American business magnate John D. Rockefeller. Explore the grounds, and you’ll find two sites that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places – the 1890 James A. Garfield Memorial and the 1896 Wade Memorial Chapel.
If you happen to be visiting in the summer, you’ll have the chance to attend one of Lake View Cemetery’s summer concerts and nature walks, as well as the annual 5K race!
14. Indulge in Authentic Italian Food in Little Italy
Tucked away in the University Circle neighborhood, adjacent to Lake View Cemetery, a trip to Little Italy is a must on your Cleveland bucket list if you love good food. Stroll down the historic section of Mayfield Road, and you’ll come across tempting Italian restaurants, bakery and pastry shops, and gelato stands.
No visit to Little Italy is complete without picking up a few pastries from local favorite Presti’s Bakery, which has been serving the Cleveland community since 1903. Located on Mayfield Road, this is a prime place to grab an espresso and pastry for a quick pick-me-up. But they also have a huge menu of sandwiches, pizzas, and Italian staples.
For something more substantial, La Dolce Vita has been serving up their famous chicken parmesan and other Italian classics for over 30 years. Then there’s Valerio’s Ristorante for Northern Italian and Tuscan dishes in a classic Italian setting and Trattoria on the Hill for Sicilian-style cuisine.
Or, if it’s pizza you’re after, you can’t go wrong with Maxi’s Bistro or Mama Santa’s. Once you’re ready to walk it all off, you can take a stroll in the beautiful and historic Lake View Cemetery, which is right next to Little Italy.
15. Snap a Selfie With the World’s Largest Rubber Stamp
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Cleveland, check out the World’s Largest Rubber Stamp! Located in downtown Cleveland’s Willard Park, this massive red stamp has the word “free” inscribed at the bottom. Hence its name, the Free Stamp!
The sculpture was created by sculptors Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, a husband and wife duo. This aluminum and steel sculpture is so big, it measures 49 feet long and 28 feet tall and weighs a whopping 70,000 pounds.
Oldenburg and van Bruggen chose the word free to pay homage to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument of Cleveland, which was once located across from the original site of the Free Stamp. Now located in Willard Park, the Free Stamp is a fun and quirky Cleveland attraction that’s well worth seeking out.
If you want to see more of the artists’ massive sculptures, you’ll find Standing Mitt with Ball and Giant Toothpaste Tube at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Cleveland. What’s your favorite thing to do in Cleveland?
Planning a trip to Ohio? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!