Visiting Cleveland, Ohio anytime soon? Or know someone who is? Then you’ll love my list of 15 must-visit Cleveland destinations. This list of things to do in Cleveland showcases some of the most postcard-worthy views everyone should see.
Cleveland is a small, walkable northern coastal town nestled on the shores of Lake Erie. It’s an underdog city with a fighting spirit, and we love our hometown. We’ve heard the unoriginal jokes about our fair city. However, we find that more often than not people who visit are actually quite impressed. This doesn’t surprise us, though, we know Cleveland has a lot to offer.
Keep reading to see my list of 15 must-visit Cleveland destinations. There is so much more to find in Cleveland however, and this list should be considered a starting point.
Looking for more detailed guides on things to do in Cleveland? Be sure to check out my neighborhood travel guides for downtown Cleveland and surrounding neighborhoods here.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Visit | 1100 E 9th St, Cleveland, Ohio 44114
One of the most popular Cleveland destinations known around the world is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This must-visit museum houses historic artifacts from many of musics’ greats in rock, pop, punk, hip-hop, and beyond. Some feel conflicted that the museum showcases music outside of the rock genre, but not me. I find it refreshing that they showcase all styles of music because truly, it’s all connected.
Did you know that the term Rock & Roll was popularized by popular radio DJ Alan Freed in Cleveland? That, plus a lot of support landed the Rock Hall in its permanent home here in 1995. Bordered by the shore of Lake Erie, this geometric building designed by famed architect I.M. Pei is said to resemble a record player from above. The museum is surrounded by a park, other museums, and more, adding to the city’s unique skyline.
While in Cleveland, the Rock Hall has shared its spotlight in NYC and briefly in Los Angeles in the past. More recently, Cleveland and New York split hosting the Rock Hall Induction Ceremony. Qualified nominees are chosen annually to be inducted with the requirement of their first commercial release being 25+ years ago.
The Guardians of Traffic
Visit | Hope Memorial Bridge between Downtown Cleveland and Ohio City
Due to their more recent popularity with our baseball team name change, these towering behemoths are one of the must-visit Cleveland destinations you shouldn’t miss. These steadfast, art-deco-style sculptures made of local Berea sandstone have made their way into the Cleveland lexicon and could be the icon that truly represents the city.
Guarding the Hope Memorial Bridge, which connects Downtown Cleveland to the neighboring Ohio City Neighborhood, these icons can be found all over town. From product labels and branding to the most recent name change of our baseball team from The Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Guardians. (A touchy subject for some, but I dig the change) It’s clear to see the influence of these iconic statues on the city, they are everywhere.
The four posts at the entrance and exit of the Hope Memorial Bridge host a total of 8 Guardians, each holding a different mode of transportation. It’s best to view them on foot, giving you the ability to photograph them with ease. There is no pull-off spot where you can stop to get photos of them while driving across the bridge, but on the downtown side there is a parking lot near the Fire Museum (to the right of the baseball stadium), and on the Ohio City side you may find street parking nearby. If you want the best city views, head east on the bridge and photograph the Guardians near the entrance downtown.
Visit | 401 Euclid Avenue Cleveland, Ohio
Opened in 1890 and nicknamed Cleveland’s Crystal Palace, The Arcade is considered America’s first indoor shopping center and the city’s first building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A popular place for weddings and photography, the arcade houses a hotel, businesses, and shopping within and along the outside of its entrance. It’s a beautiful building worth a visit just to gawk at its grandness. I always feel like I’m inside a boat when I visit.
Playhouse Square’s GE Chandelier
Visit | Intersection of Euclid Avenue and E 14th, Cleveland, Ohio 44114
Did you know Cleveland has the 2nd largest Playhouse Square next to New York City? It also has the largest outdoor chandelier in the US which sounds a bit silly, but it actually looks pretty cool, especially at night. The GE Chandelier was joined by entrance arches into the district and a marketplace-style Playhouse Square sign announcing the area. All of these additions, a re-designed street, plus the fun lighting truly make the Playhouse Square district shine, especially at night. It was also just announced that in 2023, the theaters (not shown in these photos) will feature bright, new entrance signs. Some people have mixed feelings about the style, but I welcome the touch of modern and bright lights.
Downtown views from the Superior Viaduct
Visit | Entrance at the intersection of W25th Street and Superior Viaduct
Getting a shot of a city’s skyline is always my goal when traveling and it’s always tricky to know just where the locals go to get the shot. No worries, I got you! One of the best city skyline shots is taken off the Superior Viaduct, which happens to also be a historic landmark in itself (read here for more on that).
Today, what remains of the Superior Viaduct now connects apartments and a restaurant and it ends right up against one of the city’s popular music venues located below in the Flats.
This one is a little tricky to get to for people not familiar with the area. The Superior Viaduct itself is not open to parking from visitors (unless you know someone at one of the apartments or visit the restaurant near the entrance) but it’s a spot where you can get one of the best views of Downtown Cleveland. I recommend parking in the upper West Bank side streets of The Flats nearby and walking as your best option.
The Cleveland Trust Rotunda Inside Heinen’s Grocery Store
Visit | 900 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
Is your grocery story fancy? No? Well, then prepare to be amazed by the beautiful glass Cleveland Trust Rotunda ceiling at the local grocery store Heinen’s. Once believed to have been designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, later discovered to be designed by Italian immigrant Nicolas D’Ascenzo.
The rotunda is a popular spot for food events, wine & beer sipping, and grabbing pre-made meals to enjoy in the seating areas. Read more history about this unique grocery store here.
Visit | Along the Cuyahoga River starting where it meets Lake Erie
Bordering the Cuyahoga River, The Flats district is compiled of two sides – East Bank & West Bank. While The West Bank has stayed relatively the same over the years with the addition of a few new apartment complexes and a renovated music venue, The East Bank saw the most changes over the years. Having gone through some versions of existence from an industrial district to an entertainment district that peaked in the early 2000s.
After some time being run down, in the early 2010s a revival took place with a redevelopment plan that’s still taking action involving apartments, a hotel, businesses, and restaurants. While it’s still an entertainment district, it’s a much less chaotic vibe than in its heydey. There’s a nice boardwalk along the Cuyahoga giving you perfect views of the river, the old bridges, and buildings, and if you’re lucky you’ll catch one of the huge cargo ships that somehow squeeze their way through the crooked river. A real joy to witness.
Edgewater Beach Willow Tree
Visit | 7600 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway, Cleveland, Ohio 44102
It may surprise you how many people don’t realize Cleveland is a coastal city that has beaches. While they may not be the huge, expansive beaches you find at the ocean, they are all beautiful in their own right. One of the more spectacular views is Cleveland’s favorite tree on the shore of Edgewater Beach, a lone Willow tree.
When I say it’s the city’s favorite tree, I’m not joking. We visit it during each season, we have portraits taken and weddings hosted under it, and we enjoy hot summer days and crisp Fall evenings under this tree. Even during winter, we adore it, even after the harsh winter chill has removed all its leaves. It’s a beautiful treasure. Known for its beach house, fishing pier, sandy beach, green space, and more, Edgewater Beach is the closest beach to Downtown Cleveland and a locals favorite during all seasons.
Visit | 12316 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, Ohio 44106
Lots of cities have that one cemetery you should visit due to its stunning beauty and uniqueness. This is Cleveland’s. Lakeview Cemetery is the final resting place for several famous and important Clevelanders, but what really stands out are the striking tombs throughout. Just remember to be respectful when visiting.
The Cleveland Script Signs
Various locations across Cleveland
Cleveland is totally being “that guy” at the concert who wears the band’s t-shirt here but we all love these little Cleveland Script Signs placed strategically throughout the city. The most perfect photo op for visitors and locals alike and is one of the obligatory, must-visit Cleveland destinations. You can try to find all 6 as they are all within 25 minutes or less of Downtown Cleveland and each provides an epic view of the city.
East 4th Street
Visit | Intersection of Euclid and East 4th Street or Prospect Avenue E and East 4th Street
One of the first areas that really arose during the early years of Cleveland’s renaissance is East 4th Street. A handful of the original restaurants remain from its inception, renovating old storefronts into a restaurant-lined entertainment district, and many newcomers have replaced those that have left. This is one of the more lively areas in downtown Cleveland, perfect if you’re looking for a great bite to eat, yummy cocktails, concerts, or a comedy show.
A Christmas Story House
Visit | 3159 W 11th St, Cleveland, Ohio 44109
Did you know everyone’s favorite Christmas movie that’s played on repeat for 24 hours every year has ties to Cleveland? While filmed elsewhere, many scenes from A Christmas Story were filmed in good ole’ Cleveland. One of the more popular destinations is the A Christmas Story House whose facade was used for the family’s home in the movie.
This nostalgic museum is located in Cleveland’s Tremont Neighborhood in the middle of a residential area. The interior was changed to match the movie as closely as possible to give you the full Ralphie experience.
The owner eventually made the interior resemble the movie as closely as possible and it’s now a museum on occasion, you can even stay the night! There’s also an attached museum store. Be sure to grab a Leg Lamp souvenir (which you’ll notice just about everywhere)
Ames Family Atrium at Cleveland Museum of Art
Visit | 11150 East Blvd, Cleveland, Ohio 44106
One of the top art museums in the United States resides in Cleveland, and she’s a beauty. The Ames Family Atrium at the Cleveland Museum of Art was added on connecting the older wing and the modern wing of the museum together. This stunningly photogenic atrium space has the best lighting and is a work of art in its own right.
The West Side Market
Visit | 1979 W 25th St, Cleveland, Ohio 44113
Cleveland’s oldest public market was built in 1912, this 100+-year-old marketplace is an institution in Cleveland’s west side. The West Side Market is home to 100 vendors offering a diverse variety of foods and is known for its 44-foot high vaulted ceilings made from Guastavino tile. Outside, the 137-foot clock tower is the cornerstone of the building and a standout in the neighborhood. This historic marketplace gets upward of a million visitors a year. Tourists from around the world visit, many prompted by features of the Travel Channel and Food Network.
Locals Tip: Don’t miss out on grabbing a quick bite to eat or drink at one of the vendors and people-watching from the upper level.
Voinovich Bicentennial Park
Visit | 800 E 9th Street Pier, Cleveland, Ohio 44114
This small but pretty downtown park gives you killer views of downtown and Lake Erie depending on which direction you face. Voinovich Bicentennial Park is located directly behind the Rock Hall and is known for its Cleveland Script Sign with city skyline, greenspace, great views of Lake Erie, and much more.
Basic Itineraries For The Must-Visit Cleveland Destinations
I would recommend at least 2-3 days to explore these must-visit Cleveland destinations so you can enjoy them and the surrounding attractions, restaurants, and views. However, if you are short on time, you can totally see all of these destinations in one visit. Below are my suggested itineraries are broken up into four areas and mapped out efficiently. I am considering that you will map all of these destinations in your app or GPS of choice, so I am only roughly laying out the directions. Feel free to reach out with any questions or DM me on Instagram, happy to help!
Start at Edgewater Beach to see Cleveland’s favorite Willow Tree, the From there, you can hop on the Shoreway and head east to The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Once finished exploring music’s greatest, you can go to Voinovich Bicentennial Park located directly behind the Rock Hall. You’ll also find one of the six Cleveland Script Signs here among incredible Lake Erie and city skyline views.
Once ready to continue, drive south on E 9th Street a few blocks and find parking near Euclid Avenue. The Cleveland Trust Rotunda within Heinen’s grocery store is on the corner of E9th and Euclid. Head east on Euclid and you’ll find the Playhouse Square Chandelier. Head back west on Euclid, cross E9th, and a few blocks down you’ll find The Arcade and E 4th Street.
West of Downtown
Make your way to The Flats taking Euclid Avenue west until it changes to Detroit Avenue. You’ll veer down into the East Bank of The Flats to explore and then make your way to the West Bank. Once done exploring, make your way up the hill and find a street park near and walk up to The Superior Viaduct for some of the best views of Cleveland. Then, make your way down W 25th Street and visit The West Side Market, there is ample parking in the back. Enjoy people-watching and browsing the market before moving on. From here, you’ll drive south to A Christmas Story House in Tremont.
East of Downtown
Map to the Cleveland Museum of Art and take the route via Carnegie Ave. This will take you back to Ohio City and across the Hope Memorial Bridge where you’ll see The Guardians as you enter downtown once again. You can park off W 20th Street and walk to The Guardians to get some photos, or continue driving across the bridge and pull over to the right where the Western Reserve Fire Museum is, there is a small parking area under the bridge nearby. This will be the best view of the city with The Guardians. Enjoy The Cleveland Museum of Art for free and be sure to stop at the Ames Family Atrium. From the museum, map to Lakeview Cemetery and wrap up your day of exploring must-visit Cleveland destinations!
Thanks for reading! Hope this helps you plan your visit to Cleveland whether you’re in Ohio or visiting from out of state. Remember, this is just a starting point to must-visit Cleveland destinations! There are many more to find throughout the town and I may make a part two someday in the future. Enjoy!
Which of these must-visit Cleveland destinations would you visit? Let me know in the comments!
We Think You’ll Also Like…
- Downtown Cleveland City Guide
- Cleveland Script Signs & How To Find Them
- Cleveland’s Ohio City Guide (18+ Things To Do, Photo-Ops & More)
I recently visited Cincinnati and loved it. Now I need to get to Cleveland because everything I’ve read make me think it’s another under-appreciated Ohio city. I really want to see the Guardians of Traffic and I had no idea the city at a connection with “A Christmas Story!”
Jen @ Local Love & Wanderlust says
It really is under-appreciated here. We’re used to people making their unoriginal jokes and just disregarding the city as a whole. The interesting thing is that most people who visit are shocked at how much they enjoyed their trip and are surprised at things like we have beaches (I mean, our entire northern part of our state borders a Great Lake haha), and that there are things to do. Hoping my little blog here helps people see it really is great here 🙂 Thanks for checking out my post!
Cleveland looks like such an amazing city to visit. I have never been to Ohio, but I would love to go one day. I think I would love to explore The Arcade. I love how much historic architecture is in the city! Thanks for putting Cleveland on my radar!
Jen @ Local Love & Wanderlust says
Yay! If you ever make it this way reach out, I’d love to help you plan 🙂