Cleveland with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

by Isa Hopkins, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Sep 27th 2010 09:20 PM

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Cleveland with Kids: A Family Vacation

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Cleveland, Ohio, is a great city if you've got young children. Whether you live there or are just visiting, there's plenty of fun for the whole family in Cleveland.


Morning

Vacations to Cleveland should start the day in one place: the West Side Market, a Cleveland institution that's received national acclaim as a model farmers' market. If this is your first time visiting, you should know there's more to this market than just produce. The whole family can enjoy a hearty breakfast at the West Side Market Cafe, where the fare is ethnic, fresh, and kid-friendly all at once. After breakfast, travel over to the East side of the city to University Circle, the cultural heart of Cleveland. It's home to the internationally acclaimed Cleveland Orchestra, and also to destinations the kids will enjoy.

West Side Market
West 25th at Lorain
Cleveland, OH
Mon & Wed 7AM-4PM; Fri & Sat 7AM-6PM

Any list of things to do in Cleveland with kids should include a visit to the Natural History Museum and the nearby Botanical Gardens. Any child visiting the Natural History Museum has to stop outside and visit Steggy, the giant stegosaurus sculpture that lives outside the museum's front entrance for little children to climb on and slide down. Steggy is great for photo ops, too, so be sure to bring your camera.

Cleveland National History Museum
1 Wade Oval Drive
University Circle
Cleveland, OH 44106-1767
(216) 231-4600
Mon-Sat 10AM-5PM, Wed 10AM-10PM, Sun 12PM-5PM
Adult (19+) $10; Youth (7-18) $8; College student (w/ID) $8; Senior (60+ or with a Golden Buckeye Card) $8; Accessibility (wheelchair) $7; Child (3-6) $7; Toddlers (2 and under) FREE

Afternoon

A complete tour of the Natural History Museum takes a couple hours, and by the time you're finished, the kids will be ready for some lunch. Just a few blocks east of University Circle is Little Italy, an eclectic ethnic neighborhood full of great, kid-friendly food. Pull up a seat at Mama Santa's Pizzeria, a local legend that dishes up gooey, cheesy, thin-crust goodness in a setting that could have been in "The Godfather." Little Italy is chock full of great restaurants, so if you've had your fill of pizza there are plenty of options for pasta and pastries, too. Make sure that you don't leave the neighborhood without sampling some of the region's best cannoli.

Mama Santa's Pizzeria
12305 Mayfield Road
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 231-9567 or (216) 421-2159
Mon-Thu 11AM-10PM, Fri-Sat 11AM-11PM,

After lunch, it's back to University Circle for a trip through the Botanical Gardens. Cleveland's Botanical Gardens offer a relaxing, informal atmosphere that is perfect for any family vacation in Cleveland. Kids love the remarkable indoor butterfly garden, and outside they will find an enchanting children's garden that's equal parts garden and playground. It's a perfect place for kids to find fun things to do in Cleveland and run around in the afternoon sun. Plus, parents will savor the opportunity to relax in the fairy-tale landscape (be sure to hang onto that camera, because this is another great spot for photos).

Cleveland Botanical Gardens
11030 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 721-2056
Tue-Sat 10AM-5PM, Sun 12PM-5PM, Wed 10AM-9PM; (5/31-9/6) Closed Mondays
Member Free; Adult $8.50; Child (3-12) $3; Child under 3 Free; Group (15 or more) $6.50; Seniors (60+) $5.50 (Tuesdays only)

If your young children enjoy fantastic stories of princesses and knights, it's also worth popping into the Cleveland Museum of Art across the green from the Botanical Gardens. Admission to the Art Museum is always free; so don't feel guilty about a short visit to the Armor Court, where medieval swords and coats of armor are on grand display. The gallery never fails to leave an impression, even on adults. The Armor Court is located near the museum's entrance, so kids don't have to wander through a maze of galleries to get there.

Cleveland Museum of Art
11150 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 421-7340
Tue, Thu & Sat-Sun 10AM-5PM; Wed & Fri 10AM-9PM
Free General Admission

Evening

Your kids will remember this Cleveland family vacation if you go for dinner to B Spot , a casual joint in the Eastern suburbs, by Iron Chef Michael Symon. A hometown boy, Symon has two downtown restaurants that serve a more upscale menu and cater to an adult crowd. But B Spot (the "B" stands for burgers, brats, and beer) is easygoing and just a little chaotic, and serves food that's familiar enough for kids to love, while still being adventurous enough for adults to enjoy. The B Spot is a twenty-five minutes drive from University Circle, on Chagrin Boulevard in the suburb of Woodmere. As the home of the reigning "Best Burger in America," though, it's worth the drive -- plus, it's about the most affordable restaurant that an Iron Chef has yet opened. Try to get there on the earlier side, before the late-night revelers start flowing in and it gets loud.

Be mindful of the clock so you give yourself enough time to make it to La Gelateria, one of the favorite dessert spots near Cleveland. With kids, dessert is always a good idea, and this local favorite can be found in the Cedar-Fairmount neighborhood of Cleveland Heights (which is on the route back into the city from B-Spot). It's a casual, inexpensive, family-friendly place where you can encounter a nice mix of families and students from nearby Case Western Reserve. Their gelato's light sweetness makes it a perfect dessert after a long day of exploring, eating, and family fun -- or, as Clevelanders might call it, just another day on the town.

B Spot
28699 Chagrin Boulevard
Woodmere, OH 44122
(216) 292-5567
Mon–Thu 11AM-10PM, Fri & Sat 11AM-11PM, Sun 11AM-9PM

La Gelateria
12421 Cedar Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44121
(216) 229-2636
Tue – Sun 4PM-9PM
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