By now, you know that I am always on the hunt for free places to take the family. With five children, that’s just the way it is!
Luckily, there is no shortage of cheap dates to be found.
One you might want to take advantage of this summer, lest their minds turn completely to mush, is the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland.
All youth, 18 and younger, get free general admission to the science center on Tuesdays when accompanied by an adult. (OK, so this isn’t completely free, but it’s still an awesome deal. Admission is normally $7.95 for children 2-18.)
It does not include admission to the OMNIMAX theater or the William G. Mather steamship parked next door, but there are plenty of activities to keep minds active without resorting to those extras. My kids never tire of the mini-theatre where a flash of light imprints their shadows against a white wall. Inevitably they will try to catch a jumping pose mid-air, and that will require multiple flashes to get it just right.
General admission is $9.95 for adults. The center is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, check out http://www.greatscience.com/visit/hours.php.
If you still have energy after all that exploring, you might consider stopping by the West Side Market, at the corner of West 25th Street and Lorain Avenue, which will celebrate its centennial in 2012.
In all truth, Cleveland’s oldest publicly owned market could be a family destination in itself. It is a veritable cornucopia of sights, sounds and smells — OK, not all of them are pleasant! — and just a lot of fun. It’s a great place to pick up fruits and vegetables at rock-bottom prices, and any kind of specialty meat or pastry you desire.
We like to get crunchy-cased hot dogs at Johnny’s Hot Dogs or pizza bagels from one of the bakery (sorry, I can’t remember the name…) and do a lot of people watching. This is where thousands of people have come over the years to do their shopping, and the place reeks of history. I can just envision the little old ladies shuffling to and through the market with their carts, collecting the produce and meat for their family’s meals. In fact, they’re still there. It always makes me a little jealous that we don’t have traditions like that.
Our most memorable trip to the market was on Good Friday one year, when our children watched wide-eyed as a butcher carried a whole, skinned lamb over his shoulder, no doubt destined for someone’s Easter feast. I don’t think my poor suburban, culture-starved children had ever seen anything like that! I always come away with the sense that we have shared in something special and unique, and usually with a few bags of fresh produce as well.
The market is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, visit http://www.westsidemarket.org/about.html.