A free day of Cleveland fun on tap May 24

Posted by Jennifer

The Cleveland Foundation continues its centennial celebration of offering free gifts to the community.

Last month’s free day at the Cleveland Zoo attracted an all-time record number of visitors.

This month’s offering is free admission to museums and attractions around the Wade Park Circle.

The Cleveland Botanical Garden, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Western Reserve Historical Society will open their doors for free from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 24.

Since the Cleveland Museum of Art is always free, the foundation is making free tickets available for the first 500 visitors to see the Van Gogh “Repetitions” exhibition, which usually requires an additional cost.

Of particular interest to us is the Cleveland Botanical Garden’s “Nature Connects” exhibit that features 14 LEGO brick sculptures depicting plants and animals. The children’s garden behind the main building was a favorite place to visit when our older children were preschoolers and it was free. Our younger two haven’t been there, so I’m eager to show them.

At the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, visitors will be allowed to visit the Shafran Planetarium for free. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we paid $1 per person for a special, 10-minute show, which was a great introduction for our sons to the vast mysteries of space. Free is even better!

The Western Reserve Historical Society plans to extended its “Dior & More – For the Love of Fashion” exhibit so visitors can see it on the free day, and curators and experts will be on hand to answer questions in the lower-level Crawford Auto Aviation Collection, which includes an incredible diversity of automobiles. Inside the historical society, on the main floor, be sure to check out the carousel from Euclid Beach Park and all of the old photos from the park’s heyday.

In anticipation of the large crowds, University Circle Inc. will offer free shuttle service between the Wade Oval institutions and the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center garages — the patient garage on Magnolia Drive and the employee garage on East 105th Street — both of which will be free to Cleveland Foundation Day visitors.

Sure, they will all be crowded. But that’s a good thing. Wouldn’t it be a shame if they offered all this and no one came?


Cleveland museums free on MLK Day

Posted by Jennifer


Just because your children don’t have school on Monday, Jan. 17, doesn’t mean the day shouldn’t be educational. (Wow – how’s that for a triple negative?)

In fact, I’d wager the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would prefer it that way.

For a number of years, our family has made an effort to visit some of these museums that offer free admission on the holiday. Some can be fairly pricey for a family of (now) 7, at regular price. Many of the museums also offer special programs of interest to children and adults alike. My perennial favorite is the Western Reserve Historical Society, which hosted a scavenger hunt for kids one year, where they had to read some of the descriptions of the lives of Carl and Louis Stokes to be entered into a contest for a prize.

Here’s a few of the Cleveland museums you might want to check out. From Medina, it’s only about 35 minutes to a world of new ideas and perspectives.

And if you’re headed to the Great Lakes Science Center and Rock and Roll Hall of  Fame and Museum, consider taking the Rapid (you can pick it up near Hopkins airport or at West 150th Street, and it takes you very near these two museums). The kids enjoy the experience of riding mass transit, and you don’t have to pay for parking. You can even regale them with the story of Rosa Parks, who, inspired by the same ideals as Dr. King, refused to follow societal convention and give up her seat on the bus to a white person.

  • Great Lakes Science Center, free admission, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
    Come check out hundreds of hands-on exhibits, including the NASA Glenn Visitor Center with 50 space-themed exhibits. Children 7 and younger can explore the Polymer Funhouse. Regular admission rates apply to the OMNIMAX theater, Elements cafe, pizza buffet and parking garage. Although, if you’re lucky like we were, you might find free parking on the street out in front. Pack a cooler and have a picnic lunch inside to save even more money.
  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, free admission and concerts, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    This is one of the busiest days of the year for the museum, so expect crowds. An array of musical talent will perform throughout the afternoon on the Main Stage, including Grammy Award winning R&B and soul singer Chrisette Michele (at 3 p.m.), as well as local performers Antioch Spiritual Arts Choir (at 11 a.m.) and the Terry Macklin Entertainment Experience (from noon to 3 p.m.).
    Food and beverages are not permitted inside the museum.
  • Cleveland Children’s Museum, free admission, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Help decorate a Peace Quilt. Lots of fun hands-on activities for the younger ones.
  • Cleveland Botanical Garden, 11030 East Boulevard, free admission, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Learn about the plant and crop contributions of African Americans in agriculture and make a craft to celebrate these achievments.
    When our kids were younger, and the outdoor Hershey Children’s Garden was free, we used to make the trek from Medina to this marvelous place with some regularity. However, several years ago the powers that be started charging admission ($8.50 for adults, $3 for ages 3 to 12) to explore this garden, and we haven’t been back. I still remember the urban children who evidently lived nearby coming and splashing with sheer joy in the squirting water pads. They reveled in the wildflowers and pond life, relaxed in the wheelchair-accessible treehouse and got a glimpse of what many suburban kids probably see in an idealized backyard scene. Restricting their access seems downright contrary to Dr. King’s dream.
  • Cleveland Museum of Art. Admission is free every day, but special speakers will make presentations on Monday.
    The art museum was closed for renovations for a number of years, so it might have been a long time since you’ve been able to take your children to see the knights in shining armor, mummies, lavish Renaissance paintings, sculptures, and modern art (my favorite is the car with its headlights that seems so out of place in this white-marble building). We are lucky here in northeast Ohio to have such ready access to art in one of the country’s top museums. Take advantage of it.
  • Western Reserve Historical Society & Crawford Auto Aviation Museum, free admission, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Children’s activities will be offered from 1 to 3 p.m., with a 2 p.m. presentation on ”The Remarkable Story of Sarah Lucy Bagby,” the last slave tried under the Fugitive Slave Law.
  • Cleveland Museum of Natural History, free admission, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    Children may meet an entomologist and examine insect specimen with a magnifying glass. Don’t forget to say hello to the real (stuffed) Balto, and see if your children think the (also stuffed) platypus looks anything like Perry from “Phineas & Ferb.”

Medina-area family fun on the cheap

Posted by Jennifer

Got plans for Memorial Day weekend? The weather looks great — temps in the upper 70s, little chance for rain — and we’ve got three whole days to endure, I mean, enjoy each other’s company!

With five children, we are always on the lookout for cheap, fun things to do. And there’s lots to be found either in Medina or within a short drive. Here are a few of the things we’re considering:

*  The Cleveland Botanical Garden (11030 East Blvd., Cleveland, 44106) has an awesome area just for children called the Hershey Children’s Garden. It has a pond with fish and frogs, a maze, a cottage with a prairie sod roof, butterfly shelters, a native wildflower meadow, a fruit and berry garden, a splash pad, and a great big (handicapped-accessible) treehouse. It’s the kind of idyllic place that you wish were literally in your backyard. Maybe it’s more special because it’s not! When it first opened, it was free, and we made frequent treks to University Circle just to spend a few hours there. Now, they usually charge something like $5 per child — but this weekend, it is free.

Here are the hours:

Saturday, May 23
10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Sunday, May 24
12:00 – 5:00 pm

Monday, May 25
10:000 am – 5:00 pm

For more information:


* If you haven’t been to Memphis Kiddie Park (10340 Memphis Ave., Brooklyn, 44114) near the Cleveland  Zoo, and you’ve got young children, you definitely should check it out. The entire park, which opened in 1952, is designed for little ones – so there are no big kids to spoil their fun. The rides are cute, with a train and little ferris wheel, and a horse-and-cart ride that is just adorable. There’s even a small roller coaster that is zippy enough to entertain a 7-year-old. Adults can ride it too, if you can bear all the jiggling and bumping that never seem to bother the kids. You buy tickets for each ride, so kids can pick and choose – and you can decide how much you want to spend. Check out the Medina County version of the Entertainment Book for discount tickets. You can look up more info at

* Last, but not least, is the train ride at the Lodi Station Outlets (9911 Avon Lake Road, Burbank, 44214). The outlet mall opened the train last August, and have two custom-made trains that give half-hour rides for $2.50 a person. The trains snake their way through the outdoor mall, and parking lot, and through a train barn. On weekdays, an unlimited ride pass sells for $3 and the train makes stops throughout the mall to give shoppers a chance to disembark and do their thing, then reboard for the next segment. There’s a free ride ticket in the Entertainment Book.

The outlet mall’s food court has seen a few vacancies in recent years, but we especially love Wok and Roll, the Chinese place (my kids crave the lo mein). Treat the kids at Auntie Anne’s… but if you prefer, there’s a Burger King and a Wendy’s right outside the mall.

For hours and more information, check out:

You know, we have taken the kids on more expensive outings… but it always seems that these little things mean just as much. Have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend!