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.”