Cleveland is an affordable city, and that goes for entertainment, too! Cleveland has a lot of seasonal free fun, from fall harvest festivals to summer outdoor concerts. Unfortunately that can make finding something to do kind of hard, especially as winter approaches. So here is a list of 11 free activities in Cleveland that run
all year long!
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Cleveland Museum of Art
If you've read any of my articles on the best of Cleveland, then you know how I feel about the CMA. It's not only one of the best free things to do in Cleveland, but one of the best things to do in Cleveland, period. In fact, it's one of the best things to do in Ohio. You can spend hours wandering the world-class collection, and still not see everything. As well as some of the big names in European art history, the museum houses an excellent collection of local and national artists, ancient artifacts, and contemporary art. There's even an armory!
2. The Cleveland Flea
Obviously, the Cleveland Flea is not free if you buy something. But half the fun of a flea market is digging through piles of junk, regardless of whether you find your treasure. The monthly market is outside during the warmer months, and moves inside from November to March. The aim is to promote local businesses, and create a fun, social space to meet your local small business owners and other bargain-hunters. Sift through curated vintage, local art, and pre-loved furniture while you enjoy the free live music or DJ.
3. Watch the Browns train
Impatient for the start of the season? Want to check out how the Browns are going to fare this year? The Browns open their training camp to the public at the beginning of every season. You can attend around a dozen of the pre-season practices. Attendance is free, as long as you can beat the crowds!
4. Attend a lecture at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History
The CMNH has multiple series of free lectures that are open to the public. Lectures cover astronomy, paleontology, ecology, geology... all the -ologies you could want! The lecturers are all experts in their fields, often presenting cutting-edge research. On top of the lecture, most also have snacks/desserts/drinks afterwards, where you can chat with other topic enthusiasts, museum staff, and typically the lecturer themselves. Tip: At the time of writing, the astronomy lecture series also includes free access to the observatory!
5. Creative Mornings
Cleveland really does have public lectures on every topic imaginable. Creative Mornings are held on the third Friday of every month, featuring talks by "some of the city's most inspirational thinkers and doers". Creative Mornings is an international event, and each city chapter - from Oslo, to Lisbon, to Singapore, to Cleveland and beyond - hosts events on the same topics each month. Tuck into a free breakfast, courtesy of local food and coffee businesses, and get inspired!
Tip: keep an eye on the websites or Facebook pages of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Metroparks, the Western Reserve Historical Society, and the Cleveland Public Library for even more free events!
6. Take a Hike
Take a Hike tours are run by Heritage Tourism, in the Gateway District, Warehouse District, Civic Center, Playhouse Square neighborhood and Canal Basin Park in the Flats. The tours are totally free, and the guides are knowledgeable and fun. Meet historical figures, and learn new things, whether you're a newcomer or a true local. Tours vary from seasonal to weekly, so take a peek at their website to see what's on offer.
7. Actually take a hike!
The Cleveland Metroparks encircle the city in a beautiful 'emerald necklace' of green wilderness. There's over 23,000 acres to explore! Hike, jog, cycle, and fish all year round for free. Get lost in nature for a few hours, and admire the trees as they light up the forest with fall colors.
8. The Cleveland Police Museum
If you're into true crime, or just have an interest in the macabre, the Cleveland Police Museum is for you. A running exhibit on the infamous cold case of the Torso Murders, complete with the original death masks of the victims; home made shotguns; and police memorabilia. One particularly interesting artifact is Cleveland's first electric chair, which facilitated the execution of 315 people, and is rumored to be haunted.
9. The International Women's Air and Space Museum
Did you know that the Wright brothers had a sister named Katherine? She was a teacher, a classicist, a suffragette, and was key to their success in Europe. Did you know that NASA owes its space race success to women coders? Well you do now! Learn about women's integral and groundbreaking contributions to aeronautical science, engineering, and success at the IWASM.
10. Lakewood Public Cinema
Every Saturday evening the Lakewood Public Library turns its main auditorium into a cinema and plays classic films for free. Each film is chosen by a curator, who explains their selection, and a little about the film. Often the films are chosen because they were groundbreaking in some way when they were released. Not all of these are kid-friendly films, so check on the website before you go. The schedule is posted at least a month in advance.
11. Cleveland Zoo
This one is an honorable mention because it is conditional, so it's not free for everyone. But entry to the zoo is free on Mondays for residents of Cuyahoga County and Hinckley Township. Spend the day with tigers, lions, monkeys, and koalas. Go on safari for a day! Now there's something to shake off those Monday blues!
What’s your favorite thing to do in Cleveland when your wallet is a little thinner than normal, and Netflix just isn’t cutting it? Let us know in the comments!