Today was our first full day in Cleveland. We were ready to tackle Cleveland – but only after we ate a hearty breakfast. Luckily for us, our first stop was for food in downtown Cleveland.

Carnegie Kitchen and Dining

I wasn’t sure what to expect since it was located on the outskirts of downtown inside an unassuming building.  When we first stepped through Carnegie Kitchen’s doors, we noticed that it was spacious and nicely decorated. My husband and I also thought “Uh oh” this restaurant is nice – a little too nice for 2 young children, if you know what I mean. In our past experience, this usually meant small portions and a side trip to the nearest fast food joint.

We couldn’t have been more wrong! We ordered chocolate chip pancakes and honestly that could have fed our family of four!  In fact, everything else that we ordered were nice sized portions.  To top it all off, everything was delicious! This is definitely unlike your typical greasy spoon diner.

It would have been nice to have a kid’s menu, but then again, it really wasn’t necessary since there were plenty of other choices that any 2-year-old would like. One of the best perks of going here is that they have their own free parking lot which is uncommon in downtown Cleveland.

Bottom Line: Yes, make your way out here! Eating at Carnegie Kitchen definitely did not disappoint and was the perfect beginning to our busy day. Your taste buds (and stomach) will thank you! If only Carnegie Kitchen was in the Chicagoland area, this would have definitely been one of our go-to breakfast places.

With bellies full of pancakes and orange juice, we were all ready for a nap. But of course, we didn’t dare! We were ready for our next destination – University Circle –  one of the most concentrated cultural areas in the nation.

Cleveland Children’s Museum

Nitty Gritty: The Cleveland Children’s Museum costs $7 per adult or children over 11 months. Children under 11 months are free. There is a small free parking lot next to the museum. Ironically enough, even though it is a children’s museum, it is not very stroller friendly especially on the second level (there is stroller parking on the main level). There’s a little corner in the Barnyard (main level) to nurse your baby. There are bathrooms and a small area on the first floor to eat your purchased snacks.

The Fun: We visited on a mid-morning on a Friday and it was just starting to get really crowded. Even with three levels in the museum, this was one of the smaller museums that we’ve visited, so a family could probably go through it in about an hour. There was a water play station on the first floor that we skipped since my son is notorious for getting soaked even with the provided smocks. There is a 2-story climbing structure for those adventurous (older) kids. Instead, my son had a blast on the second level that resembled a community complete with a grocery store, a doctor’s office, a two story house, RTA bus, car and gas pump, train table and bridge. Other kids seemed to gravitate to this area as well, so it quickly
became packed.

The main floor houses their current exhibit: Young Architects: Designing the Future. There are stations
throughout the room that highlight a specific building. Using their imagination, kids can recreate the building or structure using different kinds of blocks. My son, being the car and train lover, was perfectly content playing on the huge street/track themed play rug with tunnels and cars.We did stop by the Barnyard area, but wished there was a padded area for my 7 month old to crawl on.

Sons’ favorite moment(s): He loved pretending to be the bus driver and passenger on the replica RTA bus complete with real bus seats and steering wheel.

Tip:

  • Leave the strollers at home. The museum is small enough so it isn’t needed. Plus, there are steps that make it hard to go up and down.
  • Get there early or later in the day so you have the Museum to yourself.

Bottom line: Even though the children’s museum could use a little more TLC, I think that the museum has the best intentions. Their current exhibit is great and I loved how they highlight some of Cleveland’s architecture. I do think that the price to pay is pretty steep especially for what it is – a play area. It would probably make more sense if they charged only for the children. Even though the museum is recommended for those ages 1 to 7, I think that preschoolers and kindergarteners will enjoy the museum the most. Though we’ve been to better children’s museums, my 2 year old had a blast and at the end of the day that’s all that really matters.

We’d just whetted our appetite. We were ready to actually tackle the “Circle”. Our next stop – dinosaurs!

Cleveland Museum of Natural History

My son is currently going through a dinosaur phase, so we were extra excited to learn that the Cleveland Museum of Natural History had a dinosaur exhibit. My husband and I love mythology and could not wait to see their newest Mythological Creatures exhibit. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History met our expectations and more!

Nitty Gritty: Admission is $10 for Adults (19 and up), $8 for Youth (7 to 18), $7 Children (3 to 6) and free for Toddlers (2 and under). Parking is adjacent to the museum and only $5, unless you’re lucky enough to snag street parking. (Don’t forget to feed the meters!). There’s a cafeteria and planetarium located on the main level. Save some time to check out their large gift shop. The museum is very stroller friendly.

The Fun: We were here on a Friday afternoon in July, and it was not crowded at all. The two-level museum is not as large as other natural history museums and you could probably see everything in about an 1.5 to 2 hours. We were here for about 2 hours, but could have stayed longer if we hadn’t pulled my son away from “digging” for bones. The friendly staff person at the desk suggested we circle the museum from the left to right. The museum is known for their gem exhibit and dinosaur exhibit. Some of the exhibits may seem dated (um, hello dioramas!), but I think it added to the charm of the museum, plus my son seemed fascinated by them.

absolutely mesmerized by dioramas

Before entering the museum, my 2-year-old glanced at the huge sculpture of a dinosaur in front of the museum – that was all he needed to see before going crazy. Then upon entering, he spotted Jane, a cast of a juvenile t-rex, and it took all of our might to stop him from running to the dinosaur. His excitement from seeing the first few dinosaurs was just a sign of things to come. He was in awe as he walked through the room looking up at the huge display of the dinosaur skeletons. The room is filled with not only dinosaurs, but also other skeletons such as mastodon, mammoths, and more.

The adjacent Wildlife Discovery Park is a definite must see. They do a great job of displaying animals native to Ohio in their natural habitat such as deer, fox, raccoon, and even a bald eagle named “Baldy”. Who knew raccoons could be so cute when sleeping inside a tree trunk?

We were in for a real treat with their current exhibit, Mythic Creatures. We have been to a many museums and we have never seen an exhibit on the subject of mythology. Though the little ones were too young to recognize most of the creatures shown, my two-year-old noticed the dragon and that kept him entertained the entire time. My husband and I, on the other hand, loved learning more about the infamous creatures of the land, air, and water such as the Kraken, dragons, unicorns, Big Foot, and more. Needless to say, we loved the exhibit.

If you have young ones with you, don’t forget to check out the basement. Kids will love the hands-on activities in the Discovery Center. When we were there, they had a station where the kids could make their own dragon rubbings; there were toys such as dragons and unicorns to play with (which could also be found in the gift shop); there was a cozy corner for book worms. They did not forget the little ones either with a padded area to crawl and play with blocks, puzzles, and other fun toys. Hands down, my son’s favorite part was uncovering dinosaur fossils using the brush.

my budding paleontologist at work

Tips:

  • Go through the museum from left to right.
  • The lower level has hands-on activities for the kids
  • Venture outdoors to the adjacent Wildlife Park

Bottom Line: I would definitely recommend this museum to the entire family. Parents and older kids into mythology will love their Mythic Creatures exhibit. If you have children who love dinosaurs, this is a no-brainer – they’ll love it! Plus, their hands-on activities center will surely please the youngest of visitors.

Cleveland Museum of Art

After pooping out our sons, the hubs and I thought it would be an opportune time to quickly check out Cleveland’s world renowned art museum with our two napping kiddies.

Even with construction, the Cleveland Museum of Art is impressive!

Nitty Gritty: Admission is FREE for their permanent collection. Located in culturally centric University Circle, there is an attached parking garage or metered parking. The museum is stroller friendly with elevators though you may have to go out of your way to actually get to the elevators. They have a clean, family restroom on the lower level and also a small café with seating available if you are hungry.

The Fun:
We had spent about an hour and half at the Cleveland Museum of Art, but still could have easily spent a few more hours here. The museum is huge with two levels of art to peruse at your leisure, and I was glad to have brought our stroller for my son’s tired feet. Since it is so spacious, we basically felt like we had the galleries to ourselves.
Even in the midst of undergoing a renovation to add an atrium courtyard and two new wings, the Museum of Art is still quite impressive with a lineup of artwork from famous artists such as Monet, Renoir, Rodin, and more. Even with the wonderful works of art displayed throughout, what really impressed me was the architecture of the museum. It is gorgeous with skylights throughout the building and nice high vaulted ceilings to optimize your viewing experience. My favorite room of all was the Glass Box – a corner room with 2 of its walls made of glass that allowed the sun to light up the statues housed in the room.


Parents and adults will love the museum, but toddlers (such as my own) may lose interest quickly. I found that going through the galleries and pointing out familiar items to him (“Wait, is that a doggie?”) seemed to do the trick. My son did not understand the concept of looking, but not touching. Needless to say, my husband and I were always kept on our toes in case our lil one became too curious. Even though he may have been too young to appreciate most of the artwork, my two-year-old (and husband) did find the display of medieval arms and armor quite interesting – or maybe he was preoccupied with the “horsey” on display?

Bottom Line: Clevelanders are very lucky to have such a gem to call their own. The art is beautifully presented, the museum is impeccably clean, and even if you aren’t an art aficionado, the building itself is a work of art and is worth the visit. The best part is the price cannot be beat! I can’t wait to see what the Cleveland Museum of Art has in store once construction is finished!

Tip: Check out their website for their kid-friendly programs.

Disclosure: Though we were given complimentary tickets to the Cleveland Children’s Museum and Cleveland Museum of Natural History, my opinions are, of course, my own.

Interested in more Cleveland? Check out Day One in Cleveland and Day Three in Cleveland.