Oh, we were particularly excited our day today – trains, science and the famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were on our agenda.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad 

Today was our train day! And better yet, it went through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the tenth most visited national park in the nation.

Nitty Gritty: The train ride costs $15 an adult, $10 for children 3 – 12, and free for kids under 3. There are different seating options as well besides coach and also a variety of excursions to choose. We departed from the Rockside Station in Independence, Ohio where there was a huge free parking lot. The train leaves at specific times, so be sure to check out the train schedule. Coach seats are first come, first serve, but there were plenty of seats available. There are bathrooms on the trains and also at the station. Be sure to check out the dining car where they sell concessions such as popcorn, donuts, coffee, and even train memorabilia. You can also bring food on the train.

The Fun:
For three hours, our air-conditioned vintage train chugged through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park while taking in views of the park at its best. While meandering through the forest, the scenic round trip ride also made multiple stops along the way to pick up more people or drop them off. Even though we were in coach, we had plenty of room for our family of four even when toting snacks, a small kid’s bag pack, and a diaper bag. If history is more your thing, don’t forget to grab a free audio tour from one of the friendly conductors. The audio came sporadically at different points throughout the trip and I would have rather preferred a real narrative from a person.

I wasn’t sure how a 2-year-old and a 7 month old were going to handle being in a confined space for so long. We thought that our 2 year old train-obsessed son would be in heaven on the train ride, but to my surprise after about an hour he was ready to “go out”. Since we were mostly riding through forest, he quickly became tired of looking at trees. I’m sure if there was a change of scenery, he would have enjoyed it more. Walking over to the next car to buy souvenirs and popcorn proved to be a nice distraction for my restless toddler.

Tips:

  • Check out the train car that sells souvenirs and food. This helped pass the time for my antsy 2 yr old.
  • Food and drink are allowed on the train, so bring snacks and food. Hungry tots = no fun for you and other passengers!
  • Get a free audio tour from the friendly conductors. Hey, you’ve got nothing to lose, plus you may learn a thing or two.
  • Plan it so you get off at a stop to explore. We had a round trip ticket and it seemed to have dragged. It would have been great to stretch our legs and explore a neighboring town.
  • If our sons were old enough, we would have loved to take advantage of their Bike Aboard! program – for only $2 a bike you can bring your bike on the train, then get off at one of the stops and bike your way back through the Cuyahoga Valley. How fun is that!

Bottom Line: For those who are looking for a relaxing ride, this will be perfect for you. In our situation, having a two year old sit down and stay seated for 3 hours may have been asking for too much. We would give the train ride another try, though we would probably get off at one of the stops to explore on our own.

Out 3 hour tour left us famished! Time to eat – we’d already planned to check out Melt Bar and Grilled which, fortunately for us, just opened a new location a few minutes away. Featured on Man Vs. Food, we could not miss this place.

After our cheese-attack, we drove to Cleveland’s North Coast Harbor to see the Great Lakes Science Center and where we were immediately saw the towering Browns stadium.

Great Lakes Science Center

With a curious two-year-old, we are always on the lookout for places and museums where my toddler can learn through interactive play. When we heard that the Great Lakes Science Center offered more than 400 hands-on activities, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on them.

Nitty gritty: We visited the Great Lakes Science Center on a Saturday afternoon. The center is ideally located on the North Coast Harbor in downtown between the Browns stadium and the Rock Hall. You can’t miss it with their single wind turbine in front of the building. Normally, you could park at the attached parking garage, but since there was a concert happening close by, we found that the Science Center’s attached garage was full and so were other nearby parking lots. We resorted to parking at a further lot, and paying a $10 fee instead of $5. General admission is $14 for adults and $12 for kids 2 to12. If you want to save money, come here on a Tuesday when kids 18 and under get in for free. Admission to the Steamship Mather is extra.There are family restrooms on the second floor. It is stroller friendly, but you will need to park your stroller at the Polymer Funhouse.

The Fun: There is fun all around at this museum! The Science Phenoma on the second floor is where you can unleash your inner scientist with interactive activities that range from touching a tornado to freezing your shadow. One thing’s for sure – this area will keep both kids and adults preoccupied for hours, and the best part – your kids won’t even know they are learning at the same time. It was a busy Saturday at the Center, so we didn’t get to “play” with all the activities, but the buzz of children and adults alike was evident that they were having a great time.

Don’t worry if you have toddlers- the Great Lakes Science Center also caters to the younger set. Weave your way through all the hands-on activities on the second floor to the corner and you’ll find the gated play area, Polymer Funhouse, dedicated to those kiddos 7 and under.

Sure, my 2-year-old had lots of fun with all the other interactive activities, but this is where he was able to unleash all his extra energy by going down the slides and playing in the structure. Other kids were having a blast playing in the ball pit as well.

Right outside on the deck was the splash station, Port Polymer. While the kids were busy splashing away, parents could take a minute to look out and enjoy the beautiful view of the Steamship Mather and the harbor.
Since the first man to orbit Earth, John Glenn, was born and raised in Ohio, it makes perfect sense that Ohio have a center dedicated to space exploration. Kids who dream of one day going into space will love the NASA Glenn Center on the first floor where we were able to see the actual command module used in the Apollo 3 mission and also a moon rock!

On the lower level, we really enjoyed their traveling exhibit on frogs. We loved going through each station and trying to find the frogs. Not necessarily an easy task, since the frogs blended well in their habitat. We were also surprised to find frogs in every color of the rainbow. The coolest ones by far were the purple, blue, and yellow frogs, but beware, these beauties are poisonous!

Bottom line: Without a doubt, I would highly recommend this museum since there is truly something for everyone at this museum. Future astronauts will have a blast at the NASA Glenn center, parents and older children will love all the hands-on activities offered, and tots will enjoy running around Port Polymer.

Tips:

  • For kids 7 and under, do NOT miss the Polymer Funhouse. If it’s nice out, step outside and splash away at Port Polymer. Don’t forget your change of clothes!
  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is next door to the Science Center. Don’t miss it!
  • You can also tour the Steamship Mather for an additional cost. Would have loved to see it if time allowed.
  • Step outside to enjoy views of the Harbor. There is also a path that leads directly to the Rock Hall.

Fun fact: If you look out front of the building, you’ll see a single wind turbine that currently supplies 7% of the Center’s energy needs.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

My husband was looking forward to this museum ever since I proposed the idea of visiting Cleveland. There was no way we were going to miss visiting one of Cleveland’s most iconic landmarks.
Nitty gritty: The museum is located in downtown next to the Great Lakes Science Center. Admission for adults is $22 and Children ages 9-12 is $13, free for children under 8. There are numerous parking lots close by. There is a café on the third floor which has indoor and outdoor seating.

The fun:

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame does its best to give you an overview of the history of rock and roll by showcasing memorabilia from ock stars we know and love. From Janis Joplin’s car to Elvis’ jumpsuit to Michael Jackson’s gloves; it was fun to actually see them in person. Unfortunately, there weren’t many interactive displays and our toddler got restless as we moved through the museum. They had numerous videos shown throughout the museum but we couldn’t sit our son down for more than a couple minutes at a time to actually enjoy them.

The highlight of our visit was seeing the actual Hall of Fame Gallery on the third floor. Before viewing the gallery, people are sat down and then presented with a video of all the inductees. With a toddler and 7 month in tow, we opted to watch part of the video from the back where my son preferred to dance to the music instead of being seated. After tiring himself out, we then proceeded through the narrow red carpeted hallway to view all of the illuminated signatures of the Inductees on the wall. It was a nice touch having the signatures pop out at you in the darkness, though I was expecting more than just signatures from the Hall of Famers. Maybe more memorabilia?

If you are anything like me and love a good gift shop, or are looking for the perfect souvenir or gift, then take heed of my advice – do not forget to stop by the gift shop! I was in souvenir heaven. These are unlike your typical cheesy gifts. But just like the admission fee, they are a tad bit expensive.

We visited Cleveland’s most famous landmark on a Saturday evening in July and because we took advantage of their late summer hours, we did not experience any crowds. We explored the museum for a couple hours until my son could not tolerate any more.

Bottom line: Die-hard rock and roll fans will be in heaven, though I think this would be better suited to families with older children or kids with an appreciation for music. We would definitely visit again, but will wait until the kids are older.

Tips:

  • Plan to spend more time on the basement level as that’s where most of the exhibits are located.
  • Don’t miss out on seeing the Hall of Fame gallery on the third floor.
  • No photos allowed! There would be tons of photo ops. Just settle for taking photos outside of this awesome IM Pei designed building.
  • With 7 levels, it’s best to start at the bottom and  work your way up.
  • Leave the strollers at home! With a pyramid shaped building, we found that the higher we got, the less room there was to explore.Taking the elevators for 7 levels was not fun! We would have rather taken the escalators which offered nicer views of the museum as a whole.
  • Find that perfect souvenir at the gift shop. Pretty cool items that I would be proud to showcase. Shirts that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to wear. Check it out for yourself!

Want more Cleveland fun? Check out what we did on our first day, second day and third day in Cleveland. And see where we ate here.
Disclosure: This review is based on a complimentary visit to Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway, The Great Lakes Science Center, and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I received no other compensation and the business owner did not state any requirements that I express a particular point of view. The opinions I express are entirely my own.