Having a kid changes everything. Especially traveling.
Now that you've got a family in tow, you're in need of fun family-friendly experiences that get those little brain juices running, giggles a' flowing and pictures that will have Grandma jonesing for more.
And, chances are, you don't have the time, patience or extra cash lying around to gamble on attractions that may not be fit for the fam.
So, in no particular order, check out these 15 year-round kid-friendly experiences in The Land.
*Before visiting, please be sure to check each location's website for the most up-to-date information on operating hours and procedures.
There are zoos. And, then there's the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo & Rainforest - 183 acres filled with more than 3,000 animals representing 600 species from six continents. Don't miss the Rosebrough Tiger Passage, a totally renovated sanctuary in which you'll come within inches of Amur tigers who'll literally walk above your head (yikes stripes!), as well as the Asian Highlands exhibit with snow leopards, red pandas and takins.
Not many destinations can boast a national park just minutes outside of a major city, but Cleveland can. All aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, offering rides on its vintage rails through 33,000 acres of Mother Nature's finest. In warmer months, enjoy biking on the Ohio & Erie Canalway Towpath Trail. Take advantage of the Railroad’s “Bike Aboard” program, allowing you to ride the train in one direction, then bike back to where you started.
Image Courtesy Children's Museum of Cleveland
Inside this historic mansion along Euclid Avenue is a brand-new children's museum perfect for kiddos up to age 8. While inside this multi-sectioned museum, check out Adventure City, a two-story city-themed playground, featuring a market, construction site, garage and the kind of climbing opportunities kids live for. It's like a game of House...on steroids. The museum is currently reservation only, so check their website to book your visit today.
Whether they're still in diapers or preparing for prom, kids of all ages (ahem ... adults, too) can get that OMG-look-at-that-shark's-teeth experience inside the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. CLE's historic Powerhouse building is home to more than 2,000 sea creatures and the nation's largest underwater walk-through viewing tube.
Image Courtesy Great Lakes Science Center
Do you just know in your heart that Junior is the next Einstein? Put him to test at the Great Lakes Science Center, where his hair will stand on end, he'll make shadow photographs, play with pulleys and even help make things explode - all in the name of science.
Image Courtesy Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Amazingly, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History isn't just about all those really cool dinosaur bones. You've got to make a show at the Shafran Planetarium, which will blow your kids' minds with a digitally projected night sky that'll teach them about the universe. Afterward, make way for the totally interactive outdoor wildlife center featuring bald eagles, foxes, bobcats, coyotes and other live animals.
Image Courtesy Cleveland Botanical Garden
In between exploring the numerous gardens at the CBG, make a stop at the institution's two indoor glasshouses. Kids will go absolutely bonkers inside the rainforest glasshouse, where hundreds of butterflies - many of which land right on your shoulders - flutter freely around the gorgeous interior. Added bonus: Make mudpies, observe honeybees and search the pond for frogs and turtles in The Hershey Children's Garden.
You can legit hand-milk an actual dairy cow at this agriculturally focused science and cultural center. Crazy, right? Other activities perfect for city slicker (or suburb slicker) kids include wagon rides, wheat grinding and the opportunity to meet the farm's pigs, sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas, chickens and those adorable miniature horses.
Image Courtesy Great Wolf Lodge
With kids, factoring weather into your travel plans is such a pain. So, don't do it. Head west of Cleveland to Sandusky, Ohio, home to family-friendly indoor waterparks like Great Wolf Lodge and Castaway Bay. The oh-so-excellent bonus is that they offer an all-in-one experience so that you can swim, play, eat and stay overnight in one location. Great Wolf Lodge is open year-round, but Castaway Bay closes for the winter and opens every spring.
Image by instagram.com/edrost88
Cleveland’s got sports fans covered, too. Experience the above-the-rim theatrics and pyrotechnics of a Cleveland Cavaliers game, run the bases and partake in plenty of kids' activities with the Cleveland Guardians or give the Dawg Pound your best "WOOF WOOF WOOF" while cheering on the Cleveland Browns. Whatever the season, you're going to have fun.
Looking to burn off that seemingly endless energy your kid's been storing up in the backseat of your minivan all day? Swings-N-Things offers year-round fun like a huge indoor playground, mini bowling, video games and air hockey. If it’s nice out there’s go-karts, bumper boats and mini golf. Need to take the edge off? Try the Inside the Park TapRoom and WineBar.
Here's a quick and easy way to become the Best. Parent. EVER. Take ‘em to b.a. Sweeties Candy Company, a massive candy warehouse featuring 500,000 pounds of different types of candy from classic Snickers bars to chocolate-covered crickets. Better still, this massive candy kingdom includes Sweeties Golfland Park – a candy-themed miniature golf course and soda shop with make-your-own sundaes that opens for the season every May – just down the road.
Cleveland wears an emerald necklace. No, it's not because we're so fancy (but thank you for noticing), it’s our nickname for the Cleveland Metroparks – 23,000 acres of greenspace encircling the city. Warmer weather brings hiking, biking, fishing, swimming and paddle boarding at its 18 reservations. In wintertime, experience toboggan chutes, sledding and snowshoeing. Did I mention there are lots and lots of playgrounds?
So, your kid probably isn't psyched to hear she's going to a history center. Instead, tell her she's going to ride the historic Euclid Beach carousel, check out airplanes and cars from eras past and learn to cook over a fire, hearth, range and microwave oven. While they're busy doing all that, you'll be exploring the fascinating history of Northeast Ohio.