Cleveland with Teens: A Perfect Family Day
Start your day off right with a morning visit to the West Side Market Café. While many cities take pride in their farmers' markets, not every city can brag that theirs was chosen in the American Planning Association's inaugural list of the ten greatest public spaces in America, alongside landmarks like Central Park. The West Side Market is a Cleveland institution, and its cafe is its most delicious element, suitable for filling hungry kids on family vacation. Teens are well catered for with pizza, pasta and popcorn stalls.
West Side Market, corner of West 25th and Lorian, (216)579-6800; Mon & Wed 7AM-4PM, Fri & Sat 7AM-6PM
From the Market, cross the Cuyahoga River to check out Cleveland's marquee attraction and a perfect place to visit in Cleveland with teens: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum commonly referred to as simply "The Rock Hall."
The I.M. Pei-designed structure sits right on Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland's East Side and hosts a diverse collection that includes Jimi Hendrix's guitars, Michael Jackson's suits, and an animatronic Little Richard. It's a favorite of teens and their parents - parents can savor the memorabilia from their youth, while pop-culture-savvy teens discover rock history and enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at some of the biggest acts in contemporary music. The museum is large, so plan on spending about three hours wandering its bedazzled hallways.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1100 Rock & Roll Blvd., Cleveland, OH 44114; (216) 781-7625. Adults $22, Ages 9-12 $13, Seniors $17, Kids under 8 free with adult; 10AM-5:30PM daily, Wed until 9PM
After the Rock Hall, it's time to grab some lunch. Walk or drive just a few blocks over to the Lola Bistro, on East 4th Street, the home of Cleveland's own Iron Chef, Michael Symon.
Good-natured Symon has won millions of Food Network fans, but it's his food that's really remarkable; unpretentious but interesting takes on such down-home Midwestern classics as pierogies, sandwiches, and mac 'n cheese are favorite menu choices in Cleveland with teens. It's worth making a reservation, as Lola is a popular lunch spot among the 9-to-5 crowd downtown, but going for lunch will save you some pennies over their dinner menu, and it's a more casual, teen-friendly environment to savor the work of Cleveland's celebrity chef.
Lola Bistro, 2058 E. 4th Street; (216) 621-5652; Mon-Fri 11:30AM-2:30PM, Mon-Thu 5PM-10PM, Fri-Sat 5PM-11PM
Once you've finished a meal fit for the Chairman, it's time to hit the 'burbs, specifically Cleveland Heights, the Midwest's answer to Berkeley or Greenwich Village.
Cleveland Heights is immediately adjacent to the city of Cleveland, and many students at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University choose to live in the Heights for its youth-friendly culture. The locus of this is Coventry Road, a 20-minute drive from downtown Cleveland that will have you wondering if you've been transported back in time to the '60s.
Coventry is a fairly short commercial stretch, but it's jam-packed with things to do, including unique, teen-friendly stores, like the vintage clothing shop Renaissance Parlor, funky, Eastern-inflected City Buddha, and the neighborhood's centerpiece, Big Fun.
Big Fun is a local institution, popular with teens in Cleveland for good reason: it may well be impossible to spend time there without cracking a smile as you try on retro sunglasses, play with old Star Wars figures, leaf through paper dolls, or pore over lunchboxes from '90s television shows. There is truly something for all ages at Big Fun, which never fails to live up to its name. Give yourself an hour for this store alone; even if you don't purchase a thing, you'll have a great time.
Big Fun, 1814 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights, OH 44118; (216) 371-4386; Mon-Thu 11AM-8PM, Fri-Sat 11AM-10PM, Sun 11AM-7PM
Also, be sure to stop by Tommy's, a restaurant that's been in the Heights since the '60s. Tommy's is known for two things: its diverse vegetarian menu, and its milkshakes. Even if your teen eats nothing besides chicken fingers and pizza, they'll still enjoy a monster milkshake midday snack.
Tommy's, 1824 Coventry Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118; (216) 321-7757; Sun-Thu 9AM-9PM, Fri 9AM-10PM, Sat 7:30AM-10PM
For an early dinner in Cleveland with teens, drive a few blocks east to the Cedar Lee neighborhood of the Heights for a flavor experience at Dewey's Pizza, which offers a range of gourmet, thin-crust pizzas with fun names like "Socrates' Revenge" or "The Edgar Allan Poe." If those don't grab your fancy, you can create your own in this low-key, family-friendly joint that also serves some delicious salads.
Dewey's Pizza, 2194 Lee Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118; (216) 321-7355; Mon-Thu 11AM-10PM, Fri-Sat 11AM-11PM, Sun 4PM-10PM
After dinner, there are two options. If you and your teens' tastes run to the artsier side of the spectrum, you can just cross the street to the Cedar Lee Theater, Cleveland's number one independent movie theater, to check out the latest documentary feature or indie darling.
Cedar Lee Theater, 2163 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118; (440) 564-2030. Matinees (before 3PM) $6.50; Evenings (after 3PM) Adults $9, Students $8, Seniors $6, Children $6.
If, however, you're more of a sports family, there are plenty of options for Cleveland family vacations: from the Cavaliers to the Browns to the Indians, and even the lesser lights of the Lumberjacks, the Crunch, and the Rockers (hockey, soccer, and WNBA teams, respectively), there's almost always a game going on somewhere.
Clevelanders are rabid, though tormented, sports fans, so if you really want to experience the local color, there's no better place to go than one of the stadiums downtown. LeBron James might be gone, but Cleveland's pride in its hometown teams will never dissipate, no matter how often those teams might disappoint. Clevelanders' hearts have been broken many times before, but it never stops us from cheering on our own.