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65+ Free Things to Do in Cleveland Ohio

Tonya Prater, Owner

If you’re looking for a fun destination in northeastern Ohio that offers a ton of diverse activities that are free, you really can’t discount Cleveland.

This incredibly vibrant city offers something for visitors of all ages.

We’re sharing our picks for the best free attractions in Cleveland. Many of these we’ve explored ourselves, and the rest are on our list of things to visit in the future.

Some of our top pics are the art museum, Wade Oval Circle, the architecture in downtown Cleveland, Lake View Cemetery and the World’s Largest Chandelier.

Use this list of FREE things to do in Cleveland, Ohio when planning things to do during spring break, summer vacation or even on a day trip.

Where to Stay in Cleveland

One of the murals inside the Drury Hotel

This post contains affiliate links.

There’s certainly plenty on this list to keep you busy. If you have the time, you may want to consider an overnight stay.

Our favorite hotel in the city is the Drury Plaza Hotel Downtown Cleveland. This gorgeous hotel is housed in the former Board of Education building.

The Drury Hotel offers:

  • large suites for families
  • a pool & whirlpool
  • the popular 5:30 KickBack®, (essentially an evening meal with drinks for the kids and adult beverages for those 21 and over)
  • a hot breakfast
  • valet parking
  • convenient location next door to the Main Library and within walking distance of several places on our list.

Read the reviews or check the rates for this popular hotel now.

Free Attractions in Cleveland, Ohio

Not only is the Cleveland-Akron-Canton area the most populated in Ohio, but there are also a ton of amazing things to do in the city of Cleveland and the surrounding area of Cuyahoga County.

Visiting any big city can be expensive, especially with a family!

That’s why we’ve created this guide and rounded up the most comprehensive list of the best free things to do in Cleveland so you can have a good time without breaking the bank. 

  • The Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the best free attractions in Cleveland! Some temporary exhibits may charge an admission fee, but free admission allows access to thousands of pieces of art, including one of the most comprehensive collections of Asian art in the West.  
  • Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland is always free, and each season brings a new collection of contemporary art, as well as many special programs, events, and exhibits. 
  • Other free museums and galleries at University Circle on Euclid Avenue include:
    • The Dittrick Medical History Center at Case Western Reserve University contains a quirky collection of medical artifacts, books, and images dating back to 1898. Collections include the Hall of Diagnostic Instruments, with occasional guest lectures and special events.
    • Amoré Gallery showcases the work of Cleveland-based artist Kate GeracÍ
    • Artists Archives of the Western Reserve focuses on sustaining Ohio’s artistic heritage
    • Cleveland Institute of Art, Reinberger Gallery offers exhibition opportunities to local artists
    • The Sculpture Center allows emerging artists to exhibit their work
    • Italian American Museum of Cleveland in partnership with the Western Reserve Historical Society celebrates 150 years of Italian culture in Cleveland
  • The Community Arts Center is also free and allows open access to art-making and gallery viewing. Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the center is open to anyone wishing to connect to or create art. 
  • The International Women’s Air & Space Museum at the Burke Lakefront Airport is a great place to learn about the incredible accomplishments of women in aviation and aerospace. Admission is free, and for a small fee, you can arrange a guided tour by appointment only. 
  • The NASA Glenn Research Center will resume free Saturday tours this year. Because this is a government facility, advance registration is required, and participants are selected by a lottery. Virtual tours are also available. 
  • Visiting the Cleveland Learning Center and Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is a great way to learn how the Federal Reserve works. Interactive activities include learning how to spot counterfeit bills and making your own currency.  
  • The Cleveland Police Museum, located in the Justice Center, is open on Wednesday and Thursday or by appointment. This is the perfect place to bring your future officer or detective to learn more about the history of the Cleveland Police from the 1800s to today. 
  • Transformer Station is a small, privately owned Cleveland Art Museum in the Ohio City neighborhood. Housed in a 1924 historic building that was once a transformer station for the Cleveland Railway Company, the museum brings the work of leading contemporary artists to Cleveland. 
  • The Main Branch of the Cleveland Public Library is set in a beautiful 1925 building and often hosts free events like story time and writing workshops. The 10th floor has a nice observation deck, and the Eastman Reading Garden has a new collection of outdoor art each summer. 
  • Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery is not just the final resting place for over 100,000 souls, it’s also a beautiful (and free) place to visit in Cleveland. It’s home to impressive monuments like the James A. Garfield Memorial and the Wade Chapel.
  • The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument at Public Square is an impressive monument to the American Civil War veterans of Cuyahoga County. Don’t miss the Memorial Room inside the monument as well. 
  • The Cleveland Public Square Splash Pad is also a bit hit in the summer months. This free splash pad is huge, so there’s enough space for kids and grownups to run and play. If you’re lucky, you just might catch an ice cream cart passing by!
  • The Rockefeller Park Greenhouse offers free admission and free parking! In addition to the greenhouse, there are also several specialty gardens to explore, and special events like the spring bulb flower display and the bonsai show. 
  • Lolly the Trolley has officially retired, but you can still get a free trolley ride in Cleveland on the RTA B-Line trolley. Hop on the trolley and cruise between the Warehouse District, Public Square, and the Central Business District. 
  • It’s free to visit Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood, although I can’t guarantee you won’t spend money at the shops and restaurants! There are always fun things happening, like art walks and garden walks. 
  • Take a self-guided walking tour of Cleveland’s architectural highlights, including the 1855 church known as the “Old Stone Church.” 
  • The Cleveland Cultural Gardens are one of the more unique things to see in Cleveland. Over two dozen international gardens honor the different cultures that contributed to Cleveland’s history, with many Eastern European gardens and sculptures.
  • West Side Market is Cleveland’s oldest public market, with more than 100 vendors. The market opened in 1912 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. This is a great place to shop for ingredients or pick up a sweet treat after a day of exploring Cleveland. It’s free to browse!

Free Outdoor Destinations in Cleveland

A View of Cleveland lettering in front of skyline
  • Find the six Cleveland Script signs and get your photo taken at each one; this will take you all over Greater Cleveland, from the airport to the North Coast Harbor.
    • Tremont – 1502 Abbey Ave.
    • Edgewater Park – 6500 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway, Cleveland
    • North Coast Harbor – East 9th Street Pier
    • Euclid Beach – 16301 Lakeshore Blvd.
    • Cleveland Hopkins International Airport – 5300 Riverside Dr.
    • The Foundry – 1831 Columbus Rd.
  • The Wade Oval at University Circle is a great destination any time of year. Summer months are especially fun, with life-size lawn games, Imagination Park, and Harmony Park with musical instruments available to the public!
  • Edgewater Beach is one of the best places to enjoy the great outdoors (for free!) without leaving downtown Cleveland. Set inside massive Edgewater Park on Lake Erie, Cleveland’s best beach has 1000 feet of swimming access and a dog-friendly section. Concessions, including cocktails and beer, are available at Edgewater Beach House. 
  • Forest Hill Park in East Cleveland is part of the Forest Hill neighborhood, which was once the summer home of John D. Rockefeller. In addition to expansive meadows and forests, recreational facilities include ballfields, tennis courts, playgrounds, and a fishing pond at the Rockefeller boathouse. 
  • Rocky River Reservation is part of Cleveland Metroparks and includes dozens of outdoor activities that are free to the public. Sledding, hiking, biking, fishing, and horseback riding are just a few activities to enjoy here. 
  • Willard Park in downtown Cleveland is home to the world’s largest office stamp; it is nearly 30 feet high, weighs 70,000 pounds, and displays the word “FREE” in homage to the Civil War. 
  • Not to be outdone by the stamp, Playhouse Square is home to the world’s largest chandelier! Cleveland’s Theater District is home to eight performance venues, many of them in striking historic buildings.
  • Brookside Reservation is best known for the spring cherry blossoms, but there is a wide variety of activities to enjoy throughout the year, such as sports fields, walking and biking trails, and direct access to the Zoo. 
  • Mill Stream Run Reservation is another popular spot for outdoor recreation in Cleveland. Best known for toboggan runs in the winter months, there are plenty of things to do year-round, from beaches to hiking trails and fishing. 
  • Cleveland Metroparks also operates several Nature Centers, so even if the weather isn’t cooperating for a hike, you can still learn about nature. They often have fun programs and guided hikes or snowshoe treks.
    • Brecksville Nature Center
    • Canalway Center
    • North Chagrin Nature Center
    • Rocky River Nature Center
    • Watershed Stewardship Center

Free Festivals in Cleveland

The Summer months bring all kinds of fun festivals to Cleveland, and many of them are free to attend. We can’t promise you won’t spend money on food and drink, but at least the entertainment is free!

  • Parade the Circle is a colorful parade hosted by the Cleveland Museum of Art on the 2nd Saturday in June at the Wade Oval.
  • Taste of Tremont is a July festival that celebrates the neighborhood at the center of Cleveland’s foodie scene. Admission is free, but you’ll definitely want to sample some food!
  • At the end of August, head to Shaker Square for the Cleveland Garlic Festival. Meet local garlic growers, enjoy tasty treats, cold beer and live music.  
  • Waterloo Arts Fest celebrates art in the Waterloo Arts District on Cleveland’s East Side. Enjoy local artists, street performers, food trucks, and art activities on the 2nd Saturday of September.
  • WinterLand CLE kicks off the holiday season in downtown Cleveland with holiday lights, hot cocoa, caroling, live music and fireworks on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. 

Free Admission Days at Cleveland Museums

rock and roll hall of frame.cleveland,ohio,usa.2-19-17: rock and roll hall of frame at night.

The following Cleveland attractions are not always free but do offer free admission on certain days, or for certain populations. Mark your calendars so you can take advantage of free admission to some of Cleveland’s best things to do!

  • The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is free on Mondays for residents of Cuyahoga County and Hinckley Township. The zoo has been recognized by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums for its commitment to conservation and wildlife protection. 
  • The Cleveland Museum of Natural History offers free Sunday admission for Cleveland and East Cleveland residents. A rotating selection of special exhibits means there is always something new to see every time you visit. 
  • City of Cleveland residents get free access to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame all year long! You have to reserve tickets in advance online, but you then have access to six floors of interactive exhibits that explain why “Cleveland Rocks.” 
  • The Cleveland Orchestra’s “Under 18s Free” program offers more than 30,000 free tickets each year to children accompanied by their families.

    The program is funded by a grant intended to make art affordable for Ohio families.

    It includes live music at Blossom Music Center and Mandel Concert Hall at the Severance Hall Music Center, which is also on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Other Free Things to Do in the Greater Cleveland Area

Carvings in stone

Within an hour of Cleveland, there are many other fun places to visit that are free of charge. These destinations are definitely worth a short road trip from Cleveland. 

  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the only National Park in Ohio, and it’s free! You do not need a National Parks pass to visit! Enjoy hiking and biking along the Towpath Trail, paddling or fishing in the Cuyahoga River, and relaxing at one of several picnic areas.
  • Climb the 50-foot Observation Deck at Lake Erie Bluffs in Painesville for expansive 360-degree views. The park features 9,000 feet of Lake Erie shoreline and protects dozens of plants and animals that live in the wetlands, meadows, and water.  
  • Storybook Trails are a great way to introduce little ones to the outdoors and maintain their interest while enjoying a short hike. Storybook trails are the result of partnerships between local libraries and park districts. There are dozens of these trails around Cleveland: (see map)
    • Beachwood Park East, Beachwood
    • Solon Community Center, Solon
    • Bicentennial Woods Park, Hudson
    • Veteran’s Park Way, Hudson
    • Bath Community Park, Bath
    • Carter-Pedigo Trail, Richfield
    • Carlisle Reservation, LaGrange
  • The Great Lakes Science Center offers free admission to Ohio teachers and badged NASA employees and family members every day. Bank of America credit or debit card holders get free admission on the first full weekend of every month. 
  • The Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College is one of the top academic art museums in the country, with over 15,000 works of art. Admission is free every day. 
  • In Bay Village, the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center provides free wildlife rehabilitation services, making it a great place to learn about the natural world and the wildlife of Ohio. 
  • Lorain County Metroparks encompasses over 6,000 acres of diverse ecosystems, just outside of the Cleveland Metro area. They have over 100 hiking trails and a full calendar of fun events.
    • Within Lorain County Metroparks, the Butterfly House at Miller Nature Preserve is a special place to visit in the summer months. You can learn all about butterflies and find out how to grow your own butterfly garden at home!
  • DiscoveryWorks at the Avon Lake Public Library is a great spot to take little ones on a day with inclement weather. An assortment of multi-sensory experiences caters to kids of all ages, with unique activities for each age group.
     
  • Worden’s Ledges at Hinckley Reservation features a hiking trail with hidden art along the way. There are nine rock carvings along the one-mile trail and a picnic area near the trailhead. Personally, this is one of my favorite trails in Ohio.

Don’t forget to book your hotel for your stay!

There you have it! Over 65 things to do in Cleveland that won’t cost you a thing except parking (in some cases). Have you visited any of these attractions? Tell us what you thought in the comments below.

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