Hello! Renae here and I’m happy to be back and sharing more about traveling with kids… little kids to be exact. So today let’s take a trip together! If you are planning on visiting Cleveland with Kids, I’ve got some great tips and places to share with you.
I’m going to let you in on a dirty family secret. My husband’s tour dates were booked before Garrett (our son) was born, so even though he’d be so delicate, we decided he’d be taking his first road trip at 3 weeks old. At the time, I couldn’t anticipate what a hormonal mess I might be, and I imagined it would be such an important family bonding time that I wanted us to be together no matter where we were. For me, the thought of being on my own with a newborn seemed scarier. Since we knew we’d be doing a lot of traveling, we decided to introduce a lovey. It was actually a tip I got from a sleep training book. The idea is to introduce a special blanket or animal that comes out at naptime and bedtime to help signal it’s time to sleep. We took it a step further and slept with the lovey in our bed before Garrett was born so that it smelled like us. That way even before he could see it, he could smell it. We figured in a state of constant change, it was something he could always have that felt familiar to comfort him.
And yes, it’s become one more thing we have to make sure to pack, but it’s been really helpful when we’re sleeping in different beds all the time. One of my girlfriends called him Carcass because his body is flattened out with no stuffing which coincidentally makes him easier for traveling. My husband loved the name because it sounded manly, so Carcass stuck. And somewhere along the line Carcass became such a comfort that he didn’t just come out at bedtime. He was joining us for alot of our daytime exploring. He’s even really helpful on those first sleepovers with the Grandparents, or transitioning to nap time at daycare. My kid might grow up to be like Linus from Charlie Brown dragging around his smelly germ infested blanket everywhere, but for now Carcass is so worth the help he brings at bedtime when we’re sleeping some place foreign all the time. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen Carcass all over Cleveland. He’s a main character in my instastories.
Carcass: Our Dirty Little Secret. Don’t worry, I’ve already scoured the Internet to make sure we have a back up.
So how’d we end up in Cleveland? My husband, Steve, had been out on the road for about a week and it was time to get the band back together, so Garrett and I hopped on a plane by ourselves to meet him in Cleveland. Lucky for me, Garrett slept most of the way. I wish I could offer advice on techniques for how to hold a lap child on a plane without an arm falling asleep or your fingers tingling, but I haven’t seemed to master that yet.
When I told a girlfriend who used to live in Cleveland I was going there she asked “Why?”. And then right before I got there, I learned Cleveland is referred to as “The Mistake on the Lake” and not just by haters. It says that on Wikipedia too. But, I have to say, downtown is nice, clean, and offers so much to do. With the Kimpton Schofield Hotel as our landing pad, we were able to take in so many sites just walking around with the stroller. And downtown Cleveland offers so many great hotel & restaurant options. One morning we had breakfast At Yours Truly in the Playhouse District and scoped out the countries largest outdoor chandelier.
And 4th Street is an awesome alley way lined with bars & restaurants with plenty of options and outdoor seating. It’s the perfect combo for a mom & tot. Outdoor seating so you don’t have to worry about disturbing the tables next to you, plenty of great people watching to keep everyone entertained, and a relaxing spot to sit have drink while the little one eats. We loved our dinner at Pickwick.
When your visiting a new city, I recommend grabbing the local paper. I usually find free ones in a coffee shop. Cleveland has all kinds of cool stuff happening down at the Harbor including a summer concert series. It’s a city that embraces music for sure. On our stroll to the Harbor we found cool murals, art & large speakers playing music in public parks.
It’s a nice 15-20 minute stroll from downtown to the Harbor & the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. The museum is packed full of really cool stuff from Elvis, to the Beatles, to Katy Perry and does a great job of walking you through the history of music and its political reflections. We went on a weekend when U2 was in town and the place was packed. If you’re going to do this one with a kid who’s too big to be strapped in a backpack or refuses to stay in the stroller, I recommend visiting on a less busy weekday so you can actually take everything in. I was super nervous about loosing my kid amongst all the people in the many nooks and crannies of this museum. If you’re looking to buy a souvenir or gift for a music lover, the museum store is huge and actually has lots of unique merchandise.
We also spent a morning at the Cleveland Downtown Aquarium. It’s on the smaller side, but had plenty of interactive stuff to keep our kiddo entertained. There is a decent sized tortoise enclosure where you can get pretty close and we got to pet a knarly looking lizard. There is an awesome “walk thru” tank where you can see large sharks swimming all around you. And if your feeling brave there’s a tank full of sting rays you can dip your hand in and touch.
My son didn’t know what time zone he was in and was awake till an ungodly hour, so I was on the hunt for ways to stay busy after 5pm that were a little more kid-friendly than a comedy club. I discovered Memphis Kiddie Park. It’s a 15 minute drive from downtown, but was super sweet and easy. The park has been around for over 2 generations and definitely has a vintage feel to it. Each ride will cost you a little over 2 bucks and we didn’t have to wait in any lines. They have a concession stand that sells your typical carnival foods. I enjoyed it because it made for such relaxing evening watching Garrett enjoy himself on the rides… even though his face might not look like it in the photos.
I’m a huge fan of children’s museums in any city, but Cleveland’s was closed for renovations, so we found ourselves checking out the Science Center. Side note: On our travels, I’ve learned that aquariums are typically a little pricier than museums geared for the younger crowd. Just something to keep in mind if traveling on a budget is a high priority. This Science Center is several stories, with an area designated for the under 7 crowd. Our little guy is obsessed with balls so we pretty much split our time between the toddler area and the Lego exhibit. I feel like I’m really doing a stellar job of exposing him to all kinds of germs and building his immune system (LOL).
They also have a great rooftop outdoor water play area. I was pretty impressed with the cafe here too. They had several healthy options and more than the typical concession stand offerings. There’s also plenty of picnic tables along the water if you prefer to dine alfresco. This one was totally worth the cost of admission.
Don’t forget to get a pic with the iconic Cleveland sign in the Harbor. It’s hiding behind the Science Center & Hall of Fame. You can also catch a cruise of the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie from here. I wish we’d had the time to do a boat tour. Cleveland has a ton of cool bridges and I’m sure a sunset river cruise would make for some great family photos.
On a mommy of a toddler note: Garrett peed and pooped in the potty 2x on the last day because he said/asked for the potty and wanted to. Super exciting, but I’ve got some anxiety about how we’re going to keep the progress going and manage it through airports and on planes. Should make for another adventure! Add it to the bucket list.
On the return flight the plane was practically empty, so we got a whole row to ourselves. I realized traveling with a lap child is much tougher. There’s way more freedom when he’s got his own seat. Room to color and play on his own tray so we’re not nearly as desperate for the tablet. And even better, my legs aren’t numb and I can use both hands. Awesome!
Thanks for following along on our adventures. We have lots more exiting trips before the summer is over including New York & San Diego. And I’m quickly learning that travel needs and suitcase must-haves are constantly changing as our little rugrat grows, so feel free to shoot me any questions you have!
Travel take-away: Remember to check out parks, museums, zoos, aquariums, and new restaurants when you visit a new city with the kids!
Continue following our traveling adventures by following me on Instagram!