|A big thanks to Mary over at iNeed a Playdate for creating this awesome image for us!|
Cleveland is an AMAZING place to live! Those of you who have grown up here may take it for granted sometime, but as a Clevelander who grew up elsewhere, I truly appreciate all that Cleveland has to offer! Prior to becoming a parent, I took advantage of all that Cleveland had to offer: nightlife, sports teams, museums, the 2nd largest theater district in the country, shopping, the lake, concert venues, restaurants…the list goes on! When I became a parent, I didn’t want my experiences with soaking in all that Cleveland had to offer to stop, I just knew the focus would have to change. As I looked for family-friendly events and activities, I found that there were very few that were targeted to children under 2. I wasn’t just going to sit around the house and wait for my son to reach what was deemed the appropriate age to get our and explore Cleveland! Plus as a new parent, you need to get out of the house and continue experiencing life as well. Over the past year, we have had our son out and experiencing everything we thought he might be ready for, regardless of age. Here is a list of not only family-friendly, but under one-friendly, events, places, and things-to-do around Cleveland. Some we have tried and some are on our To-Do List. On top of sharing our experience, we have given what we hope is some helpful information. We will be updating this list as our adventures continue! For those of you who don’t live in Cleveland, I hope you come to visit soon!
Stroller friendly: SF Cleveland winter-proof: WP
Your LO might be ready if: You are comfortable taking him/her out of the house.
Our experience: Our first ever Lake County Captains game was a family outing on Fathers Day 2013. Patrick was 2 months old for our first visit. We had a great time! There is a lot of parking around the stadium. We ended up parking in a lot adjacent to the stadium for $5. Our tickets were $10 each purchased that day, and Patrick was free (kids 3 and under are free). We chose seats on the aisle towards the back of our section so that we could easily get in and out. No one was sitting around us, so we were able to spread out a bit. It was well shaded at that time of day. If it was getting too warm, we could go and walk around the concourse. We brought our infant carrier which he slept in as we watched the game. With the low cost of the game, we didn’t feel we had to stay the entire game to get our money’s worth. The early start time (1:30 PM) made it a perfect afternoon outing. The venue is very kid friendly, with lots of activities, entertainment, and games for older kiddos. We enjoyed the games we went to last summer so much that we bought a mini-ticket package for this year. We picked some afternoon games we can take Patrick to, and some evening games where Patrick will get to visit Grandma and Grandpa while Mommy and Daddy get a date night! They have a great variety of ticket packages, including a Kids Season Pass for kids 12 and under that includes fun activities.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo SF MFS FFD SFP MO
Location: 3900 Wildlife Way, Cleveland, Ohio
Your LO might be ready if: He or she is starting to become more observant of surroundings. I recommend starting with the aquarium first. As they get a little older, the other animals will become more interesting…but only if they are moving.
Our experience: The first time we took Patrick was at 2 months old. His ticket was free (kids under 2 are free), and my husband and I were free since we went with friends that had a membership including 2 guests. Check their website for ticket prices as they vary depending on time of year and age. Mondays are free for Cuyahoga County resident, but be prepared for a crowd. Parking is free, but depending on the time of year and how busy the park is, it could be a hike to get to the gate. Patrick was definitely too young to enjoy anything then, so to him it was no different than a walk through the park. You can bring food, drinks and coolers into the park, which is a great way to save money. The stroller is great for getting around the park, but we also brought the infant carrier so Patrick could get closer to the animals. It was a little warm outside as well (June), so our visit didn’t last too long. We went again when he was 4 months old. He really enjoyed the aquarium! We could get up close to the glass and all the colors from the swimming fish really caught his eye. He still didn’t really get into the other animals yet. He was more into people watching (one of Patrick’s favorite parts of any outing). Our friends got us a zoo membership as a Christmas gift, so we are excited to go more this summer! The memberships are great because they allow you to just pop in, check out a few animals, and then head out. That is especially nice with young ones because they may not have the attention span for a full day at the zoo.
Location: 3900 Wildlife Way, Cleveland, Ohio
Your LO might be ready if: He or she is starting to become more observant of surroundings. Or if they just want to get out of the Cleveland cold and go somewhere warm!
Our experience: This was our go-to spot for family outings during this year’s brutal winter in Cleveland. It is all indoor and very warm! Our first trip here was when Patrick was 9 months old. It is located at the zoo, right by the ticket pavilion. The Rainforest is included in our zoo membership, so it was free for us to go. Tickets are $5.25 for ages 12 and up, $3.35 for ages 2-11, and free for under 2. Parking is still free, and admission is included in any zoo membership package. It is not an all day trip, but a nice short family outing, especially in the winter months. The Rainforest includes a wide variety of animals, including fish, reptiles, insects, monkeys, and much more. Something new always peaks Patrick’s interest each time we go, but the turtles are always his favorite! There is a cafe area at the Rainforest, but we have found it is hit or miss on food that they have cooked and ready. We recommend packing some of your own.
Cleveland Children’s Museum WP SFP MO
Location: University Circle
Your LO might be ready if: He or she is becoming more mobile and interested in play. You don’t want to go too young because there are a lot of kids in the play areas, which can mean some bumping into, knocking over, and toy sharing trouble. Our first visit was 10 months old, and we felt that was a perfect age.
Our experience: The Children’s Museum is located in University Circle, just off of Euclid Ave. It can be tricky to find, so watch for signs. They have a small parking lot, which you can usually find a spot in. Admission for my husband and I was $8 each, but Patrick was free (11 months and under are free, everyone else is $8). You can purchase a membership, which includes 1 adult and 1 child for $60. You can add on additional adults or children for $15 each. I had been to the Children’s Museum before with younger siblings and friends with kids, so I knew what I was getting myself into. My husband did not. He heard “Children’s Museum”, and envisioned displays that kids would look at, and maybe a few hands-on activities. It is NOT that. It is a small space, with lots of different areas with different types of PLAY for the kids. It is very hands-on and little kid oriented. There is a great play area (The Big Red Barn) for children 3 and under. This was one of Patrick’s favorite areas. For his age, he also really enjoyed the water play area (Splish! Splash!). They provide rain jackets you can put on, but still bring an extra change of clothes just in case. There are other play areas too (Bridges to Our Community), but Patrick is still a bit young for that. There is an area that rotates different exhibits, and during our visit it was SANDstruction. The entire room is turned into one big sandbox where kids can explore and play. This was Patrick’s first time in sand, and he wasn’t too sure about it, but it made for some fun sensory play! The facility itself is small, so don’t bring a stroller. It will just stay parked upstairs the entire time. There is an area by Splish! Splash! with tables, chairs and highchairs, but they do not serve food. You can bring your own in though!
Cleveland Museum of Art: Studio Play: SF WP SFP
Location: University Circle
Your LO might be ready if: He or she is becoming more mobile and interested in play.
Our experience: We took Patrick to the CMA for the first time at 11 months old. General admission to the museum is free for everyone! Parking was the only cost. An art museum may not seem like a great place to take an infant under 1, however the CMA has a great children’s area called Studio Play, that is located in Gallery One, just as you enter the museum. For the under 1, there is a nice carpeted corner that has variety of blocks, shape sorters, books and other fun activities. Patrick really enjoyed the blocks and reading some of the different board books that they had in their large book collection. There are other areas of play in Studio Play, but they are meant more for older kids. We then toured the rest of Gallery One, and Patrick really enjoyed the Collection Wall. That was the extent of our trip since we didn’t bring our stroller, but you could make it a longer visit by walking around and checking out the other galleries. We definitely will on our next visit.
Other Fun Outings We Have Had:
- Greater Cleveland Aquarium
- Goldfish Swim School
- Cleveland Area Beaches
- Great Wolf Lodge
- Lake Metroparks Farmpark
- Preston’s H.O.P.E. Playground (added 3/21/14)