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Free Things to Do in Cleveland

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Enjoying Cleveland doesn't have to be expensive. The city has beautiful parks, fascinating shops, and free days at museums. Learn more about free things to do on the North Coast.

Go to the Zoo

Rain Forest Pavilion at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Cleveland Ohio
(courtesy of travelcleveland.com)

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Cuyahoga County residents can see them and more for free each Monday at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

Residents should bring a driver's license, state ID, or utility bill with their address. Offer applies to the zoo only, not the Rain Forest, but there's plenty to see at the zoo, including the "Australian Adventure" and the "Wolf Wilderness" exhibits. Parking is always free at the zoo.

Attend Cleveland Orchestra Community Concerts

The Cleveland Orchestra, arguably the "Best Orchestra in the World," makes itself accessible to the citizens of its home town with several free community concerts throughout the year. The most popular of these is the July 4th weekend concert, held annually on Public Square. Hundreds of thousands of Clevelanders come out to sit under the stars and hear the Orchestra play Tchaikovsky's "1812 Orchestra," among other selections, accompanied by fireworks.

Savor the Sunset over Lake Erie

Lake Erie sunset
(© istockphoto; licensed to About, Inc.)

The view of the sunset from Cleveland's Edgewater State Park, on the city's near west side, is one of the loveliest in town. Bring a picnic dinner and dine as you watch the sun sink unobstructed into the horizon. Or, walk along the beach and enjoy the view.

Pick up Free Music and Movies at the Cleveland Public Library

Cleveland Public Library, Main Branch
(© S. Mitchell; Licensed to About. Inc.)
The Cleveland Public Library system has over 10 million books, tapes, DVDs, and CDs available to loan to Cleveland area residents. Visit the historic main library on Superior Avenue, between E 3rd and E 6th Sts.

If you rather, you can request your selections online and have them delivered to your local branch. DVDs and CDs can be checked out for seven days and are renewable unless someone else has requested them.

Explore Cleveland's History at Lake View Cemetery

Scholfield Mausoleum - Lakeview Cemetery
(© Morguefile; Licensed to About, Inc.)
Cleveland's Lake View Cemetery, opened in 1869, is the final resting place for important Clevelanders, such as John D. Rockefeller, President James A. Garfield, Jeptha Wade (the cemetery's first president), and Carl B. Stokes (Cleveland's first black mayor).

The elaborate stone monuments kept a generation of Italian stonecutters in business. Make sure to see the Garfield Monument and the Wade Chapel with its Tiffany window.

Hit the Beach

Mentor Headlands State Park and Lighthouse
(Courtesy of Ohio Dept. of Travel and Tourism)
Lake Erie isn't known for its beaches, but one notable exception is the beach at Mentor Headlands Park, east of Cleveland in Lake County. This long stretch of white sand is ideal for getting lost in a good novel, watching the waves lap up at the shore, or combing for seashells. There's even a picturesque lighthouse. The park has ample free parking, just off the beach.

Marvel at the Old Arcade

Arcade, Cleveland Ohio
(© J. Muscatello/cc license)
The Cleveland Arcade is an architectural gem. Built in 1890 to resemble the shopping arcades of Milan Italy, the arcade is just off of Public Square, between Euclid and Superior Avenues.

The structure has a tower at both ends with a five-story sky-lighted atrium between them. The arcade boasts elaborate metalwork and intricate brass gargoyles look down from the top level. Chairs are offered on the balconies for passersby to rest and marvel at the view.

Go Antiquing

Sylvia Ullman American Craft Gallery, Cleveland Ohio
(© 2006 S Mitchell; licensed to About, Inc.)
Cleveland has some interesting and diverse antique districts -- and it doesn't cost anything to browse. Try Lorain Avenue (between W.35th and W.45th Sts.) on Cleveland's west side for architectural antiques, such as leaded glass windows and old wooden doors. Stroll along Larchmere Avenue (pictured at left), near Shaker Square on the east side, for higher end china and glass items as well as furniture.

Stroll along the Ohio and Erie Canal

The Ohio and Erie Canal was built in 1825 to connect Lake Erie with the Ohio River. Canal boats led by mules and drivers along the towpath were a constant feature.

Today, the towpath has been restored as a mixed use trail for biking, hiking, horse-backing riding, and jogging. The path starts at Cuyahoga Heights and continues all the way to Peninsula, Ohio through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, area wetlands, and along the restored locks.

Spend the Day at the Cleveland Museum of Art

Cleveland Museum of Art
(Used by permission of the Cleveland CVB)
The Cleveland Museum of Art is the last of America's important art museums to offer free admission to its permanent collection. Take advantage of this wonderful chance to see the museum's extensive holdings of Impressionist paintings, Asian art, and medieval religious and secular art.

Spend an afternoon studying one room or section. Since it's free, you don't have to rush through the museum. You can come back another day.

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