Family road trip on just 1 tank of gas: Next stop, Cleveland!

Photo above by Wil Lindsey courtesy of Destination Cleveland.

Flying with kids right now can be rough, given the frequent flight cancellations and delays. But at the same time, gas prices are sky high. So if a long family road trip means filling the gas tank multiple times, that long-haul driving vacation can be almost as expensive as one involving flights.

Luckily, Pittsburgh is located near a whole bunch of amazing destinations. So this summer, Kidsburgh has been taking our readers on a tour of some great spots that you can reach on just one tank of gas. Our first stop was Columbus, Ohio – if you missed it last month, check it out here. This month, we’re on to a new destination. 

Our second stop: Cleveland, Ohio!

Photo by Wil Lindsey courtesy of Destination Cleveland.

While most Pittsburghers grew up referring to Ohio’s second biggest city as The Mistake on the Lake, the truth is this: Cleveland is actually pretty great (except when it comes to football, of course). This lakefront location is full of great dinner spots, water sports and culture for the family. 

What to do when you get there?  

Get Wet! There are a ton of options for watersports in Cleveland, which is situated where the Cuyahoga River empties into Lake Erie. The downtown Public Square features a splash pad during the warm months. That’s where families can enjoy free Summer Splash in The Square from June 1 to August 14. Summer Splash features daily activities including fountain playtime, chalk art, water tables, jump ropes, waffle blocks, and mini-basketball.

Photo by Aerial Agents courtesy of Destination Cleveland.

If your crew likes kayaking or boating, both are available for rent on the Cuyahoga at Great Lakes Watersports. Cruise the “burning river” and regale your children about when the Cuyahoga was so polluted it actually ignited. (Another thing Pittsburgh and Cleveland have in common right now are their efforts to clean up the dirty industrialist pasts that trashed our waterways and darkened our skies.) 

Edgewater Beach is one of the most popular spots for locals and tourists. This wide swath of sand has a concession stand, a pet-friendly section, and is home to the iconic “Cleveland” script sign – the perfect photo opp. 

Sailboat charters are also available to catch that iconic Lake Erie sunset. 

Pins Mechanical, photo by Meg St.-Esprit.

Grab a Bite. Cleveland has a vibrant food scene, with options ranging from family-friendly fast-casual to high-end gourmet meals. If you’re already at the riverfront – which Clevelanders call “the flats” – check out Lindy’s Lakehouse. The cottagey vibe there hearkens back to the owners’ childhood lake house. Family pictures of summer fun adorn the walls, and the menu has options for everyone. Tabletop Board Game Café has nearly 1,000 board games available to play, along with a light menu. 

The nearby Pins Mechanical Co. has free bowling, tons of games, bocce and more. They also have a bar, but don’t serve food. Guests can bring in anything they want, though. So stop at the West Side Market to stock up on goodies for your gaming afternoon. Cleveland is famous for its pizza bagels, which can be purchased at the market. 

Kid-friendly treats at West Side Market in Cleveland. Photo by Meg St.-Esprit.

If you are staying downtown, Indie is a great fast-casual option for families. The mac n’ cheese, handcut fries, and pub pretzel are classic kid fare, while their lobster roll is one of the best you can get outside of New England. 

The food at Jade New Asian and Sushi Bar is also delicious. The first-floor space hosts a more casual sushi bar, while the second floor is a Japanese steakhouse. That second floor is surrounded by garage doors that open to a stunning Lake Erie Sunset. It’s a great spot to allow kids to watch the bustling riverfront while having dinner (which might give parents a chance to actually finish their meal).

Of course, no family road trip is complete without ice cream. Mitchell’s Ice Cream lets kids see the production line happening behind a glass wall. They even have dairy-free/vegan options. 

Cleveland road trip
This beautiful former bank building is now home to Heinen’s. Photo by Meg St.-Esprit.

For snacks to take back to your hotel, stop by Heinen’s. This grocery store, located within an old bank, will impress any kiddo. There’s even a speakeasy (for the grownups) in the old basement bank vault. 

Learn Something. Along the shore sits a glass pyramid, which is home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. From food trucks and concerts out front to interactive displays throughout, this museum is actually perfect for little kids through adults. There is something to spark curiosity in anyone. 

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Photo by Meg St.-Esprit.

Next door, the Great Lakes Science Center can easily fill a full day for families. Since Ohio is the home of John Glenn, famed NASA astronaut, the space center at the science center is perfect for aspiring spacefarers. The steamship in the harbor can be explored just like the submarine at our Carnegie Science Center, too. Since the Great Lakes Science center is part of the Carnegie’s reciprocal program, take your Carnegie membership card to get up to six people in your family into the Great Lakes Science Center for free. 

The Cleveland Children’s Museum has everything Pittsburghers have come to expect in a great kids’ space, growing up in Mister Roger’s city. They participate in Museums for All, so if your family receives any type of government assistance, please check their website for current information on admission. 

Cleveland road trip
Photo courtesy of Destination Cleveland.

Rest Up. Cleveland is the perfect city for a downtown stay. Most of the main attractions are walkable or an affordable Uber ride from hotels such as the Westin Cleveland Downtown by Marriot, which boasts waterfront views and a glimpse of the Rock &  Roll Hall of Fame. 

The Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the Arcarde is located inside a historic mall and steps from a ton of food and entertainment options. For larger families, Roost offers apartments in the historic May building. There’s also a variety of cute rentals available on Airbnb. 

Extend your stay. Since you are already at the Erie lakefront, consider adding on another short trip. Cleveland is a quick hop from a slew of adorable lakefront towns. Geneva-on-the-Lake is just an hour away, and it’s lovely. Billed as “Ohio’s first summer resort,” it has a 1950’s vibe with burger shacks like Eddie’s Grill, a historic Ferris wheel, and lots of miniature golf. Stay at Abigail’s Lakeside Cottages, a gathering of historic summer houses along the shore, or at the Lodge at Geneva – which has a splashpad, pool, ziplining, and more.

Cozy cottages at Abigail’s at Geneva-on-the-Lake. Photo by Meg St.-Esprit.

Here’s another option: Just an hour in the opposite direction from Cleveland is Sandusky – home to Cedar Point amusement park. You can even catch a ferry for the day over to Put-in-Bay, a scenic Ohio village located on South Bass Island in Lake Erie.

Stay tuned for more one-tank-of-gas road trips from Kidsburgh in the coming months!