University Circle, Tremont, Old Brooklyn, Ohio City, and Coventry Village are family-friendly neighborhoods close to Downtown Cleveland.
With approximately 117 ethnic groups living in the Cleveland area, the city’s attractions and diversity beyond Downtown spread out into the neighborhoods. Locals quibble over East Side versus West Side living that’s divided by the Cuyahoga River but visitors won’t. To best see the neighborhoods requires a car, a map, and GPS, although some areas are serviced by public transportation.
Coventry Village (East Side)
- Hometown America reigns on this one-quarter-mile main street with approximately 50 shops. Big Fun Toy Store shopkeeper Steve Presser scours old warehouses countrywide to fill his store voted by Playboy as one of America’s coolest. Retro toys like GI Joe, Transformers, vintage lunchboxes, and tie-dye baby onesies are here. Novelty items include cat butt refrigerator magnets. Weekends “The Amazing Magician” teaches children confidence.
- Steve suggests nearby Lakeside Cemetery for boxed-lunch field trips. Eliot Ness and President James Garfield are buried here. Volunteer daily docents are available as are paid June 28-September 5 “Sunday Lolly the Trolley Tours.”
- Tommy’s Diner makes 20-ounce killer milkshakes, its own peanut butter, cooks with health-conscious ingredients, uses fresh local products, and caters to families. Local artists rotate their work on Tommy’s walls. Kids get free Teddy Bear pancakes as an appetizer.
Old Brooklyn (West Side)
- Run, don’t walk to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo with its 3,000 animals displayed by regions of the world. Kids adore the Yagga tree house and the enclosed rain forest with its 34 primate species. Eight giraffes, camel rides, and exhibits such as “The Scoop on Poop” are winners. A new, five-acre elephant area opened recently.
- Grab a basket and start filling it at b.a. Sweetie Candy Company. Over 14,000 square feet of shelves hold 3,500 different candies. Remember Necco Wafers? They’re here as is a huge Pez display, plus chocolate-covered worms, spiced crickets, and scorpion-embedded lollipops. Sweeties is a family field trip at bargain candy prices.
Ohio City (West Side)
- A family can nibble its way through the West Side Market, which is a historic landmark located in an enclosed and heated arcade with hundreds of booths. A wide variety of ethnic diversity is offered with bakery products, fresh produce, pierogi, falafel, cheeses, and many ready-to-eat foods, herbs, candy, and nuts. The Travel Channel and Food Network have featured segments about the marketplace.
Tremont (West Side)
- Fans of A Christmas Story will enjoy the official house seen in the movie. Located on W. 11th Street, a museum is nearby and contains original movie props, costumes, film memorabilia, and a gift shop.
- Grumpy’s on W. 14th Street serves breakfast all day and has a kids’ menu. Its fries are always Cajun-style and the artwork covering the walls belongs to local artists.
- Tremont Scoops ice cream is 14% butterfat and also serves vegan ice creams, chocolate-covered bananas, and organic treats. Kids will love the wall-size mural.
University Circle (East Side)
- For children up to eight, visit the Children’s Museum where adults are encouraged to play. Family programs are offered at several University Circle venues, which includes the outstanding Cleveland Museum of Art where the Armor Court is a winner.
- The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is a modern wonderland of dinosaurs and the country’s largest selection of taxidermy. The hands-on Smead Discovery Center has alligator heads, a T-Rex tooth fossil and other touch experiences, plus homemade crayons. Feedings at 3 pm in the outside wildlife area. The Target Corporation sponsors free admission the first Thursday of every month.
- Wade Oval Wednesdays occur mid-June to August-end from 6-9pm. Music groups, dancing and vendors populate this free event that is sponsored by University Circle’s cultural institutions.
Family-friendly and reasonable Cleveland stretches vacation dollars. Contact Positively Cleveland for information about the city and its environs, especially Sandusky, which is an hour away.