Eating Out with Kids in Cleveland

Continuing on the theme from the last post… Never underestimate the power of a good meal that you didn’t cook or have to clean up after. We usually eat out on Friday or Saturday night when Mark and I are just too tired to think about preparing a meal. While it might not burn energy, it burns daylight which can be just as important if you’re counting the minutes until bedtime. We are lucky to have lots of fantastic, kid-friendly local restaurants in Cleveland. No need to subject yourself to Olive Garden or Red Robin to get a good meal out with the kids. Yes, I am a straight-up food snob and refuse to eat at Applebee’s and the like…not when there are literally dozens of wonderful local joints to choose from.

Note: I always keep crayons and paper in my purse, I also sometimes have stickers (these are fantastic, too), and those little mini play dough containers are easy to keep stashed for long waits. I’m thinking of getting a Tegu pocket set based on a recommendation from Ashley. We try to keep the kids device-free at dinner but know that waiting can be a pain for them so having a couple of distractions is key to a somewhat peaceful outing.

Here are our Cleveland-area, kid-tested favorites:

NoodleCat
What kid doesn’t love noodles? The kids portions here are just $4 plus they offer some diversity in addition to just plain noodles and broth that even the pickiest kids will enjoy. This is usually Matilda’s first choice for a good reason. Delicious, local food, great music, easy-going staff. Our kids are 100% NoodleKids. Matilda even tried my octopus last time we went!

No kid portions for this kid! A full order of College Ramen is her “usual”

Geraci’s
Our kids are hungry at 5:00 so getting a table isn’t hard. Come later and you will wait. When we are there it’s usually a crowd of AARP members, most of which are pretty tolerant of kids. The staff is very nice to families but this is a place where the distractions in my purse help a lot since the pizza can take a while. Matilda and Mark LOVE their meatballs while Madman and I love their pizza. We do take out from Geraci’s pretty often, too. It’s cash only, so be prepared.

Superior Pho
Again with the noodles. We are all pho fans and there is nothing in town that beats Superior Pho. The staff is good with kids and the no-frills dining room takes away the worry about dining with kids. It’s a great place to warm up on a sub-zero winter evening. One down-side: the bathrooms are communal with the rest of the building and kid of gross. Not a reason to avoid, just know before you go!

Matilda couldn’t wait to introduce her cousin to pho when he visited this summer!

Liquid Planet
A healthy “fast food” place with smoothies and kid-approved PB&J pitas. I love their rice bowls and we all love their quick service. It can get pricy but overall it’s worth it if you just want a good, healthy(ish) meal fast. We do sometimes get looks from the CWRU students studying at the Cleveland Heights location but whatever, you’re in a restaurant, not a library!

B Spot
$5 dollar burgers during happy hour are a beautiful thing. Add a beer for $3 for mom and dad and Friday night is perfect. Both kids love it here, especially the pickle bar. Everyone is loud and messy in here so your kid won’t be any different from the 20-something at the next table. East-side bonus: let the kids run around the inside of Eaton mall or check out the kids section of B&N to burn some energy before heading home.

mmmmmm…..Lola burger

The Tavern Company
I don’t know why, but this place was a surprise find for us. Perhaps because I didn’t think a pub would be family-friendly, but they are. The food here is quite good, much more upscale than we expected for a pub. It is also extremely kid friendly with crayons and coloring books; TVs help, too. Their mac & cheese (Madman’s favorite) is delicious and Matilda is a fan of their burger.

Vero Pizza
We’re big fans of Vero and we usually get a seat upstairs which provides fun views of the pizza oven. Again, due to our early-bird dining status we typically have the place pretty much to ourselves. Matilda is a huge fan of the bruschetta and the beet salad here while Madman will gobble up slices of the delicious pizza. Mark and I are fans of everything and we’ve never been let down by their specials. Of course, bribing the kids with gelato helps with good behavior.

Madman can polish off 1/2 a Vero pie – extra mushrooms, please!

What are your favorite family-friendly non-chains in the the Cleveland area? This list is obviously eastside-heavy but we’re always willing to venture out to try a new place!

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What to do with Kids in a Cleveland Winter

As a parent, January in Cleveland is hard…  you’re staring down about 3 more months of being shut inside due to cold, snow, rain or sleet. Of course we sled, we ski, we play in the snow but we can’t always be outside. Even if it gets up into the 50s, it’s likely to be pouring rain (like this week) and you can’t really enjoy it. So, as we are all wistfully dreaming of the days we can chase our kids back outside into the yard again, here are some of our favorite cabin-fever busters:

Rockefeller Greenhouse
I feel like I might be breaking some sort of Cleveland-Parent code by sharing this, but oh well! The greenhouse is owned by the city and is part of the long, narrow park which is on the land donated by John Rockefeller. Best of all, it’s free! And, it’s never crowded, which leads me to believe it’s a closely guarded secret. In fact, in the many times we’ve been there we are usually the only ones there. This means the kids can get a little crazy without bothering anyone. Our last visit was on MLK day because I knew the museums in University Circle would be packed. There was a film crew shooting a commercial there but we stayed out of their way. The kids burned energy, played games and had fun and I didn’t once have to say “stop climbing on the furniture!”

Cleveland Art Museum
As I mentioned, it’s 600,000 square feet of very kid friendly, free space.

Cleveland Botanical Garden
While visiting the magical Hershey Children’s Garden and the 10 acres of lush outdoor gardens is a natural activity in the spring and summer, the CBG is one also one of our favorite winter activities, too. The 2 large glasshouses and as well as the toys & books (now located upstairs) they have out for kids makes this a good place to blow off some steam. And, if it’s dry outside it’s still a fantastic place to run around without getting muddy. Their café serves fresh, seasonal food that the kids love. Kids are just $4 (under 3 is free) but the $73 family membership is well worth it for how often we visit.

Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Some people with toddlers and young kids overlook this museum as a place to burn daylight. We love it because there are dinosaurs, lots of buttons to push, and space to move around. Yes, the entire facility can seem a bit dusty and old so the planned renovation is much needed. However little kids don’t care, they just see polar bears, alligators and moon rocks.  Hidden in the basement is the Smead Discovery Center, a hands-on area with animal pelts, puzzles, books, toys, a few lizards and other cool stuff. Unless it’s pouring rain we always take a walk through the Perkins Wildlife Center outside to say hi to the owls, deer and fox that make it their home. Get there at 10, outside snacks are allowed (but you can only eat them in the café), leave by naptime…perfect morning. Again, the $75 family membership is a great deal and pays for itself in 2-3 trips. Bonus: you can use your membership for free entry at other science centers and museums like the Field Museum in Chicago or COSI in Columbus.

Bowling
We did this for the first time recently and had a fun evening. It was surprisingly expensive for the 4 of us ($50+!) but was a fun night out. Both kids did well – each got a strike! It was an activity we’ll save for when we’re desperate due to the price, but I was pleased with how much a 2.5 year old and 6 year old enjoyed it.

JumpYard
Matilda’s winter break was longer than Madman’s so we had a couple of days where he went to daycare but she was home. One of those days I took her to the JumpYard in North Royalton on a tip from Amelia. It was a blast. Weekdays are only $7 and for that she jumped out all her energy for nearly 3 hours. We sunk another $5 into the arcade games. The free wifi meant I got some work done while she romped. The toddler area was nice and big and looked like the kids there were having fun. The morning was pretty open but when we left (around 1:00) it was packed…plan accordingly. This was worth the drive from the eastside and I’ll take Madman when we go back.

Great Big Home + Garden Show
I know, it sounds silly to take kids to a home and garden expo. But think about it: a giant indoor space in which your kid can run around and be a goofball to his heart’s content. We went last year and the kids spent hours exploring all the landscapes set up, checking out the houses and climbing on play structures. At $14 per adult plus parking it’s not cheap, but sometimes spending $30 to spend the entire afternoon out of the house is so worth it.

Rapid + Tower City = Tired Preschooler
We haven’t done this recently but both kids love to ride the Rapid so this is a nice one to keep in your back pocket for when you really need to get out of the house for the afternoon. Kids 6 and under ride free with a paying adult ($5). Mark has a monthly pass for his commute so for $5 we can ride downtown, burn off some energy running around Tower City, and then ride home. Now, I know Tower City doesn’t offer much in shopping, but it’s a beautiful space in which the kids can get some exercise. If it’s not below zero or sleeting we might walk over to grab a bite at Noodlecat, too.

 

Libraries
While we love living a couple of blocks from our local library sometimes it can be fun to explore other libraries. We like the ones in Cleveland Heights Lee Road branch and South Euclid branch in the Telling Mansion both for architecture and their children’s sections. We don’t usually get books (because we don’t want them to get mixed up with other library books at home) but spending an afternoon in a new-to-us space can be enough to keep the winter blahs away.

There are other standbys, too (swimming, GLSC, Farm Park, Aquarium) but these were some of our new favorites or hidden gems. So – what are your favorite winter blow-off-steam/burn-daylight activities for the kids?

Sunday at the Cleveland Museum of Art

As you know, my main goal every weekend is to get the kids out of the house. On Saturday it was warm enough to shoo them into the backyard for a bit, but Sunday dawned bitter cold so an inside activity was needed. I texted Mark at 9:20 this morning “CMA today? they open @ 10” and he replied with a “sure” (what? you don’t text your spouse who is in the same house as you?). By 9:58 we had parked in front of the Cleveland Museum of Art and were on our way inside. Mark had taken Matilda on a daddy/daughter date a few weeks back so they had seen the new atrium but this was Madman and my first time. Matilda couldn’t wait to show us.

Doing her best Vanna White impression to show me the huge expanse of the atrium

We are so incredibly lucky to have such an amazing art museum less than 10 minutes from our house. And it’s free. The new addition of the atrium and Gallery One is just breathtaking. After romping around the atrium and sneaking a peak the interactive wall of all the CMA works, we headed to the galleries.

Matilda taking in Monet’s Water Lilies (Agapanthus)

Like most women my age, the Impressionist galleries are my favorites. It seems Matilda likes them, too. But she declared this piece her favorite (for this trip, anyway. Every CMA visit leads to a new favorite):

A Rothko in the Contemporary Collection. She wants Mark to paint one like it for our living room

Madman was the wild-card of the day and he was a real trooper as we strolled the galleries. He likes the ancient art galleries and especially the Morton Mandel Armor Court. But today his favorite thing was not inside the CMA… it was the view of the “diggers” across the street at CWRU as seen from the Glass Box.

We had lunch from the new Provenance Café, which was amazing. We had 3 entrees split between the 4 of us and we were all beyond happy.

Post-peanut butter and banana sandwich happiness

It was nearly noon so we decided to go back to Gallery One to get a chance to play with the touch-screen wall of all the museum’s works. It’s pretty amazing (and apparently we were some of the first to use it! It doesn’t officially open until tomorrow). Next visit, we’ll borrow one of their iPads, too. Such fantastic technology coupled with the art!

After that we headed for the doors but stumbled onto the most perfect play area for the kids. I wish we had known about it sooner because we could have spent an hour in just that spot. It had sketching seats and frames to hang your artwork, Tegu blocks for sculptures and mobiles to build. There were books, and tents and art to touch, even some touch-screen displays. We had to drag the kids away. They can’t wait to go back.

While certainly not our first or last trip, this was one of our more memorable trips… perhaps because of all the new things to see and do. Or maybe because it was our first time as a family to be there while not under construction. I know some people shy away from taking younger kids to the CMA but you shouldn’t. They are extremely patient with kids, have tons of amenities (changing tables, stroller rental, high chairs). I do recommend getting there early, it was starting to get crowded by noon.

We frequent University Circle but for some reason the CMA has always been the last on our list from all the places to visit. I think we’ll be re-thinking that strategy over the next few months as we look for ways to keep the kids entertained and out of the house.

non-disclosure: nothing to disclose. I just wanted to share our family fun day at the CMA!

Splish Splash Swim Bash at Goldfish Swim School (Free!)

I’ve been a swimmer from before I could remember. Seriously… I don’t remember learning how to swim, I just remember always swimming. We lived at the pool in the summers (bonus of a mom who was a teacher and had her summers off), and I was on a swim team from age 6 until high school graduation. I think swimming is beyond a sport, it’s a life skill. As you can imagine, I want to pass this love of the water to my kids.

We’ve had Matilda in lessons on and off in the past. But, either the instructor was not good, the water was cold or the times were just so inconvenient that we stopped the lessons. Madman – poor 2nd child that he is – had never been in lessons. That is until Sonali Morris (whom I knew only on Twitter) along with some others said they were opening a Goldfish Swim School nearby. After reading about it we signed up as soon as we could and we were there the week it opened.

Madman and Mark in the Mini2 class

Why is Goldfish different? First of all they are all about lessons. You’re not jockeying for space with water aerobics classes or fitness swimmers. Unlike other indoor pools which are kept cold for competitive swimmers, Goldfish keeps their water a a tepid 90 degrees. Their classes are small since they keep their ratio at 4 to 1 (so far my kids have been in classes with only 1 other kid!). They have a great area for parents to watch the lessons (and free wifi!). Best of all their program works. After 4 weeks of lessons, Matilda has moved up a level because she can do freestyle and circle breathing! She is so excited.

Look at that freestyle! Perhaps we should start planning for the 2020 Olympics?

Movin’ on up to the next class!

We’ve also been to their family swim times because – why not? It’s great fun and they have a ton of awesome pool toys for the kids to play with. 90 minutes in the pool guarantees an easy bedtime. Their facility is built with kids in mind – clean changing rooms and bathrooms, lots of places to stash their stuff, a turtle tank, chalkboard and books galore make any downtime easy to handle. Plus they do parties (which reminds me, I need to get Matidla’s next birthday party scheduled at Goldfish ASAP!).

Are you sold yet? Want to chance to check it out yourself? Perfect! Because Goldfish Swim School is holding a community open house. Come to the Splish Splash Swim Bash on Saturday, January 26 from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. It will have a free four-hour open swim session, scavenger hunt, kid-friendly entertainment, photo station, prizes, giveaways, facility tours, snacks and more. You’ll get to met the funny dynamo that is Sonali and the whole Goldfish team. And you’ve got nothing to loose – it’s free and likely to be about 33 degrees outside. Doesn’t a 90 degree pool sound much better?

We’ll be there and we hope to see you too.

Goldfish Swim School
4670 Richmond Road, Suite 100
Warrensville Heights, OH 44128

Disclaimer: I was thrilled to help out with some marketing when Goldfish starting working on their facility because it was a group of local parents starting their own business. I’m again thrilled to help them promote their free community event because we LOVE our time in the Goldfish pool. We’ve been a paying customer since they opened but we are receiving a month of free lessons in exchange for this post. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share events that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit. 

Cleveland: Disney On Ice Rockin’ Ever After – Ticket Giveaway

UPDATE:
Congratulations to Melissa for winning the tickets! Check your email and please respond ASAP!

Please note: I removed comment #1 (from my sister, who did not want to enter the contest) and #20 (received after the deadline). I put the remaining 18 comments in order and Melissa’s comment was #13 of the eligible comments.  Thanks everyone for entering! I hope you take advantage of the discounts offered below and go see Rockin’ Ever After while it’s in Cleveland. 

I can’t wait to surprise the kids this weekend. Matilda has been asking if they’ll ever put Merida from Brave in Disney on Ice (she’s obsessed with Brave) and she doesn’t know that we’re taking her to see Rockin’ Ever After on Friday. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be excited about going to a Disney ice show I would have laughed. But, this will be our 4th one and I love them. And guess what? Merida is one of the stars…

About the show: Get ready to rock out with some of the most magical idols of all in a musical showcase that features the hottest tunes and talent from across the kingdom in Disney On Ice presents Rockin’ Ever After! Jam to a Scottish jig as a group of royal contenders from the latest Disney•Pixar film, Brave, competes to win the heart of headstrong, sharp-shooting Merida, making her ice debut!

Experience a show-stopping performance as Sebastian breaks out of his shell for one night only to make waves with Ariel. A chorus of harmless hooligans from Tangled unleashes musical mayhem when they get a visit from the sassy and spirited Rapunzel and her charming ally Flynn.

And, get your feet moving as the Beast and his castle’s enchanted entourage take center stage in a spectacular show for Belle. It will be a rockin’ remix of royalty when Disney On Ice brings this superstar line-up to Cleveland! 

Where: Quicken Loans Arena
When: January 11-21, 2013

Show Times:
Friday, January 11th at 7pm
Saturday, January 12th at 11am, 3pm, and 7pm
Sunday, January 13th at 1pm and 5pm
Wednesday, January 16th at 7pm
Thursday, January 17th at 7pm
Friday, January 18th at 7pm
Saturday, January 19th at 11am, 3pm, and 7pm
Sunday, January 20th at 1pm and 5pm
Monday, January 21st at 1pm and 5pm

Ticket Prices: $70 Front Row, $48 VIP, $40 VIP, $21, $15
To Buy Tickets: Purchase your tickets here.

Special Discounts:
Use promo code ROCK4 to get 4/$44 on weekday performances (M, W, TR)
Use promo code ROCK25 to get 25% off weekend performances (F, S, Sun)
Use promo code FAMILY and when you buy 4 tickets, you get 4 FREE hot dogs and 4 FREE sodas. (Not valid on Saturday 3:00 pm or Sunday 1:00 pm shows.)
Note: $3 facility fee. Expires on 1/21/13. No double discounts. Not valid on FR or VIP tickets. Limit 6 per order. Not valid on Opening Night.

Win a family 4-pack of tickets!
Leave any comment below for your first entry.
Get an extra entry by tweeting the following “I just entered to win tickets to #disneyonicecle from @kakaty & @DisneyOnIce. Enter here: http://www.kakakakaty.com/2013/01/08/disneyonicecle”  using the tweet button below.
(You can tweet once per day, just leave a separate comment letting me know you tweeted)

Deadline to enter is 6:00 pm on January 10, 2013. Winners will be chosen at using random.org from all the comments on this post. You MUST post a comment for each twitter entry to be counted. Winner 24 hours to claim their prize. Good luck!

I have partnered with Feld Entertainment for several years to promote Disney on Ice shows that come to Cleveland. I received tickets to the show but I was not compensated for this post. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share events that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit.