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?

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One thought on “What to do with Kids in a Cleveland Winter

  1. Amy says:

    Thanks Katy. We have never been to Rockefeller Green house or Jump Yard so now we will try them. love new places to explore.

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