Ohio touts itself as the state that's "too much fun for just one day." But even if you've only got one or two to spare, there's something for local parents and kids to discover at Michigan's next-door neighbor – especially at its amazing museums.
So pack up those weekend getaway bags, hop in the car – and explore the kid-friendly hubbub of Cleveland or small-town allure of Dayton in attractions sure to please, rain or shine.
With the feel of a big city like Chicago, mixed with the charm of a much smaller town, Cleveland offers plenty of unique spots for families. And since the city's population is just under half a million, you won't have to battle too many crowds – but you should expect to take extra time finding a parking place at any of the destinations you visit.
The University Circle area near the Case Western Reserve University campus includes several museums. Among the university area's offerings is one standout you shouldn't miss:
Cleveland Museum of Natural History
- Phone: 216-231-4600
- Admission: $10/adults, $8/ages 7-18 and $7/ages 3-6. Planetarium shows are extra.
- Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday
Plan an afternoon strolling the museum's Gallery of Gems and interactive astronomy displays. After walking among dinosaur bones and stuffed sharks, watch live animal shows or go to the hands-on learning center.
The university area is home to several other museums you should consider visiting too, like the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum and others. Outside, you'll find plenty of room for running and even a dinosaur for kids to climb on.
Great Lakes Science Center
- Phone: 216-694-2000
- Admission: General (includes NASA Glenn Visitor Center and special exhibit): $14/adults, $12/ages 2-18. Plus OMNIMAX: $19/adults, $17/kids. Plus steamship (seasonal): $23/adults, $21/kids. Note: Other rates also available; check website for full details.
- Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily
Would you like your youngsters to understand more about the Great Lakes? This museum teaches them the works about Lake Erie, Lake Huron and the other three through 400 interactive exhibits.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
- Phone: 216-781-ROCK (7625)
- Admission: $22/adults, $13/ages 9-12, free/kids 8 with paying adult. Parking fees apply.
- Hours: 10 a.m. -5:30 p.m. daily, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesdays (has extended summer hours; check website)
No trip to Cleveland would be complete without a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Educate your kids on legendary musicians from throughout rock's history. Within the museum's 150,000-square-foot area, you'll see the rockers that shaped the music that you and your kids are listening to today. If you're traveling with teens, make sure you check out the skateboarding park outside the museum.
With a population of just over 150,000, this city feels more like a small town. Dayton's Oregon Historic District, with 12 blocks of original 1800s buildings, begs visitors to take a step back in time when the Wright brothers still walked the streets and flying was a seemingly impossible idea.
Several Dayton museums offer children a variety of experiences – from getting their hands dirty building things to getting their hands busy flying things.
Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
- Phone: 937-275-7431
- Admission: $8.50/adults, $7.50/ages 2-16, free/under age 2. Laser and planetarium shows are extra.
- Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday
From a three-story climbing tower to multiple science stations, your children can enjoy the day going through all of the museum's offerings within its 90,000 square feet of space. Don't forget to catch a planetarium or laser light show, too!
National Museum of the United States Air Force
- Phone: 937-255-3286
- Admission: Free
- Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Visit one of the oldest and largest military aviation museums in the world. With 17 acres of indoor exhibit space, you could spend days going through the museum's 300 aircraft and missiles. You'll find the Memphis Belle here, plus planes that have flown presidents including John F. Kennedy, Harry S. Truman and others.
The Wright Cycle Company Complex
- Phone: 937-225-7705
- Admission: Free
- Hours: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
After you've looked at amazing aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, see where the idea of flight first began at the Wright brothers' original bicycle shop. The shop is part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park. Find several different exhibits within the Wright-Dunbar interpretive center. And if the temperatures are mild, play airplane outside with your kids.