Get Indoors & Learn Local at Museums

Get Indoors & Learn Local at Museums

- in 2022 Editions, December 2022, Featured
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Winter’s at hand, which means that outdoor activities may be a little more limited, but there are plenty of ways to while away free time when holiday break is at hand. A trip to any local museum has the benefit of being culturally enriching and educational – as well as keeping you out of the elements. (And some of them can be done on the cheap.)

James A. Garfield National Historic Site, Mentor.

In 1876, Congressman James Garfield and his family moved to a farm in Mentor, and the home was enlarged from nine to 20 rooms, with a free-standing adjacent building to house his voluminous library. The home became the centerpiece for his front-porch campaign in 1880, and his family returned there following his death after just six months as president. Today, the home is operated as a historic site by the National Park Service, with an adjacent museum, with memorabilia related to Garfield’s life. The home has been restored to look like it did in the late 19th century. 

Interaction tip: Check all the books in his library. Read and discuss titles with the kids. 

What to discuss after: What did James Garfield do before he was President? How did Garfield use his home during the presidential campaign? nps.gov/jaga

A Christmas Story House, Cleveland.

Thanks to repeated TV airings on Christmas, “A Christmas Story” has become a part of the holiday experience. It’s particularly beloved in Cleveland, where parts of the movie were filmed. One location, a home on West 11th Street in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood, was bought and restored to look just like the Parkers’ home – right down to the leg lamp in the window. Across the street is a museum full of memorabilia associated with the movie. 

Interaction tip:  Pick up the phone, toys on display. Crawl under the sink like Ralphie. 

What to discuss after: Discuss the movies and thoughts about families in that era. achristmasstoryhouse.com

Pro FootballHall of Fame, Canton.

In 1920, owners of a variety of pro football teams – many based in Ohio – gathered at a Hupmobile dealership in Canton, signing papers to create what’s now the NFL. Because of Canton’s history as the birthplace of pro football, the Pro Football Hall of Fame opened there in 1962, and, as the NFL enters its second century, continues to update its offerings, sharing not just the history of the league, but the game itself, from artifacts from the league’s early days to interactive experiences. Nearby is the Hall of Fame Village, with retail offerings and other activities.

Interaction tip: Kids can match their size to these football legends, lots of listening opportunities to learn the game. profootballhof.com

Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland.

The Rock Hall opened to great fanfare on Cleveland’s lakefront in 1995. The I.M. Pei-designed museum outlines the history of rock music, from its emergence as a combination of elements of jazz, bluegrass and gospel, to the present day. But the real attraction is the memorabilia, including vehicles driven by rockers, instruments played in concert and handwritten notes detailing the creative process. There’s even a section devoted to rockers’ outfits, from outlaw leather jackets to elaborate stage costumes. 

Interaction tip: Have your kids check out the gear in The Garage and around the museum.

What to discuss after: Talk about the music they like and the instruments that would be cool to play. rockhall.com

Money Museum, Cleveland.

The U.S. Federal Reserve, the central bank for the United States, has 12 districts, each with its own Federal Reserve Bank. There’s one in Cleveland, and in this free museum, visitors can see the history of currency, from bartering in the earliest days to modern cyber currency. The 23-foot-tall money tree remains a big attraction as well. (Tours of the bank are also available by appointment.) 

Interaction tip: There’s an opportunity to take a picture as the center of the one-dollar bill, and learn how counterfeiters are spotted as well.

What to discuss after:  What is counterfeiting? How do they try to stop it? clevelandfed.org

The Children’s Museum of Cleveland

For many years, Euclid Avenue just east of downtown was known as a millionaire’s row, with Mark Twain calling it “one of the finest streets in America.” Today, few remnants of those massive homes remain, but one, the Stager-Beckwith Mansion, underwent a $10 million restoration to reopen in 2017 as the city’s children’s museum. The museum features party rooms and art studios, but the piece de resistance remains the two-story play area. 

(NOTE: Visitation is only by reservation, which can be made on the museum’s website.) 

Interaction tip: The water table remains one of the museum’s most popular attractions.

What to discuss after: After checking out the “Making Miniatures” exhibit, talk to your kids about what they saw and how they think those were made. Go home and play building sets for inspiration.  cmcleveland.org

InternationalWomen’s Airand SpaceMuseum, Cleveland.

Located at Burke Lakefront Airport since 1998, this museum tells the story of women in aviation, from the Wright brothers’ sister Katherine to the women who fly on space shuttles today. 

Interaction tip:  Kids can sit in flight simulators and play with a console from Cape Canaveral. 

What to discuss after: Talk to your kids about the importance of women and space. If age appropriate, watch the movie “Hidden Figures.” iwasm.org

The Museums at University Circle 

The area on Cleveland’s east side became known for its universities (Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, which merged in 1967 to become Case Western Reserve University) and its hospitals (it’s also home to both main campuses for the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals). But it’s also a popular tourist destination, thanks to a series of museums there.

The Cleveland Museum of Art

The art museum was endowed by the city’s wealthy industrialists, and its collection includes everything from ancient Middle Eastern art to samples from the modern day. And admission is free (although occasionally, there are ticketed exhibits). 

Interaction tip: Check out the Family Play Day: 

Illuminate on Dec. 4 from 12 to 4 p.m.

What to discuss after: What was your favorite painting? What was your favorite era room? Clevelandart.org

The Cleveland History Center 

It has chronicled the history of the city and region for more than 150 years. See a variety of artifacts important in the city’s history. Not to be missed is the Crawford Auto Aviation Collection, with examples from the Cleveland Air Races, and cars that date back to the 1800s.

Interactions: You can ride the Euclid Beach carousel.

Questions to ask afterward: What was your favorite car? Why did you like it? wrhs.org

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History 

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History has documented human and animal life for more than a century. Its collection, numbering more than 1 million items, includes a variety of remains from prehistoric animals, including dinosaurs and Lucy, the earliest known hominid. There’s also an observatory and a planetarium. 

Questions for afterward: Did you see Balto? Why is he famous? cmnh.org

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