I find myself passing through Cleveland, Ohio on bus and train layovers a lot, but my recent visit to the city was a welcome opportunity to dig deeper and check some of the offbeat attractions I normally don’t get to see.
From unusual art to music history to strange candies, here are a few of the awesomely strange and quirky things to see in Cleveland!
Movie memorabilia, A Christmas Story House
If you’ve ever wanted to recreate the movie A Christmas Story, head to W. 11th Street. The house where many of the iconic movie’s scenes were shot has been turned into a museum that attracts visitors year-round.
Though most of the scenes shot here were outdoor scenes, the inside of the house has also been remodeled to look just like the house in the film, with many props from the original movie on display.
Cocaine used as anesthesia, Dittrick Museum of Medical History
Did you know that before novacain, a 1% cocaine solution was used as dental anesthesia? Find this item on display on the campus of Case Western Reserve University at the Dittrick Museum of Medical History, which documents all sorts of medical oddities over the years.
The quirky museum also features exhibits on x-rays, amputations, and the history of contraception.
Who doesn’t love lollipops with dead scorpions inside? Or cheedar-cheese flavored worm larvae? The b.a. Sweetie Candy Company may have pretty much every type of candy and chocolate ever made.
Its inventory features 400,000 pounds of candy, including two of my long-lost favorites, Zagnut candy bars and Smoothie peanut butter cups.
But the store’s quirkiest attraction is the critter candy section, which includes these bizarre snacks. Try them, if you’re brave enough.
A chair designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Cleveland Museum of Art
With a low-to-the-floor seat and a huge back, this chair looks as though it was photographed through a funhouse mirror, but it was actually designed this way.
Its creator was Frank Lloyd Wright, who is well-known for constructing houses but also tried his hand at furniture and other interior elements. Entitled ‘Side Chair,’ this oak piece was created in 1902 and can be found at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Little-known fact: Wright also designed a visitor center at Rocky Mountain National Park!
Sharks swimming over your head, Cleveland Aquarium
The Greater Cleveland Aquarium has a bunch of interesting sights, from jellyfish in a tank on the ceiling to African tortoises that sit around under heat lamps and munch on veggies for hours.
My favorite experience is the SeaTube, a walkway that spirals through the bottom of a large tank housing four species of sharks, including six-foot tiger sharks.
John Lennon’s green card, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Many of the coolest things to see in Cleveland can be found at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. You could spend hours here – and I did.
Some of my favorite exhibits in the Rock Hall are the ones that are obscure and strange – like John Lennon’s green card. And his passport. And his circular glasses.
Lennon fans will also enjoy seeing a piano he used to write songs for the ‘Double Fantasy’ album that still has wax stains from the candles he set atop the instrument while he played.
Electric chair, Cleveland Police Museum
See an electric chair used by the state of Ohio from 1897 to 1963 at the Cleveland Police Museum, a free attraction downtown. Part of an exhibit on capital punishment, the chair was used to execute 312 murderers over the years.
If seeing an electric chair creeps you out, stick to the informative exhibits about bank robbers, prohibition, and Eliot Ness.
The free stamp
The giant ‘free’ stamp in Cleveland sits in Willard Park near City Hall, puzzling passersby who walk past it on their way to FirstEnergy Stadium or the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Like most modern art, it’s not necessarily intended to make sense. It just looks cool. One question, though: Where’s the giant ink pad?
President Garfield and Rockefeller Graves, Lakeview Cemetery
President James Garfield has one of the more eye-catching graves that I have visited. Look at that regal statue in front of the stained-glass window.
Also in Lakeview Cemetery are the graves of John D. Rockefeller and many members of his family.
Cleveland Mural, near Cleveland Aquarium
The city has a growing number of murals and impressive pieces of street art. I found this mural under a bridge near the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. The colors of the art and the bridge together look pretty cool.
Player Statues, Progressive Field
Former Cleveland Guardians greats Bob Feller (above), Jim Thome, Larry Doby, Frank Robinson, and Lou Boudreau are all immortalized outside Progressive Field.
Stop by to check out the statues, and consider attending a game – Progressive Field is regarded as one of the prettiest ballparks in the country.
Note: I was a guest of Positively Cleveland and was given complimentary admission to some of the attractions that were not already free. I consider Cleveland to be one of the best road trips from Chicago for a weekend getaway.