Museums, parks, science centers and outdoor adventures—Cleveland rocks your Midwest weekend getaway with tons of fun stuff to do with the family.

By Amy Lynch
November 18, 2013

1) Great Lakes Science Center You can't miss this place; just look for the 150-foot wind turbine on the lawn. (The center is also across the street from the iconic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.) The Science Phenomena displays let you play mad scientist by sticking your hand into a tornado and using static electricity to make your hair stand on end. Aspiring astronauts beeline straight for the NASA Glenn Visitors Center to peer inside a command module and get a feel for what it's like to live on the International Space Station. (216) 694-2000;

Great Lakes Science Center. Photo courtesy of / Scott Meivogel.

2) Cleveland Metroparks Zoo An expansion at the 180-acre zoo created an elephant habitat with two pools and a heated outdoor sandbox. You can get startlingly close to these gentle giants, and also to the giraffes, zebras, kangaroos and other animal residents. Kids will clamor to climb the Yagga Tree in the Australian Adventure area, and simulated tropical showers every 12 minutes lend a touch of you-are-there authenticity to the rainforest habitat. (216) 661-6500;

3) Lake Metroparks Farmpark If your family's interests run more toward farm animals than wild animals, head 25 miles east of Cleveland for this fresh-air adventure. The learning center is a working farm, meaning you'll get to see animals, watch cow-milking and sheep-herding demos, and check out honey and maple syrup production. Hop on a wagon pulled by horse or tractor for a jaunty ride around the grounds enhanced by horse pastures and a lake. (440) 256-2122;

4) Melt Bar and Grilled Melt gussies up the humble grilled cheese sandwich with gourmet add-ons such as sauerkraut, smoked turkey, jalapeños, walleye, berry jam, pesto-even pierogis! Purists (or picky eaters) can always opt for a Kindergartner, the toasted classic with cheese and bread only. You should know going in: These sandwiches are ginormous. Come starving, or plan to share. Multiple locations;

5) Greater Cleveland Aquarium The building housing Ohio's only freestanding aquarium was once a 19th-century power plant. These days, the mazelike structure holds thousands of fish and marine life specimens from all over the world in a million gallons of water. Touch displays let you get your hands on green sea anemones, and walking though the SeaTube tunnel feels like you're strolling across the ocean floor as sharks and stingrays glide overhead. (216) 862-8803;

Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Photo courtesy of Meivogel.

6) Cleveland Museum of Natural History Founded in 1920, this University Circle fixture includes a Human Origins Gallery that traces 6 million years of evolution from fossils and primates to modern man. (Say hi to Lucy, a re-created 3.2 million-year-old partial skeleton and the centerpiece of the exhibit.) The hands-on Discovery Center and the dinosaurs are popular with younger visitors, and the digital-projection planetarium shows are interesting for all ages.  (216) 231-4600;

7) A Christmas Story House and Museum For loyal fans, this cult classic is required viewing at least once during the holiday season. The restored Cleveland house where the movie was filmed stays open year-round for pilgrimages, and everything inside is fair game to try on, take photos of and touch. Want to see if you can fit into Ralphie's Easter Bunny costume? Hide under the sink in Randy's favorite spot? Pretend to shoot the coveted Red Ryder BB gun? Knock yourself out. Oh, and the leg lamps in the gift shop make ideal souvenirs. (216) 298-4919;

8) Cedar Point This destination amusement park, an hour west of Cleveland, is mecca for adrenaline junkies, boasting 18 roller coasters and other extreme rides. We dare you not to scream on the Top Thrill Dragster as it swoops down the track at 120 mph. Not quite that brave? Elsewhere in the 365 acres, you'll find plenty of tamer options, such as Snoopy-theme rides and attractions for younger guests, live entertainment and the Soak City waterpark. (419) 627-2350;

9) Cuyahoga Valley National Park Thirty minutes from downtown, forests, waterfalls, bike trails and a scenic train promise a family-friendly retreat.