What would Cleveland Plus be without the renowned, ever-expanding Cleveland Museum of Art? I certainly couldn’t picture the backdrop of the city without our own homage to rock at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum or the gridiron greats at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And, to imagine this region minus A Christmas Story House just makes me sad. But many aren’t familiar with some of Cleveland’s lesser-known museums like the ones dedicated to polka music, policemen and carousels. These niche institutions score big points in uniqueness, diversity and importance to Cleveland Plus. So, whether you’re a visitor or a local, we’ve got a couple of not-to-be-missed attractions worth an afternoon visit.
FASHION + ENTERTAINMENT
Think Manhattan’s the only place to learn fashion? Think again. The Kent State University Fashion Museum explores the history of fashion through its eight galleries featuring changing exhibitions of work by many of the world’s great artists and designers. Closely linked to the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising at Kent State University, the Museum provides visitors a first-hand experience with historic and contemporary fashions, as well as costumes representing many of the world’s cultures. In early October, the museum will feature “Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen.” Pulled from Katharine Hepburn’s personal collection of her stage and screen costumes, the exhibit will explore her fashion influence on the emergence of what is now called “The American Style.”
Uniqueness is certainly the theme at the Merry-Go-Round Museum located in Sandusky (home of Cedar Point Amusement Park). Visitors can expect an entertaining and educational visit that focuses on the art, history, preservation, production and restoration of these beautiful and historic amusement rides. While there, you can even catch a ride on the fully-restored Allan Herschell Carousel with the band organ playing. New for 2010, the museum features an exhibit displaying rare carousel animals from several nationally-known private collections called “Wild!” Think: reindeer, pelicans and buffalo.
During the holiday season, take a trip into holiday cinematic magic at Mark Klaus’ “Holly”wood Christmas Movieland to explore thousands of pieces of holiday movie memorabilia including promotional posters, costumes, props and entire sets. Collected by ornament designer Mark Klaus, “Holly”wood Christmas Movieland comes to life with indoor snow demonstrations and elaborate displays focused on films like The Grinch, Elf and Miracle on 34th Street. The exhibition is not open year-round, so be sure to check their website for location, dates and hours.
Take a step into the Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame located in Euclid and you’re instantly surrounded by Cleveland’s polka history. With plaques of big names like Frankie Yankovic, Johnny Pecon and Johnny Vadnal adorning the perimeters, the museum takes visitors on a journey involving legendary oompah bands, vintage accordions, ornate performance costumes and images and video of this post-war, ethnic folk dance that reflected a time of happiness and prosperity. Admission is free to the four-room museum, but it’s always nice to toss a donation their way (or purchase a fabulous polka CD in their gift shop).
Once you’ve perused the Polka Hall of Fame, don’t forget to walk upstairs to the Greater Cleveland Slow Pitch Softball Hall of Fame and Museum (both museums share the same building). While primarily focused on local softball heroes of days past, visitors get the opportunity to learn a thing or two about the sport including the start of women’s leagues and the ever-changing equipment used. During my first visit, I had the pleasure of taking a British radio host who’d never played the sport in his life. What fun it was to explain the difference between baseball and softball and watch as he attempted to catch a ball in a mitt for the very first time. The facility is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11am-3pm.
Is baseball more your sport? Make a trip to the Baseball Heritage Museum where fans get a real education on former players and coaches connected with the rich diversity of our American pastime. This display began when Robert Zimmer began displaying Negro Baseball League memorabilia while Cleveland hosted the 1997 MLB All-Star weekend. Nine years later, Zimmer secured a space in the historic Colonial Marketplace (conveniently located near Progressive Field) and opened the small museum.
Regardless of age, ethnicity, religion or creed, all visitors should expect a fascinating, educational experience during a trip the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage. Inside the 24,000-square-foot museum, the stories of many of the region’s Jewish people and families–past and present–come to life through state-of-the-art exhibitions, interactive shows and films, oral histories, photographs and artifacts. The ultimate experience is unforgettable and, in my opinion, should be a “must-visit” attraction for visitors and locals alike.