Northeast Ohio destinations bring a taste of vacation at home

Adventures right here

By Ed Carroll

As the temperatures increase in Northeast Ohio, so do the opportunities to have fun. While many families plan vacations to take advantage of the summer break, you don’t need to escape the area for an entertaining and enriching summer experience. 

Summertime in Cleveland has plenty to explore, and with a little planning, you can easily make a day trip or weekend excursion out of it. Though there’s no shortage of options to choose from, Jstyle spoke with leaders from Play: CLE in Avon, the Great Lakes Science Center in downtown Cleveland, and the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood, who share what makes these locations excellent destinations for your next staycation. 

Photo / Play: CLE

Play: CLE: 38525 Chester Road, Avon

If you’re looking for a location that has a little bit of something for everyone, Play: CLE is waiting for you. Owner Greg Carlin says this is part of the draw of active entertainment.

“We’re one of the few places that has multiple activities under one environment,” he says. “That in itself is really part of the attraction, it allows for different abilities and different skill sets for just about anyone.”

Carlin says among the attractions Play: CLE offers are an indoor zip line, an all-ages ropes course, a parkour course, ninja courses, and rock-climbing walls for all skill levels. He also says in addition to its standard climbing walls, this summer brings a new climbing wall using augmented reality to gamify the climbing experience.

The wall will display imagery onto the climbing wall that guests can interact with, both individually and competitively with another climber. The climbers won’t need to wear a virtual reality-style headset or any sort of eyewear to see the images, as they’re projected onto the wall using cameras and technology. 

“It’s a pretty new technology for this type of entertainment style of activity, and it’s one we’re really excited to introduce,” he said. “We’re one of only a few people in the country rolling this out this year. It’s a pretty innovative leap for climbing.”

Photo / Great Lakes Science Center

Great Lakes Science Center: 601 Erieside Ave., Cleveland

If you are seeking to mix in some education, the Great Lakes Science Center, located right on the shores of Lake Erie, should make your staycation itinerary. Scott Vollmer, vice president of education and exhibits, says in addition to regular exhibits it has monthly themes. June’s theme is the environment, with activities and exhibits ranging from the “Wild Weather Science Show,” focusing on rain, thunder, lightning and more, to going around the center testing the pH levels of different substances. July’s programming wasn’t yet set, but Vollmer says it will be space month.

The center also has a marquee exhibit, “The Science of Rock N’ Roll,” which runs through Labor Day. This exhibit mixes science, technology, engineering and math activities with rock and roll music and lets attendees explore the process of recording music, learn about the physiological effects of listening to your favorite song, and find out how transistor radios and distortion pedals work.

“It keeps you sharp,” Vollmer says. “You’re on summer vacation, you’re doing a lot of fun things, most of which probably aren’t planted in the education side. So, I think it keeps you on your toes, it keeps you sharp, but also the exploration here, you can start to find an identity around STEM, around science, technology, engineering and math. Kids can have a pretty open mind in the summer when they’re not going through the grid of school. When they’re presented with interactive and fun activities around science, technology, engineering and math, they really get the confidence that they can be and do STEM all year round. That’s a critical learning objective.”

CJN Photo

Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage: 2929 Richmond Road, Beachwood

You may decide you want to feel more connected with your heritage as you learn and play, which is one reason it’s great to have the Maltz Museum here. Dahlia Fisher, director of external relations, highlighted its current showcase exhibit, “Chagall for Children.” 

The exhibit celebrates the life and art of Marc Chagall, who is considered the quintessential Jewish artist of the 21st century, she says. A hands-on exhibit specially designed for small bodies, ages 2 to 12, Fisher says kids can touch and play with the art in the exhibit.

“It’s actually 14 exploration stations, and each station features a replica of one of Chagall’s famous artworks, paired with a little quote –
which is so charming,” she notes. “It has the name and year the piece was created, and also an interactive that mimics the energy and meaning of the piece in some way where the kids are touching and playing with the concept of the painting.”

She says one example includes a Chagall painting made into puzzle pieces. Kids can re-arrange the pieces to create a new painting. Another station showcases stained glass on a light board, and kids can re-create the painting while switching the light board on and off to see the impact on the glass and art. 

One of Fisher’s favorites uses a specialty cape, which the kids put on and use to blend into a painting projected onto the screen.

“They actually become part of the scene,” she says. “It’s really cool, they get a kick out of it.”  

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