Family-friendly Cleveland has the world's largest PEZ collection. There's a museum of restored religious statues. And a free museum at Case Western Reserve University highlights historic contraceptive tools and practices. From a retro toy store to a cemetery with picnic benches to the Polka Hall of Fame, Cleveland long ago shed its "rust belt" infamy for that of a fun metropolis.
by Judith Glynn. Visitors to Ohio's city on Lake Eire get a whimsical slice of life here at museums, shops and venues. Created to highlight the unusual, some offer free admission.
b.a. Sweetie Sells These
Yes, They're Real
Nostalgic Candy a Big Seller
Buy by the piece, box or pound. Sweeties is the largest candy store in the U.S., with an average 400,000 pounds and over 4,000 different items along its 11 extra-wide aisles. Satellite Wafers are a top seller and taste like a First Communion wafer with small beads inside. Nostalgic candy fans adore the Pop Rocks, wax lips and fangs, candy sticks (formerly cigarettes) and Turkish Taffy to name a few. One wall holds PEZ dispensers, considered the world's largest display. "Convenience stores are 80% Hershey, Mars and Nestle products," said a Sweeties employee. "We're 80% candies coming from small manufacturers. This is where we shine."
Eye-Popping Exhibits at Dittrick Museum of Medical History
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1920s Tilting X-Ray Table
Getting here is an elevator ride to the third-floor of the Allen Memorial Medical Library. Display items include a 1861 amputating set complete with handheld saw. Not just for the budding medical student, this free museum chronicles medicine and treating disease with items such as the 1927 tilting X-Ray table.
The popular "Percy Skuy Collection of Contraception Through the Ages" has over 1,100 items, considered one of the world's largest collection, of contraceptive items, prototypes and manufacturing devices. A longstanding ignorance of essential facts of human conception regarding a woman’s ovulation time wasn't discovered until the 1930s. Before and after this finding, desperate women went to great length to prevent pregnancies.
Big Fun Toy Store
Inside Big Fun
Alan, the Toy Picker at Big Fun Toy Store, describes the venue as a "cornucopia of delight." Being there should bring back childhood memories. Items sold had commercial success in the past, such as Strawberry Shortcake. The infamous and now vintage Star Wars action figures and play sets are the hottest seller.
Big Fun buys stock from collectors, pickers and catalogs. Cards, magnets, T-shirts, trinkets, jokes and gags and thousands of items fill every inch here. Weekend employees include teachers, professionals and even a produce person. All are knowledgeable memorabilia devotees. No Web-selling business at this one-of-a-kind store. "Our goal is to get people to come to Cleveland," Alan concluded.
A Christmas Story House
The producers of the classic movie, "A Christmas Story" chose this house, now a museum, for its authenticity. Located on a side street in the Tremont neighborhood, it can be visited year-round. Fans can view original props, Randy's snowsuit, hide under the kitchen sink like a fearful Randy or hover around the radio waiting to hear Little Orphan Annie's top-secret message. Across the street is the museum gift shop, which sells the legendary and camp Leg Lamp with its fringed lampshade.
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More Offbeat Adventures
Lilly Handmade Chocolate (also in Tremont) sells preservative-free, artisanal chocolate products. A specialty here pairs chocolate with craft beer and fine wine. The in-house "Pick and Pour" is 2 oz. of alcohol for $3.00, coupled with a truffle(s) for $1.95 each. Tempting morsels include "Forty Winks" truffles made with fresh lavender. "Southern Gentlemen" is made with Maker's Mark bourbon, buttered pecans and milk chocolate.
Far from maudlin, a picnic is common at Lake View Cemetery where J. D. Rockefeller and President James A. Garfield are buried. The obelisks, tomb stones, mausoleums and manicured lawns can be seen by walking, bus and self-guided tours. Topics include geology, architecture, horticulture, nature, animals and history. Picnic tables and hiking trails are available. In Lakewood, the Museum of Divine Statues highlights restored statues. Some see the venue as religious; others see art and architecture.
If You Go
For information, maps, brochures and everything else related to Cleveland hotels, dining and attractions, contact Positively Cleveland or call toll-free 800-321-1004. Trip Advisor is chock full of suggestions. A downtown hotel with free shuttle service to venues about one mile away is the Hilton Garden Inn.