Offbeat Cleveland

by JudithG

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.

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.

b.a. Sweetie Sells These

Yes, They're Real
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

Moon Cleveland (Moon Handbooks)

Award-winning journalist and Cleveland native Douglas Trattner uncovers every nook and cranny of his favorite city, sharing his love of this often overlooked mecca, from the 20,...

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City-Smart Guidebook Cleveland (1st ed)

Provides information on landmarks, museums, parks, sports activities, entertainment, restaurants, and more things to see and do in the Cleveland area.

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60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cleveland: Including Akron and Canton

Residents and visitors-in-the-know appreciate the many outdoor recreational opportunities this "All American City" has to offer. With new hikes and updated text and maps, 60 Hik...

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Damn Right I'm From Cleveland: Your Guide to Makin' It in America's 47th Biggest City

Comedian Mike Polk Jr. has received more than 50 million views on YouTube alone for his witty Internet videos ("Hastily Made Tourism Video," "Cleveland Browns: Factory of Sadnes...

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1920s Tilting X-Ray Table
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
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. 

A Christmas Story (Two-Disc Special Edition)

This delightfully funny holiday gem tells the story of Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsly) a 1940's nine-year-old who pulls out all the stops to obtain the ultimate Christmas pres...

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Christmas Comedy Collection (Elf / A Christmas Story / National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation)

NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION The movie with a squirrel in the Christmas tree and a house full of nuts. Traditions are disasters waiting to happen in this gleeful laughf...

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A Christmas Story: The Book That Inspired the Hilarious Classic Film

A beloved, bestselling classic of humorous and nostalgic Americana—the book that inspired the equally classic Yuletide film.The holiday film A Christmas Story, first released in...

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A Christmas Story Leg Lamp Ornament

The Famous Leg Lamp from the movie "A Christmas Story"

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A Christmas Story Schwartz Replica Stocking Cap

This handmade knit stocking cap is an exact reproduction of the cap worn by Ralphie's friend Schwartz. The original cap on display at A Christmas Story House and Museum was used...

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A Christmas Story
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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. Forty Winks TrufflesTempting 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

Updated: 10/30/2020, JudithG
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JudithG on 03/25/2013

Apologies for the delay Elias. I was on the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky, another offbeat destination. I appreciate you reading my article.

EliasZanetti on 03/16/2013

I simply love offbeat tips; it can only make one's trip much more unique! Thanks for sharing this JudithG.

JudithG on 03/11/2013

Hi Dustytoes, I was in CLE a few weeks ago, evidenced by the four articles I posted. Good stuff there to see and do. As for the bacon-and-cheese crickets at b.a. Sweeties, if you don't like that flavor, there are others. LOL. I appreciate your comment and that you read my article. Judith

dustytoes on 03/11/2013

I've never been to Cleveland, but I'd love to visit the Christmas Story house. Can I take my bacon and cheese crickets along for the tour? (gag) Congrats on the EC award also!!

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