All the Best Free and Super Cheap Things to Do in Cleveland This Summer
While the official start of summer won’t clock in until June, everyone knows true Cleveland summer starts when the shorts come out and the kids are home from school. The arrival of long evenings of sun and patio temps is upon us, and with that the feeling of eternal hours left to be filled with friends, family and all that Cleveland has to offer.
The problem right now is that your wallet is as empty as those awaiting hours. Inflation is inflating. Gas prices are skyrocketing. Flights are more expensive than you remember the last time you took a vacation. Rent is climbing. Your grocery tab has you considering a diet for reasons other than your winter-induced girth. And if you’re ever going to buy a house, you’re going to need every penny so you too can offer $50,000 over asking in cash just for the pleasure of once again losing out.
It can feel like the world has conspired to financially fuck you just as the weather is nice enough to venture off the couch for the first time since 2021.
Thankfully, there’s plenty to do in Cleveland that won’t have you taking a second job or skimping on other expenses. For the budget-minded and the poor bastards of Cleveland, there’s an almost endless availability of free and super-cheap things to do this season, from arts and culture to dance parties and nature. Drink it in, get out there, and save those precious expendable dollars for a rainy day, because it sure sounds like there are more than a few around the bend
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Hit Up Local Art Galleries
While the Cleveland Museum of Art and the big hitters in University Circle get the most attention, Cleveland’s filthy with small art galleries
catering to every taste that offer free exhibitions all year long. Whether you’re dipping into Third Fridays at 78th Street Studios or bopping around to one of the dozens of eclectic galleries scattered east to west, summer’s a great time to take in some local and regional art. Check Scene’s ongoing arts coverage, our events database, and CAN Journal for suggestions.
See An Outdoor Movie
The arrival of summer means the arrival of free outdoor movie nights
all around the city and suburbs. From Coventry P.E.A.C.E Park on Thursday nights June 7 through August 2, Fairview Stadium (June 10, July 15, August 8), Coe Lake Park in Berea (June 11, July 3, August 2), there are plenty of chances to catch flicks under the stars for exactly zero dollars all season long. Screenings include Encanto, if you want to watch it for the 75th time.
If new releases are more your speed, do the most summer thing you can think of and head out to the Aut-O-Rama drive-in
and enjoy your cinema old-school style for just $11 per adult.
Go To The Beach
Hit the beach and better than that, hit all of them. Edgewater is a gem, Euclid Beach is beckoning, Huntington Beach is pristine, and Mentor Headlands is just a short drive out east with gorgeous views and the added bonus of putting you close to Scooter’s Dog House and all the glorious footlong dogs and pounds of golden fries you could dream of and the best tacos in Northeast Ohio at La Casita in Painesville. Looking for something outside of the usual rotation? Refer to Scene’s handy guide to 19 low-key beaches within driving distance of Cleveland at clevescene.com/beaches
Go To The Art Museum
It’d be hard to find a Clevelander who doesn’t know that the Cleveland Museum of Art is not only one of the best free activities in the region but one of the best free museums in the country, but a reminder never hurts as time flies and years vanish without a visit to the grand attraction. Featuring more art than you can probably take in during a single day, the museum’s permanent collections are complemented by special exhibits that make every visit unique. Check out ‘Currents and Constellations: Black Art in Focus,’ featuring the work of established and mid-career Black artists through the end of June, for example. And, of course, cap off your day with a stroll around the stunning Wade Lagoon
Metroparks Sounds of Summer Series
Edgewater and Euclid Beach Live haven’t made their post-pandemic return, but the Metroparks this year will bring a free traveling concert series
across the region to some of the most iconic spots in the emerald necklace. Catch Billy Likes Soda on May 27 at the U.S. Coast Guard Station, The Level Up Band on June 24 at the Wildwood Marina, The Mourning Glory on July 29 at the Stinchcomb Memorial, Carlos Jones and the P.L.U.S. Band on August 26 at Huntington Beach and The Breakfast Club on September 30 at Squire’s Castle.
Hit Up A Festival
Cleveland loves a festival, and once again, there are about 578 to enjoy this year. While many charge for admission, many more are absolutely free to enter (people watching is always the best part anyway), and many of those are totally free (Rooms to Let, Juneteenth Freedom Fest, Pride in the CLE). Ohiofestivals.net
has a pretty comprehensive list of all the Northeast Ohio gatherings on the calendar for 2022.
You probably don’t own one of those boats docked on Lake Erie, but you can still get yourself out on the water this summer
. Strike that. You should still get out on the water this summer. Kayak rentals
are the best way to do that. And tandems are the best value, plus you get to share the experience with a pal and defray the cost. Most tandems go for $25 or $30/hour at 41 North in Lakewood in the Rocky River Reservation, Great Lakes Watersports in the Flats, Chagrin River Kayak and Rentals in Eastlake, or at Put-in-Bay Watercraft out in the islands.
Go to a Quarry
Ohioans love to swim in rock quarries, kayak on quarries, hike around quarries and occasionally cliff jump into quarries
. Unfortunately, not all formerly working rock quarries are safe for swimming, thanks to their deceptively cold/deep waters and murky underbellies. But there are eight or so within a decent drive from Cleveland perfect for a weekend of basking in the sun and water. Check out our guide at clevescene.com/quarries
Sports, Recreation and The Outdoors
There are certainly parts of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Cleveland Metroparks
you haven’t yet explored, and this summer’s as good a time as any to expand your local nature travels. Beyond that, the Metroparks offer plenty of other ways to get a deeper understanding of nature, including free guided bird watching walks, tours of local reservations, kayaking lessons, nature hikes and family-friendly events. Make use of the expertise you’re already paying for. Find more information all summer long at clevelandmetroparks.com/parks/calendar
Check Out MOCA
celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019 by announcing free admission for all, making it another affordable option to devour culture in museum-rich University Circle. Current exhibitions on view through early June include Dana Oldfather’s ‘Flyfall,” Robert Banks and Dexter Davis ‘Color Me Boneface,’ J.J. Adams ‘Flowers in Temporary Hands.