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City Is Our Campus: Cleveland Culture on a College Budget

Ten entertaining and educational sites to visit for $15 and less

Written by Lynn Nichols

After a hectic midterm week, why not take a day off to explore the city of Cleveland? This list includes ten places where you can learn, enjoy and unwind — without stressing about cost. Utilize your U-Pass for a free bus ride and save on city parking!


Cleveland Museum of Art — free

(20 minutes via RTA / 10 minutes driving)

The iconic art museum has displayed its collections of paintings, photographs, sculptures, textiles and more for over a century. This year’s stylistically and culturally diverse exhibitions include “Text and Image in Southern Asia,” “Arts of Africa” and “Native North America.” The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday with free admission. Tickets cost $12 with a college student ID to see “Impressionism to Modernism. The Keithley Collection,” on display in the Special Exhibition Hall.

International Women’s Air and Space Museum — free

(20 minutes via RTA / 10 minutes driving)

Located inside Burke Lakefront Airport (near the Rock Hall), the International Women’s Air and Space Museum collects artifacts representing the history of women’s achievements in aviation and space exploration. The museum is a project first established in 1986 and organized by the Ninety-Nines, the international organization for women pilots originally led by Amelia Earhart. IWASM displays memorabilia from Earhart along with other trailblazers like Katharine Wright (the often-uncredited sister and collaborator to the Wright brothers) and Bessie Coleman (the first Black and Native American woman to earn a pilot license). Exhibits are open to the public from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day at no cost.

Museum of Contemporary Art (moCa) — free

(25 minutes via RTA / 10 minutes driving)

The only museum in Cleveland dedicated to contemporary art (founded 1968) spotlights a new artist every season in rotating exhibitions. Through the end of 2022, moCa is showcasing Renée Green’s “Contact.” The 3D, mixed-media exhibition spirals through the entire art space, presenting many artists’ works in conversation

with each other. “Contact” was inspired in part by the 1997 film of the same name. moCa has organized a free film series companion to the exhibit in collaboration with FRONT International and the Case Western Reserve Film Society, showing films relevant to the concept 7-9 p.m. Nov. 15, Dec. 6, and Dec. 20. moCa is open with free admission from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday.

Cleveland History Center — $10 with student ID

(30 minutes via RTA / 10 minutes driving)

The museum and headquarters of the Western Reserve Historical Society maintains collections significant to the history of Cleveland and northeast Ohio. WRHS was founded in 1867, and has organized projects preserving the history of culturally diverse groups in Ohio since the 1960s. Open exhibits including “Carl & Louis Stokes Making History” and “Women and Politics” focus on Black history and women’s history. The newly-opened “Black Moses: The Art of Rev. Albert Wagner” showcases the works of the late Wagner, a prolific painter and sculptor whose artistry was not recognized in his lifetime. The Cleveland History Museum opens Thursday 12-8 p.m. and Friday-Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., with $10 tickets available to college students.

Live Theater

Great Lakes Theater — $15

(7 minutes via RTA / 9 minutes walking)

“Cleveland’s Classic Company” performs out of the Hanna Theatre, part of Playhouse Square’s iconic performing arts complex, which is located just blocks away from CSU’s Student Center. The organization, founded in 1962, is known for their gender- and color-conscious productions of Shakespeare’s plays — typically featuring one tragedy and one comedy per season, along with exciting interpretations of other drama staples. Their current season has wowed this fall with “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Romeo and Juliet,” with Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” and jazz musical “Ain’t Misbehavin’” upcoming in 2023. All tickets, including front-row seats, are available for $15 to guests age 25 and under.

Cleveland Public Theatre —$1+

(35 minutes via RTA / 10 minutes driving)

Based in the Gordon Square Arts District, the arts space at Cleveland Public Theatre offers innovative new productions every season. Since its founding in 1981, shows and educational programs at CPT have received national recognition and toured all over the world. CPT seasons often feature original workshops and world-premiere productions, including this season’s “Breakout Session (or Frogorse)” which runs through Nov. 12. CPT also spotlights shows by its three internal theater companies: Teatro Público de Cleveland, Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi and Cleveland CORE Ensemble. Upcoming shows include “How the Circus Stole Christmas,” a holiday performance by local acrobatics company Crooked River Circus, which will open Dec. 1. As part of CPT’s inclusive mission, all tickets are “choose what you pay” starting at $1.

Near West Theatre — $15 suggested

(35 minutes via RTA / 10 minutes driving)

Nearby in Gordon Square, Near West Theatre was founded as a youth education program more than 40 years ago and has been federally recognized as a nonprofit since 1999. Last month, NWT welcomed the Cleveland community to two Halloween events, “Historic Haunts” and “Stage Fright — A Halloween Bash.” The upcoming season features three high-energy musicals: “The Music Man” (Nov. 23-Dec. 4), “Ain’t Misbehavin’” (Feb. 10-19) and “Head Over Heels” (Apr. 21-May 7). NWT also hosts children’s programs like Drag Queen Story Hour with Veranda L’Ni, which audiences can view in-person or via livestream. Tickets to theater productions and Drag Queen Story Hour are “pay what you can” with a $15 suggested donation.


The Cleveland Mall — free

(15 minutes via RTA / 25 minutes walking)

The beautiful green space surrounded by public architecture, including City Hall and the Cleveland Public Library, features the “Fountain of Eternal Life” veteran memorial. The fountain was designed by Cleveland Institute of Arts alum Marshall Fredericks. The Mall, built in the tradition of the late 19th-century City Beautiful reform movement, is named on the National Register of Historic Places.

Willard Park — free

(15 minutes via RTA / 25 minutes walking)

The small and relaxing park on East Ninth Street is most known as the home of Cleveland’s iconic “Free Stamp” since 1991. The Pop Art sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen is the world’s largest rubber stamp. According to Cleveland Historical, Oldenburg has stated that the word “FREE” in massive letters was intended to represent the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S.

Cleveland Cultural Gardens — free

(30 minutes via RTA / 10 minutes driving)

The nonprofit project comprises several individual gardens, each representing an ethnic community within the Greater Cleveland area. The African American Garden, Chinese Garden, Ethiopian Garden, Indian Garden and Ukrainian Garden are a small selection out of dozens of sites which showcase cultural heritage with plant life, statues and architectures.


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