Once famous for the fact that the Cuyahoga River, which runs through it, was so polluted it actually burned, the city of Cleveland, Ohio has been undergoing a renaissance of late, drawing in both new residents and tourists in the process. With an increasing number of fine dinning establishments and more and varied tourist attractions, it has grown into something much more than "The Mistake on the Lake," the unfortunate moniker given to the city in its darkest hour. Most of Cleveland's attractions are located on its east side, but if you want to focus on the west side of the Cuyahoga River, you can still find a number of enjoyable activities that are ideal for the whole family.
West Side Market
The West Side Market is the home to over 100 vendors who ply food items ranging from meats and cheeses to ready-to-eat ethnic foods. Many residents of Cleveland come here for their weekly grocery shopping, but the market's million or so annual visitors also include tourists from all over the world. Veteran shoppers often give tours of the market for new customers. These typically hour-long orientations are scheduled for the last Saturday of every month.
Christmas Story House and Museum
If you fell for the now-classic 1983 holiday film, "A Christmas Story," you'll love A Christmas Story House, the home that was used in the movie's exterior shots. Following an exacting renovation, the house is now open to the public for tours. A museum located across the street features memorabilia and behind-the-scenes photos and facts from the film set. The museum also has a gift shop where you can purchase items that evoke scenes from the film.
Greater Cleveland Aquarium
The Greater Cleveland Aquarium is home to both freshwater and seawater species. Popular attractions include the Shark Exhibit -- which you can dive into for an extra fee if you are an open water SCUBA-certified diver -- and the Ohio Lakes and Rivers Exhibit, featuring species native to the region. Other interactive experiences -- also available for an extra fee -- include a behind-the-scenes tour that shows how the aquarium staff cares for the animals, overnight stays at the aquarium and the Touch Pool Feed Experience, which allows you to feed the aquarium's stingrays by hand.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
The expansive, lush campus of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is home to 3,000 animals representing over 600 species, including endangered ones. The zoo participates in cooperative breeding programs, and environmental preservation is a major educational focus. It also contains North America's largest collection of primates. The animals and many thousands of plants -- the zoo is also a botanical garden -- are divided into areas that recreate different climates and ecosystems. The 2-acre RainForest, for example, contains 10,000 plants and a 25-foot waterfall. Other habitats include the 8-acre Australian Adventure, the African Savanna and, for animals from colder climates, the Northern Trek.
NASA Glenn Visitor Center
One day a month, from April through October, the Glenn Research Center, one of 10 NASA centers, offers 45-minute tours that are open to US citizens and legal residents. Four separate tours are held on these select days -- one every hour starting at 10 a.m. -- and reservations are required. Scientists and engineers at NASA's Glenn Research Center develop and test new aeronautical technology for spaceflight. They specialize in propulsion, air traffic communications, and energy storage and conversion, among other things. The main campus, located near Hopkins International Airport, includes wind tunnels, drop towers, vacuum chambers and an aircraft hangar.