Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame

Last updated 4th May 2018

Why Go

Who doesn’t love rock and roll? Or maybe we should ask who doesn’t love music? The Rock Hall, now into its third decade, celebrates not just rock, but related genres that influenced the music, including R&B, jazz and soul, as well as alternative, folk, rap and others. But the museum, which averages nearly half a million visitors annually, isn’t a dusty old place; it celebrates not only the officially inducted acts, but also currently popular artists, showing how they are changing the music world.

Where to Go

The museum, a white 16-story tower that lies right on the Cleveland’s North Coast Harbor (which connects to Lake Erie), is a modern architectural landmark that some say evokes old phonographic record players. A huge glass pyramid fronts the museum’s plaza, a signature item from architect I.M. Pei, who also designed the modern addition to the Louvre. Most of the museum’s collection actually lies underground, beneath the entry plaza, with additional permanent and temporary exhibits in the tower.

What to Do

Because of the topic, the museum features plenty of films and interactive exhibits, in addition to a fascinating collection of items such as handwritten notes from Jim Morrison and part of the wreckage of Otis Redding’s plane. Plan to spend at least a few hours here, especially if you have older kids who love music.

Level Zero

The largest portion of the exhibit is located here, below ground. It includes areas dedicated to current inductees, cities that have shaped the music scene in various decades and Don’t Knock the Rock, a truly fascinating tracing of the protests, political and otherwise, that have been organized against Rock and Roll over the years. Legends of Rock may be the most interesting part for younger kids, as it highlights many of the outlandish—and sometimes downright bizarre–outfits that famous performers have worn on stage or in iconic videos (c’mon, admit you’ve always wanted to see Madonna’s cone bra in person). There are also areas focusing on Elvis, American Bandstand, early influencers and rotating temporary exhibits.

The Tower

On Levels Two, Four and Five, the Hall contains exhibits on a variety of interesting aspects of Rock and Roll. The history of Rolling Stone magazine is explored, and you can discover an actual radio studio and a theater. Level Three contains the brand new Power of Rock Experience in the large Connor Theater. Directed by Jonathan Demme, the film highlights some of the amazing performances and unlikely jam sessions that have happened at the annual induction ceremonies.

Gift Shop

While the gift shop isn’t the usual must-see at museums, the Rock Hall’s is just so cool it can’t it skipped. In addition to a large selection of clothing (that even your kids will approve of), there are a plethora of fascinating music-related items: jewelry, handbags, instruments, desk accessories and books.

Getting Around

The Hall sits right next to the Great Lakes Science Center and attached Steamship William G. Mather Maritime Museum and is a short walk from the USS Cod Submarine Memorial, so the family can easily spend a day or two in this part of town.

Visitors to Cleveland can take the city’s RTA to the E. 9th St. station, about a three- to five-minute walk from North Coast Harbor. The RTA also connects directly into the basement level of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

More Info

Adult tickets are $23.50 and $13.75 for kids aged 6-12, while ages 5 and under are free. Most of the year, the museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with later hours on certain weekdays and Saturdays. Check the website for current hours.

Paul J. Heney is an award-winning writer and avid world traveler. He has written extensively about family travel, green issues, cruises, and LGBT travel issues. He lives in suburban Cleveland with his partner and two sons, Joshua, 16, and Mathew, 10. Follow him on Twitter at @paulheney or Instagram at @paulheney.