Since this is a blog about where to go when visiting Cleveland, I’m going to start with one of the first places that comes to mind when someone mentions Cleveland: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The first time I visited the Rock Hall was for a holiday party at work. Having recently moved here at the time, dining and perusing the exhibits afterhours was a pretty enjoyable way to spend an evening. Since then, I’ve been back a handful of times when friends have come to town wanting to check out a Cleveland icon.
The Rock Hall is hard to miss. A glass pyramid designed by I.M. Pei, it’s one of the most eye-catching buildings downtown lining the Lake Erie coast. In 1995, it opened its doors to the public. With seven floors of exhibition space, it’s easy to get lost in there for hours. Considering the role Cleveland played in the history of rock and roll (it’s where the term was first coined and popularized by Alan Freed), it’s no wonder that the Rock Hall makes its home here.
At the core of the museum are 18 permanent exhibits that each give a unique perspective on the history of rock and roll. Some of the exhibits highlight the careers of past and current legends including Michael Jackson, Les Paul, U2, and Jimi Hendrix. Another exhibit traces the development of pivotal music scenes through the decades — from Memphis and Detroit to Liverpool, San Francisco, LA, New York, London and Seattle. And for those interested in local music, the Hang on Sloopy exhibit examines the music of Ohio.
In addition to the permanent installations, the Rock Hall is constantly developing temporary exhibits to spotlight various artists and themes. If you’re a Bruce fan, the 5th and 6th floors of the museum are currently dedicated to From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen until the end of 2010. And after the phenomenal photography exhibit Live from Madison Square Garden: From the Lens of George Kalinsky closes on March 14, an exhibit celebrating 35 years of Austin City Limits will open from March 20 to September 6.
Of course, no visit to the museum would be complete without stopping by the actual Hall of Inductees. A theatre in the Hall houses a multimedia production about the inductees, and a walkway travels along a series of glass panels etched with their signatures leading you to artifacts from the current class. A game Scott and I enjoy playing when we’re in the Hall of Inductees is picking out which panel we’d take home with us based on the signatures etched on each one (if I could, I’d claim the panel featuring Roy Orbison). When the Class of 2010 is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, the Rock Hall will host an Induction Ceremony Watch Party with tickets on sale for $5.
My personal favorite part of the museum, however, is the Alan Freed Radio Station housed on premises. Not only can you listen in on a live broadcast while hanging out in the museum’s courtyard, but you can also visit the studio on the upper floors and watch the show unfold right in front of you. It’s this behind-the-scenes look that makes the Radio Station one of my favorite features of the museum.
With all of these things to see at the Rock Hall, it’s no wonder it’s such an iconic part of the city.
Rock Hall 411:
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
1100 Rock and Roll Boulevard
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
(East Ninth Street at Lake Erie)