When it comes to a museum all about rock and roll music, most people assume such a museum would be found in a major city like New York or London. But the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame lives right here in Cleveland, Ohio.
Why is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland? Well, it’s partially because the city was willing to pledge money to it in 1985, when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was deciding on where to build its museum. But the Foundation ultimately decided on Cleveland because of its ties to the early days of rock and roll.
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Cleveland + rock and roll
Cleveland, you ask? Really? Why yes! It was here in Cleveland in the 1950s that the term “rock and roll” was coined by local disc jockey Alan Freed.
Freed was known for playing and promoting a mix of jazz, pop, and rhythm and blues music – music that he began calling rock and roll – on his Moondog Rock and Roll Radio Hour. Along with record store owner Leo Mintz (who would supply Freed with records to play), Freed introduced a generation to a new kind of music.
The very first rock concert, the “Moondog Coronation Ball,” was held in Cleveland in 1952, and the city became an important tour stop for countless musical acts; The Beatles played in Cleveland in 1964, and David Bowie and his band, the Spiders from Mars, kicked off their very first US tour in Cleveland in 1972.
It was because of all this rock history that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation ultimately chose Cleveland over other cities like New York, San Francisco, Memphis, and Chicago as the home for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum.
DOs and DON’Ts for visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Since opening its doors in 1995, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has not only become an iconic building in Cleveland’s skyline, but also a must-visit spot in the city, seeing more than 500,000 visitors each year.
If you’re one of those half-million people planning to visit the Rock Hall this year, here are some tips for getting the most out of your visit:
DO buy your tickets in advance
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame doesn’t normally “sell out,” but it’s still a good idea to buy your tickets in advance so you don’t have to wait in a line to do so when you arrive.
If you buy your tickets online, you can either print them or show them on your phone in exchange for an entrance wrist band when you arrive.
You can purchase your tickets online here.
DO admire the architecture outside
Before or after your visit, be sure to spend some time in the plaza outside the museum in order to admire the Rock Hall’s architecture. The 150,000-square-foot building with its double pyramid and tower was designed by architect I.M. Pei, and is striking from every angle.
Fun fact: From above, the building is meant to look like a record player, with the plaza out front being the record.
For another cool vantage point, walk over to North Coast Harbor and Voinovich Bicentennial Park. You can see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from another angle here, with one of the Cleveland script signs in the foreground.
DON’T plan on being able to visit in just an hour
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is HUGE – its exhibition space covers 55,000 square feet over seven levels of museum. So don’t think that you can just pop in for an hour and see it all.
If you want to zip through all the exhibits, you’ll need to allow at least 2.5-3 hours. And if you want to stop to watch some of the videos playing along the way, increase that time by at least an hour!
DO take a look at a museum map
Pick up an exhibit guide when you enter the museum to make sure you don’t miss anything. The bulk of the exhibits are on Level 0 (one level down from the entrance), and then stretch up into the very top of the pyramid.
Some of my favorite exhibits at the museum include:
- The Early Influencers (Level 0)
- Cities and Sounds (a collection of memorabilia divided up by cities known for particular musical styles/movements; Level 0)
- Legends of Rock and Roll (this is where you’ll find clothing and instruments from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, and more; Level 0)
- The Music of Cleveland and the Midwest (Level 0)
- The Hall of Fame (see all the inductees; Level 3)
And there’s always a special exhibit on Levels 4-6; right now it’s “Stay Tuned: Rock on TV.”
DO take time to watch some of the videos
The Rock Hall uses multimedia very smartly in its exhibits. Many parts of the museum have short 1-3 minutes videos you can watch quickly. But there are some longer videos, too.
Some of the longer videos worth watching include:
- Power of Rock Experience (Level 4) – Feel like you’re at a rock concert as you watch highlights from past Rock Hall induction nights.
- Elvis (Level 0) – Watch a 14-minute video about Elvis and his career.
- Dick Clark’s American Bandstand (Level 0) – This 30-minute video plays in the Forest City/RMS Theater.
There’s also a series of short videos in The Beatles exhibit, one connected to each of the band’s albums. This one is my mom’s favorite!
DON’T expect to find only “rock” music covered here
It’s called the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” but don’t assume you’ll only find “rock” music represented here.
Take time to wander through the “Early Influencers” exhibit and Stewart Galley to learn about the blues, R&B, bluegrass, and folk music that influenced the early sounds of rock and roll, and be sure to check out the “Rapper’s Delight” exhibit to learn how rock influenced the story of hip-hop.
DO plan to take photos
You’re free to take photos of almost all the exhibits at the Rock Hall (there are only a couple things that you’re not allowed to photograph, but these are marked). You’re just asked to turn off any flashes.
There are so many cool items to find!
DO visit the Hall of Fame itself
The museum didn’t used to dedicate so much space to the Hall of Fame itself, but now Level 3 is all about the musicians that have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
You’ll find exhibits about recent inductees, an interactive section where you can watch induction ceremony highlights, and even stations where you can nominate an artist or group to join the Hall of Fame.
DON’T think you can only visit once
I find myself visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame every couple of years – and every time I go, I see something new!
The Rock Hall has rotating exhibits all the time on its top floors, and also swaps out exhibits and memorabilia frequently since it has a HUGE collection of items and can’t possibly put everything on display at once.
You can absolutely visit this museum more than once and still enjoy it.
DO have lunch at the All-Access Cafe
The Rock Hall has a cafe on Level 1 near its gift shop, and it’s actually a really good cafe! They serve everything from pizza to homemade soup to avocado toast.
If you want to make a whole day out of your visit, you don’t need to leave the museum for lunch.
Bonus: DON’T try to find parking on game day
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sits right on the edge of Lake Erie next to the Great Lakes Science Center. Right next to the science center is FirstEnergy Stadium, where the Browns play.
While there’s a lot of parking around the Rock Hall, I would NOT recommend trying to park anywhere close by on a Browns game day, as it’s difficult to find parking and prices often increase.
If you want to visit on a game day, park elsewhere downtown and either walk or take an Uber to the museum.
Other Rock and Roll Hall of Fame FAQs
Is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame worth visiting?
Definitely! The entry fee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is $26 for adults, but it’s worth it as long as you have a few hours to dedicate to visiting.
Can I visit the Rock Hall on a Cleveland layover?
Yes! If you find yourself with an layover at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, you can absolutely grab a taxi or Uber to the Rock Hall for a couple of hours. The museum has a free coat check on Level 0 where you can also leave small suitcases.
What are the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame hours?
- May 25 – June 30
- Daily 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
- Wednesday & Saturday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
- July 1 – August 31
- Sunday-Tuesday 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
- Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
- Daily 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
- Wednesday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
- (Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas)
Where can I find more info about the Rock Hall?
For more info on current exhibits and events, visit the Rock Hall’s official website.
Have you visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
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Amanda was born and raised in northeast Ohio, and has always been a fangirl of the state. Now, she wants to share her love of Cleveland with the world, highlighting all the best things to do, see, and eat in the CLE.