Paying a visit to the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame & Museum is a must during a visit to Cleveland. Not only is it a great way to experience the best that popular music has garnered in the past 70-odd years, but it’s incredibly comprehensive. No matter what your mainstream jam – Motown, New York punk, San Francisco rock, hip-hop, pop, etc. — rest assured that at least a sliver will be covered (but if for some reason it’s not, feel free to stop in at The Garage — more on that later).
I was 19 years old the first time I visited the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. It was 2010, I was on a road trip to Toronto with my family for the purpose of leaving me there to go to music business school, and I became enamored with the museum. I remember spending a few hours there with the fam, taking photos and soaking it all in.
Then, just a couple months later, I visited the Rock Hall again on a rather rowdy trip I took with my school to Cleveland (oh, to be in college again…) Since then, I’ve been to the museum a few times, and it never gets old.
So like, why is the Rock Hall in Cleveland?
It’s the question that’s on everyone’s mind and, before I visited the Rock Hall, it was sure on mine too. The answer to which consists of a few reasons:
Firstly, the city has quite a bit of substantial music history under its belt. In fact, the term Rock N’ Roll was coined in Cleveland by disc jockey Alan Freed in the 1950’s (yes, the same Alan Freed that became infamous for a payola scandal in the late 50’s). At the time, Freed was well-known for his Moondog Rock and Roll Radio Hour, on which he played a mix of pop, r&b, and jazz. Due to his freewheelin’ ways with the record player, Freed opened up the ears of his listeners to a whole new generation of tunes.
Inspired by the hit radio show, the very first rock concert was held in Cleveland in 1952, coined the “Moondog Coronation Ball.” After the concert, Cleveland became a stop for all the biggest bands on tour.
Another reason? The city of Cleveland was willing to put up some money for the museum when the committee was shopping around for a city in the 80’s. Cleveland rocks!
Tips for Visiting the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame & Museum in Cleveland
Purchasing your Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tickets
Admission tickets for the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame rarely, if ever, sell out. However, I have never visited the museum and have not had to wait in line. If time is of the essence, simply buy your tickets ahead of time on the Rock Hall’s website.
Try to visit on a weekday
The last time I went to the Rock Hall, on a Saturday, the place was jam-packed — like, uncomfortably so. It’s estimated that 500,000 patrons visit the museum yearly and, in my experience, they all go on Saturdays (not really, but you catch my drift). So, in order to see the exhibits ar your own pace and really soak up all the information, I highly recommend visiting on a weekday.
The first few times I visited I did just that and I found it to be a perfect time to go.
Keep in mind that the exhibits rotate
Unless you visit the Rock Hall every single day, rest assured that no one visit will be entirely like your last. The hall of fame has a massive collection of musical artifacts, so much so that there’s no way they’d be able to display them all at once.
It makes a case for visiting every time you’re in the city! As if you needed an excuse…
The Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame exhibits themselves
As mentioned above, every time I’ve visited the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, the exhibits have been a little bit different. That said, I always know generally what to expect on the main floors.
You can expect a lot of music history, including the history of music + protests, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Motown, Woodstock, Laurel Canyon, San Francisco, and how Rock N Roll came to be. In this history, the Rock Hall has accumulated a wealth of artifacts including clothing, handwritten lyrics, instruments, and other random pieces.
Also, if you’re also interested in something a little more contemporary, the Rock Hall also has entire exhibits devoted to the biggest names in today’s music industry.
The exhibits are spread out over 6 levels, with escalators and elevators available between the main sections.
Yes, photography is allowed
The beauty of the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame is that yes, photography is allowed. I mean, obviously, or I probably would have gotten a lot worse photos for this article trying to sneak them through a hole in my jacket pocket.
Just turn off your flash and you’ll be fine.
Food on site
Visiting the hall of fame is definitely a few-hour long activity. I know, I can basically hear your stomach rumble just reading that. Rest assured that there is plenty of food on-site both at the cafeteria and at the food trucks outside the Rock Hall (if you visit in the summer).
If you opt for the food trucks, I recommend grabbing a Po’ boy. They’re delish!
Visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during a layover
It’s entirely possible to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during a layover at Cleveland Hopkins and is one of the best ways to spend any free time in the city. To do this, I recommend just grabbing an Uber or Lyft from the airport.
Keep in mind that you’ll need at least 2.5 – 3 hours at the Rock Hall, plus any additional time to go through security once back at the airport.
Spend Additional time Strolling the Neighborhood
The area where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is based is a great place in which to walk around and take some photos. The museum right by the water, and so you’ll have lots of boats to look at — not to mention, it’s right by the Cleveland sign. Photo op!
Plus, the architecture of the rock hall itself is super unique and interesting to look at.
Check out The Garage
A recent addition to the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, The Garage is where you can go to kick up the jams — for real.
The Garage is made up of five stations where you can go to play real instruments (or learn to play), brand your band, and rock right out. The stations have drums, guitar, bass, and keyboards for your use, and if you’re new, then you can simply follow the video prompts that will guide you to learn a song.
What’s more is, if you want to just jam with your friends, the Jam room consists of a full band setup. They even have audio and video recording and freestyle jam sessions here!
The Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame & Museum employees
If you get a chance, quiz up some of the museum employees on their music history knowledge. Once, when I was standing in front of fragments of the plane that Otis Redding died on, a man came up to me and started telling me all he knew about the artifact. Of course, the man worked at the museum and we ended up spending a good 15 minutes in front of that exhibit, talking all we knew about Otis.
The experience was incredibly informative, so if you get a similar chance, or if someone just comes up to you and starts talking about their music knowledge, don’t walk away. Learn from them!
Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame Admission & Hours
*Info as of September 2019
Address: 1100 E 9th St, Cleveland, OH 44114, USA
Hours: Sunday – Tuesday: 10 a.m.– 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday – Saturday: 10 a.m.– 9 p.m.
General Admission: $26.00
Seniors (65+): $24.00
Youth (6-12): $16.00