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Posted on Thu. May. 08, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Rock Hall of Fame makes for surprisingly fun family trip

While in Cleveland, you also can visit house where "A Christmas Story" was filmed.

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•Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and Museum,1100 E. 9th St. in Cleveland. Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Also open until 9 p.m. Wednesdays and until 9 p.m. Saturdays from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Cost: $22, adults; $17, ages 65 and older and military personnel with ID; $13, ages 9-12; free, members and ages 8 and younger with paying adult. Information: 1-216-781-7625 or

•“A Christmas Story” Home and Museum, 3159 W. 11th St. in Cleveland. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday except for major holidays. Cost: $10, adults; $8, seniors; $6, ages 7-12; and free, ages 6 and younger. Information: 1-216-298-4919 or


Lately, the only thing tighter than the schedule for our family of four has been our stretched-too-thin budget. So by February of this year, we had steeled ourselves to skip our annual spring break vacation.

Realistically, we could not swing a cross-country trip to warmer weather. But in mid-March, the stars aligned, and freed up our college student and middle-schooler to take a weekend break.

I wanted to prove the benefits of simpler, more frugal, travel plans. So I searched for a short, possibly quirky jaunt, for a few hundred bucks.

We all love music, so I settled on a pilgrimage to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.

Our 14 year-old approved immediately, since “Let It Be” played nonstop on her iPhone, thanks to the recently-aired CBS 50th anniversary tribute to The Beatles. Our Huntington University sophomore reluctantly signed on, anticipating a 20th birthday celebration steak on Saturday.

I checked multiple places online for cheap rates, and analyzed many customer comments. One past cheap hotel in Gatlinburg was etched in our minds in a negative way. I settled on a Travelodge in Lakewood, Ohio, and crossed my fingers.

With a 15 percent Internet discount, the cost of two nights came to $143.42, with taxes included, a complimentary continental breakfast, and free parking. It was nothing fancy, but clean and safe. Plus, we experienced an Ohio neighborhood rather than a soulless, cookie-cutter building near an interstate.

They didn't offer a rollaway bed, so we used our trusty army cot.

We left Friday after school let out, feasted on sandwiches from our cooler, and drove the several hours straight through. That night, we checked in and were told about Dianna's Diner, a 24-hour restaurant nearby. Heaping servings came at reasonable prices, and our fellow diners provided a unique people-watching experience.

“This is the best macaroni and cheese I've ever had,” our daughter said.

The next morning, the kids took the luxury of sleeping late, so we stopped at the nearby Dunkin' Donuts, then made the easy, 10-minute drive to the Rock Hall of Fame. Its location on frozen Lake Erie created a welcome change of view from landlocked Indiana.

There weren't many visitors. My husband, Jim, and I spent $22 a ticket. As a nice surprise, our kids got student rates of $18, which was not on the website,

We had worried Rock Hall of Fame musicians would be too old to interest the kids. Inductees aren't eligible unless their first album was released 25 years ago or more.

The introductory movie about the early, early history of rock 'n' roll dragged for me. Later, Jim said he, too, had thought during the movie, “Oh, no, this was a mistake,” as I had.

But moving into the big room with full-sized archival footage of Elvis shaking his hips and singing “Hound Dog” drew us all in. The large, full hallway of The Beatles' items, with their music playing, did as well.

Spotting a suit I recognized immediately from “Yellow Submarine” made it all quite fun, unlike a stodgy museum visit.

The seven-floor building's unique structure features lots of glass in an appealing design by architect I.M. Pei. A person could spend hours, or even days, reading and studying all of the information, and hearing recordings of many of the Hall of Fame members.

I especially enjoyed famous, historical covers of “Rolling Stone” magazines with John Lennon and Yoko Ono and others.

On monitors, videos of historic news reports told how rock 'n' roll music would bring down civilization. There were groups called “Preachers against Rock and Roll,” and reporters said it was “degrading,” “deadly” and “promoted violence.” Rock 'n' rollers were called “freaks.”

But the museum atmosphere was one of music-loving people, like a T-shirt someone wore saying: “If it's too loud, you're too old.” There also was cute signage, like a cafeteria message that said, “Eat to the beat.”

We saw John Mellencamp singing “Pink Houses” and Madonna singing “Vogue.” My favorite was sitting in the theater while Bruce Springsteen and Bono and his band U2, performed “I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For” live in Central Park.

We lunched downtown at the 4th Street Bar and Grill, which offered an excellent steak, and a bowling alley, if we had the time. But we chose an off-the-beaten-path excursion to “A Christmas Story” House, the restored house where the famous holiday movie was filmed.

Off by itself in a rundown neighborhood, the tour, at $10 per person, was not long but held our attention. The guide told the intriguing and inspiring story about how the movie maker was turned down by the major studios for decades, and finally made “A Christmas Story” on a tight budget using a lot of his own money.

There was a museum and gift shop across the street that offered memorabilia for die-hard fans.

That evening, the others decided to take in a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball game at Quicken Loans Arena, and I opted to read at the hotel. We headed for home in the morning.

The collegian's take on viewing the Bono concert at the Hall of Fame? A shrug. “Nothing I couldn't have seen on YouTube.”

But our daughter became a fan of Elton John singing “Tiny Dancer.” We even shopped for the CD. She realized she had known him for years singing “Circle of Life,” one of her favorite songs from “The Lion King” movie.

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