Friday, September 03, 2010

Tips for Visiting Cleveland's Terminal Tower

The Terminal Tower view of the ever popular Warehouse District in downtown Cleveland.

Over the summer, I had a chance to visit Cleveland's Terminal Tower. Some people might say 'so what?' Thinking that Terminal Tower is a tourist attraction that's open year round - it's not.

Apparently, they stopped allowing access to Terminal Tower at Tower City after 9-11 in 2001. However, in late spring/early summer of this year, after some renovations, they decided to open it up for a limited time in July.

Well, good news, the folks in charge have decided to open up the Terminal Tower Tours for the months of September and October. Now, before you get all gussied up and what not, let me tell you how my trips - note the plural there - went.

On Sunday, July 18, 2010, I successfully made it to the Terminal Tower Tour in downtown Cleveland, but here’s the back story and some tips for those planning to take the tour in the next few weeks.

My friend and I decided we’d take the Terminal Tower Tour the first weekend that the tours were available since renovations; that was on a Sunday afternoon. My friend got the details, most notably, that the tours ended at 4 p.m.

We arrived downtown (to see the infamous LeBron ‘Witness’ billboard coming down) at about 2:30 p.m. When we entered Tower City from Public Square we immediately asked a security guard for information. She gave us that ‘who do you think you are?' kinda look, but not in a way that offended us. Then she said “It’s sold out for today.” What? What do you mean it's 'sold out'? Yep, seems this baby sells out on most weekends and usually by 2 p.m. Then another security guard walks over. The two of them encourage us to come back the following weekend (the tours were only being offered on the certain weekends). "Next time," one of them says “Get here at 11:30”. "No," the other one says, “they should get here at about 11.” The other concedes that 11 a.m. is a good time to get in line to get the $5 tickets. We thanked them for their insight and went on to decided what we could do on a hot Sunday afternoon in Cleveland.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Great Lakes Science Center

After a bit more research on the particulars of the Terminal Tower Tour and along w/the information from the security guards, my friend and I decided to try to take the tour again. The primary point in our game plan the second time: arrive by 11 a.m. ... and it mostly worked out. I arrived on time and headed inside to get tickets. I ran into the security guards again. They were quite impressed that we’d taken their advice and sent me in the direction of ‘guest services’ where I could purchase the $5 tickets. Though the tickets would not go on sale until 12 noon. Interestingly enough, at the time of my visit, there was little signage about the Terminal Tower Tours like where to go and the cost of the tickets.

I was about the 10th person in line, but the awkward thing about this tour is that you purchase the tickets in one place and the line for the tour actually begins in another place. So by the time we purchased our tickets and took the short walk to get in the actual line, the line had grown and we were no longer 10th in line, but something like 30th. That's not so bad, but I couldn't figure out how that happened: the key is to have one person wait in the purchase tickets line and the other people can wait in the actual line to get up to the tower.

It's definitely worth the little bit of hassle and the $5. It would have been nice to get in that first weekend since that was the weekend that Tall Ships were in Cleveland. But even on the day that we got up to the tower, the weather was gorgeous and the view was spectacular.

Other tips:
  • It's not a tour. You basically go up in the elevator (40 + floors and very quick) and you check out the view. There are some folks around and I'm sure you can ask them questions about the history and what not, but we didn't ask them any questions.
  • The ticket taker at the Terminal Tower line will actually 'take' the tickets. So there's no souvenir tickets (they have a larger flyer on the Terminal Tower deck, but it's not the same).
  • Take your time and see the city from all angles.
  • Oh, take your camera, the good one! Don't rely on your mobile to give you good pics.

Information about the Terminal Tower Tours:
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