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NFL Draft in Cleveland: 12 can’t-miss things to do while you’re in town

CLEVELAND, Ohio — For three days starting on Thursday, Cleveland will be the football capital of the world as the 2021 NFL Draft takes place downtown on the Lake Erie shore. Tens of thousands of fans near and wide are expected to make the trek for the annual player selection meeting and everything surrounding the event.

Due to COVID-19 regulations, capacity at the Draft Theater and Main Stage is being limited to invited guests and select fans. Still, if you love football, there’s plenty to do around town from now until the final pick is made on Saturday.

Here is a list of official and unofficial events, interesting places to visit and fun things to do during the NFL Draft.

Draft Experience

The best place to take part in all of the excitement is this interactive football festival. Guests can kick a field goal through actual goalposts, run a 40-yard-dash against digital NFL players, take a photo with the Vince Lombardi Trophy and more. Kids can fulfill their football dreams at the NFL PLAY 60 Zone, while adults can enjoy a beer at the Bud Light Legends Bar. Some of the city’s best restaurants will be serving food at the NFL Draft Experience Tailgate. Draft Experience is free, but fans must register for timed tickets using the NFL OnePass app on Apple or Android devices.

First Energy Stadium parking lots

April 29-May 1

Beverly Graham (second from left) with her children (L-R) David, Sandy and Duey pose for a photograph in front of the bronze statue of Beverly’s husband, former Browns quarterback great Otto Graham, after the Browns’ unveiling ceremony, September 7, 2019, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (John Kuntz, cleveland.com)cleveland.com

FirstEnergy Stadium

The home of the Cleveland Browns offers a pair of photo opportunities no football fan should miss out on with larger-than-life bronze statues of NFL legends Jim Brown and Otto Graham. Fans attending the Draft Experience can also watch the draft on the scoreboards inside the stadium. Free.

100 Alfred Lerner Way, Cleveland

Cleveland prepares for NFL Draft, April 18, 2021

A look at downtown Cleveland from inside a giant Cleveland Browns helmet. All 32 NFL teams have a giant helmet displayed on Mall C downtown in preparation for the upcoming NFL draft in Cleveland. Joshua Gunter, cleveland.com

Rock the Clock End Zones

Feel the energy of the draft by watching it outside with your fellow NFL-obsessed fans. There will be three socially distanced, outdoor viewing parties held around downtown: at Playhouse Square, Flats East Bank and Mall C. Each will have big screens and seating to watch the draft broadcast plus live music from local DJs. Mall C will have food trucks on-site. Fans at Playhouse Square and the Flats are encouraged to bring takeout food (no beverages) from local restaurants to the viewing sites. Free.

Playhouse Square at US Bank Plaza and Flats East Bank (outside Thirsty Dog & Dante’s Inferno)

April 29-30

Mall C (Lakeside Ave. between Cuyahoga County Court House and Cleveland City Hall)

April 29-May 1

NFL Draft Concert Series presented by Bose

Three popular music acts will perform live at the Draft Theater. Grammy-winning rock band Kings of Leon takes the stage on Thursday night prior to the first round, while psychedelic soul duo Black Pumas headline night two following the third round. Cleveland rapper-turned-pop punk superstar Machine Gun Kelly closes out the festivities Saturday after the 259th and final pick is made. Performances can be viewed on screens at the Draft Experience and Rock the Clock End Zones, and during draft coverage on ESPN, ABC, NFL Network. The full concerts will be streamed live on NFL.com, NFL app and the league’s Facebook page.

Kings of Leon, April 29 at 7:40 p.m.

Black Pumas, April 30 at 11 p.m.

Machine Gun Kelly, May 1, 6:30 p.m.

rock hall exhibit from 50 plus years of super bowl halftime shows

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s new Super Bowl Halftime Show exhibit, The Biggest Show on Turf: 55 Years of Halftime Shows, opens to the public on April 24, 2021 and will continue through the summer.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

The Biggest Show on Turf: 55 Years of Halftime Shows

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s newest exhibit celebrates the dynamic history and awesome spectacle of the Super Bowl halftime show. The display includes stage costumes, instruments and set pieces from some of the most memorable performances. Artifacts include Bono’s flag jacket from 2002, “Left Shark” from Katy Perry’s 2015 performance, Prince’s turquoise suit from the 2007 game and the infinity mirror set used in the Weeknd’s halftime show from this past Super Bowl. Admission, $18-28.

Now through Sept. 30 (museum closed to public April 29)

1100 Rock and Roll Boulevard, Cleveland

We Bleed Orange and Brown

The Browns have some of the most dedicated fans in the NFL.

Browns Backers Social

Browns fans used to consider the NFL Draft their Super Bowl. But not anymore after the team’s playoff run in 2020. Still, Browns Backers from all over will be converging on the city for the festivities. The fun kicks off Wednesday with a check-in social hosted by the Plank Road Browns Backers at their home bar in Lakewood. The event offers food and drink specials, free swag, mascot and alumni appearances, plus raffles benefitting a local charity.

Plank Road Tavern, 16719 Detroit Ave., Lakewood

April 28, 6 p.m.

Pro Football Hall of Fame

FILE – In this Aug. 5, 2017, file photo, football fans toss footballs on the lawn outside the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The museum will have extended hours on April 30 and May 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)AP

Pro Football Hall of Fame

No football fan’s pilgrimage to Northeast Ohio is complete without a visit to Canton, the birthplace of the American Professional Football Association, the league that eventually became the NFL. The 118,000-square-foot museum’s collection of exhibits and artifacts chronicles the history of the game from its 1920s origins up to today. The highlight is the Hall of Fame Gallery, featuring 326 bronze busts of the sport’s greatest players. Admission, $21-$28.

2121 George Halas Dr NW, Canton

Open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. with extended hours until 8 p.m. April 30-May 1.

Cleveland Browns coach Paul Brown diagrams a pass play in 1947.

Cleveland Browns coach Paul Brown diagrams a pass play in 1947.AP

Paul Brown Museum

While you’re in Canton, be sure to swing by the nearby Massillon Museum and its permanent exhibition honoring the legacy of Paul Brown, the legendary co-founder and first head coach of the Browns, and the inventor of modern football. Free admission.

121 Lincoln Way East, Massillon

Open daily except Mondays

Baseball Heritage Museum

The Baseball Heritage Museum is located inside the old ticket office at League Park.

League Park (Baseball Heritage Museum)

The old ballpark is most famous for being the original home of Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians and the Cleveland Buckeyes of the Negro League, but the Cleveland Rams played NFL games there, too, in the 1930s and 1940s. Most of the original structure is gone, but the old brick facade and ticket office are still standing. The museum inside the ticket house pays homage to Cleveland’s baseball history. Free with a suggested donation of $10.

6601 Lexington Ave, Cleveland

Open Friday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

This historic marker denoting the birthplace of football legend was posted in 1978 in Cleveland's Ohio City neighborhood. On Wednesday, the city corrected a 42-year-old mistake, designating the actual site of Heisman's birth three blocks up the street as a landmark. A new marker will eventually be posted.

This historic marker denoting the birthplace of football legend was posted in 1978 in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. In February 2020, the city corrected a 42-year-old mistake, designating the actual site of Heisman’s birth three blocks up the street as a landmark.

John Heisman Birth Site

You probably know Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in 2017. You may not know the award’s namesake, John Heisman, was born in Cleveland at a home in the Ohio City neighborhood. For more than 40 years, the historical plaque marking the spot stood in front of the wrong house three blocks away. But that mistake was recently corrected. And while you’re in the area, stop by the West Side Market (1979 W. 25th St.) where you can sink your teeth into the ultimate stadium food– bratwurst on a hard roll with Stadium Mustard at Frank’s Bratwurst.

3928 Bridge Ave., Cleveland

Progressive Field

The Greater Cleveland Sports Commission says the goal of the Cleveland Power of Sport Summit at Progressive Field is to allow attendees to explore new ideas, embrace differences and enact positive change in the communities they represent.

Cleveland Power of Sport Summit

Explore new ideas and discover ways to make a difference in your community at this free public event designed to celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as promote social justice. The showcase, held at Progressive Field, features keynote speakers, panel discussions, workshops, demos, exhibits and community organizations on site. A Digital Learning Lounge will allow people to participate in the summit virtually, too. Registration required at clesportsummit.org.

2401 Ontario St., Cleveland

April 29-May 1

“100 Yards of Hope” virtual premiere

NFL Green, the NFL’s environmental program, and the Greater Cleveland Aquarium present the world premiere of a documentary about the restoration of a football field-sized coral reef. The film highlights the work of Force Blue, a team of retired special operations military divers, who teamed up with the NFL to save a portion of America’s only barrier coral reef located off the coast of Miami. Free to stream. Register at greaterclevelandaquarium.com/100-yards-of-hope.

April 27, 10 a.m.

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