To many, Ohio is considered a pass through state thought of nothing more than flatlands and cows. If you are indeed just passing through, the drive can be uninspiring, but I would encourage you to venture north to Cleveland. Just recently, I learned that Cleveland’s nickname is “mistake by the lake” but I’m going to do away with that name and help you discover the city’s true beauty.
If you’re spending time in the Midwest and looking to get away from the hustle of some of the major cities, Cleveland is my recommendation. It’s no tropical paradise, but it is a quieter city with enough to do to enjoy yourself. I, for one, love Cleveland because it’s a quick 2.5 hours from my house and makes for easy day trips and a change of scenery for the weekend.
As you’re driving into the city from the west, you’ve got Tower City on your left and Sherwin Williams headquarters straight ahead sporting a huge banner of Cleveland’s skyline (formerly Lebron James, as seen in the photo above). Cleveland is easy to drive around in so I suggest winding in and out of the streets to get a feel for what kind of restaurants, shops, etc. are around, before you get out and explore on your own.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is one of Cleveland’s main tourist attractions, and it’s cool to visit maybe once or twice in your life. My most memorable trip was when I was young and I got to see the costumes used in NSYNC’s “It’s Gonna Be Me” video along with a collection of Britney Spears’ outfits. That is still one of the many highlights of my childhood. They change their exhibits around every now and then, but it isn’t worth visiting that often. I imagine, however, since Lady Gaga’s ever so famous meat dress moved in, the R&R Hall of Fame have had their best year yet.
Over the last 4-5 years, I’ve frequented concerts at the House of Blues which is still one of my favorite venues to date. The HOB is situated right in the middle of downtown across from a Starbucks, Zoup on one side and Lucky Strike bowling alley on the other, and the light rail just steps away from the venue’s doors which makes it easy to get anywhere. Additionally, there is a small lot behind the HOB advertising $5 parking which isn’t a bad deal to begin with, but if you catch the attendant in a good mood and if you’re nice enough, they’ll give you a spot for free.
Inside, the HOB has two floors one of which contains a seated area, a mellow vibe, and it is one of the few venues I know of that allows re-entry which I absolutely love. In between the HOB and Lucky Strike, there is a short alley way with a coffee shop and a couple of restaurants. It is one of my favorite spots in Cleveland because I would sit and watch passers-by at Erie Island Coffee and use their wi-fi to get some work done, and at night, the alley is lit up with lights like a quaint “Midnight in Paris” scene.
Other things to do while you’re downtown include taking a picture with the “free” stamp sculpture in Willard Park, go sit down by the lake and have a picnic if it’s not too windy, see the Cleveland Indians play at Progressive Field, and give yourself a tour of the public library. The library is old but classic and worth taking a look around.
When you’re done wandering around downtown, head to Cleveland’s west side to visit the 95 year old West Side Meat Market just for the experience. If the sight and smell of raw meat coming from every direction makes you gag, this stop isn’t for you. For those of you who dare venture in, steer clear of the few vendors selling sweets. Simply put, the treats are less than satisfactory. During the summer, you’ll find small-scale street fairs in the areas surrounding the meat market featuring goodies made my local artists. It almost resembles a large garage sale, but there’s usually some good finds so take the time to circle around.
Cleveland’s East side, better known as Cleveland Heights, is a great place to hang out at night with plenty of bars and fast food joints to choose from. If you’re feeling nostalgic for your college years, this is a great place to re-live some of those memories.
Cleveland continues to be a place I can visit time and time again just to take a break from home and find some inspiration. It has served as a home away from home for many years now, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
“This City” Sundays will introduce you to a new city every week, showcase what I’ve learned and love about that city, and attempt to persuade you to visit on your travels.