CLE. The ‘Land. The Mistake on the Lake. That One City Where the River Caught Fire.
Cleveland, Ohio goes by many names, not all of them flattering. Yes, it has become synonymous with American urban blight and crime. Yes, the Cuyahoga River DID catch fire (12 times, actually). But, like a lot of American cities, Cleveland is on an upswing. Everything goes in cycles, the bad begetting the good. The river catching fire? That was what prompted the creation of Earth Day.
Today, Cleveland is miles ahead of where it was. The rivers run clean and there is plenty to enjoy for any visitor.
Cleveland Museum of Art
If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you probably know how much I love museums, and so I start this list with a good one: the Cleveland Museum of Art, or CMA.
Founded in 1913, CMA is among the 25 most visited art museums in the world. They receive a massive endowment from the federal government, allowing them to provide free admission to their extensive collections on Asian, African, and Medieval European exhibits.
The CMA building, grounds, and surroundings are very picturesque; in fact, you are likely to see one or more groups of people taking their wedding photos on the steps of CMA. The museum is located in Wade Park District, near to Case Western Reserve University, and the surrounding area is perfect for taking a stroll. You have miles of shaded walking trails surrounding the large, oval pond, as well as beautiful points of interests like churches, synagogues, a Taiwanese peace garden, etc.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
As a budget traveler I am hesitant to include this one and its $28 entry fee, but hey…if you’re in Vegas you gotta gamble and if you’re in Cleveland you gotta see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Situated right on the banks of the Cuyahoga River (pronounced ki-ah-ho-ga), this sprawling museum will quickly earn its hefty ticket cost. You’ll learn not only about local legends like Nine Inch Nails, Machine Gun Kelly, and Kid Cudi, but about the entire history of the genre, from its roots in Delta Blues to the hottest pop and rock acts out today. The museum focuses on rap, too, and its correlations with rock music.
Catch a Game
Cleveland is a sports town, and while not everyone’s into sportsball, pro sports fans will love the ‘Land. If you’re into football, you’ve got the Browns. If you’re into basketball, you’ve got the Cavaliers (aka the Cavs). If you’re into baseball, you’ve got the Guardians (known until recently as the Indians). While Cleveland lacks a major league hockey team, you can still have a good time watching the Monsters, their farm team.
For nightlife, you have a lot of options in Cleveland, but paramount among them are The Flats. Originally a stretch of warehouses and a depot for streetcars, The Flats have been undergoing several stages of redevelopment since the 1980s.
Among the many bars and live music venues, you’ve got to check out a live show at the Jacobs Pavilion. The Powerhouse is a bar in the renovated streetcar depot, and you can also check out the Cleveland Aquarium nearby.
There’s a lot of good food to be had in the ‘Land, and one that Clevelanders proudly call their own is the Polish Boy. This is a big ol’ Polish sausage on a bun and topped with obscene amounts of sauerkraut and onions. Steve Diner’s in South Cleveland is a popular and low-key place to get good Polish Boys.
Another popular food item that Cleveland is known for is the corned beef sandwich. They stuff these things full with delicious sliced beef and they’re pretty delicious no matter where you get them.
The Cultural Gardens are one long linear park running for miles along Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Lining the park are designated garden areas for different cultures. They range in size from a small patch of flowers or sculpture, to grand courtyards. You can see African-American, Ukrainian, Estonian, Latvian, Hebrew, Slovak, Ethiopian, and Italian gardens, among many others. It’s a very nice walk and provides some incredible photo opportunities.
Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Another one of the most popular cultural institutions in the CLE is the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Located in the University Circle neighborhood and founded in 1920, it showcases humanity and earth’s ecosystems throughout history.
Interesting Fact: The remains of “Lucy,” the oldest known human ancestor, was found in the Afar region of Ethiopia by a former curator of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
If you have kids, or if you just like chilling for a minute and watching the city go by, you’ve got to relax at Public Square. This is Cleveland’s main town square, and there’s plenty to see. You can see Cleveland’s three tallest towers: the Key Tower, Terminal Tower, and the Huntington Building. On the ground you have a splash pad for the kids, perfect on a hot day, plenty of seating, a beautiful Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument, a restaurant, and even a piano free for anyone to play.
It’s in the heart of Downtown Cleveland and the perfect place to hang out on a sunny day.