When I told my friends and family that I was going to Cleveland, Ohio the usual response was something to the effect of “Why?” along with an insinuation that Cleveland is really boring.
More savvy jokesters think of the 30 Rock episode where Tina Fey goes to Cleveland and is amazed at how clean and interesting it is, before finding she misses the grim and dirt of NYC. I found that joke to be a little more dead on, since there was quite a lot to do!
Most people associate anything cool in Cleveland with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so I decided to head there first. The R&R Hall of Fame is within walking distance of most places downtown, and is situated right on the lake. The architecture is a little odd, so it seems like a modern glass pyramid rising out of the lake, but since there are no other big buildings to distract from it, it works.
Inside you start in the basement and work your way up, exploring the various exhibits. Even if you’re not a huge music fan, I highly recommend making this stop, as even I was floored by standing in front of a display of various outfits David Bowie wore (also, the dude was TINY). To see what exhibits are currently playing or to buy tickets, check out their webpage.
Cleveland also has a very impressive art museum called The Cleveland Museum of Art. Located in the Wade District, not far from the university, the grounds that the museum sits on are some of the most beautiful in the city. Lawns, fountains, gardens, ponds. You’d almost think you’re in another country and that’s before you even enter the museum. The museum has stayed true to its founding and thanks to many generous grants has been free of charge for visitors. The collection itself is pretty stunning, with a wide collection of pieces and styles, including some show pieces! Currently, there’s a Frida Kahlo on loan, and the museum houses one of the few Faberge eggs to be kept in the US. For visiting hours and special collections, visit their webpage.
Cleveland also houses the largest theater district outside of NYC, and offers tours of the various theaters including their history. On specific dates, the tours are free, and you can meet in the lobby of the State Theatre, just past the Largest Outdoor Chandelier! This is another great way to connect with the history and the culture of Cleveland, as most of these theaters date back to before the Depression and have had a roller coaster of a ride before becoming the exquisite jewel boxes they are today. The tours include the history of the theaters, both recent and not so recent, as well as the architecture and includes tidbits of history of the city that you probably wouldn’t get elsewhere. To find out when the next free tours are, or for information on scheduling, please visit their webpage.
When I was in Cleveland, the Ohio Burlesque Festival was happening, which seemed like something so different that I had to give it a shot. Located in the Beachland Ballroom, way outside of downtown, this was a fun and unusual jaunt. Performers from all over the states, as well as Canada and England were performing top notch burlesque. While this is only one weekend, there is a very strong and active scene in Cleveland. Check out the Ohio Burlesque Festival page, as well as the Beachland Ballroom’s page for upcoming events.
If you want something a little closer to your hotel, check out The Flats, or Cleveland’s response to a Riverwalk. Here you will find the Aquarium, as well as a ton of restaurants and shops overlooking the river. It’s a great place to take the family during the day, or to bar hop at night. Thanks to a multi-million dollar renovation projects, the Flats have become one of the hot spots in downtown Cleveland.
For more information on The Flats, Cleveland, or to start planning your trip, visit the Cleveland Tourism Board’s webpage.