What do the birthplace of rock and roll, a “Big Five” orchestra, the nation’s second-largest performing arts center, and LeBron James have in common? You’ll find them all in Cleveland, America’s original Comeback City. Whether you’re looking for great food, fine art, outdoor adventures, or the adrenalin rush of a pro-team matchup, Cleveland is the place to be. If a trip to this sprawling Midwestern city is on your horizon, here are some tips to keep in mind.
Know Your Districts
The city is divided into three distinct districts in relation to their location on the Cuyahoga River. The East Side is the city’s world-class arts and cultural district, including the Cleveland Museum of Art and Severance Hall, the visually stunning Art Deco home of the Cleveland Orchestra. Book hotels near University Circle for the best East Side rooms. Look for your choice Cleveland hotel from many spread over all districts.
Downtown sits at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River along Lake Erie and contains the Warehouse and Theatre Districts, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as the sports venues. Some downtown Cleveland hotels are just blocks from the lake and may have lakeside views.
West Side contains the West Park neighborhoods, Tremont, the airport, and airport district hotels.
Skip the Car
Cleveland is well connected with a public bus and rail system known as the RTA; locals refer to the rail portion simply as “the Rapid.” For $5, you can buy an all-day pass with unlimited rides anywhere you want to go. The city is well suited for on-foot exploration, as well. If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a bike and ride the numerous bike trails and paths the ring the city.
Conserve Your Cash with Free Activities
From Shakespeare to sushi, Cleveland is chock full of free fun and entertainment. The Cleveland Museum of Art is free to the public; so is the Cleveland Zoo on Mondays. Summer is packed with festivals including favorites like Burning River Festival, Parade the Circle, Cleveland Beer Week, and the Tri-C Jazz Fest. On second Fridays, Tremont hosts the Tremont Art Walk; go gallery-hopping and enjoy free nibbles.
Don’t underestimate the charm of a day at the beach on Lake Erie, the warmest of the Great Lakes. And you can get your free sushi during happy hour on Fridays at the swanky nightclub Touch. Of course, if you want to splurge on something special, score some tickets to see the Cavs.
Eat on the Cheap
Like all major urban centers, Cleveland has its share of upscale restaurants and hip eateries. But it’s also home to some incredible ethnic shops and funky food trucks you won’t find anywhere else. For a one-of-a-kind experience, check out West Side Market, a massive old-world produce market packed with vendor stalls featuring Irish, Russian, Middle Eastern, Italian, Greek, and Polish cuisine, among others. Look for the Fired Up Taco Truck and the mobile Creole Zydeco Bistro truck.
Bring your walking shoes on your Cleveland getaway; you’ll love strolling through the beautiful historic neighborhoods, public green spaces, and amazing shopping malls.
Sheila Westin is a last-minute travel aficionado and writes about the charms, culture, and cuisine of the places she visits. When not cruising the freeway for a weekend road trip or flying the skies for a last-minute getaway, she spends her spare time sampling the excellent restaurants and jazz clubs in her hometown of Washington, DC.