The Rock and Roll Capital of the World

On the May long weekend in 2018, my then girlfriend (now wife) and I wanted to go on a road trip and we decided upon Cleveland. We had never been there before and it was within a reasonable driving distance to do a long weekend trip. It also checked off a few things we wanted to do: see some art, watch a baseball game and eat at some great places.

I know Cleveland is also known as the “mistake by the lake” but we did not see it that way. We encountered lovely people and an up-and-coming vibe as younger people moved back into the downtown.

We stayed in an Airbnb just outside of downtown Cleveland in Ohio City. It was a nice, walkable neighbourhood with lots of food options and close to public transit to get downtown.

First thing is first. We went to a baseball game at Progressive Field. Coming from Toronto, and having been to SkyDome, it is not hard to be jealous of a ballpark that looks and feels like baseball. I was very excited years ago when there was talk to renovating the inside of SkyDome and updating the amenities. I remember when I interviewed for a public relations role with the Blue Jays the interview assignment was how to communicate the construction/disruption as a result of this work. There is a reason why this ballpark is popular – the food options are great. Sightlines are perfect. Atmosphere was jovial and fun, especially as the team is still decent.

I will continue on by talking about the food. We had read before arriving that Cleveland was home to a growing craft beer scene, so we decided to take a day and do an informal pub crawl. We frequented several great brewpubs, specifically the Great Lakes Brewing Company, Market Garden Brewery and Bad Tom Smith Brewery. All of them offered similar kinds of pub foods – tacos, burgers, other finger foods, but the selection of beers at each place was extraordinary and for all palates. We also checked out the West Side Market (similar to the St. Lawrence Market) with lots of food options. If our Airbnb came with a BBQ, we would have bought some meat and made it at home one night. Breakfast at a greasy spoon like the West Side Market Cafe is also a great way to start your day when there is a lot of walking to do.

On our last night we went to Momocho for amazing Mexican food. A comparable to Momacho would be La Carnita in Toronto but not as expensive. The restaurant is in an old house and on two floors decorated by memorabilia and posters celebrating Mexican history and heritage….and maybe Mexican wrestling! In between, we would go and check out Mitchell’s Home Made ice cream where the lines would go out the door in the early summer evenings. They give you lots of ice cream, as you can see by my face below.

Downtown Cleveland is very walkable, if you are up for it. It reminds me a lot of Toronto in the 1980s in that buildings are spaced out, with the exception of a small collection of tall buildings in the core. There is lots of parking everywhere and they also have a huge stadium right on the waterfront, this one is for the Cleveland Browns.

You cannot visit Cleveland without visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That was almost an entire day out of the trip to see all the great memorabilia and history of music. I know the name says “Rock and Roll” but the museum celebrates all kinds of music. Be prepared to spend a lot of time here in general as there is so much to see and learn about.

One of the more interesting buildings downtown is the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. According to Wikipedia, it “honor[s] the more than 9,000 individuals from Cuyahoga County who served the Union throughout the war. It was dedicated on July 4, 1894 and is located on the southeast quadrant of Public Square in Downtown Cleveland.”

We also went for the culture and took in the Cleveland Museum of Art, home of a copy of “The Thinker” by Rodin. It is a beautiful building with lots of American and European art, sculptures and exhibits. One of the best parts was the ArtLens interactive exhibit where you stand in front of a screen and try to recreate various paintings and hold the positions of each person. What’s fun is you can do this by yourself, in pairs, or in groups. One of the other interesting parts of the building itself is the atrium, see below. The massive space is beautiful and peaceful at the same time. I almost wish the Royal Ontario Museum would think about re-doing the glass crystal extension for something more like the Cleveland Museum of Art.

To round out the trip, we also did a bit of shopping at the local outlet malls in Aurora, OH and then were home before we knew it.

The Great Lakes region has some great places to visit. Cleveland is definitely one of them. Tons to do, tons to see, driveable, walkable, enjoyable. To borrow from the Drew Carey show, “Cleveland rocks” and it is worth a weekend visit.

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