Summer is coming to its end which means the vacation season is too. We had the pleasure of hosting some out-of-town family this year, which I enjoy. It gives me a chance to show what Cleveland has, all the little things that people might not expect.
I saw this idea used on a Disney blog called Main Street Gazette, itself based on the idea of the Travel Channel’s The Layover. If you had a short time in a place, what are the key things to do?
So in only two and a half days, what are the key things to see and places to go to get the full flavor of Cleveland? Given all the options, it’s tough to narrow down. There are obvious choices, the places plastered on the front of Cleveland and Ohio travel guides. But how do you balance those with the smaller places that really define the city?
And timing is an issue. In fall the list would no doubt include Browns tailgating on Sunday. Summer means spending time on the lake or in the parks, winter means avoiding the stiff lake wind. Then throw in all the shows, exhibits, festivals, so forth that are here one weekend, gone the next.
All that in mind, here are my guidelines…picking a weekend assumed as “normal”, not based on festivals or events that require a certain weekend. I will use a summer time frame, because I’m still in summer mode and I don’t want to think about cold weather yet. I’ll also assume nice weather, no rain or storms. That’s about it. So here we go. My perfectly imperfect Cleveland weekend:
Once settled, off to the East Side and University Circle. First make a stop at League Park to visit the site of some Cleveland sports glory. While in the Hough (no relation) neighborhood, stop by the African-American Museum, driving past the corner of 79th Street and Hough Avenue along the way to see the spot where the infamous Hough Riots kicked off.
From Hough head to University Circle. Wander around Wade Lagoon, the Museum of Art, and Wade Park. The Natural History Museum is right there, or head to the Western Reserve Historical Society to see how the well-to-do Clevelanders lived in the 1800s.
For dinner, it’s Little Italy. Pizza, pasta, cannoli…all in one stretch. Enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells along Mayfield Avenue and Murray Hill Road. Browse the shops and buy some treats at one of the two bakeries.
Start off with breakfast/brunch at West Side Market, maneuvering the packed aisles to find some interesting dishes. Eat there or while walking along West 25th. Check out the stores along West 25th before doubling back to Great Lakes Brewing Company for a beer. Head to Farkas Bakery on Lorain to pick up some Eastern European pastries. Across the street is Hansa Import Haus, giving off the flavor of the German heritage that settled the area years ago. Going west on Lorain, check out the architecture of Saint Ignatius High School.
Take Abbey Avenue into Tremont. Admire the churches and walk through Lincoln Park. Stop in Visible Voice to browse the book selection then head to The Loop to check out the huge music selection and artwork from local artists. Try to find something from a Cleveland band. I suggest some Dead Boys.
Continue down West 11th to University and get to Sokolowski’s for dinner. It’s best to get there at least 15 minutes before dinner service starts at 4 o’clock if you want a seat. Enjoy the mix of hearty Eastern European favorites. Before leaving the neighborhood, make the side trip to Starkweather Avenue and look over the valley at the steelyards to see what built the city.
Jump on I-90 west and get off at Columbia Road. Take Columbia to Lake, and finish the day at Huntington Beach. Sit on the beach and watch the people while the sun sets on the lake. At the top of the overlooking cliff, get some Mitchell’s Ice Cream and enjoy the cool breeze.
Take the Rapid into Tower City. See where Loki, Iron Man, and Captain America stood in Public Square. Also check out the statue to founder Moses Cleaveland and Old Stone Church. Walk down to East 4th to grab coffee at Erie Island Coffee. Stop in the CLE Clothing store for a souvenir to remember your weekend and profess your newfound love for the city.
Around the corner from East 4th, grab a table at Noodlecat for the all day happy hour. The pulled pork steam bun is a favorite. Then go to the lake either by Waterfront Line or walking (if you walk, be sure to go through the Arcade for Victorian-era glitz).
On the lakefront, take in Voinovich Park for good views of the city and the lakefront. Walk past the museums, the Rock Hall and the Great Lakes Science Center, stop in if you wish. See the William G. Mather docked next to the Science Center, another reminder of Cleveland’s industrial past. And end the weekend where the city began, taking the Waterfront Line to Settler’s Landing Park.