Okay, okay so Cleveland isn’t exactly a huge tourist destination, but having recently visited, I’m thinking that might need to change. While there’s not quite as much to do as other large cities (such as Chicago, DC, or even Charleston) there are a few reasons why you truly should consider going to Cleveland if you’re ever given the chance. Make it a quick 48-hour trip and you’ll find plenty to fill your time with.
Probably one of the most exciting parts of Cleveland is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame so why not start your trip out with a bang? The building itself is iconic, but it’s what is inside that truly counts (sounds so sentimental, but you get the point). You’ll find yourself spending quite a lot of time wandering around and going back to the roots of rock while also catching some more recent “rock stars” although, not sure I’d consider Taylor Swift part of the rock & roll world, but seeing a sparkly T. Swift costume IRL is always fun.
After taking in the Rock & Roll Hall of fame head down the E 9th Street pier for a short stroll. The Voinovich Bicentennial Park offers some great views of both the city and the lake, plus you can snap a photo of one of the three “Cleveland” signs. If you’re there while the weather is warm you can even rent a paddle boat for a little while.
At this point, you’ve probably worked up an appetite and, let’s be honest, food is always one of the greatest parts of a vacation. Take a quick walk (or catch an uber if you’re feeling lazy) to The Flats for a tour of small plates for lunch. First up is Beerhead Bar & Eatery for a “barbarian pretzel” that’s larger than your face (don’t believe me? check the picture). While this is anything but a small plate, it’s great for sharing and is technically an appetizer. Next, walk down the street to Collision Bend Brewing Co. and grab a few more nibbles. The giant molten meatball and popcorn with Mexican pepper, chicken schmaltz, and pecorino cheese are two good options if you get stumped. Bonus points if you sit outside along the Cuyahoga River.
After lunch you’ve got the option to hit up the house from A Christmas Story (movie fanatics will love this), do a little shopping, or visit the Cleveland Museum of Art. But, make sure you fit your activities in before sunset. For a beautiful view head to Bar 32 at the top of the Hilton Cleveland Downtown Hotel and grab a drink with a fantastic view.
Once your stomach starts growling again you can head to the popular 4th street for dinner at The Butcher and the Brewer. Don’t miss the mac and cheese or the bacon wrapped dates. After dinner, throw back a few drinks at House of Blues if there is an event or post up at the Flying Monkey Bar.
If you stayed up late on night one, chances are you could use a great cup of coffee right about now. You’ll get your fix at Rising Star Coffee, a local Ohio spot that knows how to make great coffee.
Know that you’ve got your energy back, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium is a big hit. For $20 (an adult ticket) you’ll be entertained for a few hours. Or, you can visit a more natural habitat for the fishes as you stroll along Edgewater Park Beach and work on your tan (if you’re visiting in the summer).
For lunch, head to the historic West Side Market (pro tip: make sure to stop at an ATM on the way, you’ll want some cash). Take in some of the local vendors and taste a few items such as the French baked goods, a crepe, or the famous Steve’s Gyro Stand. Once you’re done perusing, head up the stairs to people watch while you enjoy your goodies.
In the afternoon, you can stay in the neighborhood and have a little fun at the Forest City Shuffleboard Arena and Bar. If that’s not your thing, grab a ride on the Goodtime III. Getting a little sick of the water activities? The Great Lakes Science Center could be a great stop.
Dinner time? OH YES. It might be a little crazy to go back to the exact same area for two nights in a row, but Mabel’s (right across from the Butcher and the Brewer) is a can’t-miss. Owned by Chef Michael Symon (of TV-fame), this place has a different take on BBQ. You won’t get NC or TX style ‘cue here. Instead, order a Peach Daiquiri or one of the many whiskey options before digging in on the “This is Cleveland” or the giant beef rib paired with J.W. potatoes or creamed corn. You’ll be miserably full, but it will be sooo worth it.
Have I convinced you to visit Cleveland yet? In fact, a quick weekend might leave you wanting more!
Tell us about a city that surprised you (in a good way) in the comments below!