Things to do in Cleveland before you die
May 17, 2013 6:16 AM   Subscribe

Heading to Cleveland in Early June to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and then on to Niagara Falls. Help me plan my vacation.

My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Cleveland in early June to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is a big item on his bucket list. We'll be spending 2 or 3 days in Cleveland before heading up to Niagara Falls to cross an item off _my_ bucket list. What are some fun things we can do in Cleveland besides the HOF? A place with great live music would be awesome and I am a big fan of good food but I'm also looking for things to do/see in the day besides the HOF. I'd also appreciate any tips for making the most of our visit to the HOF and hey - if you know of anything awesome to see on the way to the Falls or while we're there, let me know about it! We won't have a car while we're in Cleveland, but will be picking up a rental to drive to the falls. We're flying home from Buffalo so any don't miss suggestions there would be appreciated.

Upon rereading, just realized I'm basically asking for you guys to plan my vacation. Have at it! An additional note is that I have a strong suspicion that I may be returning from this trip with an engagement ring so it's obviously going to be a pretty special trip. Or else a horrible trip with much need for distraction!
posted by Lizlemondrop to Travel & Transportation around Cleveland, OH (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
If you're driving to Niagara via I-90, a good place to stop and eat is Crowleys. It's a 10-minute drive off the interstate but it's in a lovely setting and the food is good.
posted by essexjan at 6:20 AM on May 17, 2013

In Cleveland, the Cleveland Museum of Art is world-class, and shouldn't be missed. They're on the tail-end of a decade-long reno project right now.

The West Side Market is an absolute gem, even if you're not buying any food. Brekkie options are definitely on the menu.

Great Lakes Brewing has an excellent brewpub, with excellent beers. They're good people.

As for Buffalo and the Falls, if you have a car, see if you can do a tour of Buffalo's Central Terminal, which is a decrepit Art Deco masterpiece.

There is also the Albright-Knox, which is simply outstanding. Nearby Elmwood Ave has lot of eating and strolling options.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:35 AM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

r/cleveland has a pretty good list of things to do in the Forest City, available here.

Capt. Renault seems to have hit some of the better points (Definitely hit up the Museum of Art), so I'll suggest that, if you're looking for live music, consider The Grog Shop, The House of Blues, The Beachland Ballroom, or maybe Quicken Loans Arena. Sadly, it looks like the Orchestra is off that month.
posted by miguelcervantes at 6:46 AM on May 17, 2013

Browse Buffalo Spree for more tips, but a lot of the standard stuff is as follows:
Buffalo food: beef on weck, chicken wings at Anchor or Duff or Gabriel's Gate.
Buffalo music: free concerts, Babeville.
Buffalo drinks: Community Beer Works, The Blue Monk, Coles, Mr Goodbar, Vera.

For sandwiches in Cleveland or Buffalo, there's DiBella's.
posted by knile at 6:53 AM on May 17, 2013

Some local favorites (Cleveland and environs):
Prosperity Social Club
Lolita or any of the Michael Symon restaurants (B-spot is a favorite of ours)
The Guardians of Traffic (just a thing to see as you cross the Hope Memorial Bridge)
If you're around on a Wednesday night after memorial day, you could combine a trip to the art museum with Wade Oval Wednesdays, live music, food carts and general outsidiness among the museums.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:02 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might enjoy a trip to Cleveland's Happy Dog, a bar with a ridiculous selection of (delicious) hot dog toppings and frequent live music (it looks like the Ensemble HD, a bunch of Cleveland Orchestra performers who do a regular rotation as a classical music bar band, won't be performing while you're in town). There's a really great beer bar on the East Side, La Cave du Vin. The West Side Market is as nice as people say it is. miguelcervantes covered live music venues (and there are smaller places like Now That's Class depending on how your tastes run; hit the Scene's website to get a sense of who's playing when you visit). Take in an Indians game at the Jake Progressive Field? And if you're on the East Side to go to the art museums anyway, take half an hour to go up through Little Italy to Lakeview Cemetery to see a) the Tiffany stained glass at Wade Chapel and especially b) the wonderfully bizarre James Garfield memorial.
posted by snarkout at 7:07 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also in Buffalo, there are Frank Lloyd Wright houses and a huge cemetery you can tour.
posted by knile at 7:12 AM on May 17, 2013

Seconding the Beachland Ballroom; I saw some great shows there, and also Great Lakes Brewing. However, I might take a pass on Solokowski's in favor of Frank Sterle's Slovenian Country House, and I will happily recommend the Buckeye Beer Engine in Lakewood because it's a really fun place to eat (and the food is really good).

For a quintessentially Cleveland thing to do, consider touring the William H. Mather steamship.
posted by deliriouscool at 7:17 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Chiming in to represent Lakewood, Cleveland’s culinary neighbor immediately to the west. Less than 15 minutes from downtown are:

Melt Bar and Grilled on Detroit
Taco Tonto’s on Madison
Players on Madison
Lakewood Park on Lake Ave

Get tacos and go sit in the park and stare at Lake Erie and contemplate existence.

Seconding Buckeye Beer Engine. It is always open.
posted by vkxmai at 7:19 AM on May 17, 2013

Superior Pho (accurately named, unlike #1 Pho, which is distinctly second place) has the best Banh Mi I've ever had. It's just fantastic.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:24 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're in the West Side Market area, want to take a quiet meal away from the hubub, and are either culinarily adventurous or like authentic French food, make your way over to Le Petit Triangle Cafe. Especially if the weather is nice, in which case you can sit outside.
posted by jon1270 at 7:26 AM on May 17, 2013

First: Be aware that Cleveland's public transit is, in my experience, a remarkably imperfect experience. You may wish to rent a car in Cleveland, even just for a day, to make doing things easier.

I super love Cleveland, and this is a chunk of my 'So, you're moving to Cleveland!' email that I occasionally send people.

Cleveland has a surprisingly great food scene. Michael Symon has three restaurants that are either in Cleveland or right near there: B-Spot (casual place, does burgers, awesome milkshakes, bratwurst, that kind of thing), Lola and Lolita (Lola is pretty formal, Lolita is a little more midrange). All three of them are meant to be fantastic, though I've only been to B-Spot. If you decide to hit the B-Spot, I'd suggest getting there earlyish--consider having a very late lunch, maybe. Lolita has great happy hour specials (I think that happy hour if 4-6--double check if you're interested.)

If you're into breweries, the Great Lakes Brewing Company is good times--they've got fantastic beer (I like the Dortmunder and Eliot Ness, and, if it's in season, the Christmas Ale) and good food.

Tommy's of Cleveland is something of a hipster landmark. Um, but the food's actually good, and Cleveland hipsters are less annoying than the hipsters of other cities, in my experience. Tommy's is also in a neat little area called Coventry--lots of little independent shops and the like down there. It's a nice place to walk around.

The Flying Fig is a midrange eatery--I've only been there once, but really enjoyed the food. Vine and Bean Cafe is much more casual and focuses on food that's produced within a hundred miles of the restaurant. Their menu changes regularly, so I can't say much about the current menu, but I've been there several times and it's always been good.

If you're looking for something more casual, go check out Johnny Mango (incredibly cheap, super delicious), The Stone Oven, or the West Side Market Cafe. The latter is located inside the West Side Market, which is a historic market in Cleveland--they've got basically everything from organic veggies to handmade pastas to whole pigs and goats. Some of the stalls are owned by larger companies, but there are some that've been owned by the same family for the last hundred years. It's a neat place to walk around, and there are actually quite a few eateries in there. All very casual (the Market Cafe is the most "upscale", and by that I mean that there are tables to sit at), but there's good brats, any kind of baked good you want, Middle Eastern food, Mexican and Cambodian, plus stuff like gyros, Falafil... It's epic. If you go, climb upstairs to eat on the balcony that overlooks the market--it's fantastic. The market and everything in it shuts down around four, just so you know. They're not open on Sundays at all.

If you want a crazy-awesome bar, go check out the Velvet Tango Room. Dress up. It's basically a modern speakeasy, and -- as you might expect -- is pretty awesome.

If you're okay walking around looking for somewhere, Little Italy has some fantastic shops and restaurants. Many of them keep weird hours/days of operation, though, and everything is closed Sundays.

There's also L'Albatros Brasserie-- I've heard it's amazing, though it's a bit steep for my pocketbook. Blue Point Grille is meant to do fantastic seafood, but as I'm allergic, we've never gone.

This is by no means a comprehensive listing, it's just a bunch of places I've been and found memorable for one reason or another.

Moving on to things to do...
If you're into music, there's the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If it happens that you'll be in Cleveland on June 9, check out Chef Jam.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has been heavily renovated in the last few years, and the collection is amazing. Admission, pleasingly, is free. There's also the Museum of Contemporary Art, which is small but neat.

If you're in a more playing-with-things mood, the Great Lakes Science Center can be pretty fun--they have a lot of hands-on exhibits. (It's also literally right next to the Rock Hall, so if you wanted, you could do a doubleheader without paying twice for parking.)

This one's a bit odd, but there's the William Mather museum, where you're going through an old steamboat. It's incredible and I love it, but if you're claustrophobic, I would recommend against it.

Cleveland has a surprisingly wonderful zoo. Part of it is an indoor rainforest, and they've done pretty amazing things with it. It's also enormous--you can easily spend a whole day there and still not see everything.

The Cleveland Botanical Garden or the Cleveland Cultural Gardens can be neat, though they're less impressive in early June than they would be a month later--summer comes slowly around here. Along similar lines is the Rockefeller Park Greenhouse.

Maybe this is weird, but I love taking people to Lake View Cemetery. It's absolutely stunning--full of amazing old graves, gorgeous monuments, and there's a chapel designed by Louis Tiffany (of stained glass fame), and it's just as beautiful as you'd expect.

If you want music, check what's playing at the Grog Shop, the Beachland Ballroom, or the House of Blues. Bonus: Grog Shop and the Ballroom tend to be really cheap, too, with some shows as low as a couple of bucks.

If you want a different kind of music, go check out the world-class Cleveland Orchestra--they're considered among the top ten orchestras in the world, better than anyone else in America save for Chicago's Radio Symphony Orchestra.

For theater (or sometimes concerts), go look at Playhouse Square. It's a fairly impressive theater complex--it's a group theaters from the twenties that all closed in the sixties. There was discussion about knock them all down back in the 70s, but a group of people formed a preservation group and between, I think, 1980 and 1999, they've totally restored all five of the theaters--it's gorgeous inside. They do a pretty wide variety of stuff now, ranging from, like, fashion shows to Broadway, and tickets can often be had for as little as $10. (And, okay, they're a little nosebleedy, but I've paid way more than ten bucks for worse.)

Cleveland, for all its relatively crappy rep, is pretty fantastic, and, in the parts you're going to be, is remarkably safe. The downtown area as a whole is really clean and safe. Have a great trip!
posted by MeghanC at 7:31 AM on May 17, 2013 [14 favorites]

You might find this recent New York Times article interesting.
posted by oceano at 7:40 AM on May 17, 2013

Meghan's recs are great, but Tommy's is a hippie landmark, make no mistake. (Also, I don't really agree that their food is good, but hey. The milkshakes are excellent.)

Gordon Square/Detroit Shoreway has been getting a bunch of good stuff recently, and is cooler than that website may at first make it look. The aforementioned Happy Dog is there; there's also a great a new-old style soda shop, Sweet Moses, and a whole bunch of other good eating. Also movies and live theater.
posted by redfoxtail at 8:28 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you are a jazz fan, Nighttown is a nice place to hear live music. It is the grooviest James-Joyce themed Irish gastropub around.
Sokolowski's and Sterle's are great; the West Side Market is a must. You can reach the Great Lakes Brewing Co. on foot from the market.
The superb Art Museum, the Museum of Natural History, Lake View Cemetery, and Little Italy form another nice cluster of activities reachable by foot + bus or bicycle. You can also easily reach L'Albatross (mentioned above) from the art museum/ Case Western campus area for a nice dinner.
The Beachland Ballroom is an excellent spot for music, and you can get dive bar fare there or foodie bait at the Grovewood Tavern (this will require a cab) before catching a show.
posted by Svejk at 8:33 AM on May 17, 2013

Greenhouse Tavern in downtown is a fantastic restaurant. The Crispy Chicken Wings Confit are not to be missed.

On the Lakewood side, I've never been but I keep hearing good things about Mahall's 20, a bar/bowling alley/music venue. They seem to have a lot of good bands come through.

If you do the Ohio City/West Side Market/Great Lakes Brewing thing, stop in Velvet Tango Room for a drink. Quite expensive, but very much well worth it.

A beautiful space to take a walk through, and do some light shopping, is the Cleveland Arcade. It's within walking distance of the Hall of Fame (and right near the Greenhouse Tavern).
posted by slogger at 9:34 AM on May 17, 2013

And I forgot to mention, Cool Cleveland is a great resource for finding things cool that are in Cleveland.
posted by slogger at 9:55 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

in cleveland, visit the christmas story house!
posted by nanhey at 8:19 PM on May 17, 2013

Response by poster: I've been out of town so imagine my surprise to come back to all these incredible answers! Thanks so much everybody.
posted by Lizlemondrop at 5:41 AM on May 24, 2013

Not sure if you've already made your trip, but here's a blog post by a Buffalonian about wings.
posted by knile at 1:22 AM on June 6, 2013

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