Tell me about NE Ohio
October 28, 2022 10:52 AM   Subscribe

There's a chance I may be moving to NE Ohio to be closer to family. I have midwestern roots, but I've become quite accustomed to a liberal Pacific NW life. Help me understand what I might be getting myself into, and show me the good in the area...

Looking to move to somewhere east of Cleveland. We'd like to get at least .5 acre, so probably a bit further out from downtown. But I'd like to be able to get into a city without spending a day driving. What's the area around Chesterland / Chagrin Falls like? Any recommendations on small towns where a non-gun-toting, board-gaming, non-kid-having, atheist couple might find some like-minded folks? Are there any MeFi's in the area? Hope me!

I've never lived in a small town, and some of them look quite quaint (looking at you, Burton). Totally open to neighborhoods in Cleveland with houses with larger lots as well.

General thoughts on the area are welcome, as are specific recommendations for places to live, things to do, ways to meet people. We might go as far south as Akron; as far east as I-79 in PA. I'd probably avoid Erie because of the ridiculous amount of snow. I know the whole area gets snow, but is it worse closer to the lake, even in Cleveland and Mentor?
posted by hydra77 to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You can probably get a nice half acre maybe a bit north of Hudson and be in a decent place. It comes up a few times here, it's got kind of a old timey small town vibe but it's in easy striking distance of Cleveland and very close to Akron.

I grew up in that general area and while the politics have gotten worse, there are still plenty of progressive types around. It has a lot of natural beauty that you won't find in other parts of the Midwest, and the Cuyahoga Valley National park definitely deserves to stand as equal next to the more famous ones, it's just more about small sandstone and shale canyons instead of massive rock formations, rolling hills and smaller rivers instead of enormous waterfalls and mountains.

Yes the Lake Effect snow is generally worse closer to the lake. The effect stretches down past Akron but it's better there than it is in the southern suburbs of Cleveland.

There are plenty of cool gaming stores where people hang out and play. Back in the 90s I was on a large (32 lines!) local bbs that was full of liberal nerd/childless/atheist types. In hindsight it was a bit like MeFi! They are of course defunct but my point is I think you'd be able to find your people :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:06 AM on October 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

But I do think you'd better brace yourself for having a lot of riled-up Trumpy neighbors, especially in the suburbs. They may not be a majority, but they will be loud and obnoxious enough that their presence will be noticeable.
posted by praemunire at 11:20 AM on October 28, 2022 [7 favorites]

I’ve known lots of people from all over that area, from Shaker Heights to Bedford to Solon to Chagrin Falls to Hudson. It’s all pretty well-regarded.

There are Trumpers everywhere, but NE Ohio is the most liberal part of the state. Chagrin/Hudson will generally be more of the old school Bush 41 country club Republicans rather than crazy Lauren Boebert types trying to generate publicity for themselves. But even they’re getting a little crazy these days. South and east you’ll get into Tim Ryan’s district.

There are large universities in Kent, Youngstown, and Akron, so you’ll probably be able to find a social scene there. I have a cousin who went to Kent State, and judging by their FB posts, there seems to be a pretty active LGBT community there.

Northeast, in Lake and Ashtabula counties, is wine country. That and the lake tourism tends to moderate things a bit.

If you don’t mind going a little further west, I’ve always thought Medina was a cute town.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:27 AM on October 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

One of my high school friends returned to NE Ohio with his husband after several years in DC. They are quite happy in Cuyahoga Falls and I enjoy the restaurants and the national park whenever I’m back in the area to visit. They are also atheist, child free, quite liberal and enjoy board games. Happy to reach out to him with any questions
posted by icaicaer at 11:36 AM on October 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Lake Erie are a treasure. A lot of outdoor beauty to be seen, and you’ll have access to a lot of good family activities. Lake County is a bit of a drive from there and definitely more Trumpy, but they have great parks, too.

I have friends in Macedonia and they like it, though it is more suburban. I’ve been to Kent and Akron quite a bit and those towns might be good places for you to check out, though they are larger. Good luck!
posted by glaucon at 12:03 PM on October 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

Peninsula is really cute, roughly halfway between Cleveland and Akron, and heavily dependent on national park and bicycle tourism.
posted by box at 12:04 PM on October 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

I live further south and west in central Ohio, and while my county is quite conservative and churchy, my town is a college town and I've recently found some people who grew up around here and left for a while, who've moved back for the natural beauty, affordability, and proximity to family. More than one set of neighbors are in this category.

That said, the state legislature is a gerrymandered nightmare and the six-week abortion ban is only suspended while a court considers the ACLU lawsuit. I expect local politics to remain contentious and state laws to remain regressive. The midterms are not promising. If my family was deciding in 2022 whether to move here I would have serious reservations (we came in 2016 before the election and didn't know if we were staying, but here we still are :/)
posted by Lawn Beaver at 12:31 PM on October 28, 2022 [4 favorites]

I had a liberal friend who lived in Youngstown and liked it a lot, if that helps
posted by TimHare at 1:49 PM on October 28, 2022

In a very rough sense, I'd say that areas at about the distance of Chagrin Falls sit pretty close to the suburb / exurb transition for Cleveland. Live closer in than that, and many more of your neighbors will be people who regularly go into the city, perhaps commute into it (and they'll somewhat more diverse, and vote more Democratic) - go much further out, and you get more of a standalone small town vibe.

If you're more interested in access to city amenities - Solon might be a good fit. I grew up in the area (in a higher-density inner suburb), and we had family friends who lived in Solon and liked it. Getting a half-acre property there should be very doable at still-quite-reasonable prices (alternately, there's nearby Orange or Pepper Pike at a higher price point).
posted by kickingtheground at 3:19 PM on October 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

I'd like to weigh in as a former Clevelander (now a 40 something living in St. Louis, MO). If you are willing to go for less land, I think you could easily find your community in Cleveland Heights, Just a stone's through from the city. It's a beautiful suburb and I think you would easily find your people.
posted by rglass at 4:20 PM on October 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

IMHO Cleveland's inner ring suburbs (particularly Cleveland Heights) would be a good political/social fit for you. Of course, most lot sizes are smaller than a 1/2 acre.

Ohio has 26 Library Journal Star Libraries (the most of any state except New York). North East Ohio is well represented.
posted by oceano at 4:23 PM on October 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

I live in Shaker Heights, ask me anything!

Short version: I don’t think your .5 acre and your politically progressive neighbors are going to come together. Chagrin Falls is beautiful to visit and probably leans blue; maybe Moreland Hills? It’s worth looking at recent voting results by precinct.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:35 PM on October 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

I live in an outer ring East side suburb, pretty close to Chesterland and Chagrin Falls. I will gladly answer questions via Mefi Mail or chat on the phone if you'd like. I grew up here, lived for quite a while in NYC and Chicago and am now back and quite happy. Burton is nice but it's pretty far out. Chagrin Falls is super charming and has a beautiful walkable downtown area. Chesterland used to be totally rural but it's gotten a lot more development in the past 10 years. There are still huge parts of it that are wooded and country-feeling but it's easily accessible to highways and downtown Cleveland.

I have to run out and pick up my son but please feel free to send a message and I can share more!
posted by Kangaroo at 4:37 PM on October 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

I have a friend who lived in Hudson for many years and loved it.
posted by jgirl at 5:38 PM on October 28, 2022

I know the whole area gets snow, but is it worse closer to the lake, even in Cleveland and Mentor?

It is noticeably worse on the East Side of the Cleveland area than the West - like I have literally been working in Cleveland Heights or Warrensville Heights or visiting friends in Mentor or Novelty and I start crawling home through 6 inches of snow and 100 foot visibility and then I hit the downtown area (right on the lake) and the skies are clear and there's just a dusting on the ground.

There's a reason a lot of the inner eastern & southern suburbs have "Heights" in their name . . . My understanding is that generally our weather shoots northwest to southeast, so water gets picked up crossing the lake but mostly doesn't hit land until east of Cleveland, and then the weather systems get kind of stalled when they hit the higher land on the east side. Thus dumping a bunch of snow on the general east side, possibly even as far south as Kent/Cuyahoga Falls.

I mean, if you're generally OK driving in/living with snow it's not really a problem. It's not Buffalo. But there is a noticeable difference.

I'd say that areas at about the distance of Chagrin Falls sit pretty close to the suburb / exurb transition for Cleveland. Live closer in than that, and many more of your neighbors will be people who regularly go into the city, perhaps commute into it (and they'll somewhat more diverse, and vote more Democratic) - go much further out, and you get more of a standalone small town vibe.

STRONG second for this. If you're looking for larger properties not totally in Trump Country I would consider State Route 306 (which runs north-south from the lake around Mentor down to Kent) as kind of your eastern border.

I've never lived in a small town, and some of them look quite quaint

Yeaaahhhh . . . . "quaint" small towns and "liberal" don't really go together in Ohio. Unless it's somewhere with an active liberal university - Kent, Wooster, Oberlin - and even then there's a real "students vs. townies" kind of vibe. Or places like Hudson, Chagrin Falls, Cuyahoga Falls, maybe Medina or a few others, which have quaint and charming downtowns but are mostly that way because they are relatively wealthy bedroom/retirement communities for people who work in Akron or Cleveland. So there's a mix of "old-school" "business" Republicans and more, well, limousine liberals, plus a number of generally liberal folks who live there for work or family.

show me the good in the area

Second for the CVNP, also Cleveland MetroParks. Also strong second for Cuyahoga County Public Library system (which cooperates with other county and university library systems), and Cleveland Public Library. World-class Art Museum (where general admission is FREE!) World-class Orchestra. The 11 theaters & performance spaces of Playhouse Square, the largest performing arts center outside of NYC. 3 major sports teams. Blossom Music Center for big summer concerts. Jacobs Pavilion (colloquially known as "Nautica") for smaller summer concerts. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is thing you'll probably really visit only once for the museum itself, but they do have special exhibits and a variety of other activities, including summer concerts. Tons of neighborhood/city/town arts, music & food festivals & events during the months when it isn't snowing. Brite Winter Music & Arts Festival when it is snowing. If you're into live music we're sort of halfway between Chicago & NYC, meaning lots of acts will be willing to play here on weekday nights in smaller more intimate venues than you might expect. (Grog Shop, Beachland Ballroom, The Agora, House of Blues, MGM Northfield Park, Masonic Auditorium, just to start.) Thriving indie theater and arts gallery scenes. A growing reputation as a foodie's paradise, not just for fine dining but because of our large and diverse ethnic populations. Many many many local breweries. Tabletop Board Game Cafe. 16 bit Barcade. Superelectric Pinball Parlor.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:09 PM on October 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

I live in Gates Mills and it’s beautiful and surprisingly liberal. Not cheap for the most part, but if you have the money go for it. You get big yards, forests and the entire city is a bird sanctuary. It is a little on the boring side because the lots are huge, except in the cute village. If you want a bit more of a community feel I would go with Chagrin Falls. Or, Cleveland Heights or Shaker Heights ( but not all areas). But those two are really city living. There is no where in Geauga County that I would want to live due to the rampant Trumpers. But possibly Chardon. I have a very liberal friend there, she has horses so she can’t really live in the cute towns, but it’s a very red area. I miss my little bungalow in Cleveland Heights and being near more action and restaurants.

Oh, I almost forgot about Willoughby and Willoughby Hills. Very pretty and has a cute town.
posted by waving at 9:24 PM on October 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

NE Ohio fares relatively well with respect to the predicted impacts of climate change.
posted by oceano at 1:02 AM on October 29, 2022

Hi there! I moved to Cleveland almost 30 years ago, thinking I would only stay for two years at most. It's a wonderful and underrated part of the world.

If you want to live in one of our eastern (say, east of I-271) communities, you will deal with snow, especially the deeper and higher you get in Geauga (pronounced "gee-AW-guh") County. My wife grew up in Chardon (SHAR-dun), and will attest that there will be a lot of snow, but also that it is a liberal blueberry in the midst of tomato soup. This is the case for most everywhere in Ohio-- townies tend to be Blue. So, if you want that feel, Munson Township, Chardon, and Burton are fine choices. We just drove through yesterday, and you can tell by the increased proportion of Tim Ryan vs. Vance signs. Avoid Chesterland, though. It's a town, but it's fairly Red. Rule of thumb: if the rural town looks like it has a New England-style old platting (with a town green and buildings from the late 19th century), you'll find more liberals. If it looks like sprawl, avoid.

Folks already recommended Chagrin Falls, and I concur. If you like "Calvin and Hobbes", this is the town where Bill Watterson grew up and lived (might still do), and C&H is basically set there. Much more liberal, very walkable, still can get larger lots nearby. It's expensive... but only for NE Ohio. Anyone who is selling even a modest home on the east or west coasts will easily be able to buy a great place, with cash to spare.

If you are set on 0.5 acres, anything within Cleveland and near suburbs will be tough. But, it's still worth looking at, especially the Ohio City/Tremont/Detroit Shoreway/Shaker Square neighborhoods and Cleveland Hts & Shaker Hts.).

Finally, we deal with snow exceedingly well here. Mayors keep and lose their jobs based on how public works clears roads. If you are concerned, just do what everyone else does and get all-wheel drive and a set of snow tires. The proportion of Subarus to everything else is pretty high.

Cleveland is great. We'd love to have you here.
posted by Avogadro at 5:17 AM on October 29, 2022 [4 favorites]

Here's a nice map of the Snow Belt in NE Ohio.

I'm also a native Clevelander and I've lived in other places too. I like Cleveland. This is where I want to stay the rest of my life.

I'll also add world class health care to the list. Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals are highly rated in multiple specialties.
posted by kathrynm at 10:01 AM on October 29, 2022

You might find some solace in the history of northeastern Ohio. Most people don't realize that it used to be part of Connecticut. Some believe that history still informs the culture and institutions of the region.

Northeast Ohio is Built Like New England Because It Used to Be Owned by Connecticut

Connecticut Western Reserve (Ohio History Connection)

Connecticut Western Reserve (Wikipedia)
posted by Winnie the Proust at 4:33 PM on October 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all the valuable information (and interesting history!). I appreciate those who've offered additional insight via memail - I may very well take you up on that in the future. I feel a lot better about this as a possibility in my future.
posted by hydra77 at 9:43 AM on October 31, 2022 [1 favorite]

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