Not a Mistake - The Dynamic, Cultural City of Cleveland, Ohio
by Carolyn McFann
From downtown to its outer suburbs, Cleveland, Ohio has much to offer. The city is a dynamic mix of cultures, situated on Lake Erie. Having grown up here, these are a few of my favorite places to visit if you're going to be in town. The best time to visit if you want to avoid very cold weather is late spring or early fall. You won't be disappointed.
Public Square and Tower City
In the heart of Cleveland is a beautiful old skyscraper called the Terminal Tower. Built in the late 1920's, its lower interior was remodeled in the 80's to have a large, fully enclosed mall called Tower City. It is impressive, to say the least, with its fountains, marble floors and elegant, multi-leveled structure. It's where Clevelanders meet to eat, shop and go to ball games. Nearby are the sports stadiums for baseball, basketball and football. This is a city who loves their sports. In the basement of Tower City, you can catch the subway, called the Rapid Transit or RTA, to the east or west side. The Rapid is fast, and convenient. Many businesspeople use it everyday to get to work. It also goes out to the airport. Tower City is a hub of most activity for Clevelanders.
If you like to go out for a good meal, the Flats is a picturesque place to go. Many restaurants are on both the east and west banks of the Cuyahoga River, that runs next to Terminal Tower. This river is where immense ore barges and other ships come and go. The waterway is heavily used in the summer for both business and personal use by everyone. On the scenic west bank is Shooters, a popular restaurant that I used to go to, the view of the water is spectacular from there. There are concerts on there in the summer by famous bands of many genres. The historic Power House nearby is another popular place. It is a fully renovated old electric power building with TGIFridays, Howl at the Moon Saloon, the Improv comedy club and more. My friends and I used to go there frequently to meet after work.
Cleveland Metroparks System
Cleveland is surrounded by a very large ring of public parks, that are well maintained and offer spectacular natural beauty. There are places to cook, shelters and picnic tables, jogging trails, horseback riding stables and more. This ring extends for many miles all over the Cleveland suburbs. My favorite is the Chagrin Reservation in the autumn, when the trees are all changing their colors. Fall is spectacular if you like nature, the trees' vivid colors really stand out. There are events like horse shows, dog shows and others throughout the year. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is a popular place, too, on the near west side.
This is a highly cultural area on the east side of Cleveland, full of students since many colleges are in this area, Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Institute of Art, to name a few. The Cleveland Museum of Art is a stately building with many varied exhibits from the suit of armor room to Egyptian mummies and tombs. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is a favorite of mine, showing in detail dinosaur skeletons, the history of the area, the beauty of nature and how the world works through exhibits, lectures and a planetarium. The Cleveland Botanical Garden is next door, and a must for plant lovers, it even has a rainforest. The Crawford Auto Museum is elegant, and the site of many weddings and parties. There you can see cars from all ages in perfect condition. Great for old car buffs.
This ethnic part of University Circle is a wonderful place to go to a cafe, or festival. They have yearly traditional festivals like the Feast of the Assumption, where the streets are closed off and people jam in there like sardines. Little Italy is chock full of galleries. An old elementary school there was turned into a building full of shops and galleries, and the surrounding shops are artistic as well. It is an artist's paradise. There are art walks and shows frequently. Stop at Presti's Bakery for the most amazing pastries, ever. If you are there at the crack of dawn, Presti's has a small donut shop a few doors down from their bakery, but it closes early. If you're lucky enough to catch it while it's open, the donuts are warm and fresh. It has been a tradition for area residents for many, many years.
An outer suburb of Cleveland, this is my home town. With seven waterfalls throughout its territory, this charming, New England-flavor town has the homey atmosphere that occaisionally attracts movie producers, and is the site of a few past motion pictures. Go to Chagrin Falls on Memorial Day, when there is a parade and festival (Blossom Time) in the downtown park. This is Americana at its best. Stop at the Popcorn Shop, across the street from the downtown park, where you can get ice cream, popcorn and other snacks. It is a very old, historic building full of history built right on top of a waterfall. There is a public staircase to go beneath it and see the falls from down below. If you go to Chagrin in the summertime, this is a must. In the heart of town, there is also an old gazebo that used to be where old-time bands would play music. This is a quaint old town you don't want to miss.
The West Side Market
If you love to buy fruit, meat and other food items directly from vendors themselves, the West Side Market is the place to go and dicker with them. There are long-established family vendors selling fresh chickens, old world pastries, meats, chocolates and every fruit and vegetable imaginable. There are Polish, Italian, Irish, Slavic, Mexican, German and other foods there. It's a melting pot full of fresh food with a loyal following of people who come from all over to shop.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Science Center next door
If you love rock and roll, visit this museum or be square! It is a lively modern building, built on Lake Erie, with exhibits, shows, and souvenirs galore. Next door is the science center, with its own IMAX theater. These are wonderful family venues, so make sure to take your kids and walk around both places. Frequently when I've been there, boat shows can be seen outside, so check out on the water when you're there. The lake is a center of activity all in itself.
If you have the chance to visit Cleveland, remember to bring your camera. It is a diverse place with much to explore. Go to the art shows, plays, museums and visit the many top-notch restaurants. This city is growing, and improving daily. Go see a game or two, ride the train. On St.Patrick's Day, there is a huge parade worth attending, whether or not you're Irish. If you get really adventurous, drive out to Cedar Point or Amish country (about an hour or so from downtown Cleveland). If you need maps while there, stop at the Chamber of Commerce or AAA. Whatever you do, go to Tower City, downtown Cleveland is well worth visiting. Once you go, you will see what all the fuss is about, this great city has it all. Cleveland really does rock.
About the Author
Carolyn McFann is a scientific and nature illustrator, who owns Two Purring Cats Design Studio, which can be seen at: http://www.cafepress.com/twopurringcats . Educated at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, Carolyn is a seasoned, well-traveled artist, writer and photographer.