Look up Cleveland, Ohio in the news these days and you'll likely see some unpleasant coverage regarding the city's police department, but guess what? Cleveland actually has some great attributes. I realize you may be a little skeptical, but I'm telling you it really is one of the places to visit in 2015 (or after). Both The New York Times and Travel + Leisure magazine agree with me (or maybe I agree with them).
I recently spent several days in Cleveland, where I got to experience some of what makes the 48th largest city in America a must-see destination. Here are five reasons why you should visit Cleveland:
1. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (and Other Great Museums)
I am a big lover of museums and art galleries, but there are very few that I love so much I could easily spend all day there. The Newseum in Washington, D.C. is one. The Saatchi Gallery in West London is another. And now I can add to that short but growing list the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. If you have any appreciation for music whatsoever, this place is a must. The museum covers everything from rhythm and blues to folk music to classic rock and roll. During my visit, they even had a special exhibition on the history of hip hop (not to mention Notorious B.I.G.'s original jersey). It's an extremely well done celebration of music, both past and present.
The city is also home to a number of other really great museums, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Children's Museum of Cleveland and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Just make sure to look at their visitor hours. I planned to go to the Cleveland Museum of Art and Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland on a Monday, only to realize that's the day both venues are closed! Bah!
2. Food, Food, and More Food
Oh, food, I heart you. I am not ashamed to admit the first thing I do when planning a trip is to look up food options. I want to know where to eat, what foods to try and where to get the best of everything in a city. Cleveland was no exception, and I'm happy to report the culinary scene is great. There's the well-known West Side Market, which is a combination of produce, specialty foods and prepared foods. On a nice day, you can go and grab something from one of the prepared food vendors and then find a place outside to enjoy your bite to eat. Or you can pick up some produce or specialty foods to go.
If restaurants are more your style, you have plenty to choose from. I enjoyed several nice meals during my stay in Cleveland, including brunch at Town Hall in Ohio City, lunch at Hodge's in Downtown Cleveland and dinner at Lolita in Tremont. Oh, and then there's the ice cream. So much good VEGAN ice cream. For those who may be a little lactose intolerant like myself, make sure to try the seasonal vegan flavors at both Mitchell's Homemade Ice Cream and Piccadilly Creamery. In particular, the vegan chocolate hazelnut and cookies at Mitchell's is the real deal.
3. Breweries and Wineries Galore
Love beer? Head to Cleveland. Beer not your thing and you're more of a wine person? Head to Cleveland. Yep, this city is great for both beer drinkers and winos. Craft breweries have become so popular in the city, there's even a Cleveland Brew Bus to bring you to several local breweries for tastings. While walking through the Ohio City neighborhood, I noticed multiple breweries on one street, lined up like best friends that don't want to be separated. With all of these options, beer lovers are bound to find something they love.
Now let's talk about the wine. Prior to going to Cleveland, I had no idea there were so many wineries in northern Ohio. And they are pretty darn nice! I visited the Winery at Wolf Creek, which has a great set up going on: visitors can bring food from outside to enjoy at one of their picnic tables. They also offer wine by the taste, glass or bottle, all at very reasonable prices, and they have a full schedule of events throughout the year. It's a great excursion a half hour outside of the city.
4. Cute Neighborhoods
I love cute neighborhoods, and Cleveland has quite a few to explore. There's Ohio City, where the West Side Market and many a brewery are located, not to mention a few restaurants worth checking out. Then you have University Circle, home to several museums, a ton of university students and macaron heaven. The historic Gateway District in Downtown Cleveland offers up everything from indoor shopping malls to live events and walking tours. And then there's Tremont, an up-and-coming neighborhood for young professionals that has seen an influx of new restaurants, shops and galleries.
There are plenty of other neighborhoods in the greater Cleveland area worth exploring, but for those short on time, I recommend visiting Ohio City, University Circle, Gateway District and Tremont.
5. A Little Thing Called Sports
So I'm not really a big sports person, but even I have to acknowledge that Cleveland is great for the sports aficionado. In case you have been living under a gigantic rock and missed the news — Lebron James is back in Ohio playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He did his thing in Miami for a few seasons but decided last year to return home. Rest assured that if you did not know this news, one visit to Cleveland will ensure you know that Lebron is back in the O-H; that man's face pops up in the most random places. The love is back and stronger than ever.
For the football lovers, you can head to the Pro Football Hall of Fame located not too far outside of Cleveland in Canton, Ohio. Or, if baseball is your sport of choice, you can visit the Baseball Heritage Museum. Moral of the story: if you love sports, head to Cleveland. If you love beer, sports, wine and rock and roll, you should probably just pack up your stuff and relocate to Ohio because that place has it all.
Though I have only listed five reasons to visit Cleveland, there are plenty of other reasons the city is worth seeing. It's diverse and fun with a variety of things to do, and just in case I haven't said this enough — Lebron is back!