Cleveland is a highly underrated city. Between industrial roots, a thriving cultural scene, and stunning waterfront areas, it's a place with a lot going for it.
Because of that, Cleveland is a city worth visiting and should be on your radar.
Classic Comfort Foods to Innovative Fusion Cuisine
One thing that’s great about Cleveland is its wide and varied culinary scene.
Both pierogies and kielbasa are regular favorites, and they’ve even been reinvented with a contemporary spin.
Best Food in Cleveland
The popularity of these dishes is evident anytime you take a stroll through any of Cleveland's historic neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are where you will catch a whiff of the food. Find kielbasa grilling on an open flame or diners with plates of pierogies. The innovation of Cleveland’s food scene extends beyond these traditional dishes, as well.
The city is also renowned for its unique take on barbecue, and the Polish Boy sandwich perfectly encapsulates this. This sandwich is a juicy kielbasa in a bun, layered with crispy fries, coleslaw, and then a slathering of barbecue sauce. Sounds pretty good, right? Travelers to the city can find these everywhere, but restaurants like Mabel’s BBQ and Happy Dog are known for making some of the best versions.
Another component of the food industry in Cleveland is the emphasis on local produce. This is in large part because Ohio has a significant number of farms compared to other states, paving the way for the farm-to-table movement to thrive. To see this in action, head down to the West Side Market, where you can see both residents and chefs hunting down seasonal ingredients from regional farmers.
Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Roots
Back in 1986, the iconic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened its doors in Cleveland. The museum has become somewhat of a pilgrimage site for music lovers around the world, and the fact that Cleveland is where it’s located speaks volumes. This is the city where the phrase rock and roll was born.
Beyond being an extremely impressive building with its pyramid design standing out along the shores of Lake Erie, inside you’ll find everything that a rock and roll fan could ask for. Everything from the guitars of Jimi Hendrix to artifacts from bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones is on display, making it the perfect place to learn about the history of rock and roll and its connection with the city of Cleveland.
More than that, each year brings new excitement to the music industry of Cleveland as musicians are honored at annual induction ceremonies held at the Hall of Fame. This includes Ohio locals, too, with both The O'Jays and Tracy Chapman being two prominent examples that have been inducted.
Today, Cleveland’s contribution to music can continue to be felt. Clubs like Nighttown are known for their intimate atmosphere and soothing sounds of jazz, while blues venues like Beachland Ballroom keep toes tapping late into the night. At the same time, hip hop artists can be found performing at many venues across Cleveland, pushing boundaries and honoring their roots.
Art and Culture in the Heart of Ohio
The people of Cleveland take art and culture very seriously, and this can be felt at any number of museums and theaters across the city. Perhaps the best example is the Cleveland Museum of Art, renowned for its diverse collections that span thousands of years. This is where you’ll find everything from relics from ancient Egypt to modern masterpieces, and the museum is even home to medieval armor and an extensive gallery of Asian art.
A short distance away is Playhouse Square, the second-largest theater complex in the US after New York City's Lincoln Center. This is the anchor of the city's performing arts world, with key venues like the State Theatre playing host to major Broadway shows and international events. After almost being demolished back in the 1970s, it has been transformed into a very important part of Cleveland today.
For a more modern take on art, the Museum of Contemporary Art (moCa) is the place to see. This is where innovation and creativity are at play, and perceptions of art are challenged. Although moCa does showcase cutting-edge artists that are emerging locally, they also make the effort to feature artists from all corners of the world.
One other part of the art and culture scene that fits here goes back to music, but not the rock and roll that Cleveland is famous for. Instead, at venues like Severance Hall, the distinguished residence of The Cleveland Orchestra is on display. Known all over the world, the orchestra has been around for over 100 years and is sure to put on a show as good as you can find anywhere.
Cleveland’s Amazing Attractions
Cleveland also has many specific attractions that are worth seeing. Whether you’re looking for family fun, outdoor time, or big crowds and atmosphere, you can find. With so many choices, some planning will be required.
During your trip planning process, you may find yourself looking at eDreams flights to Cleveland to make arrangements to get to the city. You’ll notice just how close Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is to downtown. Being only nine miles away, if you don’t have a ton of time, it might make sense to focus on attractions close to the city center, like the colorful marine life at the Cleveland Aquarium or the beautiful greenery of the Cleveland Botanical Garden.
The aquarium is a particularly good choice. One of its main attractions is the SeaTube, where you can walk surrounded by water on all sides as colorful fish dart around you. There are also exhibits featuring local aquatic species from the Ohio Lakes & Rivers, as well as the Shark Gallery has a sandbar and sand tiger sharks swimming around.
At the nearby Botanical Garden, you’ll find the perfect place to relax outdoors and explore. Different parts of the gardens are themed, with everything from a Japanese-inspired garden to The Glasshouse, where you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to a rainforest in Madagascar or Costa Rica.
Sticking with the outdoor theme, Cleveland has an extensive park system, with green spaces all over the metro area. It’s known to locals as the “The Emerald Necklace,” and it’s perfect for hiking, picnics, or just simply being out and around nature. Similarly, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is only 30 minutes away from the city center. This is best described as an oasis for outdoor enthusiasts, with incredible hiking trails alongside very scenic river views.
Sports in Cleveland
Although it’s fair to say some of the major sports teams of Cleveland haven’t had a lot of success recently, the pride and love that residents have for their teams is palpable. If you get the chance to see the Browns, Cavaliers, or the Guardians on game day, expect an electric, yet family-friendly atmosphere reflective of a long sporting history in the city.
Although they haven’t reached the ultimate success of winning a Super Bowl, the Browns have a long history that has produced legendary figures like Jim Brown and Otto Graham. The Browns joined the NFL over 70 years ago, and despite recent decades of ups and downs, fans remain unwaveringly loyal to their team.
The basketball story of Cleveland is a little bit different, in large part due to one man. LeBron James, one of the most famous athletes of all time, was born and raised in Ohio and was drafted by the Cavs in 2003. He left after seven years, but returned after four seasons away, and then led the Cavs to an NBA Championship in 2016. This was the first time they had won an NBA Championship and ended a 50-plus-year drought. When you combine that with the fact that LeBron is a local Ohioan, you can see just how important this was to the city.
Baseball is very popular, too. The Guardians (Formerly known as the Indians) have roots that stretch back to 1901. Although the team did make it to the World Series in 2016, the last time they were able to win it was quite some time ago, in 1948. The franchise has produced a lot of great talents over the years, with names like Bob Feller and Larry Doby among the team’s Hall of Fame inductees.
Cleveland has a diverse appeal, and this is evident in its blend of history, culture, and innovation. Like most cities in the US, Cleveland has a unique character, so make sure to explore beyond just the well-trodden and popular tourist paths. Embrace the local culture and indulge in local food, and it’s hard to go wrong.