Once nicknamed “the mistake on the lake” after the Cuyahoga River famously caught fire in 1969, Cleveland is one of the most up-and-coming cities in America. While Ohio is often overlooked by states such as New York, California and Florida in terms of British tourism, there are plenty of reasons to visit Cleveland with its incredible local people, rich history and unique culture. We pick ten of the city’s best experiences and attractions.
Tours of Cleveland
If you’re yet to visit the city, Tours of Cleveland offer highly insightful walking tours. An ideal introduction to downtown Cleveland, the walking tours are offered year-round and include various tours such as a Downtown Highlights tour and a Cleveland From the Inside tour. Special, seasonal tours also take place, including a Christmas tour.
After relocating to Cleveland in 2017, Scott O’Con launched Tours of Cleveland the following year, having fallen in love with his new home, hoping to offer “a new and fresh perspective on this great and historic American city”. The Downtown Highlights tour, for instance, spans two hours and begins in the Public Square and covers a brief history of Cleveland as well as landmarks such as the buildings on Public Square and along The Mall, and the Cleveland Trust Company Building; finishing at Playhouse Square – the largest performing arts centre in the United States, outside of New York.
Cleveland From the Inside, on the other hand, focuses on the interiors of famous Downtown buildings such as the Old Stone Church, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, and The Arcade – one of America’s first indoor shopping centres, designed to evoke European shopping centres such as the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, constructed by the Detroit Bridge Co. in 1890.
Further information on Tours of Cleveland can be found here.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Arguably the most internationally recognisable Cleveland attraction, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame opened in September 1995. Occupying a contemporary building on the shore of Lake Erie, designed by architect I. M. Pei, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is more of an experience than a standard museum. Set across seven floors, the space’s permanent exhibits document the history of rock music and its development, specifically focussing on certain genres, artists and cities instrumental in rock and roll’s meteoric rise in popularity. Showcasing the roots of rock and roll, through to modern-day rock music, artefacts include the likes of Elvis Presley’s gold jacket, worn on-stage in 1968; Ray Charles’ sunglasses; Michael Jackson’s sequinned glove and loafers; various handwritten lyric sheets; John Lennon’s Hofner acoustic guitar; and a collection of Jimi Hendrix’s guitars, plus many, many more iconic musicians’ possessions.
A particular tribute is also paid to local artists, with the term “rock and roll” actually coined by a Cleveland radio station DJ, Alan Freed, in 1954. Moreover, temporary exhibitions are also held, including ‘The Garage’ (an interactive exhibition), ‘Play It Loud: The Instruments of Rock & Roll’, or ‘Woodstock at 50’, with an entire floor dedicated to honouring past Hall of Fame inductees.
Further information on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame can be found here.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
Cleveland is home to a number of national sports teams of note: the Cleveland Browns (NFL), Cleveland Indians (MLB) and Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA). All three teams play within walking distance of each other and are passionately followed by the locals. While it would be fair to suggest the Cavaliers have been struggling since the departure of Lebron James – having moved to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018 – the team’s recently reopened Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse (also home to AHL Cleveland Monsters and Cleveland Gladiators) is a must-visit location for a Cavs game. Following a two year, $185-million renovation, the arena welcomes close to two million guests each year.
In addition to wider concourses, the arena now features the latest cutting-edge technology, and the completed transformation has increased the FieldHouse’s public space from 95,380 square feet to 152,970 square feet. The exterior’s north-facing glass façade has dramatically changed the appearance of the FieldHouse and reflects Downtown Cleveland’s skyline – made up of 1,475 pieces of glass from floor to ceiling, reaching more than eight stories high and creating an enclosed atrium that adds 43,530 square feet of new public space to the venue. A new specialty food and drink offering has also been introduced, with food from award-winning local chefs such as Michael Symon, Rocco Whalen, Matt Mytro, Fabio Salerno, Karen Small, Jonathon Sawyer, Tiwanna Scott-Williams, Vic Searcy and more.
Further information on the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse can be found here.
Cleveland Brew Bus
Amongst many other highlights, Cleveland is internationally renowned for its booming brewery scene. Established in 1988, Great Lakes Brewing Company paved the way for more than 80 brewers to launch in Northeast Ohio – over 20 of which are based in the city of Cleveland. The city also launched its first Brewery Passport scheme in 2018, encouraging visitors and residents to explore the city’s breweries and taste its beers. The best way to discover the breweries, however, is with the Cleveland Brew Bus, which offers a selection of tours – run by husband-and-wife duo Leslie Basalla-McCafferty and Brian McCafferty, who bought the company from the original owners (Bob and Shelle Campbell) in 2015, after having worked for them as tour guides for a year.
An expert in all things beer, Leslie is the co-author of ‘Cleveland Beer: History and Revival in the Rust Belt’ and is a Certified Beer Steward through the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, and a Certified Beer Server through the Cicerone Certification Program. Brian, on the other hand, is a retired firefighter and working musician. On their tours, the pair offer a fun, insightful look into the city’s craft beer scene, visiting a selection of breweries and educating guests, helping them to understand how beer is made and differentiate between beer styles, while offering behind-the-scenes looks at some of the area’s best breweries.
Currently offering eight different routes, Cleveland Brew Bus works with around 25 different breweries such as Great Lakes Brewing; Market Garden Brewery – located next to the historic West Side Market, utilising Cleveland-based ingredients as often as possible; Book House Brewing; Noble Beast Brewing Co., and Brick & Barrel.
Further information on the Cleveland Brew Bus can be found here.
Cleveland’s food scene
In addition to its assembly of breweries, Cleveland is home to an exceptional food scene. Massively aided by its rich melting pot of cultures, the city is home to a plethora of exciting restaurants with international influences. In the old Ohio City Firehouse, Larder opened in 2018, founded by chef Jeremy Umansky – a keen forager and expert in fermentation and koji cultures. A deli of unusual excellence, Larder serves a rotating menu of must-try creations from the house-cured meats, through to vegetable charcuterie, double-fried chicken sandwich, proper potato salad, house pickles and old-school celery soda. Visit in a group, order one of everything and leave feeling entirely satisfied. In Slavic Village, Melissa Khoury and Penny Barend (dubbed “the lady butchers”) offer a similar sense of comfort at Saucisson. Order a board of cold cuts including highlights such as pork and pistachio terrine, house-made mortadella, Cleveland kraut and pickled grapes.
Another Cleveland institution, Happy Dog has become renowned for both its impressive hot dogs and outlandish range of dozens of toppings. Play it safe with chilli, onions and mustard; or experiment with unorthodox toppings such as Froot Loops, Cheetos or peanut butter. Overlooking the Cuyahoga River, Collision Bend Brewing is a safe bet, serving hearty portions of American comfort food – particularly atmospheric on game days; or The Greenhouse Tavern, the original outpost from celebrity chef Jonathon Sawyer. An Ohio native, James Beard award-winning chef, Sawyer offers a menu of refined dishes from his Downtown restaurant, with highlights including Chinese-inspired char siu pig’s ears, or pasta dishes such as al dente bucatini with a Bolognese of minced veal, bacon, rosemary, crispy sage and garlic breadcrumbs.
West Side Market
A cornerstone of Cleveland’s Ohio City district, the West Side Market has operated from its current site since 1912. Built to replace the Pearl Street Market, located on the opposite corner since 1840, it was one of three public markets in Cleveland that also included the Broadway Market and the Central Market. All three served Cleveland’s growing immigrant population in the early 20th century but only the West Side Market remains. An indoor, European-style market, the Neo-Classical/Byzantine building is a brick construct with a large interior concourse with space for over 100 stalls, plus an 85-stall outdoor produce arcade. The building’s 137-foot clock tower was also once visible from most Ohio City buildings.
The city’s oldest, continuously operating, municipally owned market, the West Side Market offers a wide selection of fresh meats, cheeses, poultry, seafood, baked goods, spices, herbs, flowers and more – with vendors reflecting Cleveland’s cultural diversity. Many locals still regularly visit the market, so expect crowds when visiting and don’t miss the booths selling prepared food. These include the likes of Pierogi Palace, specialising in pierogies as well as potato pancakes and noodles; Orale! Contemporary Mexican Cuisine; and Theresa’s Bakery – a family-owned business that serves over 17 varieties of cannoli and 30 kinds of bread. Guided tours of the market are also offered.
Further information on the West Side Market can be found here.
The Cleveland Museum of Art
Occupying an impressive building in University Circle, the Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the country’s only remaining free museums. Refurbished in 2013, to celebrate its centenary, the museum’s Neo-Classical building was expanded with a 39,000-square-foot glass-roofed atrium, designed by architect Rafael Viñoly. Here, the enormous permanent collection features a strong collection of American art, and medieval art from Europe and Asia; plus masterpieces from various world-renowned artists. Highlights include numerous paintings and sketches from Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí’s ‘The Dream’, Andy Warhol’s ‘Marilyn x 100’, and one of Claude Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’ canvases. In addition to the permanent collection, the Cleveland Museum of Art also hosts regular exhibitions and events.
Further information on the Cleveland Museum of Art can be found here.
The Cleveland History Center
Showcasing a large collection of items, documents and artefacts, The Cleveland History Center tells the story of Northeast Ohio. Also in University Circle, the museum is part of the Western Reserve Historical Society (Cleveland’s oldest existing cultural institution, founded in May 1867), partially housed in a pair of early 20th Century mansions. Alongside the Bingham-Hanna Mansion and Hay-McKinney Mansion, Cleveland History Center is also home to permanent exhibitions such as the Chisholm Halle Costume Wing and Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum – home to more than 140 antique cars and 10 aircrafts. With artefacts dating back to 1795 (before Moses Cleaveland “founded” the city), the museum tells the city’s story, up to the present day, with objects ranging from the first map of Cleveland, through to Lebron James’ championship shoes. A restored carousel, rescued from the old Euclid Beach Park, is also on display, having opened to riders in 2014.
Further information on the Cleveland History Center can be found here.
Lake View Cemetery
A short car ride from University Circle, Lake View Cemetery occupies a 285-acre site bordering East Cleveland. Granted, cemeteries aren’t always the most exciting destinations, but this isn’t just any cemetery. An outdoor sculpture museum filled with gardens, rich architecture and tributes to those who made great contributions to the area’s industrial and civic development, Lake View Cemetery is home to The Garfield Monument, where President James A. Garfield is buried; the Rockefeller Monument, where Standard Oil Company founder John D. Rockefeller is buried; and the Wade Memorial Chapel, which was completely designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Lake View Cemetery is also the final resting place of Eliot Ness, Carl B. Stokes, and 22 Cleveland Mayors. The garden cemetery also provides a glorious, unexpected view of Cleveland’s skyline on a clear day.
Further information on Lake View Cemetery can be found here.
A Christmas Story House
Released a week before Thanksgiving 1983, A Christmas Story was pulled from most US cinemas before Christmas due to its lack in popularity. Initially considered a box office flop, Bob Clark’s Christmas comedy has become exponentially popular over the past 36 years. Although set in Indiana, the exterior shots of Ralphie Parker’s house and neighbourhood were filmed in Tremont, Cleveland. Bought by a private developer in 2004 (having begun by selling replica A Christmas Story ‘leg lamps’), the Parker home has been restored and opened to the public. Reconfigured inside to match the soundstage interiors, the house is open to the public and is an exact replica of the home in the film (also available to rent-out for private stays). Across the street, the house is also joined by a large gift shop, where guided tours begin, and a museum devoted to the movie, showcasing a number of original props. A fun, year-round attraction.
Further information on A Christmas Story House can be found here.
Direct flights from the UK to Detroit are available with Delta Virgin Atlantic. For more details visit www.delta.com Cleveland is a three hour drive from Detroit or there are frequent flight connections through to Cleveland. To book a trip to Cleveland contact Audley Travel, www.audleytravel.com or call 01993 220115. For further information on Cleveland visit www.thisiscleveland.com. Vehicles can be hired from www.affordablecarhire.com.