Cleveland, Ohio, has transformed itself, complete with new and refurbished tourist attractions, into a solid travel destination. Besides the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the city is filled with culture, restaurants and amusements. And the Cleveland scene—especially its revitalized downtown—is helping shape its future.
Once the city's tourism and entertainment hub, the Flats is experiencing another redevelopment and changing its look; Phase 1 is complete and new development continues, which will transform the area. The Warehouse District has taken on that role, adding to the tourism scene with trendy dance clubs, restaurants, wine bars and other destinations.
Just across Public Square, fast-developing East Fourth Street has likewise morphed from a dreary side street to the see-and-be-seen district of blues, comedy and dining spots. The Cleveland Metroparks and Cleveland Museum of Natural History are also well-liked by visitors. The popular Gateway District is home to the stadiums for the Indians (baseball) and the Browns (football), and an arena for the Cavaliers (basketball).
Cleveland looks toward the future, but the city still shows off plenty of links to its past, including busy neighborhoods with more than 80 ethnic groups (and more than 60 languages). Little Italy, Slavic Village, Old Brooklyn, Ohio City and the Tremont area are just a few of the richly diverse neighborhoods that enhance the Cleveland tourism experience.
Cleveland's numerous mechanical bridges (more than any other city in the world) lift, swing and jackknife to let Great Lakes freighters make their way up the Cuyahoga River to the steel mills. These bridges—dazzling when illuminated at night—are symbols of the roll-up-your-sleeves attitude that lingers from the blue-collar days.
A major port on the St. Lawrence Seaway, Cleveland sits on the southern shore of Lake Erie at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, which winds through the city's downtown neighborhoods. Public Square is the city center and the focal point of its downtown business district. The historic Terminal Tower, once the tallest building outside of New York City, also is there.
The Flats, located to the northwest and on the riverfront, is a giant construction site soon to find new life as a rebuilt neighborhood of restaurants, condos and office space. Perched just above the Flats, near Public Square, is the Warehouse District, where the uberchic frequent upscale restaurants and clubs. On the east side of downtown, sports and entertainment options mix in the Gateway District, in the shadow of the city's professional sports facilities. University Circle, east of downtown, is the city's cultural mecca. World-class medical facilities dot the area.
After the Revolutionary War, the Connecticut Land Co. reserved more than 3 million acres/1 million hectares in northeastern Ohio. In 1786, the company sent Moses Cleaveland to help sell it. Two months after his arrival, plans for a town called Cleaveland were completed.
Cleaveland grew slowly at first, but it began to flourish after the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 (linking Lake Erie to the Atlantic Ocean) and the Ohio Canal in 1830 (connecting the Ohio River to Lake Erie). The city, whose name was shortened to Cleveland so it would fit on a newspaper's masthead, continued to grow as the railroads increased commercial and industrial activity. Another canal, now known as the Sault Locks, was opened in the mid-1850s between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, making Cleveland a shipping hub for lumber, copper, iron ore, farm produce and coal.
Throughout the 1920s, Cleveland was one of the most important steel and shipbuilding centers in the world. John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, and others made their millions there. But by the early 1970s, many of the steel mills had closed, and the city fell on hard times. The situation reached a crisis in 1978, when the city government defaulted.
New jobs in the service, medical research and other sectors have breathed fresh life into Cleveland, although heavy industry continues to be an essential component of its economy. The city has experienced a major transformation during the past few decades. Buildings have undergone facelifts, and much of the downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods have been rebuilt and revitalized.
Start your visit downtown at Public Square, the heart of the business district. There, note the Soldiers and Sailors Monument that pays homage to the city's founders. On the northwest corner of the square is the impressive Old Stone Church; on the southwest corner is Tower City Center, which includes Terminal Tower.
Head west on Superior Avenue for a few blocks and you'll hit the historic Warehouse District, downtown's oldest commercial district. The neighborhood showcases a mix of Victorian architecture and contemporary loft spaces. Have lunch at one of the area's trendy restaurants.
North of the Warehouse District is the North Coast Harbor area, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Anyone with the slightest interest in rock 'n' roll and pop culture will find a visit there worthwhile. Also on the lakefront are the Great Lakes Science Center, a popular spot if you're traveling with children, and Cleveland Browns Stadium, home of the NFL team.
For an in-depth look at any of the downtown areas, join one of the free weekly guided walking tours from mid-May to mid-September by Take a Hike, complete with actors representing Cleveland characters. Or catch the free RTA trolleys that stop at several museums and other tourist attractions.
The city's cultural center, University Circle, lies 4 mi/6 km east of downtown. It's home to more than a dozen museums and several theaters. Three of the museums are must-sees: the Cleveland Museum of Art, with its notable modern-art collection; Cleveland Botanical Garden; and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, considered among the best in the country. The Cleveland Clinic has many facilities near this area.
Thrill seekers will revel in the area's nationally known amusement park: A 90-minute drive west of the city is Cedar Point Amusement Park with its dizzying array of roller coasters. In nearby Sandusky are Kalahari Indoor Water Park and Great Wolf Lodge, two popular water park resorts.
For relaxation after such excitement, we recommend taking a stroll. Cleveland has wonderful green spaces, notably the Metroparks system, which includes the zoo and its fascinating RainForest, as well as a network of beautifully maintained golf courses.
Another scenic place to explore on foot is Lake View Cemetery and the adjacent Little Italy neighborhood, full of ethnic eateries, unique shops and historic architecture. The Cleveland area also boasts one of the most-visited U.S. national parks, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which sprawls over 33,000 acres/13,300 hectares.
Nightlife in the Cleveland area is abundant, with most places staying open till around 2 am. The more upscale and hippest hangouts are found in the historic Warehouse District. When venturing into Cleveland's suburbs, you'll find lively neighborhood bars that reflect the area's ethnic diversity.
There are literally hundreds of restaurants to choose from, many showcasing the ethnic and cultural flavor that Cleveland is known for. Whether you crave contemporary Italian cuisine or fresh seafood, one thing is certain: You won't leave Cleveland hungry.
The most popular restaurant areas are the Flats, the Warehouse District and certain neighborhoods, notably Ohio City, Detroit Shoreway, Shaker Square and Cleveland Heights. Because many restaurants get busy, especially on weekends, it's a good idea to call ahead for reservations.
Lunch is generally eaten noon-1:30 pm. For dinner, Clevelanders dine early: You'll find restaurants at their busiest 6-7:30 pm.
Expect to pay within these guidelines based on the price of a meal for one, not including drinks, tax or tip: $ = less than US$10; $$ = US$10-$20; $$$ = US$21-$50; and $$$$ = more than US$50.
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