A Tour Guide's Top 10
A very unscientific top 10 list of places that groups love in Cleveland
By John Latkovich, Image by Cody York
Need some ideas for a group visit to Cleveland? Here are some of the best, most group-friendly stops, according to tour guide John Latkovich, owner of JLK Tours, LLC. No matter your group's style and speed, the stops on this list show off some of the best gems in Cleveland.
Across the street is E. 4th St.--one of the areas you did not want be in the 1980’s. Now, it is one of the hottest areas where you definitely want to be, with restaurants, top-notch entertainment and shops.
9. Historic houses of worship
Cleveland has a wonderful collection of churches that showcase the religious heritage of the many groups that call Cleveland home. Groups are in awe of the spectacular craftsmanship inside these places of worship, many from the late 1800s. St. Stanislaus of Slavic Village, St. Michael of Tremont and Antioch Baptist of Fairfax are a few of the 50+ inspirational churches of all faiths and sizes.
8. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Groups find this stop a wonderful surprise in the fabulous exhibits and artifacts displayed. Recently remodeled with better amenities, the Rock Hall covers the history and Cleveland’s importance in this genre. The unique gift shop has CDs, DVDs, vinyl albums of all genres including rock 'n' roll, country western, and everything from polkas to punk.
The Goodtime III river cruise docks within walking distance of the Rock Hall and a quarter mile west of the Rock Hall is the International Women’s Air and Space Museum, inside Burke Lakefront Airport. This little museum is a delight, showing the great history and involvement of women in flight.
7. The Cleveland script signs
Groups of all sizes and ages love having their group photo taken at these signs. The Tremont sign on Abbey Ave. (just west of Sokolowski’s University Inn) has a fantastic city skyline background. The Edgewater Park sign has the easiest access, best parking and offers the chance to see Edgewater Beach (and its brand new Beach House) and Wendy Park (for a unique skyline view of the city).
6. E. 9th St. and Euclid Ave.
Once the financial center of Cleveland, this intersection is now the home of the restored Cleveland Trust Bank Building into the fabulous Heinen’s upscale grocery store and food court. The murals on the third floor were painted by Mr. Francis Millett in the early 1900s, and the Tiffany-like domed ceiling is superb. The next door neighbor is the Metropolitan at the 9 hotel with “The Alex,” their jewel of a theater, the lower level Vault Lounge (in the original Cleveland Trust vaults) and their Azure rooftop patio overlooking the heart of the city.
5. The Flats
There is so much to see in this area, starting with Settler’s Landing, where Moses Cleaveland arrived on July 22, 1796. The bluff overlooking the Landing shows you why the Indian tribes called it the Cuyahoga River (meaning Crooked River). The East Bank has the new Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, Collision Bend Brewery and a 1,000-foot riverfront boardwalk. The West Bank has Shooters On the Water, Music Box Supper Club, the Nautica Queen boat tours and the late 1800s Powerhouse, now the Greater Cleveland Aquarium and Windows on the River event center. Around the corner on Columbus Rd. is a hidden gem of a microbrewery: The Brick and Barrel, across the street from the very first Catholic church in Cleveland (1831) St. Mary’s of the Flats/Our Lady of the Lake.
4. University Circle
Cleveland hosts the greatest concentration of cultural assets in one square mile in the nation. The Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the top art museums in the world--and it's free! But hire a docent-led tour and the art museum actually comes to life. Their engaging docents share fantastic insights into the paintings, artifacts and displays, providing another level of art appreciation that makes even the casual attendee a fan.
The Cleveland Botanical Garden and its glass house is spectacular any time of year, but especially with their GLOW events, with gingerbread houses and holiday decor on display. Wade Oval Wednesday has free summer concerts, and the tempting restaurants, shops and bakeries of Little Italy are right around the corner.
One mile east is Lake View Cemetery. This beautiful park dating from 1868 is a testament to the original founders of Cleveland and their vision, and most notably Mr. Jeptha Wade, a Cleveland industrialist and philanthropist. The Wade Memorial Chapel (made by the Tiffany Company) is on the lower level while President Garfield’s Monument and tomb are on the upper level. The John D. Rockefeller Obelisk is a wonderful tribute to a man who created hundreds of companies, thousands of jobs and millions in wealth in Cleveland that is still ongoing today. The resting places of many famous Clevelanders include Eliott Ness, Alan Freed (who coined the term rock 'n' roll,) the Higbees, the Severances, etc. Lake View offers a great group experience with one of their step-on-guides.
3. The West Side Market
Completed in 1912 and renovated in 2014, the West Side Market replaced the Pearl Street Market (across the street on W. 25th St. from the 1840s). The Market offers a fun time that appeals to all your senses starting with the beautiful beaux-arts design and the many friezes at the base of the upper arches depicting food, fruits and fowl.
Walk up to the lookout platform on the West 25th St. side for a great photo op. Stroll through the enclosed fruit and vegetable area (for many years they were just out on the sidewalks) and enjoy the old-world, market bazaar way of doing business by having merchants hawk their goods with charm, wit and free samples. Many vendors are often from long-time family businesses at the Market.
If you go across the parking lot to the giant BEER sign, you can take the Market Garden Brewery tour, a new addition to the fabulous craft brew scene in Cleveland. The tour shows you how hops, barley, malt and water become liquid gold, especially with the sampling that comes at the end.
2. Playhouse Square
This complex offers amazing big-hit production Broadway shows, intimate cabaret shows and everything in between. Not only are the shows fabulous, but many times your group can enjoy a pre-show chat providing insight that enhances the show experience.
But wait, there's more!
The actual theaters themselves are stars as they were saved from the wrecking ball of 1973, after the permits had been pulled to tear them down. Now these theaters are beautiful works of art. And your group can have a docent-led, behind-the-scenes tour, showcasing them and their enchanting history.
But wait, there's still more!
Walk out the front door onto Euclid Ave., and see the world’s largest outdoor chandelier--a truly fitting gift to Playhouse Square from the General Electric Company, whose original world headquarters were at NELA Park in East Cleveland in the early 1900s. If you take a picture from the Hanna Building, you can include the giant Playhouse Square stick sign across the street.
1. Cleveland’s Public Square
As originally laid out by Moses Cleaveland in 1796, Public Square is still the heart of Cleveland and where "East meets West." The recent $50 million renovation has put the "public" back into Public Square. Groups love to see the statue of the man the city is named after (even after a newspaper mast adjusted the name) along with the summertime splash pad, which doubles as the wintertime ice skating rink. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument offers an insight into Cleveland’s major involvement in the Civil War.
Walk up to the second floor lobby of the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. This exquisite hotel from 1918 was the start of building the Terminal Tower complex and offers a graceful view of the Square. The lobby also leads to the Terminal Tower, showing Cleveland’s 1920s stature. Completed in 1929, Terminal Tower was the tallest building outside New York City until 1967. In the late 1980s, Terminal Tower was transformed into Tower City, now offering history, shopping and eating. The JACK Cleveland Casino and their Market District buffet is located in the old Higbee's Department Store building. Long time Clevelanders will reminisce about the wonderful smell of roasting peanuts from Morrow’s Nut House, just across the street. You can take in all of Cleveland from the 42nd floor Terminal Tower Observation Deck, where the 360-degree view.
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