Neighborhood Spotlight: University Circle
Cleveland's Cultural Mecca
By Denise Koeth, Image by University Circle Inc
Just east of Downtown lies what is perhaps the most concentrated square mile of Cleveland's must-see attractions: the University Circle neighborhood. Brimming with cultural institutions and performing arts venues, no trip to the CLE is complete without a short trek to this cultural mecca, and its 3 million annual visitors agree.
Here, world-class museums and attractions combine with beautiful scenery and a vibrant dining scene. Home to the campuses of Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals, and adjacent to the Cleveland Clinic campus, University Circle is a bustling, vibrant place for professionals, students, families, and visitors alike.
You'll likely want to center your visit on the Uptown and Wade Oval areas of University Circle, where you'll get the most bang for your buck when it comes to hitting several highlights in a condensed amount of time.
A walk around Wade Oval and the seven-acre park it encompasses (or a drive around East Blvd.) will reveal several options: the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Botanical Garden, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland History Center, and Severance Hall, home of the world-renown Cleveland Orchestra.
Other nearby cultural attractions include the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA), the Dittrick Medical History Center & Museum, and the Cleveland Institute of Art, with its Reinberger Gallery and Cinematheque.
Within several museums and in the Uptown region (centered on Euclid Ave. between Cornell Rd. and East 188th St.), dining options abound. There are nearly a dozen spots that are perfect for lunch on the go, from national chain restaurants to local favorites like hot dog heaven Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern, Simply Greek, Ninja City Kitchen and Bar, and Dynomite Burgers.
Opt for fine dining at CMA's Provenance, where chef Douglas Katz oversees locally sourced and globally inspired cuisine and a prix fixe menu that complements current museum exhibitions; Trentina, local chef Jonathon Sawyer's northern Italian inspired restaurant; or the Intercontinental Hotel & Conference Center's Table 45, where chef Zack Bruell tantalizes the senses with “world cuisine” inspired by cultures across the globe.
University Circle is home to several recurring events, including WOW! Wade Oval Wednesdays, Parade the Circle, and Holiday CircleFest. If you're in town while one of these festivities is taking place, you won't regret planning your neighborhood visit during that time.
Family-Friendly Wade Oval Wednesdays combine food trucks, vendors, theme nights, and activities with free live music each Wednesday evening during the summer. Parade the Circle is an afternoon of live music, delectable food, activities, and an artsy parade. CircleFest is the neighborhood's official welcome to the Christmas season, when attractions are all aglow and bustling with cheer: think free or discounted rates at museums, outdoor ice skating, and horse-drawn carriage rides.
1. The Cleveland Museum of Art: CMA consistently ranks as one of the best comprehensive art museums in the United States. Admission to the permanent collection--which features 45,000 objects, from medieval armor to lily pad oils by Monet and an ever-increasing array of contemporary art--is free. CMA's recent $350 million renovation and expansion added more gallery space, state-of-the-art technology and a new glass-covered atrium that connects the museum’s original 1916 Neo Classical building with the modern wings.
2. Severance Hall: Among the best in the world, the Cleveland Orchestra has called Severance Hall home since 1931. Be sure to reserve seats for a concert led by Music Director Franz Welser-Möst at the art deco masterpiece, or catch a free public tour on select Sundays each season.
3. Cleveland Botanical Garden: Start your journey in a glasshouse dedicated to the spiny desert of Madagascar. Next, travel to the Costa Rican Rainforest. Outside, explore 10 acres of gardens, including the Japanese, herb, rose, and topiary gardens, among others. Families won't want to miss the Hershey Children’s Garden, complete with a treehouse, hidden paths, and a fountain.
How to get there
From Downtown: Take the RTA HealthLine bus-rapid transit system, or the Blue Line bus #38. If driving, head east on Euclid Ave. for about four miles.
Once in University Circle, take the free CircleLink shuttles to make getting around even easier.