8 Experiences You'll Only Get Right Here in Cleveland
By Lexi Hotchkiss
We know that when it comes to travel, it’s all about those uniquely different experiences that make a trip truly memorable. The joy of travel isn’t simply gaining admission to an attraction, but rather finding niche experiences within them that you just can’t find anywhere else in the world.
Here are eight only-in-Cleveland experiences you shouldn’t pass on:
Did you know that John D. Rockefeller, the wealthy industrialist who created Standard Oil, spent much of his life in Cleveland? He is buried at the famous Lake View Cemetery along with other notable residents such as President James A. Garfield, Eliot Ness and Carl B. Stokes.
Toward the latter half of his life, Rockefeller was known for doling out dimes to children as charity. Legend has it that if you leave a dime on his tombstone you’ll be richly rewarded.
“What in the world is a ‘smokie,’” you ask? These smoked beef jerky treats, which resemble a thicker, longer and less-greasy version of a Slim Jim, are an oh-so-tasty Cleveland tradition.
The best place to get them? The West Side Market, a perennial Cleveland attraction, where you’ll find more than two dozen butchers selling their stock.
And, while you’re there, you might as well pick up some frosted cupcakes, luxurious crepes, handmade pierogi, homemade bread, fresh cheeses, produce and the best falafel sandwiches of all time.
Here it is: 13 different cheeses on three slices of grilled bread and a pile of hand-cut fries and coleslaw. It’s five-pounds of food with your name on it.
Or, maybe not.
You may have seen Travel Channel's Adam Richman conquer the beast on Man vs. Food. The menu item is at Melt Bar & Grilled, Cleveland’s famous grilled cheese restaurant (with seven Northeast Ohio locations). The good news is that Melt offers more than 25 splendid—and huge—gooey grilled cheese concoctions, if the challenge doesn't sound appealing to you.
Our faves? Try the Parmageddon, which boasts potato pierogies, sauerkraut and copious amounts of cheddar cheese.
Eliot Ness, the famous crime fighter who brought down Al Capone, was the Safety Director for Cleveland from 1935 to 1942. Ness was known to throwback a few drinks in a popular bar called the Market Tavern. During one of his stints, it’s rumored that his gun discharged a bullet that became lodged in the mahogany bar.
Today, that bar is home to the Brewpub at Great Lakes Brewing Company--undoubtedly one of the most famous breweries in Cleveland. Consider bellying-up to the bar for one of a tall cold amber lager aptly named “Eliot Ness.”
As for the bullet hole? It’s still there. If you can’t find it on your own, ask your bartender.
A group of classically trained musicians hailing from some of the world’s most prestigious conservatories (The Cleveland Institute of Music, The Julliard School, Curtis Institute of Music and the Eastman School of Music) have joined together to create Classical Revolution Cleveland.
The chamber group performs classical masterpieces monthly inside Happy Dog, an old-school bar serving tons of beer, hot dogs and more than 50 not-so-normal hot dog toppings.
Want more of The Cleveland Orchestra? Consider picnicking with the world-renowned institution during their summer residency at Blossom Amphitheater.
Classical not your style? Happy Dog also hosts a monthly world affair series called “Happy Dog Takes on the World” and science lectures appropriately titled “Life, the Universe and Hot Dogs.”
It's super cool to see the clothes, instruments and posters from some of the most famous bands and tours in history on display at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But you know what really gives us goosebumps? Hand-written lyrics and personal notes from mega-stars.
Like the birthday card that Beatles drummer Ringo Starr wrote to bandmate John Lennon. Or the hand-written arrangement for "Birthday" that Paul McCartney jotted down.
You can see these (and way more) as you stroll the multi-level exhibits at the one and only Rock Hall. While you're there, check out the Alan Freed Radio Studio, a functioning SiriusXM broadcast center on the top level. And the views of Lake Erie from the top floor of the glass-encased HOF will have you yelling, "HELLO CLEVELAND!"
Containing arguably one of the most renowned art collections in the world, The Cleveland Museum of Art is a must for any visitor’s itinerary. But where to begin?
Sure, you can definitely peruse no shortage of pieces by well-known artists like Monet (Water Lilies), Picasso (La Vie) and Warhol (Marilyn x 100).
But make some time to check out other art within its permanent collection. There’s Caravaggio’s The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew, Frederic Edwin Church’s Twilight in the Wilderness, Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker, John Rogers Cox’s Gray and Gold and about 45,000 other mind-blowing pieces.
Let’s also not forget that admission to its permanent collection is completely free. #Bonus
Nothing says Cleveland like, “Ralphie, you’ll shoot your eye out!"
As it turns out, scenes from the 1983 movie, based on the story written by author Jean Shepherd, were filmed right here in Cleveland.
Today, you can visit A Christmas Story House, the actual house where many of the scenes were filmed. Each nook and cranny inside the home was completely renovated to look exactly as the home was portrayed in the movie.
Hide under the sink like Randy when he was sure “Daddy’s gonna kill Ralphie.” Snap a selfie next to the Christmas tree holding a Red Ryder BB Gun wearing Ralphie’s bunny pajamas gifted from Aunt Clara. And, head upstairs and peer into the bathroom where Ralphie got his mouth washed out with Lifebuoy Soap.
OF COURSE THERE’S MORE!
-Explore the inside of a NASA command module at the Great Lakes Science Center
-Paddle on Lake Erie with a craft beer
-Order a plate of pierogies from Sokolowski's
-Check out the world's largest outdoor chandelier at Playhouse Square
-Go to a beach party...on Lake Erie
Hey, Cleveland Enthusiasts: How many have you experienced?