Top 10 Things to Do in Cleveland
Quintessentially Cleveland Attractions and Experiences
By Lexi Hotchkiss
There are just some Cleveland attractions that you just can’t find anywhere else in the world. And, it’s those authentically Cleveland travel experiences that make this city so unmistakably its own.
10. The West Side Market
Don’t leave this perennial Cleveland attraction without getting a big bag of smokies, a beef-jerky treat that’s a Cleveland tradition among the many old-school butcher stands.
It’s at the historic West Side Market in Ohio City where you’ll find more than 80 family-owned booths vending everything from Hungarian sausage and fresh walleye to frosted cupcakes and luxurious crêpes.
9. Lake View Cemetery
While at this gorgeous place, leave a penny on the tombstone of John D. Rockefeller, the wealthy industrialist who founded Standard Oil and spent much of his life in Cleveland. Legend has it that if you do so, you’ll be richly rewarded.
Rockefeller 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.
8. A Christmas Story House
Hide under the sink like Randy when he was sure “Daddy’s gonna kill Ralphie” in the 1983 film A Christmas Story.
Scenes from this classic movie, based on the story written by author Jean Shepherd, were filmed inside a house in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. Today, you can visit this house where each nook and cranny of the interior was completely renovated to look exactly as the home was portrayed in the movie.
7. Great Lakes Brewing Company
Eliot Ness, the famous crime fighter who brought down Al Capone, was the Safety Director for Cleveland back in the 1930s. And, he was known to knock back a few cold ones in a popular bar in Cleveland’s Ohio City. 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 a tall cold amber lager aptly named “Eliot Ness.”
As for the bullet hole? It’s still there. Just ask your bartender.
6. Sokolowski’s University Inn
If Cleveland had an official food, you’d likely find it at the revered Sokolowski’s University Inn in Tremont. It’s an old-school, cafeteria-style restaurant owned by third-generation Clevelanders that’s radiating with a character all its own.
Loved by locals, it serves authentic Polish cuisine with blow-your-mind dishes like hand-pinched pierogi, giant stuffed peppers, savory cabbage and potatoes and decadent, homemade desserts.
5. The Cleveland Orchestra
Get an earful from the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra inside their opulent home at Severance Hall or during their summer residency at Blossom Music Center.
But few things are as Cleveland as “Classical Revolution Cleveland,” a group of orchestra members hailing from the world’s most prestigious conservatories to perform inside Happy Dog, an old-school bar serving tons of beer, hot dogs and more than 50 not-so-normal hot dog toppings.
4. Downtown Cleveland
While Cleveland is very much a city made up of dozens of diverse and eclectic neighborhoods, it’s Downtown Cleveland that dazzles after dusk.
Catch a Broadway blockbuster in a vaudeville-style theater and do some fine dining next to a sparkling chandelier at Playhouse Square. Nosh on farm-to-table treats at the restaurants of celeb chefs, bowl a few strikes or sip high-end cocktails along East 4th St. Grab a nightcap and cut a rug in the Warehouse District. Or, dine and drink along the waterfront in the newly revived East Bank of the Flats.
3. Lake Erie
Put on your shades, jam to some live tunes, sip a cold beer and dip your toes in the sand because—believe it or not—Cleveland throws some seriously amazing beach parties every summer.
Can’t make it to one of the weekly fetes held just minutes from Downtown Cleveland? That’s okay because the city offers miles upon miles of Lake Erie coastline brimming with activity ranging from charter boat fishing and stand-up paddleboarding to kite surfing and kayaking.
2. Cleveland’s Rock Scene
You’d be nuts to not check out the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to scope cool rock relics like Michael Jackson’s white sequined glove, Jim Morrison’s boy scout uniform, and Elvis’ motorcycle.
But don’t forget the city’s booming rock ‘n’ roll scene blasting from inside the historic walls of the eclectic Beachland Ballroom; along the steamy vinyl being pressed at Gotta Groove Records; within the constantly evolving library played at Jukebox; and at music clubs, arenas and amphitheaters headlining everything from major national acts to local indie faves.
1. Cleveland Museum of Art
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.
Sure, you can lay eyes on one of the largest Egyption relic collections in the world, but make time to also check out the works of the greatest artists of all time while you're there. There's Monet's Water Lilies, Picasso's La Vie, Warhol's Marilyn x 100, Caravaggio’s The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew, Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker, and about 45,000 other mind-blowing pieces.
Did we mention admission is free?