The heart of rock and roll beats in Cleveland. Not just because we’re the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, or the city where the actual term was first coined and not even just because Huey Lewis says so. This city lives and breathes rock’s past, present and future all day every day. Here are just a few ways you can get out and acquaint yourself with The Land of Rock & Roll.
No trip to Cleveland is complete without a journey to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Walk through seven levels of exhibits and gawk at artifacts and memorabilia from generations of rock legends. Check out rotating exhibits, including the latest class of inductees, and peruse the well-stocked gift shop for the perfect souvenir.
Clevelanders know that the city is the home of rock ‘n’ roll, but many may not know that it’s all thanks to a local radio DJ. Cleveland’s own Alan Freed is credited with being the first to use the term to describe the emerging music in the 1950s and became known as the “father of rock ‘n’ roll.” Music lovers can pay homage to Freed at Lake View Cemetery, where a headstone in the shape of a jukebox marks his final resting place.
Michael Stanley mural
One of Cleveland’s newest public art installations pays tribute to the city’s beloved rock ‘n’ roll icon, Michael Stanley. The 2,200-square-foot mural was painted by artist WRDSMTH on a warehouse in the Midtown neighborhood and includes lyrics from Stanley’s 1980 hit “Lover.” Cleveland declared March 25 “Michael Stanley Day” in remembrance of Stanley after his death in early March 2021.
A mainstay of the Cleveland music scene for over 50 years, The Agora is etched into Cleveland’s music history. Numerous big names (and Rock Hall inductees) have taken the Agora’s stage, including Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, U2 and The Clash, along with 2021 inductees Foo Fighters and Todd Rundgren, who recorded a portion of his 1978 live album there. Today, Clevelanders can catch everyone from established rockers to new acts and comedians on stage.
From local favorites to groups that would become some of the biggest names in rock, Beachland Ballroom in the Waterloo Arts District has hosted them all. Kings of Leon, Mumford & Sons and even Akron’s own The Black Keys have played at the nationally acclaimed club, which now offers a rotation of local and touring music acts as well as special events.
An iconic venue offering music fans an intimate atmosphere, The Grog Shop aims to present live music seven days a week, 365 days a year, making it the perfect choice for locals looking to catch a concert on a whim. Right down the street, concertgoers can get some pre-show record perusing done at Record Revolution, the oldest independent vinyl record store in the country.
Mahall’s 20 Lanes is not your average concert hall. In addition to hosting live music acts, dance parties and other events, the Lakewood venue houses 20 bowling lanes. With the bowling alley just steps away from the stage, plus vintage pinball machines and a full-service bar and restaurant, it’s one-stop shopping for a unique night out.
Tasty food and live music live in perfect harmony at the House of Blues, located in the heart of Downtown. The Cleveland outpost of the famed music venue features free live performances at the restaurant every Thursday through Saturday, daily happy hour specials and touring acts hitting the concert stage throughout the week, making it the perfect stop for locals in search of live music or simply looking for an after-work libation.
Dinner and a show get an upgrade at Music Box, which offers the chance to see big name touring artists in its Concert Hall as well as local entertainment at its downstairs Supper Club. While not all the music churning out of Music Box is rock, this place is no stranger to the sound—especially when it comes to some serious classic rock tribute bands. Above and beyond that, we recommend getting familiar with this music joint, as they’re booking some legit talent.
Image © Destination Cleveland
Music fans looking for more casual – and creative – food options will find them at Happy Dog in the Gordon Square Arts District. Locals can peruse a menu that features 50 hot dog toppings, ranging from the classics (ketchup, mustard or onions) to crazy (Spaghetti-O’s, Froot Loops or mac and cheese), as they listen to live bands and DJs.
Local music lovers looking for a change of pace can enjoy live jazz at Bop Stop in the Ohio City neighborhood. The venue is part of The Music Settlement, which began as a way to welcome immigrants to Cleveland and unite them through music. Offering live music most nights, community jam sessions, and a full bar, it’s a one-of-a-kind location along the shore of Lake Erie for listeners and musicians alike.
Image © Roger Mastroianni
The Cleveland Orchestra, named “America’s finest” by the New York Times, will welcome audience members to Mandel Concert Hall at Severance for the first time since March 2020 when it kicks off its 104th season this month. Regarded by many as one of the world’s most beautiful concert halls, Severance Music Center is as much a treat for the eyes as the Orchestra’s performances are for the ears.
Clevelanders can break out their boogie shoes and hit the dance floor at Good Night John Boy, a 70’s-themed disco bar in the Flats East Bank. Local DJs spin a mix of groovy old-school hits and contemporary tunes influenced by the days of disco as the dance floor lights up and, of course, a disco ball spins overhead. There are themed drinks, fresh pizza and a vintage camper that’s been converted into a full-service outdoor bar.