How to Have an Unforgettable Weekend in Cleveland

Cleveland rocks.

Located on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland might not be the place that comes to mind when planning your next trip. However, this Rustbelt gem has a lot to offer. Incredible food, a passionate beer community, plus an art and music scene that’s recognized internationally (hello, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!)—maybe it’s time you gave Believeland a shot. Not convinced? Here’s a few local highlights.

Eat, Eat, and Eat Some More.

Cleveland’s food scene is one of the nations best (really!). If you’re looking for a fabulous meal, there are two names you need to know. First is Jonthon Sawyer, the James Beard award-winning chef behind a few of the city’s best restaurants. For more of special occasion (but not stuffy in the least!), check out Sawyer’s Greenhouse Tavern, which features a New American-style menu. Think awesome upscale burgers, wings, and innovative meat-and-potatoes options; lots of gluten-free and vegetarian options, too. He’s also the guy behind Noodlecat (a super casual ramen shop) and Trentina, an elegant eatery serving Northern Italian cuisine.

Another name to know? Michael Symon. You might recognize him from The Chew or Food Network, but before this guy became a celebrity chef, he was just a regular chef (and certainly a great one!). Try his flagship restaurant, Lola Bistro, featuring American fare like smoked pork chops, hanger steaks and roasted potatoes with caramelized onions. His latest venture is Mabel’s BBQ, a Cleveland-style barbecue joint. That simply means the meat incorporates eastern European spices, and the sauce is spiked with Bertman’s Ballpark Mustard. Order kielbasa, brisket, kraut and pickles and dine at one of their communal tables. So much fun!

Stroll Through West Side Market

weekend in cleveland

Open since 1912, the West Side Market is Cleveland’s oldest continuously operating municipally owned market. The building features a breathtaking 44-foot high Guastavino tile vaulted ceiling, as well as a clock tower standing an impressive 137′ tall. As for the vendors, you’ll find plenty of old school purveyors alongside more modern stalls. A few favorites include Ohio City Pasta (handcrafted noodles, ravioli, gnocchi, pierogies and more), Old Country Sausage (handmade German style sausages), and Mediterra Bakehouse who specializes in eastern European-stlye breads. If you prefer your food cooked for you, check out the West Side Market Café. Be warned: the market and café hours are a little funky, so make sure the place will be open before you go.

Drink Some Beer

Clevelanders take their beer scene seriously, and there’s no shortage of great places to imbibe. You can try Great Lakes Brewery, or hit up one of their legendary beer bars, like the Tremont Tap House, who specializes in serving Rust Belt brews. Locals love Fat Heads Brewery, southwest of downtown in North Olmsted. Pair their iconic Headhunter IPA with a plate or two of their legendary wings.

Visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

You can’t go to Cleveland without visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Open since 1995, there’s no better place to dig into the history of music. Learn about where the genre got its start at their Roots of Rock and Roll exhibit, then follow up with a walk through the British Invasion collection, featuring lots of Beatle memorabilia. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a live show; check the calendar for concert information.

Reminisce at A Christmas Story House

When it comes to Christmas movies, you’re either a Christmas Story person or a Christmas Vacation person. Personally, I’m a die-hard Ralphie fan, and for people like me who can quote the entire movie, a trip to Cleveland is a must. Why? Because they’ve turned the actual Christmas Story house into a museum. Restored to its silver screen splendor, you’ll have a chance to experience the place that birthed such catch phrases as “You’ll shoot your eye out,” “FRAH-GEE-LAY,” and “It’s a major award.” Guided and self-guided tours run seven days a week, year-round—with the exception of a few holidays, like Christmas.

Get Cultured at the Cleveland Museum of Art

Art lovers will adore spending a day at this renowned museum—which is always free to the public! View works by Pablo Picasso, Frieda Kahlo, Rodin and more in their exhibition galleries. The art world is abuzz over Gallery One, an innovative experience blending art and technology. Museum goers can experience hands-on, technology-based activities that showcase how works of art are made, where they come from, and why they are produced. Prior to your arrival, download ArtLens, the museum’s new app which provides context and information that will make your museum experience all the more insightful.

Sleep (and Drink!) at the Hilton Cleveland Hotel

Looking for a swank place to stay in Cleveland? Check out the new downtown Hilton. The 32-story building features 600 rooms, views of Lake Eerie and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, plus an excellent cocktail lounge on the top floor. Indulge in craft cocktails and snacks while soaking up the unparalleled view. If weather cooperates, grab a seat on the outdoor terrace, towering 400 feet above the city.

What are your favorite spots in Cleveland? Share in the comments!

photo by Carlos Javier

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