Today, the great industrial port of Cleveland – for so long the butt of jokes after the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969 – is no longer the "Mistake on the Lake." Although the path back from acute recession is by no means complete on a city-wide basis, areas like the Warehouse District, East Fourth Street, and University Circle are now hubs of energy. Cleveland boasts a sensitive restoration of the Lake Erie and Cuyahoga River waterfront, a superb constellation of museums, a growing culinary scene, and new downtown super-stadiums. Add to that the now well-established Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and there's an unmistakable buzz about the place.
Founded in 1796, thirty years later Cleveland profited greatly from the opening of the Ohio Canal between the Ohio River and Lake Erie. During the city's heyday, which began with the Civil War and lasted until the 1920s, its vast iron and coal supplies made it one of the most important steel and shipbuilding centers in the world. John D. Rockefeller made his billions here, as did the many others whose restored old mansions line "Millionaires' Row."
Sitting on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland is about as Midwest as Midwest gets. Part of a cluster that includes Akron, Youngstown, Canton and Toledo, Cleveland is no longer Ohio's biggest city (a distinction that now belongs to Columbus), but it is Ohio's center of culture and activity.
It is hard to imagine many places in the world having undergone the type of face-lift Cleveland experienced over a 15-year period. From the 1980s to the mid-1990s, the dirty, damp and dingy steel town was transformed into a shiny new lakeside spectacle. A skyline once filled with smokestacks now boasts glowing towers, shiny stadiums and a host of modern museums and shopping centers. Progressive Field , Quicken Loans Arena , and Cleveland Browns Stadium , along with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and Great Lakes Science Center , are the architectural and cultural creations that define downtown's rebirth. The Key Tower, a skyscraper built since the mid-1980s, joins the 70-year-old Terminal Tower to give Cleveland a skyline that reflects both its history and its future.
Located down the hill from downtown on the very near-west side of the city, the Flats has been reborn with the rest of the city. The clean-up of the once-burning Cuyahoga River has coincided with the emergence of this entertainment district. Highlighted by such establishments as Howl at the Moon Saloon and McCarthy's , the Flats is where you will find Cleveland's most active nightlife. The Nautica Pavilion offers outdoor concerts by popular national acts throughout the summer, while you can find laughter year-round at Cleveland Improv . The Flats is located near the mouth of the Cuyahoga, a few meanders north of the steel belt, where a handful of refineries are still productive.
Centered around the prestigious Case Western Reserve University, this enclave about 4 miles east of downtown is a haven for museum-goers, as well as those looking for quaint shops and cozy eateries. Home to no fewer than nine museums, including Cleveland Museum of Art , the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Western Reserve Historical Society , the neighborhood has an almost Smithsonian feel. Culture-seekers are not limited to museums. Visitors to University Circle will find Severance Hall , home of the Cleveland Orchestra and the Cleveland Play House . Those not taking in a show can rest their feet at the Chicago Deli and Restaurant .
One of the oldest neighborhoods in the Cleveland area, Ohio City was originally settled by German and Irish immigrants. Today, it's home to more than 15 ethnic groups, making it the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the city. This was also the birthplace of football legend John Heismann. Ohio City also includes the Market Square District and the West Side Market , each about a century old and always crowded with visitors. This area is home to many fabulous restaurants, as well as places like The Great Lakes Brewing Company , which features home brews and fine foods and is one of the more popular places for locals to gather.
Located about five miles from Lake Erie, directly south of downtown, Tremont is populated by mostly Greek families. This area treats you to some of the best views of downtown Cleveland and the Flats. Enjoy a show at the Masonic Auditorium , once the home of the Cleveland Orchestra. The ultimate Tremont dining experience comes in the form of Lago Restaurant & Wine Bar . There are many small lodging options, such as Lincoln Inn , in this area as well.
East Side and West Side
Such "new" suburbs as Westlake, Rocky River, Bay Village, Strongsville and Middleburg Heights represent a good portion of the population that left Cleveland but did not go very far. This booming area continues to grow, with the sprawl continuing as far west as Vermilion and beyond and as far south as Medina. Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, Newburg Heights, Maple Heights, Cuyahoga Heights and Garfield Heights highlight an area of ethnically diverse communities. Newer "burbs" such as Solon, Brecksville and Sagamore Hills bridge the gap between Cleveland and Akron, which sits about 25 miles to the south. Travel east or west from downtown and you will find the signs of urban flight: strip malls, fast food stores and every other chain retailer imaginable.
Though it will always be better known for its rock than its rolls (or steaks or cakes), Cleveland nonetheless has some serious chops when it comes to places to eat. It also boasts some outstanding seafood and numerous steakhouses.
You cannot walk two blocks downtown without coming across a fine steakhouse. It all starts just a few blocks south of Lake Erie at John Q's Steakhouse . Situated in the middle of downtown, it is the city's most famous, most popular and arguably best eatery. David's at Key Tower and Morton's of Chicago, The Steakhouse are among the best places to enjoy a sirloin or filet mignon. Located just up Prospect from the Terminal Tower, Lola's Bistro serves everything from oysters to pierogis in an elegant but fun atmosphere.
Morton's also has a wide selection of seafood, which seems to be the most abundant fare in the city. The Blue Point Grille is one of the top stops on the seafood trail. Johnny's Downtown will toss in a dish of linguini with your lobster, and if you're craving something from local waters, you can get a plate of perch just about any place.
Pasta is the most prevalent non-domestic dish downtown. Italian restaurants line the streets and you do not have to be in Little Italy to find one. Johnny's Bar is a good option for both cocktails and a great Italian or seafood meal. Other cuisine options include Sans Souci restaurant, which serves traditional French dishes, and the Greek Isles restaurant, which has a menu that features the flavors of the Mediterranean.
The Flats and Tremont
This area's largely nightclub scene has a few selections for those wanting more than bar food. Shooter's on the Water and Pats in the Flats prove that a bar-and-grill can actually have the emphasis on grill. For delicious seafood and some killer cocktails, try 2020 Martini Lounge & Cafe on the west bank of the Flats.
For people seeking trendy bistros and eclectic eateries, Tremont is the neighborhood for them. Fat Cats is among the top Italian establishments in this neighborhood or any other. Fahrenheit kicks it up a notch with a fresh seasonal menu of pizzas and pasta.
They do more than study in the area surrounding Case Western Reserve University. Those future doctors and lawyers need somewhere to eat. One of the best places to eat in this area is L'Albatros Brasserie , located at That Place on Bellflower's old premises. This modern, attractive French restaurant has a cozy fireplace for the colder months and patio seating for the summer. Severance Restaurant , inside Severance Hall , is one of the other top choices in the vicinity.
On the near east side Balaton Restaurant features stick-to-your-bones Hungarian fare and is an example of the ethnic diversity in the Shaker Heights neighborhood. For Italian food, Mayfield's Battuto is the best of the east.
Not to be outdone, the "newer" side of town has a healthy list of eateries. Gamekeeper's Taverne in the Rocky River neighborhood features an outdoor cafe, weather permitting. Westlake features the best France and Italy have to offer at Le Bistro Du Beaujolais (located several miles south of Westlake, in Olmsted Falls) and Buca di Beppo , respectively. Known for its nightlife, Lakewood has plenty of places to dine before dancing. Players on Madison boasts the area's best-known pizza, while Pier W keeps the shellfish coming. Don's Pomeroy House in Strongsville proves the point that all of Cleveland is on a seafood diet.
Cleveland offers a wealth of different options for day tours, with everything from the serene Voinovich Park to the Cleveland Museum of Art , there is something that will interest everyone.
Great Lakes Science Center
Tour Voinovich Park , which is located near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Great Lakes Science Center , one of the largest interactive museums in the country. Dine at the local favorite, John Q's Steakhouse , then check out the contemporary artwork at 1300/Third Gallery .
North Coast Harbor
The waterfront area at North Coast Harbor offers many restaurants, like Crop Bistro & Bar , and cultural attractions, like the Steamship William G. Mather Museum . Set sail from Battery Park Marina , or enjoy the nightlife at nearby Whiskey Island Marina .
Cleveland Museum of Art
The University Circle district is home to the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Cleveland Museum of Art , which holds over 30,000 pieces from around the globe. Nearby is the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History , where you can examine ancient fossils, then stop at Nighttown for a hearty meal.
Tower City Center
Browse the shops at the Tower City Center , observe Terminal Tower , Cleveland's most recognizable building, then grab lunch at David's at Key Tower . Then head to Playhouse Square and see a show at one of its many theaters, like the Palace Theatre and the State Theatre . After the show, have dinner at Lola's Bistro .
Enjoy the beautiful architecture at the Cleveland Public Library and admire the turn-of-the-century Old Stone Church . After lunch at Teahouse Noodles , do some shopping at The Arcade . Rest your weary legs and relax with a nice dinner at Johnny's Downtown .
It's always a good idea to consult a professional tour company to help plan your trip. Cast off a cruise ship, see the countryside on a train or tour downtown on the back of a trolley, the choice is yours.
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Special Interest Tours:
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