The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument on Public Square in downtown Cleveland. (Lance Hornby)
CLEVELAND — We came for the music and sports — then stayed for the arts and cuisine.
Rock and jocks are just part of a larger Cleveland canvas that a weekend in northeast Ohio can offer, starting with the Cleveland Museum of Art (clevelandart.org), a 10-minute drive from downtown on leafy University Circle.
The CMA’s entrance is dominated by Claes Oldenburg’s massive steel, lead and wood Standing Mitt With Ball, in homage to America’s pastime. Contemplate this entire vast atrium while reclining on bean bag futons spread across the floor for Ama: The Gathering Place, which integrates music, sculpture and textiles, on until Dec. 1.
Claes Oldenburg’s Standing Mitt With Ball in the Cleveland Museum of Art. (Lance Hornby)
Free to the public, the CMA is one of the best planned of its kind in the U.S., with pieces ranging from 5,000 years old to its 12-metre interactive ArtLens Wall, that lets guests see the more than 4,000 artifacts on permanent display and cultivate a personalized tour. The layout is ideal to see lots in little time, with close-quarter galleries that group mummies, knights and a wonderful display of Faberge eggs from Imperial Russia.
Cross the Circle green, past one of the casts of The Thinker that Rodin personally supervised, to the Natural History Museum (cmnh.org) and the Cleveland History Center (wrhs.org/plan-your-visit/history-center), both ideal for families. The History Center is partly comprised of two restored mansions and a courtyard from the 19th and early 20th century, detailing Cleveland’s founding in 1796 and its golden age for a time as America’s fifth-largest city.
The center’s newer section has vintage vehicles, planes, a tribute to Carl Stokes (America’s first elected black mayor) and a carousel with 109-year-old horses from an amusement park in nearby Euclid Beach.
A vintage car on display at the Cleveland History Center. (Lance Hornby)
It also features a tribute to area sports with LeBron James’s size 15 basketball shoes from the Cavaliers title season in 2016, the scorecard from Addie Joss’s perfect game for the Cleveland Naps in 1908 and the huge – and still controversial – neon Chief Wahoo sign that sat atop Municipal Stadium, former home of the ball team.
Today’s Indians play at Progressive Field where you can scan the city’s crown jewels of architecture, such as the 52-storey Terminal Tower (for decades the tallest in the world outside of New York) with its nightly rainbow light show. Explore three shopping arcades of European design or the much more humble 3159 W. 11th St., better known as the house from holiday comedy classic A Christmas Story.
Walking to the shore of Lake Erie, catch the improving football Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium (QB Baker Mayfield shirts are everywhere in town) and the neighbouring Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (rockhall.com).
1950s guitars on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Lance Hornby)
Pioneering 1950’s disc jockey Alan Freed and Ian Hunter’s 1979 hit Cleveland Rocks helped make the city and music genre synonymous. The Hall reached its 25th anniversary in 2018 and its ever-changing special exhibits — the 50th anniversary of Woodstock dominates this year, along with a room of rock-themed pinball machines — balance interactive displays such as the varied roots of rock and a sound booth stocked with one-hit wonders.
You could spend the whole day here lingering, listening, looking at the displays of clothing, instruments and original lyrics, many written in haste on any surface available at the time. The group and individual inductees are celebrated in their own upper gallery, where a garage band venue has been added to test visitors’ chops.
“With the Hall so famous, we hope Cleveland can be the new Nashville in five to 10 years,” says a cheery server at Market Garden restaurant just across the Cuyahoga River bridge in the West Side.
The Flats district of Cleveland at the Cuyahoga River with many restaurants. (Lance Hornby)
And just as the country music capital enhanced its reputation on fine food, so has Cleveland launched a promotion of its cuisine. A number of its award-winning chefs blitzed New York City recently to let the world in on new tastes of Northeast Ohio’s meat-loving tradition, with a fine selection of craft beer.
Market Garden (marketgardenbrewery.com), offering more than 100 creations from its own brewery, is one of several featuring local dishes, some of the recipes infused next door at the century-old West Side Market (westsidemarket.org). Many other establishments such as Spice Kitchen and Bar (in the Detroit Shoreway/Gordon Square district), downtown Mabel’s BBQ and the eco-friendly Greenhouse Tavern also feature Ohio-harvested ingredients.
From a low point in the 1970s when its economy tanked, Cleveland now has a goal to lure 20 million visitors by 2020.
IF YOU GO
Air Canada flies up to four times daily to Cleveland from Toronto, while a drive through Buffalo is about six hours; two-and-a half from Detroit.
The city also has a fine transit system to reach many of its popular neighbourhoods in just a few minutes.
More information on top restaurants and popular activities can be found at ThisisCleveland.com.