I quick-linked 10 Things to Do in Cleveland Before You Die, but the more I looked at the list, the less happy it made me. So I’ve decided to compile my own list. Note that this list doesn’t include restaurants. As much as I love to eat, I just don’t think that a single meal is worthy of a “things to do before you’re dead” list, no matter how amazing the meal. I might compile a separate “Ten Places to Eat In Cleveland” list, but that’s a subject for another day.
Hear the Cleveland Orchestra.
Not on CD, you goof—anyone can do that. Hear them perform live and in person at least once in your life. Odds are you’ll want to make it more than once, given that they’re one of the best orchestras in the world. Bonus points for seeing them at Blossom Music Center, followed by a fireworks display.
Tour the cultural institutions of University Circle.
That includes the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, which includes the Shafran Planetarium; the Western Reserve Historical Society, which includes the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum; and the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, all within a quarter-mile radius. Included in that grouping is Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra. This one’s kind of a cheat, since if I mentioned them all separately that would make this a “Top 15 Things To Do” list, which for some reason doesn’t sound as interesting.
Spend a day at the Cleveland Metroparks.
Known as the “Emerald Necklace”, the extensive park system (20,000 acres in 14 reservations) not only girds the city but also runs throughout the greater metropolitan area. There are hiking trails, picnic areas, educational events, and a whole lot more, including the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
Tour the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The real joy is in the smaller cases, where you can find original lyrics sheets to landmark songs complete with scratched-out ideas and arrows marking rearrangements, bills for hotel-room damage, and other tidbits. The architecture of the building is fascinating as well.
Visit the West Side Market.
Besides the dozens of fruit and vegetable stalls in the outside promenade, the interior market space is filled with local butchers, bakers, and other amazing treats. Come early on Saturday morning for the best selection.
Spend Labor Day weekend downtown.
That’s where and when you’ll find the Taste of Cleveland, a great way to sample various cuisines, while the aerial displays of the Cleveland National Air Show, based not half a mile away, soar overhead. (Assuming the FAA relaxes its restrictions on such flights near sporting events, that is.) If you stick around until nightfall, you’ll have a perfect excuse to go party in the Flats, too.
Hit one of the amusement parks.
Technically these aren’t in Cleveland itself, but they’re close enough to warrant inclusion. About forty minutes southeast of downtown is Geauga Lake (formerly Six Flags Worlds of Adventure), a combination amusement park and water park. Just over an hour west of downtown, you’ll find Cedar Point, one of the nation’s premiere amusements parks and the roller coaster capital of the world.
Go sailing on Lake Erie.
Whether you take out a two-man boat or take a dinner cruise on the Good Time III, it’s worth seeing the city from the water. Even better, if you’re captain of your own boat, you can sail to one of the islands or head west along the shoreline to Cedar Point.
See a game.
With three major-league teams (the Indians, Browns, and Cavaliers) playing downtown, if you’re a sports fan, you’ll find a game to watch. There are a number of other teams in town as well, including the Barons (hockey) and the Force (soccer).
Drop by Lakeview Cemetery.
Do it while you’re still alive, okay? You’ll not only get great views of the city, but also see artistic, beautiful monuments to James A. Garfield, John D. Rockefeller, Eliot Ness, and others. The Wade Chapel, situated on the shores of a pond, features an interior designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and full of the famous glasswork bearing his name. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a place to rest after you’re dead.
I have to be honest and admit that I haven’t even done everything on my own list. However, I suspect that as our kids grow up, we’ll do all of those things more than once.