Ten Things To Do In Cleveland Before You’re Dead

Published 19 years, 7 months past

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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).

  10. 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.

Comments (56)

  1. Pingback ::

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    Eric Meyer posted a nice list of Ten Things To Do In Cleveland Before You”re Dead […]

  2. You are from Cleveland???

  3. Good luck convincing Sam Wyche to come up there, Eric. ;)

    GFM <– grew up near Dayton and has a Pavlovian reflex response of “Cleveland sucks!”

  4. I think I’ve actually done everything on your list. Go me! :-)

  5. has a Pavlovian reflex response of “Cleveland sucks!”

    Poor Cleveland never catches a break.

    In all seriousness, you really should have included: Go to Columbus. It’s cleaner and the people are more friendly. ;)

  6. Every time I disembark from a plane—no matter where—I call out “Hello, Cleveland! Rock & Roll!”. I received some very strange looks in Beijing, let me tell you.

    It’s a quote from the film, This Is Spinal Tap. It seems to me that Cleveland would be the ideal place to do this.

    I take it we’re talking Cleveland, Ohio, here, by the way; not the real Cleveland in the north east of England.

  7. Your list is far, far better than the original. And what about Parade the Circle?

    A Cleveland native that still enjoys returning there to visit.

  8. What about the flats? that is an experience in itself.

  9. It’s been awhile since I’ve done some of them, but I think I’ve done 7 out of the 10.

    Also, don’t forget the USS Cod and the William G. Mather two lesser known Cleveland historical treasures.

  10. I take a little offense at hearing that the people in Columbus are more friendly. Nothing against the good people of our state’s capital, but one of the things I’ve always told people was great about Cleveland was the people who live here.

    I’d be interested in hearing what your favorite restaurants are, by the way. Always a chance that there is some gem out there that I’ve missed.

  11. I’ve done most of the things on this list…and I’ve only been here a year and a half. Columbus is nicer and cleaner, but it lacks the cultural activities Cleveland does ! (whoever heard of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra?)

  12. Well… I just did the Cleveland zoo yesterday, since it is free for residents of metropark counties on Mondays. It was pretty good, there is nothing quite like smelling the feces of animals from around the world. One extra cool thing was that one of the elephants threw mud at some people that were laughing at it. That was priceless.

  13. You forgot “get stuck on 90 between University Circle and Jacobs Field at 5:15pm on a weekday when there’s an early Indians Game.” Having lived in Indianapolis for 5 years before moving to the Cleveland area, I was astounded at how much less that sucked than, for example, driving on the North side of Indy at any time of day or night. I make fun of Cleveland at least as much as the next guy, but it’s not really that bad. It’s easy to get around, there are plenty of fun things to do, and the people are fairly friendly.

    For Bob N looking for restaurants — if Elyria isn’t too far west for you, downtown is a little chinese place called Bok Haw that has the best chinese food ever. It’s cheap, delicious, and friendly. We’ve gone at least 3 times a month since we moved to the area.

  14. Being a Cleveland native myself, I wanted to add one thing to the sports listing: check out a St. Ignatius-St. Edward football game. Even if you have no affiliation with either school, the heated rivalry between these two school always produces a gem of a game. Go Wildcats!

    For restaurants, even though its not in the city of Cleveland itself, I suggest Nino’s in North Ridgeville. Best Italian food you will ever have, period. Prices are steep, but the service and quality easily make up for it.

  15. Being a native of the original Cleveland (NE England), which in actuality no longer exists – the mighty county having given way to sickly Boroughs. I have to admit that your Cleveland sounds a lot more appealing, I hope it lasts as long as ours did (not sure on the exact figure, perhaps 1000 years since the name appeared?)

    Alas, I shall have to accept now heralding from ‘The Borough of Redcar and Cleveland’ grrr! ;)

  16. Wow, somebody actually mentioned North Ridgeville. That’s hardcore! I grew up in North Ridgeville and my parents still live there. Whenever people ask where I grew up, I have to tell them “the west side of Cleveland.” Some people seem to think they would know where I lived because they’ve been to some of the surrounding suburbs. Inevitably, I end up telling them, and they almost always have a puzzled look on their face and say “oh, I don’t know where that is…” It’s a quaint little place and has really developed in the past decade or two. And, Nino’s is definitely one of the best.

    That’s a good list you’ve got; I’ve done most of it. When I moved home from college one summer, I saw the orchestra a number of times — at Blossom and Severance. Severance is beautiful, but the atmosphere is amazing at Blossom, especially with the fireworks at the end of the night.

  17. I grew up in Cleveland (a long time ago, so things may have changed) but one of my highlights (after George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra) was the Cleveland Play House. The quality of the acting was astounding, and you didn’t have to pay Broadway prices. I believe it is still there, in new digs, and I hope it is as good as I remember it. Cleveland is a great place to live.

  18. I am also a local Clevelander, It’s amazing, one can sometimes forget the great parts of that city, and it can be hard to get over the “Cleveland Sucks!”

    Cleveland Orchestra, I would definatly agree with that one.

    The Cleveland Orchestra stands today among the world’s most-revered symphonic ensembles.

    And I definitely cannot argue with the metroparks… I live right near one of them. Overall, great list.

  19. “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.”

    Well, I guess that statement is true when you live in the USA, but after having just spent 6 weeks there (not for the first time) and now being back in Europe, I can tell you that it is definitely different over here. Matter of perspective, I guess.

    And to Joe, who recommends “Nino’s in North Ridgeville. Best Italian food you will ever have, period.” I’d suggest to come to Italy in Europe. Maybe he’ll revise his statement :-).

  20. What about touring around Coventry? The last time I was there it was culture shock block to block! Diverse cultures, great shops, fabulous coffee, and more. In one day in Coventry I managed to go through a fair portion of US History. There were street buskers reminiscent of life in the early Hate Ashbury, public poetry readings and art exhibits.. we’re talking real culture here.

    Having lived on West 25 & Denison for about 2 years I also really got a chance to appreciate the tightly knit ethnic enclaves that abound in Cleveland…

    Overall though, I have to agree with Eric, there’s lots to see and do in Cleveland that never really made it into the original list…

  21. My wife is from Cleveland (Lyndhurst actually) and we head up there quite a few times every year. It’s a far cooler town than I would have expected. My older brother always jokes about how Cleveland does not rock.

    In the past 8 years of experiencing Cleveland off/on I have to say the Flats has faded into a disappointment for me. Maybe I just don’t drink enough?

    The Metroparks are fabulous. If you live in Cleveland and don’t take advantage of them you are a fool – plain and simple. What an amazing resource. I go into withdrawal everytime I leave for home. The zoo, while quite nice, doesn’t impress me as much as the sheer vastness of land that has been set aside for parks in Cleveland.

    I can offer no input into restaurants. I hardly know the name of any of them. However, to the European guy earlier on – The Italian restaurant in Cleveland is probably as authentic as any Italian restaurant in Italy – more than likey it is owned and staffed by a full contingent of Italians. They don’t cal America the melting pot for nothing you know :O)

    When in NYC – try out Angels – sorry dont know the address – some amazing food for a good price!

  22. Nino’s was established by a first-generation Italian-American (born in America) and is still run today by the same family. It’s about as authentic as you can get while still being in the States.

    My parents have been to Italy, and while they commended the food, they preferred what they eat here. Maybe that is just our American palletes. My apologies, then, I probably should have said “in the Greater Cleveland area.”

  23. As a native of Columbus, who spent 8 years as a journalist in Florida and quit so I could move BACK to Ohio, I must say that Cleveland does indeed rock (and so does Columbus… Florida, on the other hand… well, you can have it).
    I actually live in a tiny town about 45 minutes from downtown called Garrettsville but I still shop at the West Side Market and Asian Plaza on a regular basis. Woo hoo!

  24. For amazing coffee and a wide selection of authentic Arabic side dishes and exotic teas, check out the ALGEBRA cofffee house on Murry Hill (off of Mayfield in Little Italy).

    For great live bands every night of the week, and local headliners on fFri and Sat at 8 and 10 each day, THE BARKING SPYDER offers a unique beerhouse atomosphere complete with patio seating for warm summer (and cool fall) nights. I highly reccomend this bar on Juniper Road. Case Western Reserve Campus, behind Arabica.

    While you are in University Circle, cruise by the Weatherhead School of Management and see what Frank Geary can do with 60 million dollars and no right angles.

  25. Isn’t it fascinating that today you can hyperlink to everything noteworthy on the Web? Only a few years ago I perhaps could have read your Top Ten list, but would never had an actual idea about those places until I visited them myself (or bought a book — at a local store, not on the Web, of course). Now I can click just a link and there is all information that matters, including photographs.

    Isn’t the Web amazing? Rapidly changing the World, bringing people from all over the World together. Most of us take this for given every day when we work with the Internet. But blogposts as yours sometimes remember me of the former times some years ago :-)

  26. Trackback ::

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  27. i’m a lifer and we have been a great american force in our history; however with the loss of trw and the folks who lined their pockets with that loss, i’m sorry to say, but ” will the last one to leave please turn out the lights”…

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  29. Just for those English people visiting here, the name Cleveland has NOTHING to do with Cleveland in England. The city obtained its name on July 22, 1796 when surveyors of the Connecticut Land Company named an area in Ohio “Cleaveland” after Gen. Moses Cleaveland, the superintendent of the surveying party, a month after white settlers had signed a treaty with local Native Americans to acquire the land. The spelling of the city’s name was later changed to “Cleveland” when, in 1831, an “a” was dropped so the name could fit a newspaper’s masthead.

  30. Hi, I’m a lifelong Clevelander- I live in Lakewood a small jaunt from Cleveland. I think that since the flats has lost it’s luster it’s cool to check out Lakewood’s bar scene! Lakewood has every bar imaginable- over 100 in fact between W. 117th and Rocky River Dr. There’s no cover charges or paying to park- provided you can find parking. There’s good food and drink at the Flying Rib, 80’s cover bands at Iggy’s, Good irish flair at McGinty’s Chill Asle, and The Old Stand has $1 drafts during football season as well as good food! Lakewood also has cultural fair and an open late personality. I suggest doing the bar crawl and trying atleast 1 drink at each bar! Might want to book a hotel room and call a cab! Lakewood is a friendly city that should be checked out! As far as people saying “cleveland sucks” well those are the folks that have never left home and still live with mom and dad!

  31. Don’t do any of this stuff in the Spring or Winter, even the fall is pushing it! Make sure you plan to do everything in the summer when you know the weather is going to be good. Celveland weather SUCKS!

  32. I have to agree that Cleveland is great. Especially the people. I cannot speak for the east side (I just moved from Columbus OH and live on the west side), but the people are DEFINITELY more friendly up here than in Columbus. Take it from a lifer from Columbus. Thank you Cleveland for welcoming me. I met my husband nearly 20 years ago at Ohio State, and I often asked him why people from Cleveland were so nice. He simply explained that Clevelanders had to stick together, because everyone craps on Cleveland! And that’s a shame – Eric, you’ve made a great list…bet between everyone on this forum we could come up with 25 or 50 things to do in Cleveland before we die. Cheers for a great 2006 in my new hometown…Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

  33. The house of Swing on Mayfield road offers extraordinary music, from blues to jazz to rock – it’s the place to go. Also, whoever mentioned the Barking SPider is correct, it’s an amazing place to go. In general I’d suggest avoiding coventry – unless you like drinking with 20 something frat boys. The Flats leave something to be desired, so cold and industrial – but the bars can be fun. While you are in Cleveland get a sandwhich from Pannini’s with EVERYTHING on it. I haven’t been robbed yet, so I’d give Clevelanders a 7/10 for friendliness

  34. cleveland…will the last one to leave please turn out the lights?

  35. not what we used to be and i don’t think we’re coming back………..

  36. sorry to say

  37. I kind of like the original list. Personally, I could easily die happy without seeing another professional sports game or going to another amusement park that just happens to be located near cleveland.

    It seems like most the items on the list are typical tourist attractions. I like how the original list mentioned more obscure things that the reader might not have come up with on their own – although, since I’m not from Cleveland, i’m not sure how good a job they did of that.

    PS i stumbled upon this page looking for “things to do in cleveland” because i am moving there soon.

  38. I was hoping to find something a bit better than “Check out the flats” though this was probably written when the flats were lively! I’m trying to convince someone to come here from CA!

  39. I recently have lived in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. They just didn’t suit my needs. Here in Cleveland I love it!! It is so nice. The metroparks are beautiful. Brecksville and Rocky River reservations are the best. A great romantic place to visit is Chagrin!!! They have nice water falls. Downtown is so fun, I recently went to the boat fest or whatever it was called and it was so fun!! They had very tall ships. The Rock and Roll hall of fame is great too! And shopping in the Avenue at Tower City is amazing!! Godiva and The Hard Rock Cafe are so good!!!! I love it here! Cincinnati is so Rinkeydink that they don’t even have a Hard Rock Cafe. As for Pittsburgh…..the people suck there and so do the Steelers!!!

  40. I have a local bar here in the uk called ‘Cleveland Bay’ – Is there a bay in Cleveland USA?

    Forty Things To Do Before 40

  41. Agree with your list… Mentor Headlands beach and the marsh may be the metroparks. Great for birding in the Fall and Spring too.

    Also Geauga Lake was named this prior to six flags. At one point in history the games were not directly owned by the park, but rather by individuals.

  42. I visited a friend in Cleveland last winter and had a day to kill, so I went to the Great Lakes Science Center (I think it’s called) next to the Rock and Roll place, which I didn’t bother with, and had a blast. It was inexpensive and had lots of hands-on activities for my inner child (who was surprisingly well behaved). At night, I wandered around the Flats and checked out the old, rusted-out bridges that were nicely lighted in a kind of testament to our Steel Age. To those people who don’t like the city, I’d say they’re not looking in the right places. Joel Storer–Arlignton, VA

  43. I think Cleveland is great! I have lived in Columbus for two years now and the people are much more friendly in Cleveland. I would take Cleveland over Columbus any day snow and all. I just wish there were more jobs in Cleveland.

  44. you cant leave out going canoeing down the mohican river and going to the flats

  45. Hi- I have enjoyed reading about my hometown…I have been gone for 15 years. I actually have a question maybe someone can answer. Many years ago when visiting the Flats was a blur the next day, we used to eat at this place that had….Big, messy corned beef with potato sandwiches. I think! Too many drinks prior to the eating maybe. Anyhow, if this rings any bells for anyone and you could refresh my memory (and confirm I have not lost my mind) I would sure appreciate it. My email address is: johnsonlee@alltel.net

    Thanks so much and by the way….In my opinion, “Cleveland Does Rock!!”

  46. I have to be honest here, I have been traveling to Cleveland for three days a week for the past eight weeks, and I am less than impressed. This city is filthy, largely poor, and might have the whiniest people I have ever met. Columbus is a much better way to go. An up and coming city, instead of one on it’s way out.. Now if they would just move a few of your sports teams a little farther south.

  47. I don’t see why when ever sombody talks about Columbus they have to compare it to Cleveland. I mean they are both great and very unique cities for many reasons. I mean why is this like a stupid fight. Thy’re both great Ohio cities and neither will ever be better than the other.

  48. I completely agree, Chad. In any city, you can find things that are bad and things that are good and things that are great. Neither Cleveland nor Columbus (nor Cincinnati nor…) is any exception. Why some people insist on setting up a “city fight” is frankly beyond me, but fortunately, there are plenty like you who know better.

  49. There are no good “free trade” coffee shops downtown Cleveland….how depressing!….Also what about good independent theater…..there’s nothing downtown! Tower City has nothing for good shopping. I hope someone can dissprove me on this.

    Annoyed with Cleveland Downtown

  50. I have lived in the Greater Cleveland area for 34 years. I grew up in a little village outside of Chagrin Falls called South Russell. I would recommend visiting Downtown Chagrin Falls, enjoying a nice meal at either Gamekeepers Inn or Joey’s – a stop at The Popcorn Shop is definately in order!! If you like to have a few drinks go to Rick’s Cafe or The Greenville! When you go to The Popcorn Shop, take a walk down the steps and see the falls, too! Check out the Christmas lights but then fly south for the winter – it’s cold here!!! :o)

  51. ive done everything on this list. does this mean i’ll die soon?

  52. I love Cleveland. I moved back after moving away after college b/c I missed it. Don’t plan on moving again.

    The place with the corned beef and potatoes (french fries) was Panini’s.

    The Flats don’t exist anymore, at least not in the way people remember. The West Bank is still the same – Shooters, Jillians, everything in the Powerhouse, plus the smaller, lesser known bars like Harbor Inn, McCarthy’s, Hooples, etc. The East Bank (what most people refer to when they say “The Flats”) is shut down completely. All of the buildings have been purchased and will be torn down. The area will be redeveloped into housing, retail, etc. But up the hill from the East Bank is The Warehouse district which has effectively replaced the east bank. Lots of bars, night clubs, and restaurants – both inexpensive and high end.

    Also, there are some neighborhoods that have developed into neat areas just west of downtown – Ohio City (Home of the Westside Market mentioned above) and Tremont – home of Iron Chef Michael Simon’s Lolita’s, the original home of Lola’s, now located on East 4th.

    Anyway, if you’re visiting three days a week and can’t find anything exciting to do, you’re not going to the right spots. There a tons of great restaurants and bar scenes…I mean, it’s a midwest town…we like to eat and drink.

  53. I love Cleveland, lived here all my life and would like to travel but I have never thought of leaving for good. I recently visited Columbus, I was NOT impressed and it was filthy. I didnt venture too far from OSU so the dirt may have been beacuse of a high population of college students in that area but hey I know they have a dirty part! I grew up in the St. Clair – Superior area, I am second generation American (Slavic)and I believe we have most cultures covered here. I agree with you that restaurants are not worthy of a “things to do before you die” list but I think its great that whatever you crave from Ethiopian to Eastern-European, you can find it authentic close by. Only thing I have to do is get out on the lake (probably on the Goodtime) and the list will be complete for me but I think there are plenty of repeats.

    Cleveland SO ROCKS!!!

  54. No one mentions Youngstown. Probably for good reason! I grew up in Youngstown, actually an unincorporated area just north of the city limits (Liberty Township). Made many trips to/through Cleveland and remember it as a very friendly place. Had a friend in Willowick (extreme NE side) and girlfriend in Bay Village, Hurst Dr. (extreme NW side). Had another friend that went to the Western Reserve Academy (Hudson). I hitchhiked all over Cleveland and many times had to hike I90 from Willowick to Bay Village. Went to school at Ohio State and found hitchhiking much easier in Cleveland than in Columbus. This was all in the “70 folks. One of my favorite areas to be stuck hitchhiking was in Lakewood. There are lots of fine old homes with loads of wrought iron on Lake Ave. & Clifton Blvd. I thought Coventry was cool in the “70”s. I always liked Cleveland and think that it has gotten a bad rap. I saw George Benson at Blossom. I had tickets for seats in the pavilion. When I got there the usher tells me “I have bad news and I have good news. The bad news is that they put the sound board right over your seats. The good news is that we have seats for you in the front row.” Great Concert! I can remember making the drive from Youngstown to Bay Village in about 65 minutes. Yep, I was speeding. Got so many tickets I had to move to California. Anybody remember when that gasoline tanker crashed and burned up the bridge on I80 where it crossed the Cuyahoga River? I miss Cleveland.

  55. What a wonderful list! I’ve done all of these things in my life (37 years) and will continue on with my own children. Minus the horrible winter weather, Cleveland is a great place to live.

    Thanks for the thoughtful information.

  56. As far as everything on the list Ive done them multiple times when I lived there. There are several bus tours to do both the East and west side. As far as Italian restaurants go to Little Italy. There Corbos bakery ,Gelatoria,MaRosas and several Other wonderful restaurants all off Mayfield. Or Masters Pizza in Mayfield hts.

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