Expert Advice from a Cleveland Native
For those of you who have never traveled to Cleveland—and we suspect there are many—you probably find a smile creeping over your face as you think about the apparent absurdity of this blog post.
A travel blog about the city that set its river on fire???
Whereas this town may have once been known as The Mistake on the Lake, the city now simply known as THE LAND to those who call it home has surprised tourists in recent years with both its vivacity and heart.
And we’re not talking the heart of rock and roll, which of course is still beatin’ in Cleveland at the Rock Hall.
We’re talking about the food, the culture, and ultimately, the people of Cleveland, who time and time again, have converted skeptical tourists into true fans of THE LAND.
The West Side
Although Clevelanders will come together on gameday, locals are either from the West Side or East Side. We recommend starting your visit to Cleveland on the West Side of the city, with a walk around Cleveland’s West Side Market. The West Side Market is home to over 100 local food and produce vendors, selling everything from meat and seafood to flowers and nuts. The market house itself opened in 1912, though the open-air portion of the market dates back even further, to the mid-1800s.
A short walk from the West Side Market is Cleveland’s famous local brewery, Great Lakes Brewing Company. If you visit around the holidays, be sure to try their Christmas Ale. Poured into a glass rimmed with cinnamon, nothing will put THE LAND in your winter wonder-LAND quite like it.
Eastern European influences can be found around the West Side. If you’re visiting in spring, stay for the West Side’s Dyngus Day, which is celebrated the Monday after Easter every year. Historically a Polish tradition, Dyngus Day in Cleveland is a day to honor “Polka Heritage, as well as the other Eastern European cultures still thriving in Cleveland.” In heaven there is no beer, that’s why they drink it in Cleveland!
If you’re in town to catch a baseball or basketball game, the Guardians’ Progressive Field and the Cavs’ Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse are next to each other. Head east over the Hope Memorial Bridge from the West Side, and you’ll walk straight into Progressive Field. If you’re catching a Guardians game, no need to eat beforehand. Get a traditional hot dog at the game but be sure to add Cleveland’s own Bertman Original Ball Park Mustard to your treat. “The best mustard on the planet” has been served at Cleveland baseball games for over 90 years.
Checking out Donovan Mitchell and the Cleveland Cavaliers instead? Next to the arena is East 4th Street (yes, this is a real street with its own website). A number higher-end local restaurants line E. 4th, including Cleveland’s favorite culinary son Michael Symon’s Mabel’s BBQ, which offers Cleveland-style BBQ. Never heard of Cleveland-style BBQ? Let’s just say “the best mustard on the planet” is a key ingredient!
Cleveland is also the unofficial t-shirt capital of the world. Genuinely funny sports-themed t-shirts are practically a religion in Cleveland. Officially licensed shops throughout the suburbs and city highlighting local sports icons are prevalent, whether it’s suburban powerhouse GV Artwork, or CLE Clothing Co., which has a brick-and-mortar storefront right on E. 4th.
Bernie, Bernie: visiting the Cleveland Browns
Before we move to the East Side, we can’t write a blog about the city of Cleveland without touching on its football team. Sure, Texas may be where the lights are brightest on Friday nights, but Sundays belong to Browns backers.
As Cleveland Browns fans march down West 6th Street toward Alfred Lerner Way on gameday, don’t be surprised if you’ll see local Cleveland legends walking down the street with you. Cleveland Browns legend from the 1980s Bernie Kosar is a regular on W. 6th on gameday, tossing the pigskin around with tailgaters as they make their way to FirstEnergy Stadium.
Cleveland's East Side
As you continue your trip through Cleveland to the East Side, here’s where you’ll find University Circle, Little Italy, and Coventry Village, three bustling districts all found within 3 miles of one another.
Besides being home to the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, University Circle also boasts the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The art museum in particular attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and was ranked as a top ten art museum in the nation by TimeOut in 2021.
Little Italy, a small neighborhood founded by Italian immigrants who first came to Cleveland in the mid-1800s to work for Italian sculptor Joseph Carabelli, boasts many famous stone and marble works from that period that can still be seen today.
And finally, Coventry is an eclectic, artistic village that houses many local shops and restaurants. Since 1972, Tommy’s restaurant has been a staple in Coventry. As Cleveland Scene put it, “…they had vegetarian and vegan options before those became popular…[but] the thick-cut French fries are divine.”
Like a right hook from the UFC heavyweight champion with the most title defenses in history (and native Clevelander) Stipe Miocic, or that perfect verse from the Billboard Music Award’s Top Rock Artist in 2021 (and native Clevelander) Machine Gun Kelly, this is a town that lands.