City of Light. The CLE. The Forest City. The Mistake on the Lake. The Rock and Roll Capital of The World. What are nicknames for Cleveland! Add another to this list: a fun-as-hell city I want to return to.
Ok, we need to work on that last nickname, but color me shocked, on my recent visit to The Cle, I had the best time I have had in quite some time. And that’s everything from tours to bars to the hotel to restaurants. Cleveland knocked my socks off. And it didn’t break my bank. At all.
Here’s a little side story about heeding advice. The first time I went skiing with friends of the family who were avid skiers, they told me, “Take a private lesson, it will help you immensely.” I hemmed and hawed and decided to try to ski with them the first day, but then finally gave in and took that lesson. I am sure you know the end of this story, the private lesson was a game changer and I was able to ski like a rock star. How does that relate to travel? People always tell me, take a walking tour of the city you are visiting, and of course, I never do. Until this time with my visit to Cleveland. We were lucky enough to book a tour through the gay-owned and gay-operated Tours of Cleveland. Tour owner Scott was a wealth of information, and he did it all “off-book.” (I’m a former teacher and was floored at the amount of information Scott provided!) Fave fact of the tour: Cleveland is home to the second-largest theater district in the United States! Who knew Cleveland was a mini Broadway!?!
ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME
You can’t go to Cleveland and not go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or Rock Hall as the locals affectionately call it. Heart, Donna Summer, and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts are the latest inductees with huge queer followings. This is no ordinary museum with interactive displays and concerts throughout the building keeping “Cleveland’s best known musical export alive and pounding.” I am not a museum person but I could have spent even the entire afternoon at Rock Hall!
No, it’s not the name of a college, which is what I thought for the length of our visit. Ohio City is the name of the bustling west side area of the city home to young professionals, artists, and hipsters. We loved seeing the rainbow-painted crosswalks marking the very LGBTQ-friendly area. Shops like HIM&HIS Design, who “imagine and style perfect-for-you-spaces” cater to the queer community in ways that a non-gay-owned design shop can’t. We spoke with founder Rob Oriti, about what it means to own a business in Ohio City,
“To be a gay-owned shop in Ohio City has been nothing short of an overwhelming experience. The diversity of the neighborhood and the historical prominence of this area to the LGBTQIA+ community is not lost on us. We are grateful for the opportunity to create an inclusive, open and safe space for all.”
Other highlights of Ohio City include Larder, the delicatessen and bakery EVERYONE told us to eat at…but sadly the line was so long and we were so hungry we just couldn’t wait. You know it’s delicious if all the locals eat there, and Astoria Cafe & Market, the yummy Greek-inspired restaurant we did eat at. Hey, I’m a New Yorkers so of course I was going to eat at a restaurant called Astoria! My Mediterranean chicken was seriously good and my friend finished his chickpea spinach soup in record time. We were hungry!
KIMPTON SCHOFIELD HOTEL
Speaking of food, we were lucky enough to have the BEST breakfast (yes I am still thinking about it, I like to eat and they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day) at Betts, the restaurant within our gorgeous hotel, the Kimpton Schofield. If you are a fan of cool hotel designs, check out the Kimpton Schofield, but back to the breakfast at Betts! I almost took some bacon for the road. Betts serves “classic American dishes with an emphasis on freshness in a colorful, casual dining space.” They even have grab-and-go coolers with beer and wine! Everything about our stay at the Kimpton Schofield was top-notch from the gym to the friendliness of every single staffer we encountered.
STUDIO WEST 117
The jewel of our trip was definitely the grand opening of “an unprecedented sports, entertainment, and dining destination for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies.” Studio West 117 is a “first-of-its-kind sustainable ecosystem created for and by the LGBTQ+ community.” The grand opening of the Fieldhouse, a 5,000 square foot gymnasium, and count ’em THREE restaurants. We were able to experience this “first phase”, which included the all new rooftop patio, an outdoor courtyard, a demonstration kitchen, and event spaces. Betsy Figgie, the co-founder, said,
“Studio West 117 was created to honor and share the vibrant cultures that comprise the LGBTQ+ community and to serve and support its members. We’re excited to welcome everyone to the Fieldhouse for some fun and to learn about everything we have to offer.”
Open to everyone, in the future Studio West 117 will include retail businesses, housing, additional entertainment, and medical and residential offerings specifically designed to support the LGBTQ+ community – a complete gayborhood in the making. A perfect example of the queer community taking care of its own. Daniel Budish, co-founder of Studio West 117, explained,
“Everyone should have a place to go where they can feel comfortable in their own skin and can grow and explore. We hope the LGBTQ+ community in the Cleveland area and beyond will find that and more at Studio West 117.”
Our last stop of the night, or trip…who remembers at this point was Twist Social Club. This venue far exceeded our now quite high expectations! Fun drag shows, great dancing music, and what I noticed looking around the bar — which is what I also saw at Studio West 117 — were queer people of every age, gender, shape, and nationality all drinking, laughing, and dancing together. If this is life in the midwest sign me up. Wait Is Cleveland even considered the Midwest?
Huge thanks to everyone at Destination Cleveland especially Nick and Debbie for taking such amazing care of us! OMG I almost forgot, we got to meet drag race ROYALTY at the Grand Opening of Studio West 117. Latrice Royale, Detox, and Roxxy Andrews! Thanks for representing ladies!