Two weeks from today, the Republican National Convention will be held in Cleveland, Ohio from July 18th to the 21st. I had already planned a trip with friends to Cleveland for the last weekend in June so I was going to miss the elephant invasion. I was also very very fortunate to have missed the Cleveland Cavalier’s parade on Wednesday June 22nd as I flew in the next day on Thursday. Happy they won, but did not want to be in any kind of parade.
If you’re not a fan of Republicans and find yourself in Cleveland, there are many other things you can do in “The Land.” (click on pictures to see larger versions)
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo was one of our first stops. I had not been to a zoo since one of my trips to New Orleans. The cleanliness of the zoo was very evident from the moment we drove in to the free parking lot. The park is free on Mondays for locals, which was mentioned by several workers throughout the day. They also said it gets pretty packed on Mondays so if you had a season pass, don’t come on Mondays. A recommendation from one of my friends was to catch the tram to the top of the hill and work your way down. DO IT! The walk up looked gruesome and the walk down through the forest bridge system was very relaxing. There were too many animals to mention and so many to see. I would say set aside 4 or 5 hours to enjoy everything. Also, bring some spending cash and not just credit cards. Some of the booths around the park are cash only. There are more than enough take anything food venues, but the cash only lemonade was amazing.
When we made arrangements to visit, we decided to stay a little outside of Cleveland and see some of the surrounding areas. One of the more memorable suburbs we found ourselves in was Ohio City, Ohio. Lunchtime meant brew time and that meant a stop at Great Lakes Brewing Co. on Market Ave. I am a fan of flights, tasting beers at 5 oz at a time, especially if the beers are locally brewed. What I found interesting with Great Lakes Brewing Co. was that you could build a flight of any size. I stuck to the traditional 4 different flavors. We decided go with the onion based bruchetta but instead of the blue cheese some in our party did not like, the waitress suggested goat cheese which we all jumped at and devoured as soon as it hit the table.
Outside eating was available but we desired to sit inside. If you have the chance, walk around inside and downstairs and even go on a brewery tour as well as visit the gift shop. We were walking around a lot after this so buying a ‘Dort’ shirt and Great Lakes Brewing Co. pint glass was out of the question this trip. I will return to this great eatery / brewery.
Just a block away from lunch was our next touristy awesome thing to see in Ohio City, West Side Market. Structurally and offerings wise, I was quickly reminded of Quincy Market in Boston, MA and Reading Market in Philadelphia, PA. I found it to be more varied than Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA. All places I recommend. We once again did not buy anything this walk through, but did later that day. Toward the end of the day, you can get some amazing deals, just watch out for why they are amazing deals.
Our venture into Cleveland found us on a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) train ride for $2.25 each way. No easier way of getting into the heart of the city. Once there we were told by a local that the C-Line trolley / bus system was free on the weekend. We ended up boarding that several times on our journey around the city. We were also told that a jazz festival was taking place in Playhouse Square.
Our free trolley ride loop ended back at Public Square and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. It is breathtaking outside, but you must go inside. There’s a great deal of history within this small ornate space. Definitely read about Lincoln and his two visits here, one after his death.
I am a panoramic taking whore and the new Public Square was one of my targets on this trip. One of my friends who lives just outside of Cleveland mentioned that the revitalization of Public Square and having it done before the RNC was constantly on the news. One worry was that the Cav’s Celebratory parade would cause damage to the Square. None was seen. The only damage known was that all of the vendors and stores were out of most everything because of Wednesday’s parade.
Another victim of my panoramic addiction was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As with any major attraction, show up early. Not only are lines shorter to get in, but parking is much easier to find.
I had some musicians and groups in mind that I wanted to see while visiting the Hall, but I was surprised at how much was there. The building is about 6 levels of history and sometimes there is just too much to see in certain exhibits.
Mixed in with all of the pants, guitars, hand written lyrics, one could find splatters of LGBT history. I took this picture first because it had Rod Stewart on it and my mother is a great fan of his. Then I read the information. I just read it again and became a little teary eyed. Click on the pic, read it, download it and save it if you wish.
Well of course The Village People had to be in here, no? Both the Stonewall and the Village People displays were part of the Louder Than Words – Rock – Politics – Power exhibit that spanned a couple of floors. One of the more interesting types of displays was the Campaign Songs, one by Frank Sinatra and another using the exact words from one of Obama’s speeches, truly moving.
After the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, more food was needed. We found ourselves at Melt Bar and Grilled in Independence, Ohio. The sandwiches were amazing and probably heart attack inducing. Order a whole, eat half, and save the rest for breakfast the next day.
To cap it all off, head back to Ohio City for an ice cream treat at Mitchell’s Homemade. The Caramel Sea Salt is probably the best I ever had. You can watch them make their goodies through the glass behind the serving line or from the gallery seating above.
Walk off the calories or even bike them if you got the wheels. We stumbled upon some great sites along our walk, even the home of a football icon.
Would I go back to Cleveland? Yes! I did not get to see everything “The Forest City” has to offer. You won’t find me visiting for the RNC or any sporting events celebrations, but as you can see, there is plenty to do and enjoy without those things. It’s a lively, welcoming, and proud city as can be seen from the picture of the Cav’s parade below where 1.3 million people attended. I’ll be back!