Travel Guide: Hot In Cleveland
The shores of Lake Erie are giving rise to a real artisan enclave of food, art and industrial Midwestern craftsmanship.
In recent years, the main motivator for travel to Cleveland has been business – Cleveland Clinic is the most advanced heart hospital in the world and largest employer in Ohio – and for championship basketball and baseball games. Most people have an image of Cleveland as a blue-collar city but don’t know that it was one of the wealthiest cities in America during the Rockefeller era. Today, the city’s hard-working Midwestern spirit has given rise to a new wave of young artisans and entrepreneurs revitalizing the Rust Belt town and making it a prime destination not just for work, but play, too.
Where To Stay
$: The $272 million, 600-room Hilton Cleveland Downtown opened its doors June 2016. The massive hotel has lots of local art on display, from images made entirely of duct tape to paintings created by Cleveland children with special needs. Impressive views of Lake Erie from the full-service bar on the 32nd floor are worth checking out even if you aren’t staying here.
$$: Much smaller is the 122-room boutique Kimpton Schofield, centrally located in the heart of Cleveland’s downtown entertainment district. Complimentary guitars are available to borrow and there are yoga mats in every room, which you can take to class at nearby Inner Bliss Yoga Studio. Plus, the hotel is dog-friendly and hosts a wine hour each evening in the lobby living room.
If it’s a bucket-list trip: The traditionally luxurious Ritz-Carlton is still undergoing major renovations, and until that’s done, the best suite to splurge on in the city is the three-bedroom penthouse apartment at the Kimpton. Panoramic views of the city make this entertaining hotspot popular with celebrity visitors.
What To Do
Visit the Cleveland Museum of Art for a quiet afternoon. Admission to the permanent collection, which includes pieces from Monet, Dali and Warhol, is free. A new interactive gallery gamifies the museum experience. Eye-tracking and facial recognition technology prompts you to mirror characters in artwork, decode symbols and learn about color, composition and patterns. Then shop for an artisanal local souvenir at FOUNT‘s Gordon Arts District boutique. These handbags are made with Florentine leather and designed with classy Midwestern durability.
Browse more than 100 food vendors at West Side Market for a snack. You’ll find everything from seafood and falafel to gyros and spicy jerky at this historic market, an important social hub since 1912. Swing by Great Lakes Brewing Company around the corner to wash down your food with a flight of beers on tap then head to Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream for a delectably creamy dessert made from local seasonal ingredients and grass-fed dairy.
Outside of New York, Playhouse Square is the largest performing arts center in the country. Nine theaters offer a plethora of options from dance and children’s theater to Broadway musicals like An American in Paris. Known locally as the “Emerald Necklace,” The Cleveland Metroparks’ collection of 18 parks offers scenic slices of wilderness for hiking, biking and even kayaking.
Where To Eat
$: Sokolowski’s University Inn won a James Beard “American Classics” Award in 2014, commemorating this Polish cafeteria-style restaurant and their pierogi as a Cleveland staple. The convivial blue-collar vibe offers a great opportunity to meet locals over a bowl of potato dill soup, stuffed cabbage and smoked kielbasa.
$$: Chef Jonathan Sawyer is one of Cleveland’s most famous restaurateurs and Northern Italian Trentina is his most upscale concept. If you’re feeling especially ambitious and hungry, opt for the 12-course menu bianco seasonal tasting. Otherwise, order a wood-fired ‘nduja pizza, eggplant al forno and housemade pastas to share with the table.
$$$: Edwin’s is not only the best French restaurant in Cleveland, but also an institute giving formerly incarcerated adults an opportunity to pursue a career in hospitality. Founder and CEO Brandon Chrostowski is running for Cleveland mayor in 2017 and his umami bomb hand-ground burger, cooked tableside, gets our vote for best burger in town.
Don’t Miss: An Artsy Chance To Embrace CLE’s Industrial Side
Feel the heat at Glass Bubble Project and learn glassblowing or welding in private or small group classes. Gather molten glass, swirl it in your choice of colors and learn to roll and shape the glowing bubble, moving quickly to maintain symmetry.
Amber Gibson covers travel, food and wine for Forbes. Her writing, commentary and photographs have also appeared in print, online, and on TV and radio for outlets including National Public Radio, WTTW, Wine Folly, Saveur, Four Seasons Magazine, Departures, Rhapsody, Hemispheres, American Way, Private Air, Plate, Tasting Table and Serious Eats. Follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter.