It's summertime in the city, and Cleveland's neighborhoods are alive with activity.
Over onthe East Side, Shaker Square's patios are buzzing, Little Italy's main drag is hopping and the lazy afternoon strollers are out in full force in Coventry.
On the West Side, Detroit Shoreway properties are preparing for the next wave of explorers, Ohio City shopkeepers are waking up to yet another busy day and Tremont gallery owners are setting out the "open" signs.
There's a wealth of fun to be had in a single day in these parts -- come with us for a whirlwind tour of the hottest neighborhoods around.
The East Side where cultures meet
Founded by the stonemasons and gardeners who immigrated to create the European-style cemetery up the hill, Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood today retains all of its Old World charm. The streets are narrow, bocce ball is the game of choice and cannolis can be had on every corner.
You’ll see tons of restaurants, but my usual spot is Guarino’s, near the top of the main drag, Mayfield Road. For starters, there’s a private parking lot — which comes in handy on bustling weekend nights. Then there’s the large outdoor patio virtually ensuring you’ll be able to dine al fresco. Best of all is the food. If you love Italian, you’ve come to the right place.
I never miss the mid-August Feast of the Assumption with the attendant music, dance and art galore — heck, most of Cleveland is there too; and October’s Columbus Day parade has long been a neighborhood staple. (Just don’t mention that Columbus claimed the Americas for Spain.)
— The Regular
Though the name “Coventry” evokes images of Merry Old England, the eclectic block of stores and restaurants that comprise Coventry Village in Cleveland Heights offer an amalgam of curios and cuisines from around the globe. We can spend hours browsing: the llama wool sweaters at Passport to Peru, imported vinyl at Record Revolution, old and new toys (for the kids and my Star-Wars-fanatic husband) at Big Fun; there really is something for everyone.
For me, it’s Tommy’s. The family-friendly, hippy-ish restaurant has one of the most extensive menus I’ve ever seen. Our entire family leaves full and happy (and with all the vegetarian options, it’s one of the healthiest eateries around!).
For cultural good measure, I often take the kids to the local public library that anchors the south end of the block. With a pottery studio in the basement and an extensive selection of Russian periodicals, it only enhances Coventry’s well-deserved reputation for diversity.
— The Mom with a Plan
I love to hop on the train for the 15-minute ride from the city’s center to Shaker Square on a lazy Saturday to poke around this outdoor shopping center that straddles two eras. On one hand, it’s a throwback to the days when form was as important as function. The Neo-Georgian buildings and central grass square make it a pleasure to visit even for those who never set foot in the multitude of stores.
On the other hand — with the light rail access to downtown; surrounded by apartments, condos and houses; and populated with a grocery store, restaurants, antique shops and a multiscreen theater — Shaker Square is a thoroughly modern, walkable, commutable neighborhood.
After a long day at work, I head to Saravá, a swanky Brazilian restaurant, for the Xim Xim (a spicy chicken, shrimp, vegetable and coconut milk combo) and a Caipirinha (a sugarcane alcohol, lime and sugar drink). After an hour here, you too may feel as I do: Rio has nothing on Cleveland.
— The Young Executive
The West Side go exploring.
Due in Cleveland for a convention the following week, I accepted my friends’ encouragement to come in a few days early and spend a weekend in Ohio City. For local lodging, they pointed me to the Stone Gables Bed and Breakfast, a breathtaking stone mansion located among stately century homes on historic Franklin Boulevard.
On the advice of my knowledgeable hosts, I made the short trek over to West 25th Street and visited the Glass Bubble Project, where local artists and students fashion gorgeous glass art the old-fashioned way. The West Side Market Café offered a delicious, dine-in lunch in the midst of the market’s incredible old-world grocery shopping experience.
I spent the afternoon in the sun, listening to talented local musicians and wandering among the dozens of vendors displaying their wares at Open Air in Market Square, which I’m told happens every Saturday in the summer months. I wound up my day with a fantastic dinner at the Great Lakes Brewery, accompanied perfectly by some of the Midwest’s finest microbrew.
— The De-stressed Businessman
I had been hearing so much about the great new places popping up in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, I finally decided to devote a day to see what all the buzz was about. I started out at my favorite Irish pub, The Harp, with a delicious boxty for lunch. Then it was over to the Lorain Avenue Antiques District for an afternoon of treasure hunting through the myriad shops full of antique furniture, artwork, decorative pieces and retro clothing. The locals pointed me in the direction of Snickers Tavern, where I had a great meal in a laid-back neighborhood atmosphere that felt incredibly welcoming.
Nightfall was approaching, and the Cleveland Public Theatre was next on the agenda. It’s easy to see why they call CPT the “keystone for revitalization” in the area. After an avant-garde play, the friendly CPT staff directed me down the block to the Happy Dog, where live music radiated through the air, and the kitchen was still open for a post-show hot bite to eat.
— The New Antiquer
Tremont has long been one of Cleveland’s most dynamic and continually evolving neighborhoods. All I could think when I read about the purchase and restoration of the Tremont house on West 11th Street that served as the home of Ralphie Parker in the holiday classic “The Christmas Story” was the wish that I had thought of doing it first. Little did I know I would have the opportunity to obtain my own major award — a replica of the famous leg lamp, which the proprietors sell on the premises.
Tremont’s galleries are the main attraction, and with the readily available guidebooks, it’s easy to tour the lot of them. When you’ve worked up an appetite, settle in at Lolita, the progeny of locally beloved and nationally recognized chef Michael Symon. I love meeting friends at the Flying Monkey, or settling in with a Guinness for a live acoustic set at another of Tremont’s many neighborhood bars, the Treehouse.
—The Man About Town
See it for yourself
More than 200 years ago, Moses Cleaveland staked out what was to become known as the City of Cleveland. In 1796, Cleaveland was representing Connecticut, claiming this area as its “Western Reserve.” In the time since, the City of Cleveland has borne some of the nation’s most successful industrialists, entrepreneurs and inventors, who have led it through boom times rivaled by few of the nation’s great cities.
But for all the successes and firsts Cleveland has achieved, it still retains its Midwest charm and welcoming, “small town” nature. This is truly a city with a story to tell. These tours will give you a sense of the significance, majesty and architectural beauty of one of America’s most historic cities.
Walking Tours of Cleveland
Karl Johnson’s knowledge of and love for Cleveland and its history are obvious within seconds of embarking on one of his walking tours (choose from Downtown or Ohio City/West Side Market tours). The downtown Cleveland tour highlights grand-scale architecture, first-of-its-kind city planning techniques and fascinating local history. The Ohio City/West Side Market tour focuses on stately Victorian residential architecture, Civil War era history and an indoor food market that rivals any in the world. If your group is larger than a few, he’ll strap on his backpack bullhorn to make sure his compelling tales are heard even by those who fall a few steps behind visualizing local scenes from yesteryear taking place during the heydays of the Terminal Tower or West Side Market. Schedule at least one day in advance; both tours begin and end at Public Square.
Lolly the Trolley Tours
To make sure you catch all of Cleveland’s most compelling tourist attractions, check out a Lolly the Trolley bus tour. Available in one- and two-hour versions, Lolly covers more than 20 miles of Cleveland’s most intriguing landmarks and entertainment centers: In downtown Cleveland, you’ll see the Warehouse District, the Flats, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Great Lakes Science Center and Playhouse Square. West of downtown boasts Ohio City and the West Side Market; heading east you’ll partake in University Circle, the Rockefeller Greenhouse, the Lake Erie shoreline and all points between. All tours depart from TrolleyTours station at the Nautica Powerhouse on the West Bank of the Flats.