8 Fun Things to do in Cleveland, Ohio!
As a matter of principle, I’m careful to never judge a place until I’ve actually step foot there. As I get older, the more I realize that there are plenty of people who are perfectly content to live their lives with the recycled opinions of others, but, personally, I refuse to be that person. So, before I set off to Cleveland, did I know there would be countless fun things to do in Cleveland? No. But I also figured I ought to go and check it out for myself.
What I did know about Cleveland, I knew primarily from sports. I watched the Cleveland Cavaliers led by the one and only Lebron James dismantle the Toronto Raptors in the playoffs year after year (my soul was more or less crushed until our big championship win in 2019). I followed the rise of the Indians under such legendary players as Jim Thome and David Justice, and my brother and I would often fight to the death to see who would be the Indians in Ken Griffey Baseball for N64. Just recently, I watched the Cleveland Browns rise up from the ashes to become one of the most exciting teams in the league, and Baker Mayfield turn himself from a rookie into a bonafide leader and superstar in one season.
What I learned about Cleveland through sports was that this is a passionate, blue collar city and, honestly, those are the cities I love. I love cities with grit, character, passion, and a story. I mean, why do you think I lived in Istanbul for three years?
So, when I got the chance to go to Cleveland I relished the opportunity. What I learned in Cleveland was that this is a city that has come a tremendous way as recently as the past decade, and especially in the development of the downtown core.
This is a city that, from a tourism perspective, is catapulting forward and, in the process, rediscovering its identity, and once again finding a sense of pride in that.
I came to Cleveland to form my own opinion, and, in many ways, I jived with this city better than I could have ever expected. A sports loving, beer drinking, relatively inexpensive, street art laden, music crazy, mid-sized city? Um, Where do I sign?
Today, I want to talk about all the fun places to go in Cleveland and all the fun stuff to do in Cleveland, so that you too can go and form your own opinion and, in all likelihood, leave with a smile. I want to talk about what I know to be true, so you don’t have to listen to others who likely haven’t ever been.
NOTE: This post may contain some affiliate links. That means, simply, that I may get commissions from some of my recommendations. That being said, my opinions are fully my own.
Let’s Talk About All Those Fun Things to do in Cleveland, Shall We?
The list that I’ll include below, which will basically be a field-guide to fun in Cleveland, will aim to provide you with a bit of Cleveland itinerary for those who like to enjoy themselves when they’re on the road. There are actually plenty of things going on in Cleveland that fit nicely into that fun category, so let’s get to it.
Pop in to Some of the Best Breweries in Cleveland
When I was doing a touch of research on the best breweries in Cleveland, Ohio, i was struck by how many Cleveland breweries there were. In Cleveland, it’s likely that there’s a decent brewery within walking distance pretty much all that time. And who doesn’t like to do a bit of a brewery crawl?
Thankfully, I wasn’t exploring Cleveland alone, but rather was with my good friend Carol Cain who runs the site and brand Girl Gone Travel, as well as Brave World Media. It’s possible she tired of my excitement for breweries in Cleveland, but in the end, she was a willing participant in that journey, and for that I thank her.
If I were you, I’d probably start with Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighbourhood. It’s one of the most famous in the city, and you can go on a public brewery tour (located at the Great Lakes Brewing Co. Beer Symposium at 1951 West 26th Street, Suite 100), which are offered Fridays and Saturdays from 12-8pm and the tours start on the hour.
Carol and I actually spent most of our time in the brewpub which is on the same block, and just down the street. The upstairs area of the Brewpub actually has bullet holes in it, which are purported to be from Elliot Ness, the famed federal agent who brought down Al Capone. However, they’re considered one of the best breweries in Cleveland not because of their fables, but rather from their beer. I’d personally recommend trying the Elliot Ness Amber Lager, Burning River Pale Ale, Great Lakes IPA, and Lightkeeper Blonde Ale. You can get those four in a fight if you choose, but if you’ve got to choose one, make it the Burning River.
You can also head across the street to another Cleveland brewery in the Ohio City district, and that’s Market Garden Brewery. It’s right next to the West Side Market, and I really enjoyed their Progress Pilsner, and Bier Markt White IPA.
Collision Bend Brewing Company is also a pretty good brewery to pop into if you’re in The Flats neighbourhood, but I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to go there. Other Cleveland breweries and Cleveland microbreweries that are in the “best breweries in Cleveland” discussion include Masthead Brewing Co., Noble Beast Brewing Company, Southern Tier Brewery, Forest City Brewery and Platform Beer Co.
Spend a Little Time at the West Side Market
The West Side Market has been open since 1912, and it’s the oldest continuously operating municipally owned market in the city. Like some other fun places in Cleveland on this list, the West Side Market is also located in the Ohio City neighbourhood, which I really can’t say enough about.
Carol and I took our time strolling around the market and, of course, I indulged in a whole bunch of food because that’s my secret talent. In particular I tried a bunch of the enchiladas from Orale, and they were delicious. If I lived in Ohio City, I’d be there all the time, especially considering how much fresh meat and cheese there was. Whatever once made the market great and notable still seems to be in the air at the West Side Market.
Set aside at least half an hour to an hour to get a proper feel for the West Side Market, which simply has to be included as one of my fun things to do in Cleveland, Ohio. Also, know that the West Side Market is not open on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Get a Photo at One of the Cleveland Script Signs
You want to talk about a clever tourist initiative by the city - how about those Cleveland script signs?
I noted three different Cleveland script signs which offered three unique vantage points of the Cleveland skyline. The most famous Cleveland script sign is likely the one located at Edgewater Park, however, Carol and I actually went to the Cleveland script sign closest to us when we were leaving Ohio City, so we went to the sign at 1502 Abbey Ave.
The third Cleveland script sign I noted is located not far from Rivergate Park on the banks of the Cuyahoga River. It’d be perfectly attainable to get a photo with all three, and it’s actually a fair bit of fun. I hate the term “Instagrammable,” but I do have to admit that the Cleveland script signs do happen to fall rather aptly into that category.
Despite the fact that I only noticed three signs while I was there, there are actually six Cleveland script signs. You can read all about the Cleveland script signs and where to find all six on the Destination Cleveland website!
Experience the Mania Around Cleveland Sports
I’m from Toronto, a sports crazed city, and I arrived in Cleveland just after the Raptors won the championship. In cabs and Uber rides, I’d talk about the pandemonium that ensued in the streets after we won the championship, and every single person understood it well, since it wasn’t long ago that Lebron brought a title home for the Cavaliers.
What I mean is, as I alluded to in my introduction, this city lives, eats, and breathes sports, and, like Toronto, in order to truly take the pulse of the city, you’d need to understand the sports culture. If the Leafs, Raps, and Jays are doing well, Toronto is pure bliss. If not…well, let’s just say there are more frowns on the subway, and more cars honking their horns.
I feel Cleveland is the same. The hopes and dreams of the city are deeply connected to sports, and that’s why I feel, even if you’re not a hardened sports fall, you ought to catch a game if only to understand Cleveland culturally. Obviously, it counts as one of those “fun things to do in Cleveland,” but I actually feel it’s more than that, and I hope I’ve convinced you of the same.
All that to say, if you’re there for the weekend, and you’ve got a list of all the things going on in Cleveland while you’re there - don’t forget to think about sports!
Marvel at the Street Art and Graffiti in Cleveland
This is one thing that Carol and I made a point of doing - stopping to see and appreciate the array of street art and graffiti in Cleveland.
Primarily, we found that the Ohio City area had the highest concentration and arguably the most intriguing array of street art and graffiti in Cleveland, but you can also find some around Gordon Square and Downtown Cleveland.
Going on a bit of a hunt for these pieces of art around the city is one of those fun things to do in Cleveland that everyone can enjoy, especially if kids are leading the hunt! An experience like that has got fun in Cleveland written all over it.
Here’s a detailed list of where to find street art and graffiti in Cleveland.
Street Art in Ohio City:
Greetings from Cleveland (artist: Victor Ving) - Location: 2104 West 25th Street (Corner of W 25th and Chatham)
Market Garden Brewery Fried Eggs Mural (artist: Paatrice Marchand) - Location: 1947 West 25th Street (Corner of W. 25th and Market, on the side of Market Garden Brewery)
By Hand (artists: Augustina Droze and Mike Moritz) - Location: Market Square Park (Corner of West 25th and Lorain Ave.)
Mason’s Creamery Mural (artist: Mike Sobeck)- Location 4401 Bridge Avenue (side of Mason’s Creamery)
Shorewall Mural (artist: Ananda Nahu) - Location: Washington Avenue between West 25th and West 28th streets
Love Doves (artists: Erin Guido and Joe Lanzilotta) - Location: West Shoreway retaining wall at West 25th Street (Corner of W 25th and Main, across from Saint Malachi School)
Prince Mural (artist: Glen Infante) - Location: West Shoreway retaining wall at West 25th Street (Corner of W 25th and Main)
Flying Tiger (artist: Michela Picchi) - Location: 2817 Detroit Ave (corner of W. 28th and Detroit Avenue, on the side of the Schaefer Printing building)
Pizzashrine (artist: Mike Sobeck) - Location: West 28th and Church Street (on the back of the Schaefer Printing building)
Street Art in the Gordon Square Art District
Dream Big (artist: Lisa Quine) - Location: 6805 Detroit Avenue (east side)
Cartoon Mural (artist: Justin Michael Will) - Location: 6805 Detroit Avenue (west side)
Street art in Downtown Cleveland
The Land is Just Wonderful (artist: Justin Michael Will) - Location: Public Square
Visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
This is the top of the list for many people visiting Cleveland, and that’s very understandable. This is something you can only do in Cleveland, and people come from far and wide to appreciate this incredible museum.
The good news is that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame lives up to the hype. Their collection blew me away in a plethora ways. Handwritten lyrics from some of my heroes like Neil Young and Jim Morrison. An array of crazy getups worn by the one and only Jimi Hendrix. ACDC themed pinball machines. Guitars from members of The Who. Johnny Cash’s tour bus. You name it, it’s there.
There’s no denying that this is one of the most fun places to go in Cleveland, but it’s also a tremendously meaningful location for music fans, and a pilgrimage all music fans should make at least once in their life.
Check Out a Few Unique Cleveland Eateries
Whenever I’m travelling to a new city, I try to search for restaurants that I could only find in that city. That means no chain restaurants, obviously, but it also means doing research and finding the places that are doing things a bit differently. Here are two spots that were fun places to go in Cleveland but, more importantly, were also downright delicious.
Brewnuts - It was Carol who heard about this spot and insisted that we hit it up - that turned out to be a very good idea. The interior if all kinds of fun replete with neon signs, and the works. However, it’s not to distract from the quality of what they’re serving. As you may have gathered from the name “Brewnuts,” they serve craft beer based donuts. Yes, I’m serious.
They serve craft beer, and craft beer based donuts - what more could you want in life? They say that they “combine the hospitality of the corner donut shop with the comfort of your favorite watering hole.” That about sums it up. Don’t miss this spot if you’re looking to have a little fun in Cleveland.
Le Petit Triangle Cafe - If you want to get a spot here for brunch, you’ll likely need to be at the door right when they open, especially if it’s a weekend - but it’s worth it. When I was there, I had a savoury crepe with mushrooms, blue d’auvergne (blue cheese), caramelized onions, and scrambled eggs, and it was incredible. It also happens to be an adorable, Parisian style eatery that I simply would not have known existed in Cleveland before arriving.
Spend Some Time in The Flats
The Flats is actually the neighbourhood in which Carol and I were staying, and I’m a big fan. It’s a redeveloped area right on the banks of the Cuyahoga River which is known for its bars, nightlife, and fun, youthful vibe.
We were staying at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown, and I thought it was really quite nice actually. The lobby looked sharp and modern, and should since it was only built in 2016. The rooms were spacious and pleasant. And perhaps the best part was the bar on the top floor known as Bar 32, which offers great views of the city of Cleveland.
If that doesn’t sound like your style, you can use the search bar below to take a peak at what might suit you better, but I would indeed recommend it as a good option for you during your time in Cleveland. As it turns out, nothing it terribly far away in Cleveland (I can’t recall ever being in an Uber for more than 15 minutes), so don’t stress about this not being in the heart of Ohio City or what have you. It’s a good location all things considered, especially if you want to explore The Flats.
During our own exploration of The Flats, we came across the Cleveland Summer Beerfest, and that was a blast. Whenever you’re coming, be sure to check out the things going on in Cleveland while you’re here. There’s honestly a lot going on in the city. Uber drivers can be a great resource for this as well - I honestly can’t recall a city with kinder or more knowledgeable Uber drivers.
Go On, Have Some Fun in Cleveland
All that’s above this, all the descriptions of fun stuff to do in Cleveland, well that’s why I liked the city, but it’s also more than that. I love an underdog story, and seeing Cleveland on the rise from a tourism perspective is really heartwarming to me. All the people I interacted with in the city were so gracious with their time and recommendations. Literally, everyone had the time of day for me, and that’s not how I feel when I’m in New York. Cleveland is a sizeable city, but I left almost feeling like I’d been visiting a small-town because the people were just so inviting.
I’m not saying you’re going to go to Cleveland and feel like you should drop everything and move there, but I am saying that if you have not visited you really ought to give this city a chance. The worst case scenario is it’s not for you, but at least it’ll be based on your opinion, and not something you heard about the city from someone else.
Cleveland is on the up and up, my friends. Come see for yourself.
I want to humbly thank Destination Cleveland for hosting me as media. All opinions are completely my own. Below, I’d love to know in the comments if you’ve visited Cleveland or Ohio before and your thoughts! I respond to each and every comment.
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