1. Eat a meatball the size of a softball at The Feast of the Assumption.
Little Italy in Cleveland is one of those cultural neighborhoods everyone can picture themselves living in, and it’s the only place where the constant crooning of Dean Martin amplified onto the streets is acceptable. The neighborhood’s most famous celebration is The Feast of the Assumption in August with meatballs the size of a softball ready to be consumed.
2. Tailgate at the Muni lot before a Browns game.
Crushed beer cans carpet the parking lots that stretch along the Lake Erie shore. Orange and brown flags cover the sky like at a Civil War army camp. Grills are fired up, the smoke inevitably sneaking into your nostrils. The chant of, “Here we go Brownies, HERE WE GO! WOOF! WOOF!” builds as kickoff inches closer.
This is the happiest fans will be all day if the past 15 years are of any indication.
3. Shop and eat at the West Side Market.
The West Side Market is a cultural and culinary institution every city wishes it had. The coffees, the meats, the cheeses — the place is just Heaven for the nostrils and grumbling stomachs.
4. Catch a flick (or ten) at the Cleveland International Film Festival.
What’s Cannes? Oh, you mean, “Cannes we go to the Cleveland International Film Festival?” Every March film lovers pour into Tower City for hours of American and international flicks.
5. Rock out at the Beachland Ballroom.
Anywhere that got the Black Keys their start is worth visiting. This remains doubly true for Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland’s gritty and rebounding Collinwood neighborhood, because it’s a legitimately awesome venue for an intimate show.
6. Take part in the disaster known as St. Patrick’s Day.
City streets are wall-to-wall with people like a popular nightclub. Mixed with obscene amounts of alcohol, there’s simply no other way to describe this than a disaster.
7. Eat a Polish Boy at Hot Sauce Williams.
You’ve probably heard of Michael Symon, Cleveland’s most celebrated chef with a couple bestsellers and all kinds of television appearances. Naturally you’ve probably found your way to one of his restaurants. After all, it must be worthwhile given the fame. But you know where Michael Symon goes? To Hot Sauce Williams on the east side for a polish boy — a kielbasa that looks like it exploded inside a bun with french fries, hot or barbecue sauce, and coleslaw layered on top.
8. Freeze your ass off at the Public Square Christmas Tree Lighting.
Winter is not gentle to Cleveland with its bone-chilling lake effect winds. But no amount of frostbite will keep us from the annual tree lighting at Public Square with food trucks joining in on the festivities in recent years. Have you seen the opening to A Christmas Story? That’s basically it. Literally, because it was filmed here.
9. Ride with Cleveland Critical Mass.
Cars are stupid death machines. Clevelanders wake up almost every morning to read about another accident on I-77 or I-90. You know what doesn’t kill people? Cycling. And cycling your city gives you a better appreciation for each and every neighborhood, while at the same time asserting your right to the road. That’s Cleveland Critical Mass.
10. Squirt and/or get hit by a pussy willow at Dyngus Day.
This bizarre Polish holiday the Monday after Easter is primarily popular in Buffalo, Chicago, and Cleveland’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. One of the main traditions associated with the holiday is the men squirting women they fancy with water or the women hitting the men they want with pussy willows. Yes, pussy willows. For others, it’s just another cultural excuse to drink excessive amounts of alcohol whilst eating delicious meats. Only this time, there’s a polka soundtrack. Happy Dyngus Day!
11. Come out for the Cleveland Pride March.
We all know that the LGBT community knows how to throw a good party. You know there will be plenty of alcohol and brightly colored tee-shirts — unless of course it’s warm enough to go as naked as possible. And with the SCOTUS ruling making marriage equality the law of the land, there will be no better place to celebrate than with Cleveland Pride on June 27th at Voinovich Park in Downtown Cleveland.
12. Hike and bike the Emerald Necklace.
Cleveland is surrounded by a horseshoe-shape of parks that stretch from the west to east, ending at their respective ends of Lake Erie. To cycle the roads from one point to the opposite is a gorgeous 100-mile ride that would rival many routes in the country. Otherwise, head onto the trails in Cleveland Metroparks and nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park is fantastic. There’s even a book about it by some obscure author.
13. Neighborhood-hop across the city by train.
Train travel is an abomination in a majority of the United States. By that measure, Cleveland is incredibly fortunate for its mixture of light and heavy rail that stretches the width of the city. Start in the European-modeled plaza of Shaker Square; stop over in Little Italy before switching trains downtown for a trip into Ohio City, Detroit-Shoreway, and West Park.
14. Listen to one of the world’s greatest orchestras at Severance Hall.
Nobody rocks the strings, brass and percussion like the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra. Besides, the architectural marvel that is Severance Hall in the heart of University Circle is worth the trip in of itself.
15. Shake your hips at the Latino Arts & Culture Festival.
Cleveland is the cultural equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting. There’s just a little bit of everything going on. But the Puerto Rican community rivals any other in their pride, best displayed during the Latino Arts & Cultural Festival. Anyone visiting or who happens to be downtown will no doubt see a number of Puerto Rican flags flying by in an impromptu procession of vehicles.
16. Celebrate the longest day of the year at Cleveland Summer Solstice.
Art and music collide at The Cleveland Museum of Art in celebration of the longest day of the year. Tickets always sell out.
17. Squeeze into Great Lakes Brewing Company for the Christmas Ale Launch Party.
Christmas seems to come earlier every year, so the release of Great Lakes Brewing Company’s most famous (infamous?) concoction follows suit. Every late October, throngs of eager beer drinkers squeeze their way into the old brewery for the first batch of Christmas Ale. Some even take the day off to get a good spot with a waiter or waitress who will make sure their glass never stays empty for long.
18. Partake in the Fourth of July mayhem in Detroit-Shoreway.
Who needs laws or safety regulations? That’s essentially the mindset when it comes to the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood’s annual Fourth of July festivities. If it can explode into bursts of light or into a thunderous crack, you’re damn certain to find it somewhere in the neighborhood long after the sun goes down.