Cleveland is often described by former residents and outsiders as a shithole. This once mighty industrial hub of American ingenuity and enterprise has been reduced to a safe punchline on late-night television and YouTube. Why not? Our river caught on fire, for God’s sake!
But this is my shithole, dammit. And it’s worth at least 24 hours of your time.
West Side Market, West Side Market, West Side Market. The 100-year-old public market and anchor institution is a name worth repeating.
Take the Red Line Rapid, or bike over the Hope Memorial Bridge, past the monolithic Guardians of Traffic sculpture, toward the Market in Ohio City. Grab a coffee at City Roast as you follow your nose through the aisles. Thread your way to Meister Foods to sample some cheeses, admire the display of freshly cut meats at Dionne’s, and grab a little something for later at Michelle’s Bakery.
Continue your trek south to Grumpy’s, located in the blue-collar-turned-hipster neighborhood of Tremont, for a breakfast burrito stuffed with chorizo sourced from the West Side Market.
Walk off the morning meal with a mini-hike around Lincoln Park. Clevelanders are the benefactors of over a century’s worth of Eastern European cultural infusion, evident in towering cathedrals like nearby St. Theodosius. No you’re not in Moscow. Still Cleveland.
Now it’s time to get your heart beating. Bike, walk, run — just get your ass to anywhere within the Cleveland Metroparks or Cuyahoga Valley National Park system. This area of green space covers a combined 54,000 acres of land, so shouldn’t be hard to find your way to theses parks. Feel free to go as far south as Akron’s Northside Station on the Towpath Trail.
Stop nearby at Thirsty Dog Brewing to grab a growler to go of Barktoberfest or Whippet Wheat, depending on the season. Return to Northside for a ride home on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, where you’ll travel through Cuyahoga Valley NP in a mid-19th-century locomotive.
Afternoon / evening
Reward your exercise with a quarter-pound hot dog and your pick of 50 toppings at Happy Dog (just don’t be the asshole who orders “the works”). Choose from fried eggs, chorizo, bourbon baked beans, caramelized onions, applewood smoked bacon, marinated cremini mushrooms, pepperjack cheese, and more.
Now bike east following the early 20th-century homes of Franklin Avenue to Market Garden in Ohio City for a Hefeweizen-style Pearl Street Wheat beer with an oddly appealing banana flavor. It will forever make beer and bananas seem like an obvious combination.
On your way out, struggle to say “no” to family-owned and operated Ohio City Burrito just down the block, a joint that makes future Chipotle outings utterly disappointing. Put it on your to-do list for the next time you’re craving homemade guacamole.
Dinner + lodging
Hyatt Downtown is the most centrally located accommodation, housed in the architecturally magnificent Victorian-era Cleveland Arcade across from the East Fourth District, where the street is (thankfully) closed to cars. Another high-budget option is the recently restored Tudor Arms in University Circle. Or, if you don’t mind sharing space, the newly opened Cleveland Hostel in Ohio City will welcome you for as little as $25 per night.
Wherever you decide to crash, make it to Asia Town for some pad thai at Map of Thailand. Or save a few bucks by catching happy hour at Noodlecat, open until 11pm every night. One “happy sized” portion of the chicken and waffles bowl with a smoked turkey steam bun will set you back $7.
Keep it going with a drink at Grovewood Tavern in North Collinwood. The wood panel interior and atmospheric lighting will make you feel like you’ve fallen through a time portal. Take your time and enjoy some appetizers — a cheese flight, Thai calamari, and whatever the empanada of the day is.
Next, catch some live music at Beachland Ballroom. After the show, enjoy a walk on Waterloo, where mobster-turned-informant Danny Greene — the Robin Hood of Collinwood — used to sit outside on his lawn chair. You can almost see him in his wifebeater with a cold beer in hand, unafraid, daring his enemies to throw another pipe bomb his way.