The Forest City: A Beginner’s Cleveland Guide

By: Sarah Routh

December 30, 2013

In July 1796, General Moses Cleaveland decided this spot where the Cuyahoga River meets Lake Erie was prime real estate. Today, Cleveland is more blue-collar than blueblood. Its industrial roots run deep; everything from streetcars to steel has been made in the Forest City. But the once-mighty manufacturing centre is in the middle of its own version of the rustbelt renaissance that’s equal parts highbrow and hardscrabble, with a hefty dose of rock ‘n roll thrown in. Take a look at our Cleveland guide for the top city spots for first-time visitors.

Best view of the city

Some of the city’s best views can be enjoyed from the recently restored Observation Deck on the 42nd floor of Terminal Tower. From here you can see for miles (30 on clear days) in every direction. If you’d like your view with a little less height, head for the top of the Garfield Monument in historic Lakeview Cemetery. Don’t forget to pay your respects to the former President entombed in the building’s basement.

A Beginner's Cleveland Guide | Terminal Tower at Night

Terminal Tower at Night © © Positively Cleveland/Larry E. Highbaugh, Jr.

Best spot for filling your culture quota

University Circle, on the city’s east side, is home to a cluster of museums and cultural institutions, all within easy walking distance. Gallery One at The Cleveland Museum of Art is an interactive showcase of some of the museum’s most important pieces; use the free iPad app ArtLens to take a closer look at any of the 30,000 works in the museum’s collection. Looking for something with a more modern twist? MOCA, the city’s contemporary art museum, hosts three exhibitions each year, in its dazzling six-sided building designed by London’s Farshid Moussavi. The world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra plays just around the corner, at Severance Hall. If that sounds a little too stuffy, catch them outdoors in their summer home, Blossom.

A Beginner's Cleveland Guide | MOCA

MOCA, Cleveland at night © Positively Cleveland/Larry E. Highbaugh, Jr.

Best place to indulge your foodie cravings

Cleveland is a food town and a foodies’ town. It’s home to some of the country’s culinary kings: Michael Symon, Zach Bruell and Jonathan Sawyer all reign here with restaurants throughout the city. Find their food on East Fourth Street (downtown’s entertainment alley), in Tremont and Ohio City, and in University Circle. Or assemble your own meal at the century-old West Side Market in Ohio City, packed with vendors selling everything from fresh produce and hand-cut meats to ethnic eats. Finish up just across the street at the Great Lakes Brewery, and if you’re in town between Halloween and Christmas, celebrate with a Christmas Ale.

A Beginner's Cleveland Guide | Market Garden Brewery

Market Garden Brewery Interior © Positively Cleveland/ScottMeivogel

Best spot to catch some live music

Cleveland’s known as the birthplace of rock and roll; verify that nickname at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cleveland has dozens of live music venues, but two of the best are the Grog Shop and The Beachland Ballroom. Both host top-notch acts (big name and beginner) in intimate venues.

A Beginner's Cleveland Guide | Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, at night © Positively Cleveland/Cody York


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Have you visited any of our favourite Forest City spots? Share them with us below.

Written by Sarah Routh


Sarah Routh

Sarah Routh writes about food, travel, and entertainment. She’s written a cookbook, a children’s book and more restaurant reviews than she can count. Sarah grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and although her sixteen-year-old self would never believe it, she’s thrilled to be raising her three children there. When she’s not writing, eating, or shuffling children around, she’s busy exploring her hometown.

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