Cleveland Rocks

Our most recent excursion is a trip through the Midwest, starting in Columbus, Ohio for a family visit followed by planned stops in Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee. Later comes golf and hiking in Wisconsin. Basically we decided we didn’t want to fly anywhere given the summer chaos in the skies. We have alternatively described this trip as our Midwestern Swing (Pat), or our Gritty Cities tour (me). My title is pejorative, I’ll admit. The three cities we planned to visit are in the process of reinventing themselves, so we will see how they’re progressing.

Jim at the waterfront behind the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

The Cleveland stop was built around visiting the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Let’s be honest up front. Cleveland has long been a butt of jokes, some fair and others not. As a native of Northeastern Ohio, I am familiar with most of them and probably used many in the the past. (“Mistake on the Lake” was a popular name for the city.) But for any fan of popular music the #rockhall makes Cleveland worth a visit.

We spent a solid five hours at the venue. We tend to be dedicated museum goers who spend the time diligently reading the descriptions of the varied musical memorabilia. There is a lot of memorabilia to see, and many snippets of music and video to consume, so if you rush through you are going to miss a lot. Some examples can be seen in the images above.

The building itself is an imposing structure of glass and steel that was designed by I.M. Pei and sits near the Lake Erie waterfront. The new stadium that is home to the Cleveland Browns is nearby. It’s an attractive area that was largely free of people when we visited despite it being a beautiful sunny day. We visited the HOF on a Monday, and there was a good crowd of people, but few seemed inclined to walk down to the waterfront.

Pat at the waterfront behind the HOF

After our visit to the HOF we grabbed an Uber to check out an area called Ohio City, which is west of downtown in part of a sector long known as The Flats. It’s a gentrifying area that is home to craft brew pubs, plus a large indoor market that houses farm-stands, meat markets and similar businesses. Given it was a Monday, the area was pretty quiet. Two of the brewpubs were closed, including the one in the photo below, but not Great Lakes Brewing. It is the oldest and largest of the three. Great Lakes is large enough that I’ve seen its brews in liquor stores and on tap at some bars in the NJ and Philadelphia area.

We were able to use points to stay at a Hyatt hotel that is located in what was originally a glass enclosed arcade built in the 1890s. Like most old industrial cities, Cleveland is trying to revitalize its downtown, but so far the results seem mixed. There is a single city block that has been blocked off to traffic and is home to some restaurants, bars and a comedy club, but it is only one block. Luckily it was across the street from our hotel. There is also a downtown casino, but we pretty much loathe casinos so I can’t opine as to what it is like.

The Arcade at the Hyatt is visually appealing, but largely bereft of shops.

Beyond those venues there wasn’t a lot of nightlife, even taking into account that we were there on a Sunday and Monday. We were, however, able to see the comedian Michelle Wolfe at the comedy venue on Monday night, which was a lot of fun.

We didn’t eat a real dinner either night, but we did enjoy simple bar snacks at the Great Lakes Brewery. Our best breakfast and lunch dining recommendation for anyone who might be planning a visit to the HOF is to check out Mike & Dee’s Diner, which is a block from the Hyatt on the ground floor of another old building that has also been turned into a hotel (a Holiday Inn Express.) It’s a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives candidate IMO. We enjoyed sitting at the counter and watching the cooks work the griddle. If you like corned beef hash, I highly recommend it there because they make it right in front of you. And I can attest that, with eggs, it keeps you going for the whole day.

Overall, Cleveland is worth a visit for the HOF. Downtown still has a way to go in terms of tourism, but some of the other neighborhoods seem to have more to offer.

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