Rust Belt on the Rise: Cleveland

by  Tommy Burson | Jul 17, 2014
Cleveland / Sean Pavone/iStock

Who vacations in Cleveland?

Surely, not enough people. Like many Rust Belt cities, Cleveland’s associated with joblessness, dilapidation, and general unsavoriness. But contrary to these common views, the city's been slowly transforming into an affordable enclave for the trendy, the foodies, and cost-conscious travelers of all kinds. The Tremont district, for example, is filling up with boutiques and quality restaurants -- even Iron Chefs love the famous West Side Market. The next time you have a weekend to spare, here's what you should include on your Cleveland itinerary:

Where to eat: New York has pizza. Philly has cheesesteaks. Cleveland has… grilled cheese. Melt, located in the cozy Lakewood neighborhood, serves up generous portions of pimped out sandwiches like grilled pierogies and cheese, or grilled chorizo and potatoes and cheese. The sandwiches, all served with a wall of fries, isn't the cheapest at roughly $12 each, but they’re so worth every cent. Bonus: Tomato soup comes with a side of Goldfish crackers, as homey as it comes. If you’re in the downtown neighborhood, Great Lakes Brewing Company dives into a taste of the Great Lakes. When ordering a hearty meal with German flair -- the bratwurst is highly recommended ($14) -- it’s essential to sip a beer like the chocolatey Edmund Fitzgerald Porter or a classic Dortmund Lager. For late night revelry, Greenhouse Tavern on East 4th Street offers a fantastic rooftop, while West 6th is the street of choice for bar hopping.

What to see: It’s easy to think that the only recognizable monument in Cleveland is the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. But instead of paying the $24 admission for the HOF, there's also lots of world-class art here to explore on the cheap. The Cleveland Museum of Art, located next to Case Western, is a free public museum featuring the works of Monet, Jackson Pollock, Picasso, Van Gogh, and countless other famed artists. Plus, at 5 p.m., guests can head to the balcony for a wine tasting happy hour or linger in the greenhouse-like open courtyard and sip a beer in the gardens. Of course, how could one go to Cleveland without spending some time on Lake Erie? Jet skis next to the Rock ‘n Roll HOF run $30 per half-hour. You can walk to the nearby USS Cod Submarine Memorial ($10 admission), an intact WWII submarine, and glimpse into life under the lake. Better yet, just relax in Wendy Park on Whiskey Island and let the lake breeze cool you after a day of sightseeing.

What’s nearby: One of the best parts about Cleveland is its proximity to other Midwest destinations that are otherwise challenging to access. First, any visit to Ohio, let alone Cleveland, deserves a stop at Cedar Point Amusement Park. Locally known as “America’s Rockin’ Roller Coast,” Cedar Point’s a mere hour drive outside of Cleveland, quite convenient for one of the world’s best parks. Tickets begin at $50, but most grocers and even gas stations in the area offer $10 discounts on tickets -- plus, the park boasts a world-record of 72 rides and 16 roller coasters to enjoy with admission. If the thought of looping rides makes you queasy, Amish country welcomes visitors to experience life in the 1800s, roughly a 1.5-hour drive. Spend a day working on a farm and tasting the local produce, adventure on the back of a buggy, enjoy a delicious roll, or even spend a night in an authentic cabin. You’ll be surprised with how much you can do without your electronics.

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