Cleveland, as the song goes, rocks. It also cooks and hikes and bikes. And wields a world-class baton. And even proudly displays a little leg (lamp). Next time you’re in “The Land,” check out these must-dos among the city’s rich blend of high-culture and pop-culture attractions.
Eat Your Way through the West Side Market
There’s no better place to introduce yourself to the local food scene. The West Side Market has served Clevelanders since 1912, and many vendors have done business under its vaulted, tiled ceiling for generations. It’s not a glamorous, shining food palace. It’s a place with character and a little grit.
Butchers and bakers and produce vendors and others fill the more than 100 stalls with popcorn and pierogies and fermented cabbage and more — basically all the foods that connect to the city’s past and the foods that represent its current and future cuisine.
Tip: If you’re looking for the best thing Cleveland chef Michael Symon ever tasted, in the salty goodness category, try the beef jerky at J & J Czuchraj Meats.
Hear the Cleveland Orchestra
Big talent and a big sound help make the Cleveland Orchestra one of the “Big Five” in the U.S. That’s a big-deal designation. Musicians from around the world aspire to earn a chair among the 100-plus players.
The orchestra tours the world, too, but visitors can catch it most of the year at local venues. Its main season runs September through May at Severance Hall, which has been the orchestra’s home since its founding in 1931. Summer weekends, hear the orchestra outside at the Blossom Music Center in nearby Cuyahoga Falls.
Mix pop culture with world-class music during At the Movies performances, where the orchestra accompanies a showing of a classic film.
Explore the “Emerald Necklace”
That’s what locals call the Cleveland Metroparks, the beloved destination for Clevelanders to go outside and play. The Metroparks consist of 18 separate reserves in and around the city, each with its own personality and attractions.
Hike, bike or run more than 300 miles of trails; or, if the weather is right, swim, kayak or stand-up paddleboard — eight of the reservations are lakeside.
The parks are a year-round destination, with ample events for visitors, like sunrise hikes, birding outings and clambakes.
Laugh at the “A Christmas Story” House
It’s Ralphie’s house from the classic Christmas movie that seems to play on a loop every holiday season. And yes, it’s the same house director Bob Clark filmed in the early ’80s, restored in the mid-2000s to appear as it does on film.
Whether the house is riding the movie’s wave of popularity, or whether it helped cement the movie’s place in American pop culture, is hard to say. But there’s no doubt it has become a beloved Cleveland attraction.
Take the tour to see recreated details from the movie, like Ralphie’s decoder ring and Lifebuoy soap. Or just stand outside like Ralphie’s dad — and the entire neighborhood — and delight your eyes with the “indescribably beautiful” leg lamp.
Visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Whether you’re allergic to electric guitars and Dad Rock, or a sleek Les Paul six-string and Wilco are among the things that make your life worth living, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame should be a mandatory stop.
Rock music was one of the most powerful forces of 20th-century American culture, and Cleveland has a solid claim as its birthplace. The consensus first-ever rock show — the Moondog Coronation Ball — took place in the city in 1952.
Permanent exhibits cover the history of the musical form through its progenitors (blues, gospel, country, R&B), artifacts, immersive displays and more. Rotating exhibits and live events keep the experience fresh.