Cleveland waterfront on sunny day

Welcome to Cleveland! (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Find Out Why Cleveland, Ohio, Is the Rock Star of the Midwest

Cleveland might be one of the most underrated cities in the United States. This Midwestern metropolis is 78 square miles of excitement, starting with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, housed in one of architect I. M. Pei’s masterpieces. There are more museums than you’ll have time to visit — but your short list should include the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

With an authentic Italian bakery, a French brasserie, music clubs and wine bars, get ready to be both well fed and well entertained.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Get Ready to Rock

Public square in Cleveland on sunny day
Head to downtown Cleveland for the historic architecture. (Photo: Getty Images)

For starters, head to REBoL, a downtown spot that does hearty breakfast sandwiches. Then get high, in a sense, with a climb to the top of the iconic Terminal Tower. At 42 floors above the city, the observation deck offers a great view of Cleveland, and it’s the ideal spot to get the lay of the land.

After returning to terra firma, visit the Cleveland History Center for its exhibits exploring the fascinating history of this Midwestern metropolis. Who knew, for example, that Cleveland was once owned by Connecticut? Or that the original name of the town was Cleaveland, but the “a” was dropped so the name could fit in a newspaper headline?

After class, settle in for lunch at Presti’s Bakery, a Little Italy institution for well over 100 years. Everything’s good, but one time-tested move is stromboli and pepperoni rolls, plus a cannoli for the road.

Clear your afternoon for a leisurely meander through one of the city’s great attractions: the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Designed by architect I. M. Pei, the multistory museum is a joy to explore. Marvel at Jimi Hendrix’s handwritten lyrics to “Purple Haze,” Elvis Presley’s military uniform, John Lennon’s Sgt. Pepper costume, and one of Prince’s iconic guitars — plus so much more.

Tonight’s dinner is at Momocho, a much-loved Mexican spot serving standout dishes like blue-corn enchiladas and fried pork tamales. The restaurant has a stellar collection of tequila and mezcal, but if you’re up for another tipple after dinner, head to nearby Market Avenue Wine Bar, an atmospheric spot with 70 offerings by the glass.

More of a beer drinker? Download the Cleveland Brewery Passport, a mobile-only access pass that will score you discounts at dozens of local microbreweries, then head to one of the nearby spots — Hansa Brewery is a particular favorite for its roster of award-winning German-style ales and lagers.

Saturday: Travel Back in Time

Head for the West Side Market, the largest of its kind in Cleveland. With more than 100 vendors selling fruit, vegetables, cheese, meat and baked goods, you’re guaranteed to find something good for breakfast (and great coffee, too). The market was built in 1912 and renovated after the turn of the century, and it features a 137-foot-tall clock tower.

Next, head over to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, one of the best natural history museums in North America. A top draw here is the display of Australopithecus afarensis, better known as “Lucy,” whose discovery altered our understanding of the history of humans.

The museum is also home to the Kirtland Hall of Prehistoric Life, which exhibits minerals, gems and some showstopping dinosaur skeletons.

blue bird on twig
Keep an eye out for the local wildlife. (Photo: Getty Images)

Take a quick — and scenic — lunch break at the café of the Cleveland Botanical Garden, where you can dine on the lovely terrace with views of the fountains and greenery. Then enjoy a post-lunch stroll through the 10-acre grounds, which include a Japanese garden, dozens and dozens of rose bushes and greenhouses with flora from Costa Rica and Madagascar.

Next up is the Cleveland Museum of Art, where the impressively wide-ranging collections include works by artists from Claude Monet to Louise Bourgeois.

For dinner, head to the neighborhood of Tremont, Cleveland’s “Restaurant Row.” Nab a table at one of the longest-standing Tremont eateries, Fat Cats. This farm-to-table spot in a century-old house serves up New American fare with a worldly flair — think duck banh mi, kimchi potatoes, adobo-fried chicken and fish tacos.

If you’re still game, go for a nightcap at Rowley Inn, a cozy bar pouring inventively named, seasonally themed cocktails, some of which feature locally distilled spirits.

Sunday: Get Arty — and Moving

Cleveland sign on pier
Take a stroll on the pier. (Photo: Getty Images)

For breakfast, get yourself to Grumpy’s Café. Its name notwithstanding, this longtime family-run spot makes everyone happy with its chocolate chip pancakes, huevos rancheros and omelets.

There’s more world-class art in store at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA). Designed by architect Farshid Moussavi, both the building and its collections are outstanding — housing work by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein, among others.

For lunch, head to Prosperity Social Club, a contemporary bar and restaurant found in an old pub (try the biscuits smothered in a rich gravy or the potato pierogies).

Cleveland has some lovely green spaces and parks and one of the best is actually a cemetery. That’s right. The 285-acre, circa-1869 Lake View Cemetery was inspired by England’s Victorian last resting places. Translation: Instead of endless rows of headstones in a grid, it’s more like a monument-filled park. Lake View is home to 100,000 graves, including that of John D. Rockefeller.

For your final meal in Cleveland, hit up nearby L’Albatros. The brasserie excels at modern takes on French fare — if you’ve never tried escargot, this place knocks it out of the park. Make it a high-low kind of night and wrap things up with drinks at Harbor Inn — the quintessential Cleveland dive bar since 1895.