By Frances J. Folsom
Fifty years ago Cleveland was like other rustbelt, Midwest cities—covered with dust and soot from the steel and aluminum factories. In Cleveland’s case, factories dumped sewerage, oil and other refuse into the Cuyahoga River making it the most polluted river in America.
Over a span of two centuries the river burned 13 times; the last fire was in 1969. That year Mayor Carl Stokes and his brother US Rep. Louis Stokes prevailed upon the Environmental Protection Agency to get involved in cleaning up the river. The EPA mandated that the factories cease dumping into the Cuyahoga and install anti-pollution filters.
Today the Cuyahoga River is clean, the soot and dust are gone and Cleveland is striving to be “green” with its buildings and outdoor spaces.
The downtown section, laid out on a grid, is walkable. Make use of the extensive public transit system of rails, buses, trams and trolleys when visiting attractions outside the downtown. A car is necessary for going to parks and nature trails.
Aloft hotels are known for being minimalist in design. The Aloft Cleveland Downtown does not break from that mold. Located in The Flats, a neighborhood currently undergoing gentrification, it is a 15-minute walk to downtown.
With clean, simple, inexpensive shared and private rooms the Cleveland Hostel in Ohio City offers the best bang for your money. It’s on the RTA Red Line train and within walking distance to cafes, restaurants and breweries.
Sports and Restaurants
Downtown is the place to be for watching an Indians game at Progressive Field or the Cavaliers at The Q. It’s also where the city’s dynamic restaurant scene is. Restaurateurs include two Cleveland born James Beard Award-winning chefs: Michael Symon and Jonathan Sawyer.
At Symon’s upscale Lola Bistro the specialty is house-made charcuterie. On the more casual side, B Spot serves great burgers and fries. At Sawyer’s Greenhouse Tavern choose from roasted pig head or gnocchi with duck liver mousse or fried yucca frites.
Where the Chefs Shop
The West Side Market, on the National Register of Historic Places, has been a Cleveland instution since 1912. The market’s rows upon rows of vendors carry bratwurst and sausages, mounds of fresh fruits and vegetables, pastas, baked goods, barrels of sauerkraut and whole smoked pigs.
The Chef’s Garden, in nearby Huron, has 300 acres with 42 greenhouses for growing thousands of plants. This is the epitome of sustainable farming in Ohio. Chefs from Cleveland and around the country order from the garden’s 600 varieties of micro herbs and vegetables.
At Playhouse Square nine theaters host live drama, comedy and music performances. It is the largest performance arts center in the country outside of New York City’s Lincoln Center.
You can’t go to Cleveland and bypass the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Spread over seven floors, exhibits pay homage to Elvis, Buddy Holly, Michael Jackson and the Beatles to name a few.
University Circle is a world-class historic district studded with cultural and educational institutions. The Cleveland Museum of Art, with 30,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years, is one of 10 museums here.
The architectural styles surrounding the circle range from 19th century Victorian
to 21st century modern buildings. Frank Gehry designed the wiggly steel and brick building on the campus of Case Western Reserve University. The hexagonal building with the stainless steel façade is the Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by Farshid Moussavi.
The Greater Cleveland Aquarium inside the 1892 FirstEnergy Powerhouse, packs a lot into its small space. The Ohio Lakes and Rivers exhibit is filled with fish indigenous to the area. When entering the Shark Sea Gallery look up; suspended overhead is a 175-foot long acrylic tube filled with seawater and marine life.
Picture in your mind the old Cleveland as it was, dirty and smelly. Hold that thought when visiting any of the pristine parks in the city’s Metroparks system’s 23,000 acres.
The Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve is a birder’s paradise with more than 280 species of birds having been identified.
Miles of walking and hiking trails crisscross Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This is a prime area for viewing eagles.
When the EPA came to Cleveland’s rescue with federal laws against polluting the
Cuyahoga River many factories closed to avoid paying millions of dollars installing anti-pollution devices.
Today Cleveland is known for its medical research, stellar universities and cultural venues, as well as for being eco-friendly.
For more information on Cleveland, visit to Destination Cleveland at thisiscleveland.com.