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Updated by Juliet Abram on Apr 29, 2020
Headline for Top 12 Reasons for a Cleveland Vacation (and More!)
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Top 12 Reasons for a Cleveland Vacation (and More!)

Here are the must-see and must-do destinations in Cleveland, Ohio. Many of which have not been included on most "Top-10" lists and that's a shame. From neighborhood haunts to haunted neighborhoods, explore Cleveland as only a Clevelander like myself can explain. If you are planning a visit to Cleveland, this list begins from the east side and ends on the west side.

Photo header credit: photo credit: k_e_lewis Tribe # 3 via photopin (license)

Scooter's Dawg House (East of Cleveland)

Hotdog! Before you say it's not #Cleveland (or as Millennials and hipsters say, the #CLE)--- Scooter's is a mere half-hour drive away from downtown Compare that to the hour drive to Cedar Point amusement point, another Ohio landmark often making the 'Best of Cleveland' lists. Scooter's has an extensive menu including fries, burgers, and shakes, but their gold standard is the 'dawg. Try the world famous Scooter Dawg, slathered in coney and cheese sauce, onion, and the classics: mustard, ketchup and relish. A true Clevelander is likely to get at least two Kraut Dawgs topped with sauerkraut and brown mustard. Of course it has the classic Chicago Dawg, and if you want to go plain, go for the Naked Dawg. If your stomach can handle it try the Extreme Dawg, topped with: jalapeños, hot spices,celery, bleu cheese and hot sauce.

Location: 9600 Blackbrook Rd. Mentor, OH 44060

(Other notable hotdog establishments in Cleveland include Happy Dog, with a location inside Progressive Field, the Happy Dog at Euclid Tavern [est. 1909 and a Cleveland iconic landmark], and the original location on Detroit Ave. which opened in 2008; this place is known for its "choose your own toppings" style ordering and you can choose anything from Fruit Loops to Spaghetti-O's, or peanut butter or a sunny side up egg. They even have veggie dogs. Don't forget to order their tots which come with a wide variety of dipping-sauce choices like Greek Tzatziki, Bertman Original Ballpark mustard, Momocho Habanero hot sauce, Old Bay ketchup, and Black truffle honey mustard; there's many more so try them all.

Lastly, Steve's Lunch was a long time Cleveland late night hot-spot for great 'dogs, but it's original location burned down in 2015. The place was so popular it was used for a scene in the Katie Holme's movie, Miss Meadows, and attracted celebrity guests such as George Clooney. Worry not, Steve's Diner and Steve's Doghouse have the same delicious 'dogs. It's a chili-cheese lovers paradise, on your 'dog or on your fries. Click here to see the hours and location for Steve's Doghouse and click here for Steve's Diner.

Willoughby Brewing Company

Tucked away behind a quaint main street (Erie St.) in historic downtown Willoughby is Willoughby Brewing Company, and they have $3 dollar pints every Wednesday from 4pm to close. Try a Cosmic IPA (made with Australian Galaxy Hops), or Hazy Days (a hoppy wheat ale), or maybe Kaffee Kolsch (their signature coffee beer). Don't hesitate to try their menu either; the Bavarian pretzels with beer cheese or beer mustard, Henny wings in traditional or hot, and their unique B.Y.O. Mac N'Cheese (you can add hot sauce or maybe Alfredo, or try bacon or pulled pork, maybe onions or banana peppers- there's more on the Willoughby Brewing Company menu.) Other places to visit while in town: Eastside Relics (retro/antique shop), Corks Wine Bar, Ohio's own Dave's Cosmic Subs, and more.

Location: 4057 Erie Street Willoughby Ohio 44094

Inn on Coventry

American's love for #diner style food can satisfy their taste buds (and not hurt their wallet) at the Inn on Coventry. People swear by their pancakes, which you can top off with "Crunchberry" (a mix of blueberries and granola) or try their airy, light, lemon ricotta pancakes (guests rave about it). Their Eggs Benedict is to die for with a rich, savory, divine Hollandaise sauce that doesn't overwhelm the dish while still hitting the spot (very worth going off one's diet for). named Inn on Coventry the best place for weekend breakfast and brunches. The Inn on Coventry also serves lunch. Start with an Onion Brick, served in whole or half bricks of deep fried Sweet Bermuda onions. Order a cup or bowl of Turkey Chili. Check out their full menu here. While you are here visit Big Fun, the quirky fun toy shop specializing in collectible toys as well as novelty gifts; look for vintage Barbies, Transformers, Rainbow Brite and more in this one-of-a-kind shop in Cleveland Heights which carries new toys every day. Other shops await on Conventry Road and it is worth making of a day of it.

Location: 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44106

James A. Garfield Memorial & Tomb

Located in Lakeview Cemetery the James A. Garfield Monument is on the National Register of Historic Places; it's the 20th American president's final resting place located in Cleveland. The 180 foot tall monument is a George Keller design, the same architect who designed Bushnell Park's Sailors Memorial Arch in Hartford, Connecticut. Look around the exterior of the structure to see depictions of President Garfield spanning his lifetime as a teacher, a Civil War Major General, famous orator, while taking the United States President's oath of office, and finally in Washington DC lying in state. Take the steps inside to the balcony where you can actually see Lake Erie from nearly 10 miles away. Also, admire Ohio's own Berea sandstone used to construct the memorial building. The interior of the Memorial hall includes marble, stained glass, and mosaics- all of which painstakingly designed to detail. If you really want to, road trip to President Garfield's birthplace in Moreland Hills, Ohio, and his own home in Mentor, Ohio. James Abram Garfield's memorial is open daily from April 1st through November 19th, 9am til 4pm.

Location: 12316 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106

Dittrick Museum

If you like all things #creepy about the history of #medicine then the Dittick Medical History Center can educate while also shocking you. Check out the Contraception Collection, an exhibit about before the 1930s modern medicine did not even know of ovulation; women were trying to prevent pregnancy by ingesting pennyroyal (a poisonous herb) or even douching with Lysol. Ouch. The museum also houses the rare books of Sigmund Freud and letters of Charles Darwin. The Dittrick museum also has a photograph collection featuring dissection portraiture. The photos are of medical students posing with cadavers, in one photograph they manually pose skeletons playing cards as if they were still alive. Lovely. It is a good reminder of how far science and medicine has come considering today and how we arrived at a better understanding of the human body. This museum is part of Case Western Reserve University's College of the Arts and Sciences. Case Western is world renown for its excellent research, and its university ranks 37 in the nation. Other museums in University Circle include the world renown Cleveland Museum of Art (with free admission except for special touring exhibits); The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA); and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Location: Allen Memorial Medical Library, 3rd floor, 11000 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44106-1714

Asia Plaza in Asia Town

AsiaTown in Cleveland has dozens of shops, grocery markets, and places to dine; my favorite location by far is Asia Plaza. Where to begin, probably with Li Wah restaurant, serving up dim sum 10am to 3pm daily while open to midnight every day with an extensive menu selection. Try the BBQ pork buns (char siu baau ), sesame balls, crab rangoon, and pork and shrim siu mai. Other places for great dim sum in #CLE include Emperor's Palace (the newest addition to AsiaTown) and Bo Loong, close to Asia Plaza. Park to Shop, where you can purchase any number of imported packaged foods, ramen noodles, teas, and even a maneki-neko (or "beckoning cat," and symbol of good luck in Japan). Be sure to also check out Asia Town Center, which also boasts a grocery store and is a bit more upscale.

Location: 2999 Payne Avenue #204A, Cleveland, Ohio 44114

Gallucci's Market

Gallucci's Market is as traditional an Italian market you're going to get in Cleveland that also serves lunch everyday except on Sundays; Founded by Gust Gallucci, an Italian immigrant who formerly ran business from a wooden cart, who went onto open the first store on the west side of Cleveland in 1912. Highly recommended sandwiches include the Meatball, Genoa Salami, Italian Sausage, Chicken breast on a Kaiser Roll, and the Italian steak with fresh mozzarella and marinara sauce (although any sandwich here is a winner). Pizza is available even by the slice. Gallucci's also does catering Their website is updated often showcasing new products they carry, such as Roland's Whole Kalamta olives, Giuseppe Cocco's Tagliatelle Egg Pasta, and Saint-Andre triple-cream cheese (from Normandy) , a buttery, soft French dairy delight. TripAdvisor gave Gallucci's a Certificate of Excellence in 2017. I'd be remiss to say West Side Market is not the hallmark market center in Cleveland, however, it is included in so many "Top 10 Things to Do" lists about #CLE that is a bit redundant at this point. However, when out on the west side, definitely check that out too. FYI, don't forget Gallucci's also does gift baskets.

Location: 6610 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44103

Heinen's Downtown

Cheese? Wine? Quality grocery shopping downtown right where the hip urbanites and socialists live savoring every second of the hustle of bustling of one of America's best (and easy to navigate by car or bike) metropolises? Look no further than Heinen's downtown Cleveland. Located at the corner of E. 9th and Euclid Ave., Heinen's market is in the old Ameritrust building (a bank building) making it a very unique place to accomplish what is usually a mundane task (grocery shopping); the store features a rotunda where the lower level features prepared food items; the upper level is not only where you'll find their restrooms: The upper level has a self-serve wine bar (Yass! You heard that right!)... Known as "The 9 Cleveland" shoppers who fall in love with this location should also be aware the connected Swetland Building (which houses part of Heinen's [pronounced HY-nĕnz] store) is a residential building; You can live and shop in one of the fastest growing urban-redevelopment areas in Ohio.

Location: 900 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44115

Parking (if available) at the 740 Euclid Garage can be validated; spend at least $50 dollars shopping at Heinen's and present your parking ticket and grocery receipt to the customer service desk in the store for validation.

Tower City Center & Terminal Tower Observation Deck

Tower City Center is a landmark in itself for it's Beaux-Arts architecture, Art Deco design; construction on the main terminal (meant to be similar to NYC's Grand Central Station) was completed in 1926; opening to tenants in 1928. THIS is where you can get up to the 42nd floor and tour the Terminal Tower observation deck and get the BEST view of the city, the lake, landmarks and other surroundings (bridges, boats, and neighboring 'burbs to name a few); Note: the deck is only open on weekends during warmer seasons or for special occasions (but tix are only 5 USD so not a bad deal!). Today, it in many ways is a typical mall only seeped in more history. For example, the Brooks Brothers store

Possibly the best location in the heart of downtown #CLE for how much you can see and do in the span of one day; near hotels like the new Hilton Downtown Cleveland; the Ritz Carlton, or Aloft Cleveland Downtown to name a few fabulous, world class, lodging options.

Step out of the food court to view the industrial side of Cleveland and witness freighters navigate the Crooked River (The Cuyahoga River's nickname referring to its notorious bends and sharp turns). Public Square is right outside the main entrance, tying together a vibrant district featuring TCC's Jack Casino which has its own Wahlburgers restaurant; dozens of restaurants and shops; and a great urban park to sit, picnic, and enjoy the outdoors. From here, you're steps away from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center; You can get discounts if you buy tickets to both attractions which are literally next door to each other (it's called The Science Rocks package deal).

Locaton: 230 W. Huron Road, Cleveland, OH 44113

BrewBoat CLE

#Beer loves rejoice; Cleveland, Ohio has just the answer for those a.) wanting to see a great view of the city and b.) sip some suds and c.) exercise, too. BrewBoat CLE's pedal-powered party boats are a great way to be out on the water; the company is part of the visitors bureau of Greater Cleveland and Destination Cleveland (there's an app for that at the bureau's website!)... This is strictly BYOB and you will have to sign a waiver (eliminating any liability of harm from the company, this is not a get sloshed/ fall of the boat kind of experience--- drink responsibility!)... BrewBoat CLE is Ohio's FIRST and ONLY human-powered boat-pedaling excursion experience.

How to make the most out of this experience? BrewBoat CLE suggests bringing with you:

BrewBoat CLE comes equipped with a stereo system that can connect to your phone, SiriusXM satellite radio, pretty souvenir cups, coolers fully stocked with ice and an experienced captain to navigate the waters.

Here are some suggestions for what you can bring, to make the most of your experience: 36 oz (beer) or 18oz (wine) [They prefer cans or a bottle of wine per couple/ 3 beers per person]; NO NICKELBACK! (Although I'd also include TRAIN while we are at it); They can hook up your device's portable playlist or if you prefer they'll spin tunes for your crew; in the sunshine don't forgo the sunscreen (this is not a winter boat cruise, it's seasonal, duh, NE Ohio); and any snack of your choosing.

Location: Channel Park Marina, 5300 Whiskey Island, Cleveland, Ohio 44102

RTA Rapid & Trolley

Tourists and locals alike rave about the RTA (Regional Transit Authority) of Cleveland/ Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Perhaps it's because it's the simplest way to see the lay of the land as well as get from point A to point B. The Rapid has a hub at Cleveland Hopkins Airport as well as Tower City Center, making it very convenient for those traveling in or out of Cleveland to get to their downtown destinations without the need of a rental car. The Red Line from the airport will transport you from the western inner-ring suburbs of #CLE into the heart of downtown; or maybe make overnight accommodations at the unique, urban chic, Cleveland Hostel which is near one of Cleveland's prime renaissance areas: Ohio City; this neighborhood is home to the West Side Market and modern, communal bars such as Town Hall (a vibrant urban-vibed gastro-pub featuring coffee brews as well as the boozy brews) which has been featured in publications such as Esquire, MTV, Wall Street Journal, and more... Try the Popcorn Tofu Nuggest or Tempeh Gyro while you are there!

Already downtown? Try the RTA Trolley- where literally you can "smile and ride for free." It can take you around downtown in nostalgic style; not quite San Francisco, but a feature not too many big cities feature- let alone for free! Enjoy stepping off the RTA Trolley just steps away from entertainment such as bowling at The Corner Alley or catching a show at Playhouse Square. Bonus: Leaving less of a carbon footprint is more than enough reason to grab a ride on the RTA and #rollinstyle.

Location: Check for station locations and times here at the greater Cleveland RTA website.

Johnny's Little Bar & Grille

Johnny's Little Bar & Grille is located around the corner in the alley behind fab restaurant Johnny's Downtown which is where JLB&G gets the trimmings from Johnny's Downtown's fine cuts of filet to make its mouthwatering, perfect burgers. The atmosphere is laid back, many sandwiches and specials daily, and over 40 #beers to choose from. Upstairs can be booked for private parties. Located in the Warehouse District, you're in the heart of a growing residential, entertainment, and office district. This is a beer-lovers bar, so look for Cleveland's own Great Lakes Brewing Company and Buckeye Brewing Company's offerings on the craft beer list. (One city west, in Lakewood, Ohio, be sure to stop by Buckeye Beer Engine and enjoy a full menu, including Sunday brunches; check out Great Lakes Brewing Company's restaurant, bar, and brewery in the Ohio City neighborhood.)

Other locally brewed companies with suds worth sipping include: Fat Head's Brewery (located in Middleburgh Heights, Ohio, just south of Cleveland or check out the Brewery & Saloon in North Olmsted, Ohio, west of Cleveland-- Get a Bumbleberry!); Platform Brewery (The Clevelander Palesner is awesome); and Market Garden Brewery (in Ohio City-- Try a Citramax IPA or a Hellamango).

Johnny's Little Bar may not carry all the local brewery's offerings (as of this writing) but is worth checking out to get a sense of a regular night out as a local enjoying locally crafted beers and great pub-grub. Honorable mentions include The Harbor Inn on the West Bank of the Flats (Cleveland's oldest bar still operating), and Prosperity Social Club (in the Tremont neighborhood).

Location: 614 Frankfort Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113