Alumni Offer Their Top Travel Tips
What to Do
Visitors come to Cleveland from around the world specifically to visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Since its opening in 1995, the Rock Hall has hosted more than 13 million people in its iconic structure, designed by I.M. Pei.
The expansive and educational exhibits and galleries showcase memorabilia from legends and icons spanning all genres of music. “The Rock Hall is talking about hip-hop and jazz in a way that it was not being spoken about before,” says Shelli Reeves.
Kaye Ridolfi says, “If you haven’t visited the Rock Hall lately, you’ll want to see the newer interactive area called The Garage, where visitors can sing or play instruments, just like they’re playing in their own garage band, with house musicians filling in the rest.” Other areas of The Garage have guitars, keyboards, and drums that you can play on your own.
Also, while you’re in Cleveland, check out Playhouse Square in the city’s Theater District, which boasts North America’s largest outdoor chandelier. “A lot of people don’t realize that Playhouse Square is the second largest theater district in the country, second only to Broadway in New York,” says Kaye Ridolfi.
No matter what time of year it is, the city’s enthusiasm for its sports team is always riding high. With MLB’s Cleveland Guardians, NFL’s Cleveland Browns, and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers (who just hosted the 2022 NBA All-Star Game), it’s easy to be a sports fan in the Land.
It’s also easy to be a music fan when you’re in the home of rock ’n’ roll—and you have a hall-of-fame orchestra. The world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra is located in the iconic Severance Hall. “It’s the jewel of our town,” says DiBiasio.
It doesn’t get much better than a visit to Lake Erie, especially at Edgewater Beach, part of Cleveland Metroparks’ 24,000 acres. “If you blindfolded someone and brought them to the lake, they’d think it was the ocean,” says Mavec. Paddle boarding, swimming or boating—take your pick. “You’ll even see people out there surfing,” says Michael Kubinski. “They’re out there year-round.”
Beyond the beach, the Cleveland Metroparks offers 18 reservations great for getting outdoors says Stacey McKinley, who is an avid cyclist, and Julie Tutkovics, who walks her family’s yellow Lab every day in the Metroparks. “To be able to have access to the lake and have access to the outdoors is incredibly important to us,” Tutkovics says.
What also makes Cleveland so welcoming is its neighborhoods like Gordon Square and University Circle. Each one bustles with energy from its family-owned businesses, cultural spots and top-quality restaurants. “University Circle is just a great place to be whether you’re looking for a concert or if you want to go to good restaurants,” says Hasani Wheat. University Circle is also home to the Cleveland Museum of Art, known for its collection of more than 45,0000 pieces from around the world.
Other impressive spots worth your time include Public Square, which was renovated in 2016 and hosts events during the summer and an ice-skating rink in the winter. “Public Square is a remarkable asset,” says Marty McGann. And the Cleveland Public Library’s main campus boasts historic architecture and plenty of history to uncover. “I love going to the photo archive and just looking at all photos of people, or looking through the microfiche of old newspapers,” says Reeves.
Where to Dine
Dine around the world in Cleveland—barbecue, biscuits, goulash, injera, pierogis, and so much more.
Not sure what you’re in the mood for? Then plan a stop to the almost 110-year-old West Side Market, known for its indoor and outdoor markets. “You can’t take for granted the amazing things you’ll find in there,” says McGann.
In addition to its strong Eastern European culture—and restaurants such as Balaton, a Hungarian spot known for its stuffed cabbage and goulash—Cleveland is also home to a variety of diverse cultural options. Wheat is a fan of the city’s Ethiopian restaurants such as Empress Taytu. “I try to frequent restaurants where it’s not just regular American food,” he says. “The place needs to have a story behind it.”
You’ll have one of the best dining views in Northeast Ohio on the deck overlooking the scenic Chagrin River falls at 17 River Grille, owned by Rick Doody ’80. And his other restaurants, including Cedar Creek Grille and Lindey’s Lake House, are Cleveland favorites.
Cleveland’s AsiaTown is home to a variety of Asian cuisine. At LJ Shanghai, you must order the popular soup dumplings. “LJ Shanghai is a treasure,” says DiBiasio. “Their soup dumplings are good as you can get anywhere.”
Head to Tremont, where you’ll find Prosperity Social Club, located in a 1938 barroom and known for its fried haddock (fish fries are big in Cleveland). “That’s where I met my wife,” says Kubinski. “So that’s just kind of our port in the storm, if you will.”
And if you haven’t heard of pierogies (another Cleveland staple), you’ll find plenty dotting the menus at spots across town. Market Garden Brewery, Der Braumeister, and Jukebox are just some restaurants with their own unique twist on the dumplings.
While barbecue has become a popular cuisine in Cleveland in recent years, Reeves is a fan of another Southern favorite: biscuits. She heads to The Bake Shop, where owner Shawnda Moye recently opened her shop after doing pop-up shops around town. “They make really lovely biscuits,” she says. “But it’s also the type of place that I come in and everybody knows my name.”
That friendly atmosphere can be felt around Cleveland. For Tutkovics, McKinley, and DiBiasio, their go-to spots are in Gordon Square. They frequent places such as Toast (which has a great wine list), Luxe Kitchen & Lounge (known for an amazing brunch), and Il Rione (which has the best pizza in town according to DiBiasio). “There are great outdoor patios, so you can bring your dogs,” says Tutkovics. “Gordon Square has phenomenal energy.”
By Kim Schneider ’01, manager of communications at Cleveland Clinic and the former editor of Cleveland Magazine.