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Best Spot to Take Wedding Photos
The cultural gardens have been the city's premier site for wedding photos since the 1930s, and it's little wonder: The convergence of exquisite landscaping and folk heritage render it more than just a pretty photo op. It's the ideal destination for commemorating family traditions while celebrating pan-cultural unions. While the in-laws may squabble over the old klezmer-vs.-polka wedding-music debate, you can sate both parties with scenic pics from the Star of David-adorned "wisdom fountain" at the Hebrew garden before moseying on down to the Polish garden to pose with Chopin's regal bust. Some favorites are the lavish Renaissance-style Italian monument (if you don't mind the Mussolini-gifted Virgil statue), the stately wrought-iron gateway at the Hungarian plot, the "greenest" garden of all (that would be Irish), and the Doric columns and reflecting pool at the Greek garden. 750 E. 88th St., 216-664-2484,
BEST LOCAL LANDMARK
Best place for people watching
West Side Market
You'll see it all at the West Side Market on any given day. (Even when it's closed. Hang out by the produce stands late at night for any number of surprises.) But the West Side Market is famous for bringing together a congregation of Cleveland's finest. The beautiful thing about the West Side Market is that there's no real target audience. From the destitute to the yuppies of suburbia to those simply in need of a coupla cucumbers, all walks of Cleveland life find their way into the building. It's also known to attract an element of celebrity, spanning the gamut from President Barack Obama to Anthony Bourdain.
1979 W. 25th St., 216-664-3387,
Best Place for a Family Outing
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Not too big, not too small, this place is a just-right sweet spot of animal kingdom outings, a manageable half-day trip for the lazy or child-burdened, or a full-day trip if you come armed with resolve, decent arch support, and an abiding passion for watching elephants. It's easy for spoiled Cleveland natives to take the zoo for granted and forget that most urban enclaves are ghastly spectacles of animal and parental suffering. But know that zoos this navigable, lovingly tended and well-manicured are rare. With 183 acres of award-winning gardens, fauna isn't the only attraction here. And the zoo's a year-round attraction—the soothing mists of the indoor Rainforest exhibit are the perfect antidote to Clevo midwinter blues and a pretty cheap spa alternative to boot. Mondays are free to residents and tolerable if you don't mind crowds.
3900 Wildlife Way, 216-661-6500,
Best school district
Repeatedly winning awards from the state, as well as concerned taxpayers' public comments during board meetings, Lakewood City Schools do a great job ushering the leaders of tomorrow into the world of today. Thousands of students fill the hallways of the district's renowned elementary and middle schools, as well as the massive Lakewood High School. Civic and school pride are important characteristics found throughout the community. School events, like football games and the collaborative H2O outings, are well attended by all. The Ranger Cafe, for one thing, is an education-fueled experiment in deliciousness. Stop by for soup and a sandwich to get a taste of what's cooking in the classrooms these days.
Best Place For a First Date
With rustic cobbled roads and romantic eateries galore, you don't have to be Italian to impress a date in this cozy 'hood. Whether you're doing the Lady and the Tramp pasta slurp at Valerio's, waxing rhapsodic about each other's eyes/asses/penchant for Pasolini over espresso at Presti's, mouthing sweet nothings and sharing manicotti under lambent lighting at Etna, or groping each other in the alley next to the smoke shop, there are venues to indulge all manner of first-date proclivities in this throwback enclave. And if you don't want to seem like a sappy tryhard or are just trying to cut to the chase, there's always takeout thin-crust 'za at Valentino's. And dude? Lay off the Axe body spray.
Best Local Site for Cleveland Info
Blush blush. CleveScene.com is pleased as punch to provide engaged Clevelanders with not only the unique, in-depth content from our print publication, but a continuous stream of news, arts and entertainment and event coverage with a voice all its own. Clevescene.com is updated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, bringing you all the important stuff and a lot of not-so important stuff too. If the Scene 'n Heard news blog isn't bookmarked on your computer, shame on you! We've got so many jokes and snarky comments that you'll probably get really animated about Cleveland goings-on that you had no idea were going on. Our writers are top-notch and our content is informative, entertaining, and humongously profound. clevescene.com
Best Local University
Never mind the dorm policies that have likened CSU administrators to prison wardens. At this point, it's worth celebrating that CSU has a legitimate "dorm life" to regulate. President Ron Berkman has pumped dollars and energy into the Campus District and has revitalized the school as not only a worthy commuter school but a kick-butt college with solid academics and active student life to recommend it. The area around campus has improved so much that a development organization now exists for the "neighborhood." Enrollment is up and the buildings have never looked shinier. And that basketball program is an exciting local calling card. 2121 Euclid Ave.,
Best Local Blogger
"Unmiserable Cleveland loves Boston cream pie, and plans to spark the 2012 revolution that changes its name," reads the caption underneath the icon for this Cleveland lover's blog. It's 2013, but the Cleveland love is strong as ever. After Forbes named us the most miserable city in America in 2010, Unmiserable Cleveland provided some pushback. Your glorious puppet master and content creator is a web developer and tech wiz by the name of Gina Prodan. She tells us what to do on the weekends and gives us the juicy details about development in Cleveland's neighborhoods, not to mention shares with us exciting research about food, entertainment and shopping. Boosterism has a mascot and preacher. unmiserablecleveland.com
Best local comeback
West Side Market
It's probably the one time this year that we'll be able to whip out the ol' "rising like a phoenix from the ashes" metaphor and not sound like utterly pedestrian writers, so... Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of this year's tragic fire, the West Side Market is rocking the comeback of a lifetime. With the locally grown centennial celebrations still ringing in recent memory, the PR on Cleveland's most storied market is at an all-time high. Lately, crowds have been so thick that a morning at the market is more like a mosh pit at a strangely sedate Slayer show. Nonetheless, there's nothing else like it anywhere in the region. 1979 W. 25th St.,
Best Hair Salon
Zen Metro Spa
Complimentary booze and awesome massages are just two of the cushy amenities offered at Ohio City's hippest joint for getting yer coif did. Zen's expert stylists and colorists will treat both you and your hair right, making you look and feel as pretty as the appropriately zen digs, a blissful, pimped-out oasis of retro accent lighting, exposed brick, mahogany floors, and sumptuous leather chairs. Not the cheapest cut around, but the attentive stylists and plush ambience are worth it.1870 W. 25th St., 216-939-1760,