Best Of 2003

Whether you like to rough it or insist on camping with the generator in tow, Punderson State Park in Newbury can hook you up. Situated on the grounds of a former Indian village, it features a 196-site campground offering showerhouses, flush toilets, and electricity -- plus boating, hiking, and fishing. There are also 26 six-person cottages and a lodge that's all warm, intimate atmosphere. The manor house features a dining room, meeting rooms, and outdoor and indoor swimming pools. And if anyone in your party hikes while toting along a sack of clubs, Punderson also features a challenging 18-hole golf course.

Once, after yet another Cavs loss, then-coach John Lucas criticized the team's toughness. "We're the type of team that wants to wear Armani; we need to wear dungarees," he said. At the time Luc said those words, Ricky Davis was actually slipping into something Gucci, but the point was made. Davis can be maddening, as evidenced by the time he bricked a layup against the other team's goal, simply to claim the rebound necessary for a triple double. Yet at the end of the night, he always looked fine, whether in a designer suit or throwback Harlem Globetrotter warm-ups. Ricky's pronounced eyebrows and beard lend a distinguished air to an otherwise modern b-baller look. The welcome trashing of the Cavs' powder-blue uniforms should only aid the cause of handsomeness.
Here's a little urban trek that's great for impressionable out-of-towners. Start on the east side of West 25th at funky City Buddha, where the air is heavy with incense and shelves sag beneath the weight of Asian and Indonesian imports. Head south a few doors to Something Different gallery for a glass of wine and a gander at the sophisticated assortment of vintage and contemporary wares. Then backtrack a few steps to Lelolai, an outstanding Puerto Rican bakery and sandwich shop, where robust coffee and a slice of mango cheesecake always hit the spot. Cross the street to Market 25, a friendly retail incubator that's home to gourmet truffles, a psychic reader, and fancy pet wares. Then it's just a few more steps to Market Square, to dig the arts, crafts, live music, and colorful street scene. Back across the street is the West Side Market, a true urban melting pot -- and the place to buy all the ingredients for a Saturday-night feast. Suburban malls may offer more storefronts; but for authentic atmosphere and style, this little neighborhood walkabout is hard to beat.

If this were the Best of America issue, we might still give this award to LeBron. It's not based on achievement, but rather trajectory: LeBron has engendered greater expectations than any amateur athlete in the history of his sport -- perhaps in any sport. The upside of that pressure, of course, is the millions he's racked up and the fact that his star power has landed our previously anonymous Cavaliers on NBA prime-time TV. That LeBron is, by all accounts, completely comfortable with all of this is staggering. Only guys like Mike have this much poise, and that bodes well for the franchise.
Edgewater is the most visited park in the state system, and it's easy to see why. It's got everything: a great view of the city skyline, a playground, picnic facilities, and unbeatable lakefront access. There's a launch for boating, a beach for swimming, a pier for fishing, and big rocks for chilling. In Cleveland, that's something.

If you're looking for a sports club that offers a rooftop bar and fine dining, try the Cleveland Athletic Club. Also, try a second mortgage. If you just want a place to unleash your office frustrations on a bunch of free weights, the downtown Fitworks offers a cheap, no-frills alternative. Membership can be had for around $35 a month. There's no waiting for equipment, which alone makes it superior to the 6 p.m. logjams at bigger suburban gyms. So skip the rush hour out of town and cruise from the cubicle to the treadmill.

While beautiful Orchard Hills is sneaky tough and Manakiki is a knee-rattling challenge, Sleepy Hollow gets the nod as the best public track in the area. It lulls you at the first tee, as you gaze out beyond the gently sloping downhill fairway to see (on a clear day) an expanse of Greater Cleveland's southeast territory. But then the real work starts, as the 220-yard, par-3 second hole demands an accurate tee shot to a well-protected green. After that, the yips just keep on coming, thanks to deep ravines, densely wooded doglegs, and fiendishly undulating greens. But the lush condition of the course and its isolation from cars and other irritants of civilization make for a splendid few hours.
This ain't your usual bang-a-bucket-and-beat-it driving range. Named for four years in a row as one of the Top 100 driving ranges in the U.S. by Golf Range magazine (does everybody have a freakin' magazine?), the Practice Greens at Bobicks has it all. Fifty grass tees and 30 covered/heated tees look out on a golf-course-like expanse of trees, fairways, and target greens. And there's a separate green you can chip balls to out of rough or sand, along with a large undulating practice green. The well-stocked pro shop has clubs you can actually hit -- and see the ball flight for real, not on a computer -- before you buy. That's a damn smart idea, if you're about to plunk down 400 large for Taylor Made's latest sledgehammer.

During their reign atop the AL Central, the Indians were a cocky organization. Even junior staffers walked with a slugger's swagger. Institutional audacity reached its zenith before the 2001 season, when the club began charging $19 and $17 for ass space in the bleachers. Nineteen bones for a plank in the outfield? When Jacobs Field opened in 1994, no seat in the park sold for more than $16.

Ah, but what a difference a losing season makes. After finishing more than 20 games behind the Twins in 2002, the Indians knocked down prices. All bleacher seats today trade for a much more reasonable $12. Through May, a soda company giveaway made tickets available for $6. Now that's a family value we can all agree to hold dear.

Exploring a horse trail may not be the best idea if you're wearing Rollerblades or pushing a stroller. But then, staying on a paved path isn't really hiking, is it? If you're interested in the real deal, head to the Wetmore Trailhead, located near the intersection of Wetmore and Akron Peninsula roads, and a stone's throw from Brandywine Country Club. Here you'll find a handful of trails -- Langes Run, Butler's, Dickerson Run, and Table Top -- that offer miles of back-to-nature serenity, far from the hiss of traffic and the chirping of cell phones. Sure, you'll need to watch out for horse dung and step aside now and then for a steed sauntering past. But what would you prefer: ceding the right of way to Seabiscuit, or dodging bikers, joggers, and skateboarders in the Metroparks? Thought so.
Curtis learned to play at Mill Creek Golf Club, the Ostrander, Ohio course owned by his grandfather. But probably not even much of Ostrander had heard of Curtis before he snatched a major championship victory at the 132nd British Open. In an instant, the Kent State grad was the toast of the international golf world. He followed that feat by getting married during the NEC Invitational in Akron, capping a fairy-tale summer on the links.