Cleveland's cozy neighbor to the west, Lakewood is a bastion of family life, so it's no wonder that residents care a great deal about their schools. There are about 6,000 students at 10 schools and citizens are eager to help them succeed — a bond issue approved two years ago focused on upgrading three elementary schools and finishing construction projects at Lakewood High School. It's a perennial winner for parents and readers and the investments and passion pay off — Lakewood scores highly on the state's annual scorecard. Civic duty is strong here, which makes it one of the region's best suburbs and best places to raise kids.
Staff Pick: Solon
Remember Cash Explosion Double Play? The lottery game show was originally created by mystery writer and Cleveland loyalist Les Roberts. That late-'80s spark of TV creativity planted the seeds of Cleveland in the Chicago native's mind. He eventually moved here in 1990 and began, perhaps subconsciously at first, gathering the characters and images that would later populate his Milan Jacovich series. Jacovich, Roberts' marquee creation, is a local private eye who pounds Stroh's with fervor and sniffs out bad guys around town. It's a thrill to read about Jacovich solving wild crimes in settings like Pepper Pike, Whiskey Island and downtown Cleveland. Roberts also wrote for Candid Camera and The Jackie Gleason Show back in the day, which remain iconic crests of comedy.
Staff Pick: Alissa Nutting
The Nauti Mermaid might just be the best bar in the Warehouse District that you always forget about. Nestled alongside Starbucks, a salon and China Sea on West Sixth Street, the Nauti maintains the sort of low-key vibe that runs contrary to the otherwise club atmosphere that dominates the street as the night wears on. Pop in and you'll find anyone from high-powered lawyers to service industry folk (Zack Reed used to be a big fan back when Zack Reed was, um, Zack Reed). The bargain-basement happy hour has made it a favorite among Scene staff and Tim Vaughn has made it your favorite. There really is nothing complicated about being a good bartender, when you think about it. Be friendly, be knowledgeable, be quick and heavy with a pour, be a caring ear when needed, be a good conversationalist when requested. But it takes a special breed to achieve all those goals effortlessly and happily. Tim Vaughn does all those things, and downtown drinkers come back time and time again to see his cheery face. Hell, he was even crowned the best downtown bartender by the Downtown Cleveland Residents Association, so his mantel is already filling up with awards. Time to make room for another one.
1378 West Sixth St., 216-771-6175,nautimermaid.com.
Staff Pick: Lorelei Bailey, Katz Club
Cleveland Indians"Unfinished business." It's the fairly official motto for the Tribe's 2014 season, referencing the team's brief and rather crushing playoff appearance last fall. With a batch of nice, long-term contracts for most of our stalwarts, we're looking ahead with utmost optimism. But this season's hope is built totally on last year's fun. Manager Terry Francona (the American League's manager of the year in 2013) presided over a congregating team of talented players both young and old, all of whom bore a great sense of humor. It was thrilling to watch them play last year. And they've set up the perfect sequel with dazzling goals of playoff success. There's a very exciting sense of "comeback" around Progressive Field these days. Don't be a fool, Cleveland: Fill up those seats and cheer on the guys. Just please get rid of that atrocious Chief Wahoo logo.
Staff Pick: Local Pride
Sure, you can't smoke if you work there, but you shouldn't be smoking anyway. The Cleveland Clinic, founded in 1921, cares for 5.1 million patients every year, and remains not only one of the largest employers in the region, but a calling card for Northeast Ohio as well. The Clinic routinely sits among the top five hospitals in the country in areas like heart and brain and eye treatment. The U.S. News and World Report folks must be on to something. The Clinic surgeons operate on Saudi princes and homeless youth during the same shift. It's a world-class institution bringing renown, medical technology, and jobs jobs jobs to Cleveland. It's also a hell of a place to work. They treat their people right because, after all, it's the first step in making sure the patients are treated right.
Staff Pick: Hyland Software
Whether you're on the lookout for a spot to host a corporate lunch or an after party for a DJ, the House of Blues has the space and menu to cater to your wildest or simplest dreams. The Cambridge Room is luxurious and cozy with a separate bar (great for avoiding the commoners!), the restaurant, accessible off East Fourth Street, has a private room for functions and larger parties (and the menu is killer), and the venue itself is, as noted by readers, the best place to see a concert in Cleveland. It has all the theatrical flare of Playhouse Square with the attitude of a small club. From gospel brunches to casual lunches, sold-out shows to intimate performances, the House of Blues is as versatile as they come.
308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583, Houseofblues.com/cleveland.
Staff Pick: Cleveland Public Library
The Metroparks Zoo is truly one of the jewels of the Emerald Necklace, a perfect venue for exotic 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. The elephants really are quite something. The Cleveland Zoo, with incredible deals, promotions and regular special events, not to mention 183 acres of award-winning gardens, is definitely more than just animals. And the zoo's a year-round attraction: The Rainforest is a lot cheaper than your local spa. Mondays are free to residents and damn near tolerable if you don't mind crowds.
3900 Wildlife Way, 216-661-6500, clemetzoo.org.
Staff Pick: Cedar Point
The founders of this blossoming local film company came together for Cleveland's 48-Hour Film Project nearly four years ago and have been creating badass short films, documentaries and music videos ever since. Head to their Vimeo page and check out the 11-minute doc The Naked Zinester about quirky "renegade" photographer Aaron Tsuru and adult model Cherry La Voix. Or check out the incredibly well-done music videos Turnstyle has produced like the hilarious one for hip-hop outfit Smoke Noises' song "2000 Pounds" (featuring three rappers in fat suits, of course) and an intense black and white video for Cleveland hard rock band All Dinosaurs' "Tight Rope" track. The Russo brothers ain't got nothing on Turnstyle.
Staff Pick: Joe Siebert, director of The Sax Man