Best Of 2017

Best Place to Take a Visitor

There are thousands of places to take a Cleveland rookie, but if you don't make the West Side Market your first stop, you're doing it wrong. Sure the spot is always crowded on weekends, and finding a parking space can seem utterly impossible at times, but the convivial crowds are half the fun. The West Side Market is a feast for the eyes, architecturally gorgeous and timelessly Old World, and jam packed with everything from fresh coffee and pasta to imported cheeses and spices to fresh cuts of pork and beef to the best fish in Cleveland ... you get the point. The century-old market is an iconic landmark for a reason and one that should absolutely not be missed.

1979 West 25th St., 216-664-3387,

Best of Cleveland 2017 - People & Places

Best of Cleveland 2017 - People & Places
Best Activist
Photo by Ken Blaze

The founder of Drink Local Drink Tap has achieved the wonderful goal of changing people's lives: not just here in Cleveland, but clear across the world in rural Uganda. Her organization provides educational resources and connects people to drinking water — which, worldwide, is scarcer than the average Clevelander might think. "I think it's important to understand the problems of today do not end at borders, especially with water," Huber told us last year. "It's all connected. The work is hard, rewarding and challenging, but I truly hope our work is no longer needed someday." On this year's Earth Day, Huber's organization hosted a beach cleanup event at Edgewater (something she organizes regularly), thus inspiring others around our fine city to participate and engage the world in a kind and compassionate way.

Best Anchor

Fox 8 News in the Morning co-host Wayne Dawson is this year's Best Anchor, so let the confetti fly on South Marginal Road. This witty, snappy and versatile morning show anchor is a living Cleveland legend, one of the most well-known names and faces at the station that old-school Clevelanders still feel the most attached to. (He's also a dapper dresser.) A graduate of both Tri-C and Kent State, and a current resident of Highland Heights, the 61-year-old Dawson has been with Fox 8 since 1981. Don't blame him for the occasional off-color gaffe: In our opinion, it just makes him more likable.

Best Apartment Complex

Though we're embarrassed to admit that we've never been to the penthouse parties of Johnny Manziel or Kevin Love, we can attest that the appurtenances at the units within this swanky downtown apartment complex are plush. With easy access to East Fourth, the Q, Progressive Field and all the hopping bars and restaurants of the central business district, the Metropolitan at the 9 is not only a luxurious place to rest your weary head, it's an optimally located nerve center for downtown Cleveland living. Thanks to the new Heinen's right next door, you can even do your grocery shopping right in the neighborhood. Don't forget all the amenities inside the complex itself: a rooftop lounge, a restaurant, even an indoor dog park.

2017 East Ninth St., 216-239-1300,

Best Bed and Breakfast

Every now and then, and we know you're as susceptible to these urges as we are, we feel the need for a weekend getaway — without getting away. We crave the sensations of vacation, but we only have the time for a staycation. Thankfully, Cleveland is littered with fine hospitality options. And thankfully, Scene readers have their heads screwed on straight when they say that Glidden House is our city's finest bed and breakfast. The place is an architectural gem on the hemline of Wade Oval and University Circle — right in the heart of dear Case Western Reserve University and mere short strolls away from the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Botanical Gardens, the Natural History Museum and Severence Hall. The entertainment options are bountiful, but it's the Glidden House itself that will anchor your heart and comfort your head. A better romantic weekend has yet to be designed, scientists say.

1901 Ford Dr., 216-231-8900,

Best Casino

Jack Casino, in the historic Higbee Building in Tower City Center on Public Square, features a 96,000-square-foot gaming galaxy that offers slots, video poker, blackjack, craps, roulette, poker and more. It has a buffet and three "quick bite" restaurants, including the only downtown location of Michael Symon's popular B-Spot Burgers. The casino hosts a weekday happy hour too, making a great stop before Cavs, Indians and Browns games. Both gamblers and non-gamblers will find plenty to like about the joint, which takes up three floors of the old department store and even pays homage to the building's history by putting together lavish window displays during the holidays. They recently began offering $10 blackjack at all hours of the day (finally!), so don't feel like you have to be a Vegas high roller to get in on the action.

100 Public Square, 216-297-4777,

Best Charity or Non-Profit

Everyone loves animals, right? If you don't love animals, then we've got a real problem here. The Cleveland Animal Protective League does a tremendous service to our city's four-foots and animal lovers. Between their adoption work and their humane investigations, the APL is on the front lines in the battle to make the lives of dogs and cats happier. And that's where you come in: Through charitable donations or outright adoption fees (yes, adopt today!), you have a very important role in the APL's journey as they look for forever homes for some cutie patooties. Next time you're in the Tremont area, stop in and meet some pups. Who knows? You might just meet your best friend.

1729 Willey Ave., 216-771-4616,

Best College or University

While no college can be right for every person, Case Western Reserve University is a fine private collegiate institution right here in our own backyard. Offering a world class engineering program and nonprofit management program, among other highly credentialed and celebrated courses of study, and a prime piece of University Circle real estate, CWRU brings students here from all over the world to study. According to the U.S. News & World Report, which ranked the university No. 37 in the country this year, the tuition may be $46,006, but it's well worth the cost.

10900 Euclid Ave., 216-368-2000,

Best College Radio Station

With every other terrestrial radio station in town playing the same three Stone Temple Pilots hits ad nauseum — not that there's anything wrong with 1994's achingly winsome "Purple" — the only real bet for great music on the dial in Cleveland is college radio. We've got a couple of good ones in town, and Scene readers have a history of vacillating between the two, giving this category a rare semblance of actual competition each year. In 2017, though, WRUW is boss. The station broadcasts all manner of off-kilter, indie fringe artists — the sort of stuff that you don't know you love until you encounter it while driving down I-77 under twilit skies and switching over from the fourth iteration of "Vasoline" you've heard that day. Live from the studios at Case Western Reserve University, WRUW upholds the vital American tradition of college radio, and we couldn't be more thankful.

Best Drag Queen

With seriously striking looks, be it in a stunning red wig or a flowing, glowing shock of silver, Aurora Thunder is instantly memorable. We can say more, but sometimes it's best to let people speak for themselves. Here's what Aurora Thunder posted on Facebook after becoming a finalist in this category and before voters piled in the first-place notches: "I love what I do. I love the art of makeup and the art of drag so much. I have complete confidence in what I do. I love inspiring others and giving back. I love how much drag has transformed my life and the lives of those around me. I have plenty of growing to do, and plan to push myself in 2017 even more than I have to perfect my skill. This recognition would mean the world to me in more ways than you could ever imagine." Imagine no more, Aurora. Congrats.