Big Book of Cleveland: The Important Stuff

Before we get too far, here's some things you'll need to know about

When you're a world-famous city like Cleveland, you're bound to boast a stockpile of internationally renowned attractions. We've got so muching going on around here, even Detroit looks better thanks to us.

Behold a handful of our most cherished institutions: the key stops that any Clevelander should know by heart.


Small enough to see in a day, but big enough to provide entertainment for a week: The Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the city's don't-miss attractions. Modern masters like Picasso, Magritte, and Dali are represented, along with Renaissance greats Botticelli, Rubens, and Rembrandt. The outdoor courtyard facing Wade Lagoon holds a cast of Rodin's "The Thinker," made particularly historic by a 1970 Weather Underground bombing that blew off its legs. But for crowd-pleasing import, you can't beat the Armor Court, a gym-sized exhibition of Medieval weaponry, sporting equipment, and chain mail. Hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m.; Wednesday and Friday till 9 p.m. Closed Monday.

11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7340,


Not so much a grocery as a four-times-weekly bazaar, Ohio City's West Side Market has been a publicly owned marketplace since 1840 and is still going strong. Forget sleeping in on Saturdays — show up early for the best picks on lush produce, handmade cheeses, savory pastries, and meat so fresh you'll want to pet it. Between the Old World-style hawkers, the locavore hippies, and the folks from the Homeless Grapevine newspaper all working the crowd, it's shopping with character. Hours: Monday and Wednesday from 7 a.m. till 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 7 till 6 p.m.

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


The one and only shrine to the still-beating heart of rock & roll, this modern-music museum on the shores of Lake Erie provides fun for fans of all persuasions. Buffs can spend a day using the exhibits as jumping-off points for debating the brilliance/bullshittiness of the museum's induction decisions and omissions. And casual consumers need not be intimidated: An afternoon stroll through the first-floor exhibits is a great crash-course on the history of rock up through the early 21st century. Go. Every out-of-towner will ask if you've been there anyway, and you owe it to yourself to appreciate America's biggest — and loudest — contribution to the arts. Special exhibits add to the fun: The recently launched Women Who Rock examines both the major and minor female pioneers of the genre. The exhibition continues through February 2012. Hours: Daily 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

1100 Rock and Roll Blvd.,



Few metropolitan areas have such easy access to a national park system as does Cleveland, and few of the smaller national parks offer as much as Cuyahoga Valley. Joggers and bikers can take advantage of the Towpath, the extensive but well-maintained nature trail. For the indoor set, the various nature centers and educational facilities feature local and historic music concerts, lectures, art galleries, and venues for performance art. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad chugs through the park 12 months a year, including special kid-themed events like "Day Out With Thomas" and the Christmastime "Polar Express." Grown-ups should check out the "Grape Escape" and "Ales on the Rails" tasting tours. Hours: Some areas close at dusk, others are open 24/7.

U.S. Interior Department offices

at 15610 Vaughn Rd., Brecksville,

216-524-1497 ,


Built by Goodyear Tire founder F.A. Seiberling between 1912 and 1915, Stan Hywet is the seventh-largest private estate in the U.S. Enthusiasts of Victorian-era architecture, horticulture, or lifestyles can lose themselves for hours in the great mansion and the 70 surviving acres of grounds, complete with a conservatory, dozens of gardens, and a real lagoon. Hours: Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

714 North Portage Path, Akron,




They complain about the snow and orange traffic barrels, but what really gets Clevelanders down about the climate is its inability to sustain monkeys. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo heroically compensates for this, hosting hundreds of simians — and thousands of other inmates as well — within its vast 165 acres. One ticket buys you admission to two unique venues: the indoor-outdoor zoo and the three-story indoor RainForest. The newly opened Elephant Crossing brings pachyderms back to town with a five-acre, state-of-the-art habitat, giving the herd of five plenty of space to do their elephant thing. Hours: Daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

3900 Wildlife Way, 216-661-6500,




Founded in 1918, the Cleveland Orchestra, currently under the leadership of music director Franz Welser-Möst, is widely regarded as one of the top orchestras in the world, playing a year 'round schedule that finds it at rural Blossom Music Center, in Cuyahoga Falls, in the summer and in Severance Hall, on University Circle, in the winter. Built in 1931, the grand building itself draws acclaim for its Georgian exterior, a lobby ringed with marble columns, and the performance hall's champagne-colored lighting and Art Deco ornamentation. (Look for the recurring lotus-flower motif: The Egyptian blooms were said to be the favorite of Elisabeth Severance, whose hubby put a cool million dollars toward the hall's construction.) Round out a perfect concert date with dinner and dessert in Little Italy, just a few blocks over on Mayfield Road. Hours vary with performance schedules.

11001 Euclid Ave., 216-231-1111,



Ever wanted to walk around inside Bill Nye's head? Sadly, not even Clevelanders have gained this power yet; but the educators at Great Lakes Science Center offer the next best thing via dozens of interactive exhibits that let you shoot fog, dance lightning on your fingertips, and warp sound and throw it across the room. Their Omnimax Theater provides enough "falling, in a good way" sensations to get you through Cedar Point's off season, using IMAX technologies to project sweeping nature scenes onto a six-story screen for a totally immersive experience. Also: they sell Dippin' Dots, the Ice Cream of the Future. Hours: Daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

601 Erieside Ave., 216-694-2000,


Contrary to what the guidebooks will tell you, this freshwater lake is not named for the Erie tribe who originally settled in the Cuyahoga region, but for the eerie corpses of Prohibition-era bootleggers who used to wash ashore after turf disputes. These merchants of vice are commemorated on Whiskey Island, which also has some very nice bike paths. Also fun to visit: Edgewater and Huntington beaches for Cleveland's best kite flying and Mitchell Brothers Homemade ice cream, respectively. Drunken sailors and yachters have discovered the lake's very own Loch Ness-style monster, Bessie, but most of us know it's the zebra mussels and Asian carp you've really got to watch out for. Please be sensitive to litter‚ since this is where Cleveland's tap water comes from. Happily, recreational opps don't end when the cold fronts blow in: Wintertime ice-fishing expeditions offer sport for outdoorsmen and amusing Action News rescue reports for the rest of us. Swimmable between May and August. Lifeguard hours vary.

Directions: Drive north until you feel water under the floor mats



If you're working downtown and need a quiet space to unwind, you won't be bothered at Lake View Cemetery, "Cleveland's outdoor museum," and final destination for legions of one-time Clevelanders. Besides some fantastic funereal sculptures, Lake View contains monuments to President James A. Garfield (a compact sandstone cathedral with a view of 40 miles of shoreline) and Cleveland industrialist and philanthropist Jeptha Wade, whose classical chapel contains one of the world's last remaining Tiffany stained-glass interiors. Even the more humble stones have historic significance, including those of crime fighter and killjoy extraordinaire Eliot Ness, along with two dozen Cleveland mayors, members of Lincoln's war cabinet, and soldiers from as far back as the Revolutionary War. Hours: Daily 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

12316 Euclid Ave., 216-421-2665,


Home to the Cleveland Indians, this 43,000-seat stadium in the heart of downtown was built in 1994 as Jacobs Field. Even now, three years after it took the name of the locally based insurance giant, you may still catch a native calling it "The Jake"; for sure, it sounds better than "The Prog," which somehow reminds us of a urologist visit. The film Major League didn't really happen here, but our 1995 and '97 brushes with the World Series did. Of course, the Tribe is going all the way this year‚ but even if it weren't, this comfortable stadium would still be the best place to relax with the therapeutic anguish of sports. Don't miss the hot dogs and locally made Bertman's Ballpark mustard. Afterward, you're within walking distance of landmark sports bars like the Winking Lizard Tavern and Thirsty Parrot.

2401 Ontario St., 216-420-4487,




Blockbuster dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops are represented in full-scale fossil casts at this extensive and well-appointed natural history museum, but Steggie, the outdoor bronze stegosaurus, is the only one they let you sit on. The museum also features a planetarium; an exhibit on Lucy, our 3.2-million-year-old human ancestor; a giant Foucault pendulum that graphically illustrates the Earth's rotation; and locally excavated fossils, most notably those of the 350-million-year-old armored fish-monster Dunkleosteus. Also on view: a moon rock, a saber-toothed tiger, and a 2.2-acre outdoor garden featuring living Ohio animals and ecosystems. Hours: Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday till 10 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

1 Wade Oval Drive, 216-231-4600,


For 13 years running, Cedar Point has snagged the coveted title of Best Amusement Park in the World, boasting the most vertical thrill rides of any location on the planet (17) and some of the tallest roller coasters around — chiefly the 420-foot Top Thrill Dragster. But there are also dozens of rides closer to the ground for non-adrenaline junkies. The beauty of the place is that it's an easy ride from your doorstep. But with a water park, a Lake Erie beach, a marina, and an army of amenities like Hotel Breakers, Cedar Point can easily be a destination for a multi-day stay. Open daily through September 5 and weekends through October.

One Cedar Point Drive, Sandusky,