All the Reasons Cleveland is Absolutely Worth Visiting

Let us count the ways we love Cleveland... There are endless and varied reasons and ways, of course, all worth celebrating and highlighting. But for this, the 2017 City Guide, there are 47, to be specific.

Let us count the ways we love Cleveland...

There are endless and varied reasons and ways, of course, all worth celebrating and highlighting. But for this, the 2017 City Guide, there are 47, to be specific. They capture the city from east to west, north to south, and underscore the litany of treasures and gems that contribute to our vibrant region. From our world class food and cocktail scene to the splendors of our parks, from our internationally renowned institutions of arts and culture to the talented comedians making us laugh every night, Northeast Ohio is indeed to the best location in the nation and these are just a few of the infinite reasons why.

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…Because the 10x3 Showcase Highlights Cleveland’s Music Chops
Local singer-songwriter Brent Kirby has modeled 10x3, a weekly showcase he hosts at the westside club and restaurant Brothers Lounge, after the off-night jam sessions he would attend when he lived in Nashville more than a decade ago. 
One such event was called 12 on 12; it featured 12 bands playing the club 12th and Porter. Bands would play three tunes, and acts coming through town would sometimes sit in. It was an idea born to be imported to Cleveland, where our music history runs far and wide.
So Kirby launched 10x3 in 2011 in the club’s wine bar, which has a piano. That element alone attracts some of the city’s better musical talent. 
As its title implies, the event features 10 singer-songwriters playing three songs each. Two songs have to be origiwnal, and one can be a cover tune. Bands go online to sign up in advance, and then Kirby gives them a specific time slot. He also hosts, naturally.
While the event ostensibly functions as a showcase for singer-songwriters, Kirby doesn’t exclude artists who don’t fit the mold. An Egyptian harpist once performed at the event, as have people who haven’t played anywhere outside of their living rooms in 20 years. Kirby’s philosophy: “Anyone who has written at least two original songs deserves an audience.” 
Northeast Ohio is happy to give it to them.
…Because the 10x3 Showcase Highlights Cleveland’s Music Chops

Local singer-songwriter Brent Kirby has modeled 10x3, a weekly showcase he hosts at the westside club and restaurant Brothers Lounge, after the off-night jam sessions he would attend when he lived in Nashville more than a decade ago.
One such event was called 12 on 12; it featured 12 bands playing the club 12th and Porter. Bands would play three tunes, and acts coming through town would sometimes sit in. It was an idea born to be imported to Cleveland, where our music history runs far and wide.
So Kirby launched 10x3 in 2011 in the club’s wine bar, which has a piano. That element alone attracts some of the city’s better musical talent. As its title implies, the event features 10 singer-songwriters playing three songs each. Two songs have to be origiwnal, and one can be a cover tune. Bands go online to sign up in advance, and then Kirby gives them a specific time slot. He also hosts, naturally.
While the event ostensibly functions as a showcase for singer-songwriters, Kirby doesn’t exclude artists who don’t fit the mold. An Egyptian harpist once performed at the event, as have people who haven’t played anywhere outside of their living rooms in 20 years. Kirby’s philosophy: “Anyone who has written at least two original songs deserves an audience.”
Northeast Ohio is happy to give it to them.
…Because the 78th Street Studios Are a Treasure
There’s a lot going on in this massive building which was formerly the creative studios for American Greetings. And that means lots of opportunities to meander through art galleries, art studios, and much more. It’s hidden away from view on West 78th Street, off Lake Avenue between Detroit Avenue and the Shoreway. But once you find it, you’ll find a treasure of interesting artistic expressions — and equally interesting people. 
The big day for visitors is Third Friday, when more than 50 venues open their doors from 5 to 9 p.m. so you can bask in all the artwork that’s for sale as well as music, cuisine, pop-up vendors and, well, you name it. It tends to get pretty crowded (even in such a large space), so arrive early if you want close-in parking. There is also an open house every Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., when four to eight galleries are open and you can browse in a calmer setting. The building has also become a popular location for weddings and corporate events, since its large windows and huge rooms lend themselves to all kinds of decorating options. Fun fact: Arhaus staged one of their catalog shoots here to feature their collections in an industrial setting.
Photo Courtesy 78th Street Studios
…Because the 78th Street Studios Are a Treasure

There’s a lot going on in this massive building which was formerly the creative studios for American Greetings. And that means lots of opportunities to meander through art galleries, art studios, and much more. It’s hidden away from view on West 78th Street, off Lake Avenue between Detroit Avenue and the Shoreway. But once you find it, you’ll find a treasure of interesting artistic expressions — and equally interesting people.
The big day for visitors is Third Friday, when more than 50 venues open their doors from 5 to 9 p.m. so you can bask in all the artwork that’s for sale as well as music, cuisine, pop-up vendors and, well, you name it. It tends to get pretty crowded (even in such a large space), so arrive early if you want close-in parking. There is also an open house every Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., when four to eight galleries are open and you can browse in a calmer setting. The building has also become a popular location for weddings and corporate events, since its large windows and huge rooms lend themselves to all kinds of decorating options. Fun fact: Arhaus staged one of their catalog shoots here to feature their collections in an industrial setting.

Photo Courtesy 78th Street Studios
…Because Arm’s Length Theater at Convergence-Continuum
If you wonder why convergence-continuum theater doesn’t capitalize their name, it may be because there isn’t room. Ever since they began producing shows at the Liminis in Tremont, Clyde Simon and his company of gifted theater people have staged a variety of off- and off-off-Broadway shows to a small but faithful following. And it all happens in a rather tiny room that is constantly being redesigned and re-imagined for each show, as the 40 or so patron seats occupy different positions from event to event. 
The cozy confines mean that every audience member is often only an arm’s length away from the performers, providing a closeness that tends to break down the barriers that often exist in most theaters. Con-con recently survived a near-death experience, as they raised enough money at the last minute to buy the Liminis and maintain their home at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Tremont. And that’s good news for theater lovers who rely on Simon and his troupe for shows by edgy playwrights such as Mac Wellman and Mickle Maher, as well as local writers including Christopher Johnston and Jonathan Wilhelm. Con-con also hosts the annual Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts Playwrights (NEOMFA) Festival.
…Because Arm’s Length Theater at Convergence-Continuum

If you wonder why convergence-continuum theater doesn’t capitalize their name, it may be because there isn’t room. Ever since they began producing shows at the Liminis in Tremont, Clyde Simon and his company of gifted theater people have staged a variety of off- and off-off-Broadway shows to a small but faithful following. And it all happens in a rather tiny room that is constantly being redesigned and re-imagined for each show, as the 40 or so patron seats occupy different positions from event to event.
The cozy confines mean that every audience member is often only an arm’s length away from the performers, providing a closeness that tends to break down the barriers that often exist in most theaters. Con-con recently survived a near-death experience, as they raised enough money at the last minute to buy the Liminis and maintain their home at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Tremont. And that’s good news for theater lovers who rely on Simon and his troupe for shows by edgy playwrights such as Mac Wellman and Mickle Maher, as well as local writers including Christopher Johnston and Jonathan Wilhelm. Con-con also hosts the annual Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts Playwrights (NEOMFA) Festival.
…Because in Cleveland, You're Surrounded By Baseball
You’d be hard-pressed to find a region of the country that offers more amateur and minor league baseball entertainment than Northeast Ohio. Located in Avon, All-Pro Freight Stadium became home of the Lake Erie Crushers in 2009. Never heard of ’em? Perhaps that’s because the Crushers play in the Frontier League, an amateur baseball league not affiliated with a major league team; the guys on the team play for the sheer love the game. Their salaries are so low, they often crash at fans’ houses for the season. Crushers’ games are good fun. Tickets and concessions are cheap, and the stadium features a big patch of grass where kids can run free.
While the Crushers play for the love of the game, the Lake County Captains and the Akron Rubber Ducks have legitimate shots at making it in the majors.
In Eastlake, Classic Park is home to the Captains, the Class A affiliate of the Indians. Since opening in 2003, the park has hosted a black-tie on-field fundraiser dinner, celebrity softball games, high school baseball and football games and concerts.
In downtown Akron, Canal Park also offers a great minor league baseball experience. If the steel-framed building looks familiar, that’s because HOK, the same company that designed Progressive Field and Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, designed and built it as home to the Rubber Ducks, the Double A affiliate of the Indians. Back in 2013, the team installed one of the largest free-standing video boards in the minor leagues. And like many minor league teams, the Rubber Ducks offer a number of clever promotional events. This year’s highlights include Yoga Night and a Marla Hooch (from A League of Their Own) bobblehead giveaway.
Photo Courtesy Akron Rubber Ducks
…Because in Cleveland, You're Surrounded By Baseball

You’d be hard-pressed to find a region of the country that offers more amateur and minor league baseball entertainment than Northeast Ohio. Located in Avon, All-Pro Freight Stadium became home of the Lake Erie Crushers in 2009. Never heard of ’em? Perhaps that’s because the Crushers play in the Frontier League, an amateur baseball league not affiliated with a major league team; the guys on the team play for the sheer love the game. Their salaries are so low, they often crash at fans’ houses for the season. Crushers’ games are good fun. Tickets and concessions are cheap, and the stadium features a big patch of grass where kids can run free.
While the Crushers play for the love of the game, the Lake County Captains and the Akron Rubber Ducks have legitimate shots at making it in the majors.
In Eastlake, Classic Park is home to the Captains, the Class A affiliate of the Indians. Since opening in 2003, the park has hosted a black-tie on-field fundraiser dinner, celebrity softball games, high school baseball and football games and concerts.
In downtown Akron, Canal Park also offers a great minor league baseball experience. If the steel-framed building looks familiar, that’s because HOK, the same company that designed Progressive Field and Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, designed and built it as home to the Rubber Ducks, the Double A affiliate of the Indians. Back in 2013, the team installed one of the largest free-standing video boards in the minor leagues. And like many minor league teams, the Rubber Ducks offer a number of clever promotional events. This year’s highlights include Yoga Night and a Marla Hooch (from A League of Their Own) bobblehead giveaway.

Photo Courtesy Akron Rubber Ducks
…Because the Beachland is More Than Music
You’ve been going there for years to catch your favorite local bands, but maybe you have yet to darken the doorway of the storied Beachland during the daytime. 
Brunch is one of the most important things about life, according to most Clevelanders who sip bloodies while wearing their “Brunch So Hard” T-shirts every Saturday morning or “Sunday Funday” shirts the day after. At Beachland, you get not only an excellent, varied menu to select from, but you also get the charm of live entertainment. You’ll find DJs spinning onstage in the Tavern or live podcasts being recorded during brunch. 
A quick scan across the current menu reveals a mouth-watering gamut: You’ve got your pick of everything from chicken chilaquiles and the vegan special to “Eggs Beachland” and the always-welcome fried chicken on housemade buttermilk biscuits. Pair ‘em with a bloody or a Beachland Baberita (named after Beachland’s fearless leader, Cindy Barber), and you’re off to a kickass start for the weekend. (Their Sunday menu differs slightly and offers a more classically breakfast-oriented array of dishes.) 
Better yet, if you really want to go all in: Wrap up brunch, spend the day hanging around North Collinwood’s ever-expanding neighborhood shops and galleries, stop downstairs at Beachland’s This Way Out thrift shop, and come back for a show.
Scene Archives Photo
…Because the Beachland is More Than Music

You’ve been going there for years to catch your favorite local bands, but maybe you have yet to darken the doorway of the storied Beachland during the daytime.
Brunch is one of the most important things about life, according to most Clevelanders who sip bloodies while wearing their “Brunch So Hard” T-shirts every Saturday morning or “Sunday Funday” shirts the day after. At Beachland, you get not only an excellent, varied menu to select from, but you also get the charm of live entertainment. You’ll find DJs spinning onstage in the Tavern or live podcasts being recorded during brunch.
A quick scan across the current menu reveals a mouth-watering gamut: You’ve got your pick of everything from chicken chilaquiles and the vegan special to “Eggs Beachland” and the always-welcome fried chicken on housemade buttermilk biscuits. Pair ‘em with a bloody or a Beachland Baberita (named after Beachland’s fearless leader, Cindy Barber), and you’re off to a kickass start for the weekend. (Their Sunday menu differs slightly and offers a more classically breakfast-oriented array of dishes.) Better yet, if you really want to go all in: Wrap up brunch, spend the day hanging around North Collinwood’s ever-expanding neighborhood shops and galleries, stop downstairs at Beachland’s This Way Out thrift shop, and come back for a show.

Scene Archives Photo
…Because the Metroparks’ Bike Trails Are Amazing
It’s scary enough to encounter road rage when you’re driving your car. But when you see an enraged driver and you’re on a bicycle, it can be downright terrifying. If you love riding your bike but aren’t enamored of pedaling on city streets, thereby making yourself a target for bike haters (they’re out there) or just plain careless drivers, head off to the Cleveland Metroparks, the “Emerald Necklace” that surrounds the city of Cleveland. That’s where you’ll find paved, all-purpose trails — 70 miles of them — that offer everything you might want in a bike ride in a leafy and safe environment where motorized vehicles are not allowed. If you like to challenge yourself with hilly terrain, head off to the eastern section, in the Bedford Reservation and the North Chagrin Reservation, where ups and downs are prevalent. In the western section, the trails through the Rocky River Reservation are ideal for those who like to pedal at a moderate pace and enjoy the woodsy views. There are also places you can connect to other trails, such as the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail and the Bike-Hike Trail. In short, you won’t soon run out of biking options in the Metroparks, while you stay off the roads.
…Because the Metroparks’ Bike Trails Are Amazing

It’s scary enough to encounter road rage when you’re driving your car. But when you see an enraged driver and you’re on a bicycle, it can be downright terrifying. If you love riding your bike but aren’t enamored of pedaling on city streets, thereby making yourself a target for bike haters (they’re out there) or just plain careless drivers, head off to the Cleveland Metroparks, the “Emerald Necklace” that surrounds the city of Cleveland. That’s where you’ll find paved, all-purpose trails — 70 miles of them — that offer everything you might want in a bike ride in a leafy and safe environment where motorized vehicles are not allowed. If you like to challenge yourself with hilly terrain, head off to the eastern section, in the Bedford Reservation and the North Chagrin Reservation, where ups and downs are prevalent. In the western section, the trails through the Rocky River Reservation are ideal for those who like to pedal at a moderate pace and enjoy the woodsy views. There are also places you can connect to other trails, such as the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail and the Bike-Hike Trail. In short, you won’t soon run out of biking options in the Metroparks, while you stay off the roads.
…Because Peppery Popcorn at Blank Canvas Theatre
There are many reasons to love the popcorn they make at Blank Canvas Theatre for every performance. One: It’s cheap. Just 3 bucks for an old-fashioned cardboard container that seems to be just enough and not too much. Compare that price to the popcorn served at most movie theaters, some of which requires prior loan approval. Two: They lace the popcorn with fresh ground pepper and some popcorn butter seasoning to give the kernels a little kick. Turns out, pepper is a much more interesting spice for this treat than the popcorn salt-bombs that you encounter most places. Three: Since you’re eating out of that stiff-sided container, you’re not making noise with a popcorn bag, which always drives some people (who, me?) nuts. Four: You can pair your popcorn with a glass of wine, also $3, and enjoy a full snack for the price of a couple Goobers at most movie theaters. Five: You’ll be snacking at a theater, tucked into a third-floor corner of the 78th Street Studios,  that has earned a reputation for staging some of the most interesting productions in recent years. So it’s a tasty experience on multiple levels.
Photo Courtesy Blank Canvas
…Because Peppery Popcorn at Blank Canvas Theatre

There are many reasons to love the popcorn they make at Blank Canvas Theatre for every performance. One: It’s cheap. Just 3 bucks for an old-fashioned cardboard container that seems to be just enough and not too much. Compare that price to the popcorn served at most movie theaters, some of which requires prior loan approval. Two: They lace the popcorn with fresh ground pepper and some popcorn butter seasoning to give the kernels a little kick. Turns out, pepper is a much more interesting spice for this treat than the popcorn salt-bombs that you encounter most places. Three: Since you’re eating out of that stiff-sided container, you’re not making noise with a popcorn bag, which always drives some people (who, me?) nuts. Four: You can pair your popcorn with a glass of wine, also $3, and enjoy a full snack for the price of a couple Goobers at most movie theaters. Five: You’ll be snacking at a theater, tucked into a third-floor corner of the 78th Street Studios, that has earned a reputation for staging some of the most interesting productions in recent years. So it’s a tasty experience on multiple levels.

Photo Courtesy Blank Canvas
…Because We Like Beer With Our Board Games
Who doesn’t love games? Who doesn’t love beer? Exactly. Whether it’s a game of Connect 4 over Long Islands or an intense matchup of Lord of the Rings Monopoly over IPAs, games just have a way of bringing people together. 
Board game bars and cafes have increased in visibility over the years, and in the Cleveland area two popular spots are the Side Quest in Lakewood and Tabletop in Ohio City. 
Both establishments charge a small fee for patrons to play their games. The Side Quest charges $1 per player per game (except on Tuesdays when it’s free to play) while Tabletop opts to have a flat fee of $5 per player that grants unlimited use of all of their available games. Tabletop also offers an annual subscription plan for $25 that pays for itself after five visits and includes other membership perks. The Side Quest offers membership into its Liquor League and Beer Society that grants members only access to monthly tastings. 
One major difference between the two places is that while the Side Quest does not offer small plates, Tabletop does. Food offerings include the Avocado Bravado sandwich, a grilled cheese panini and Buff Chuck Dip which can all be washed down with a wine smoothie. 
Both venues have trivia nights along with various other themed events. Weekly happenings at the Side Quest include Mario Mondays, Anime Wednesdays and Geeks Who Drink. Overall, for those who are looking for nightlife that’s a little different than the norm, and perhaps even a bit nostalgic, board gaming may be that outlet. Roll the dice and find out for yourself.
Flickr Photo CC, Yoppy
…Because We Like Beer With Our Board Games

Who doesn’t love games? Who doesn’t love beer? Exactly. Whether it’s a game of Connect 4 over Long Islands or an intense matchup of Lord of the Rings Monopoly over IPAs, games just have a way of bringing people together.
Board game bars and cafes have increased in visibility over the years, and in the Cleveland area two popular spots are the Side Quest in Lakewood and Tabletop in Ohio City.
Both establishments charge a small fee for patrons to play their games. The Side Quest charges $1 per player per game (except on Tuesdays when it’s free to play) while Tabletop opts to have a flat fee of $5 per player that grants unlimited use of all of their available games. Tabletop also offers an annual subscription plan for $25 that pays for itself after five visits and includes other membership perks. The Side Quest offers membership into its Liquor League and Beer Society that grants members only access to monthly tastings.
One major difference between the two places is that while the Side Quest does not offer small plates, Tabletop does. Food offerings include the Avocado Bravado sandwich, a grilled cheese panini and Buff Chuck Dip which can all be washed down with a wine smoothie.
Both venues have trivia nights along with various other themed events. Weekly happenings at the Side Quest include Mario Mondays, Anime Wednesdays and Geeks Who Drink. Overall, for those who are looking for nightlife that’s a little different than the norm, and perhaps even a bit nostalgic, board gaming may be that outlet. Roll the dice and find out for yourself.

Flickr Photo CC, Yoppy
…Because the Brew Bus Will Bring You to the Beer
In a city bursting at the seams with local craft breweries — with even more on the way in early 2017, including Shaun Yasaki’s Noble Beast — there’s no finer way to take in the sights and suds than with a trip on the Cleveland Brew Bus. Ready? Let’s go. 
We took a spin on the Brew Bus in 2016, stopping by Platform Beer Co., Market Garden Brewery and Portside Distillery as part of a weekend-long bachelor party in this, the greatest city on Earth. Let us be clear: This is a super fun way to augment any bachelor or bachelorette party, pre-Indians game get-together, having-friends-in-from-out-of-town-for-the-weekend weekend or for practically any reason at all. Beer is good, and buses need all the support they can get in this city. 
The Brew Bus offers 11 tours, ranging from Cleveland Classics to Hidden Gems and points east, west and south. For a $60 ticket price, you’ll sample 12 beers and get a behind-the-scenes look at how the brewing world works in Cleveland. (The tour will pause for a while at one of the stops for a meal, either brunch, lunch or dinner.)
…Because the Brew Bus Will Bring You to the Beer

In a city bursting at the seams with local craft breweries — with even more on the way in early 2017, including Shaun Yasaki’s Noble Beast — there’s no finer way to take in the sights and suds than with a trip on the Cleveland Brew Bus. Ready? Let’s go.
We took a spin on the Brew Bus in 2016, stopping by Platform Beer Co., Market Garden Brewery and Portside Distillery as part of a weekend-long bachelor party in this, the greatest city on Earth. Let us be clear: This is a super fun way to augment any bachelor or bachelorette party, pre-Indians game get-together, having-friends-in-from-out-of-town-for-the-weekend weekend or for practically any reason at all. Beer is good, and buses need all the support they can get in this city.
The Brew Bus offers 11 tours, ranging from Cleveland Classics to Hidden Gems and points east, west and south. For a $60 ticket price, you’ll sample 12 beers and get a behind-the-scenes look at how the brewing world works in Cleveland. (The tour will pause for a while at one of the stops for a meal, either brunch, lunch or dinner.)
…Because Brews and Prose
On the first Tuesday of every month, Market Garden hosts a popular literary reading series where you can see local and national writers read pieces of their work while enjoying a delightful local microbrew from MGB. Brews and Prose’s motto, “Literature is always better with beer,” aptly describes the fun environment of the reading series and we’d add that storytime is always better when the authors themselves are there to tell and explain the story. Brews and Prose has worked with the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program to bring in emerging writers, as well as having local staples like Dan Chaon, Kevin Keating and Thrity Umrigar stop by. In addition, writers from out of town who have achieved national prominence like Eleanor Henderson (Ten Thousand Saints) and Chigozie Obioma (The Fishermen) have traveled to Cleveland to read at this series. 
These days it’s not unheard of to find 200 or so people packed into Market Garden’s basement for the festivities. It’s the kind of thing founder and emcee Dave Lucas, who’s been recognized by the Cleveland Arts Prize and the county’s Creative Workforce Fellowship, might or might not have imagined when this all started, but one that he nevertheless can be proud of. Brews and Prose has now had more than 50 readings and celebrated its fourth anniversary last year, growing from a small, loyal literary fanbase to a more general and broad audience. 
“If you think about the Founding Fathers, when they formed this country, their meetings all took place in pubs and taverns. I think this is a modern-day equivalent of that,” said MGB founder Sam McNulty in a story last year. “I think there’s an intellectual revolution happening with events like Brews and Prose.” We heartily agree.
Photo by Carissa Russell
…Because Brews and Prose

On the first Tuesday of every month, Market Garden hosts a popular literary reading series where you can see local and national writers read pieces of their work while enjoying a delightful local microbrew from MGB. Brews and Prose’s motto, “Literature is always better with beer,” aptly describes the fun environment of the reading series and we’d add that storytime is always better when the authors themselves are there to tell and explain the story. Brews and Prose has worked with the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program to bring in emerging writers, as well as having local staples like Dan Chaon, Kevin Keating and Thrity Umrigar stop by. In addition, writers from out of town who have achieved national prominence like Eleanor Henderson (Ten Thousand Saints) and Chigozie Obioma (The Fishermen) have traveled to Cleveland to read at this series.
These days it’s not unheard of to find 200 or so people packed into Market Garden’s basement for the festivities. It’s the kind of thing founder and emcee Dave Lucas, who’s been recognized by the Cleveland Arts Prize and the county’s Creative Workforce Fellowship, might or might not have imagined when this all started, but one that he nevertheless can be proud of. Brews and Prose has now had more than 50 readings and celebrated its fourth anniversary last year, growing from a small, loyal literary fanbase to a more general and broad audience.
“If you think about the Founding Fathers, when they formed this country, their meetings all took place in pubs and taverns. I think this is a modern-day equivalent of that,” said MGB founder Sam McNulty in a story last year. “I think there’s an intellectual revolution happening with events like Brews and Prose.” We heartily agree.

Photo by Carissa Russell