Whichever end of the political spectrum you sit on, it’s easy to see why the Republicans chose Cleveland as their home base for the 2016 Republican National Convention. For the past decade, the former steel town has seen an influx of cash and a boom in new development, including luxury hotels galore. All those elephants need a place to stay.
Swanky as those spots may be, there are more interesting products of the recent renaissance. Consider the Cleveland Museum of Art, home to more than 45,000 works of art, including pieces by Caravaggio, Picasso, Monet and Warhol. But the cool factor here is the impressive interactive technology. The museum’s first-floor Gallery One uses 10 different digital interfaces, including the largest multi-touch-screen in the United States, which lets up to 20 visitors at a time explore more than 4,000 works from the CMA’s permanent collection. Fall hard for a particular painting? Scan it with your smartphone, and user-friendly app ArtLens will let you learn more, identify other artists you might like and show off all your favorites.
There’s more eye candy in store. Cleveland is filled with historical architecture—much of which had never been torn down or renovated due to the city’s longtime financial struggles. The silver lining? Many 1930s, ’40s and ’50s edifices now make unique backdrops for modern foodie destinations. Prosperity Social Club is one such spot. Set in a 1938 ballroom, the hipster hangout serves up comfort food with an ethnic twist. Try their loaded potato pierogi or a kishka sausage sandwich. Then there’s Happy Dog, a music venue, dive bar and resto in a space that has been virtually untouched since the 1940s. Created by James Beard Foundation semi-finalist Eric Williams, the hot-dog-and-tater-tot-only menu never gets stale, thanks to the more than 50 topping options. Top their beef dog or surprisingly delicious vegan version with things your mom would have never approved of—think Froot Loops, SpaghettiOs or Andy Capp’s Hot Fries—and treat your tots like nachos on speed, piling on bourbon pork ’n’ beans, pimento mac ’n’ cheese or a sunny-side-up fried egg. For a slightly lighter option, just dip the deep-fried potato goodness into one of their Tater Dips. (The top-secret fry sauce and Jamaican jerk mustard mojo are highly recommended.)
You might need a long walk after your dog-and-tot binge. Wander the arcades of the Gateway District, architectural wonders that were among the first indoor malls in America. “The Arcade,” once called Cleveland’s “Crystal Palace,” is now home to the Hyatt Regency Hotel, whose oval interior features ornate balconies, gigantic roof trusses and a gorgeous mix of oak, glass and iron. Less opulent but still sublime are the 5th Street Arcades, which include the Colonial Arcade, constructed in 1898, and the Euclid Arcade, built in 1911. They had lost much of their luster, sitting vacant for years, but a 2012 revamp attracted local businesses and took them back to their glory days as bustling commercial centers.
When it’s time to refuel, head to Ohio City, Cleveland’s unofficial brewery district. You’ll find Great Lakes Brewing Company, the first to open up shop in the area, Market Garden Brewery, which has 14 drafts to pair with the farm-to-table pub grub, and Nano Brew, a one-barrel brew house and test kitchen for experimental beer recipes. Froth aficionados also flock to McNulty’s Bier Markt, Ohio’s first Belgian beer bar, deemed one of the “Best Beer Bars in North America” by Draft Magazine (four times, no less).
A visit to Cleveland is incomplete without a stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, where you can peruse clothing, rejection letters, instruments and other paraphernalia from James Brown, Joan Jett, Guns N’ Roses and more than 300 other inductees. Now celebrating its 20th year, the seven-floor museum includes interactive stations, four theaters and rotating exhibits like Herb Ritts: The Rock Portraits, featuring stunners of Madonna, Cher, David Bowie, Tina Turner and Elton John. It’s on view until Dec. 31—one more good reason to pay a visit before the politicos take over.
– The largest theater district outside of New York, Cleveland’s Playhouse Square is home to 10 performance spaces.
– Haggle for meat, veggies, dairy, desserts and more at West Side Market, a century-old indoor food market filled with local purveyors.
– Cult film buffs will delight at the sight of the iconic leg lamp at A Christmas Story House and Museum, set inside and across the street from the actual house used to film Ralphie’s holiday adventures.
5th Street Arcades 530 Euclid Ave., Cleveland (216-583-0500) 5thstreetarcades.com
The Arcade 401 Euclid Ave. (216-696-1408) theclevelandarcade.com
The Cleveland Museum of Art 11150 E Blvd. (216-421-7350) clevelandart.org
Great Lakes Brewing Company 2516 Market Ave. (216-771-4404) greatlakesbrewing.com
Happy Dog 5801 Detroit Ave. and 11625 Euclid Ave. (216-651-9474 and 216-231-5400) happydogcleveland.com
Market Garden Brewery 1947 W St. (216-621-4000) marketgardenbrewery.com
McNulty’s Bier Markt 1948 W. 25 St. (216-274-1010) bier-markt.com
Nano Brew 1859 W. 25 St. (216-862-6631) nanobrewcleveland.com
Prosperity Social Club 1109 Starkweather Ave. (216-937-1938) prosperitysocialclub.com
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum 1100 E. 9 St. (216-781-7625) rockhall.com