A First-Timer’s Guide to Cleveland

If you’re looking to take a weekend trip to a small town with a big city vibe then Cleveland is the destination for you. The Rock & Roll Capital of the world features a variety of attractions including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Public Auditorium and the Agora Theater.

Rooftop view of downtown Cleveland.

Cleveland has experienced a resurgence in the last decade, moving away from heavy industrialization production and is now focusing on the medical, natural energy, and insurance sectors. The change has led to an influx of young professional residents, who want to experience the big city life, but at a fraction of the cost. Due to this development, the food scene in the city has expanded and diversified. The city boasts numerous James Beard award-winning chefs with restaurants and countless eateries.

For a great fine dining experience, visit Alley Cat located on the river in the Flats. It has been dubbed as one of Cleveland’s best oyster bars because of the lovely waterfront location and their fresh seafood menu. Also, check out the Marble Room, which is located in a historic old bank near the Arena District. Its rustic yet upscale location offers a unique dining experience with a menu filled with delicious options from steaks to chilled oysters. These restaurants are the perfect place to kick off the night if you are planning to attend a major league sporting event, concert, or musical.

Large arena where the Cleveland Cavaliers play.

Major Sports
Cleveland is the home of the Cavaliers, Browns, and Indians, which represent three major leagues in the U.S. You will know when there’s a game by the flood of fans pre-gaming at bars and restaurants. Plan your trip ahead of time and purchase tickets to watch your favorite teams battle it out on the court or the field.

A large chandelier hung over a street in Cleveland

If you take a walk on Euclid Avenue to visit Playhouse Square, the second biggest theater district in America. Currently, nine theaters host the top Broadway shows, as well as the world’s largest outdoor chandelier. If you want to go to a concert instead, there are historic locations such as the House of Blues or Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, which has an amazing view of the skyline.

Statue of James A. Garfield surrounded by stained glass windows.

Enjoy the Arts
A few other sites I recommend visiting are located in the University Circle Neighborhood. Grab a ride share and head to this neighborhood to experience a performance by the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall. The Orchestra is regarded as one of the best in the world and is part of the American Big Five. Nearby is the Cleveland Museum of Art which is considered one of the best in the country, and its free admission makes it a great place to visit for a budget traveler. Another great attraction is the James A. Garfield Memorial at the Lakeview Cemetery, and it’s free to boot!

Skyline view of Cleveland Ohio.

Following a concert or a game, head to the Ohio City neighborhood, home to the historic West Side Market. Near the market, there are upwards of ten microbreweries including the iconic Great Lakes Brewing Company. If you’re hungry, try the award-winning pizza at Bar Cento. Also, a huge plus is that the kitchen is open late. If you’re craving something sweet, only one block north is the best ice cream in town at Mitchell’s. If you prefer cocktails over beer, head back towards downtown to the 32nd floor of the Hilton Cleveland Downtown. You can get some of the best cocktails in town while listening to live music and taking in the views from one of the tallest buildings in the city. On a Sunday morning, take a walk in the Tremont neighborhood and grab breakfast at Grumpy’s Café. After breakfast, visit the original house from the classic movie, A Christmas Story.

Glass pyramid building with a large sign that reads, "Long live rock," outside of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame

Save it for a Rainy Day
During the rainy days, stop by these landmarks for a great way to get out of the cold. On the north shore of downtown lies one of the most popular locations in town, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Cleveland has been credited as the birthplace of Rock & Roll because in 1951 a local radio DJ named Alan Freed coined the iconic term. At the Hall of Fame, you will see costumes and musical instruments of the best musicians in history. However my favorite exhibit presents the original texts of all time classics handwritten- and hand edited- on napkins and notebooks. Another great option for a rainy day is the Great Lakes Science Center. They have an OMNIMAX Theater where you can watch a movie and spend the day having family-friendly fun indoors.

There are many things about Cleveland that are worth exploring.  We haven’t even talked about the beaches. Oh yes, there are beaches! Also, there are parks, trails, and the wine country, but you can leave these for your next trip to the great city of Cleveland.


Man in a grey suit with a blue tie, standing against a brick wall

This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Ivo T. Are you interested in traveling to Cleveland? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

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