Cleveland is one of those cities that kind of unfortunately (for them) gets a bad rap for a variety of reasons (the Browns, dirty river on fire, Drew Carey, etc.) and because I’m from Cincinnati, I must assert my in-state superiority complex by making fun of it relentlessly. To be fair, I had been there a few times in my life… but always for sports and the city itself was an afterthought. I’ve been to Jacobs Field a few times (when it was still called Jacobs Field), and to Quicken Loans Arena a handful of times for hockey games, but never really explored the city beyond that.
The boyfriend had never been there, so I thought it would be a good place to take a quick weekend trip for his birthday. Now, before you laugh like essentially everybody who knew we were going there, Cleveland actually isn’t that bad. From Cincinnati (or at least from my segment of the ‘burbs), if you don’t drive like a maniac (I don’t), it’s about 3.5 hours which is toward the high end of what I consider an ‘easy’ weekend trip. (You don’t want to spend the whole time driving when you’ve got less than two days of play time.)
Some of the highlights of the trip:
- Cleveland Metroparks Zoo: The first stop on our short trip was the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, located just south of the city. We’re pass-holders at the Cincinnati Zoo and go almost every weekend, so I thought it would be a fun stop on a comfortable Saturday afternoon. (Bonus: Cleveland and Cincinnati have membership reciprocity, and our tickets were half off! And parking was free, unlike at CZBG.) It was quite a bit different from the Cincinnati Zoo; for one, it was a lot more spread out and with animals sorted by origins (African Savannah, Australia, Wilderness). Unlike Cincinnati which has a handful of “houses” (cats/reptiles/jungle), they only had one indoor exhibit, which itself was a bit strange because it had cats, primates, and fish… a strange combination. There was also an awful deck walk thing that we didn’t realize we were embarking on until we were halfway through and figured we might as well finish, which takes you to the top of the hill where the cats are (thus, worth it). There’s apparently a tram that can also take you, but I want to pretend I don’t know that. The animal population at the Cleveland Zoo was nice, with quite a few species we don’t have here (kangaroos! wallabies! koalas!), but I still think I’ll stick to CZBG.
- Great Lakes Brewing Company: After being in the sun for a few hours at the zoo and 3+ miles of walking, we’d worked up a bit of thirst. Second on my list of destinations was a trip to GLBC. While we can buy some of their stuff here in town (and sometimes get it on draft), it’s always nice to go to the source. Downstairs at the brewpub is a cozy (and I do mean cozy) taproom where we had a few drinks before heading back upstairs to grab a seat in the (covered) beer garden. I tried the gose, which was surprisingly boring (tart, but flavorless), and the Elliot Ness amber (which I enjoyed), and we split the macaroni and cheese and house-made tater-tots made for giants. We followed it up with a walk around the neighborhood (Ohio City) while we had a bit of daylight left.
- USS Cod: Sunday morning we woke to a rainy day and the Cleveland Marathon, both of which restricted morning plans a bit, but we were able to head down to the lakefront to check out the USS Cod, a WWII submarine that served in the Pacific and is now sitting just west of Burke Lakefront Airport. (Sidenote: a Groupon will get you in the door at a discount, otherwise it’s $12 per person.) The Cod is only open May through September, 10a-5p for self-guided tours — and if you can’t climb down into the sub you should probably take a pass. It’s original to WWII and looks like it did 70 years ago, so it’s a great jump back in time if you’re interested in military history. I really enjoyed it, but it definitely reaffirmed what I knew already: nope.
- Lolly the Trolley: By far, this was my favorite part of the trip! Because we’ve enjoyed a few American Legacy Underground tours here at home, I looked for something similar in Cleveland and by chance, managed to come across Lolly the Trolley. For $20 a person, you get a 2.5-hour trolley tour around Cleveland complete with a guide who teaches (and shows!) you some of the important bits of the city’s history. I didn’t actually take many pictures, because I was too busy listening and taking it all in, including a surprise appearance by a freighter ship on the Cuyahoga that caused all the bridges to move around! If you’re ever in Cleveland and have the time, I definitely recommend taking the tour. It was the perfect end to our quick weekend trip up north!