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Cleveland Rocks!


By Bobby L. Hickman

Maybe we should blame Drew Carey, but that phrase comes to mind too often when many folks think of Cleveland. But spend a little time in northern Ohio, and you’ll find it is appropriate – and not just for the obvious reason.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is the main attraction that brings visitors to Cleveland. This is definitely not your father’s museum. Sure, there are exhibits and artifacts in glass cases. But these cases contain Motown costumes, Beatles collectibles, items from Elvis and Johnny Cash, and virtually anyone else you can think of. There are also celebrity cars, puppets from Pink Floyd’s The Wall tour, a Michael Jackson tribute wall – and all set to a soundtrack that never quits. The main exhibit (running through spring 2010), From Asbury Park to the Promised Land, centers on Bruce Springsteen’s early career. You’ll come out singing, “I know it’s only rock ‘n roll, but I like it.”

If you can’t get enough pop culture, revisit classic TV at the house where much of the 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story was filmed. The inside of the home has been revamped to replicate the original set for the beloved tale of Ralphie’s quest for a Red Ryder BB gun. The home recently welcomed its 100,000th visitor, where objects like the “Old Man’s Leg Lamp” in the window and the Christmas tree by the fireplace bring back memories of the holiday tale that has become a classic for millions.

The Cleveland MuseumNewly added East Wing at the Cleveland Museum of Art; the 1916 museum is at left. Courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art

Cleveland also offers more traditional cultural attractions as well. The Cleveland Museum of Art is known around the world for the depth and breadth of its collection, which includes more than 40,000 objects spanning 6,000 years of art history. The museum anchors University Circle, the most concentrated square mile of arts, cultural and educational institutions in the country. Botanical gardens, natural history, music, theaters and the Cleveland Institute of Art are among the many attractions at University Circle.

There’s plenty for families to do as well. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Rainforest features more than 3,000 animals living among 165 acres of rolling woodlands. The Great Lakes Science Center provides more than 400 hands-on exhibits, plus a six-story OMNIMAX theater.

The city is also home to an incredible diversity of dining experiences, reflecting the city’s wide mix of cultures and influences. The East Fourth Street district downtown is the city’s newest entertainment and restaurant area, featuring “Iron Chef” Michael Symon’s signature restaurant, Lola. Flannery’s Irish Pub is among the best in its class in the country, while Zocalo offers unique Mexican dishes. For dinner and a show, check out the House of Blues, where live entertainment often accompanies the Southern-style menu.

While there’s plenty more to do in downtown Cleveland, the islands and shores of Lake Erie only an hour north of the city provides a more laid-back experience. The area offers more than 150 miles of shoreline and several inhabited islands near the Canadian border which are only accessible by boat or plane. Jet Express offers ferry service to the islands, including Put-in-Bay, home to the 352-foot-tall Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, which commemorates Admiral William Perry’s decisive maritime victory over the British Navy in the War of 1812. For more on these islands, see our story on Lake Erie Islands State Park.

The main draw in the Sandusky area is Cedar Point Amusement Park, which offers more rides and roller coasters than any other park anywhere. Cedar Point has been voted “Best Amusement Park in the World” for the past 10 years. It draws roller coaster fanatics and vacationing families alike.

Feeding a girafee at Kalahari Resort, Sandusky, Ohio. Photo by Bobby HickmanFeeding a girafee at Kalahari Resort, Sandusky, Ohio. Photo by Bobby Hickman

Three of the Sandusky area’s lakefront resorts are also family destinations in themselves. Great Wolf Lodge creates a comfortable Northwoods atmosphere – along with a 41,000-square-foot indoor entertainment area featuring a waterpark. Another property, Kalahari Resort, boasts America’s largest indoor waterpark, including an uphill water rollercoaster where you can surf. But the real draw at Kalahari goes beyond the African motif: the property includes a zoo where you can feed giraffes and other exotic animals. For a quiet experience, visit Lakeside, one of the few remaining properties that date back to the Chautauqua movement of the 19th century. Since 1873, Lakeside has provided families with opportunities for educational, cultural and spiritual education and renewal. You can rent a house, camp, or stay at the historic Hotel Lakeside or one of several B&Bs at the resort.

Sandusky may not have as many cuisine choices as Cleveland, but there is still plenty of good food to be found in the area. Pike, walleye and perch are plentiful in Lake Erie, so many local restaurants focus on fresh seafood, such as the Mariner’s Club at Sawmill Creek. The Garden at the Lighthouse – located at the former site of the first Port Clinton lighthouse – is located in a Victorian-style house. The Garden goes beyond fresh fish with a varied American menu, extensive wine collection and warm, casual atmosphere.

Drive a little way from Sandusky and you’ll find plenty of other sites of interest in northern Ohio. A few miles away is Milan, the birthplace of inventor Thomas Edison. Or drive another hour to Canton and visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which provides plenty of entertainment for fans for all ages.

There’s plenty to keep families, couples and vacationers of all ages busy if you visit Ohio. You’ll come home singing, “Cleveland Rocks!”

If You Go


Cleveland Hopkins International Airport
Offers daily non-stop service from ten airlines including Continental, Delta, Southwest, United and U.S. Airways. Also offers direct international service to and from Canada, England and Mexico.

Jet Express – ferry service to Lake Erie Islands
3 N. Monroe Street
Port Clinton, OH 43452
101 W. Shoreline Drive
Sandusky, OH 44870
Phone: 419.732.2800 or 800.245.1538


Doubletree Cleveland Downtown/Lakeside
1111 Lakeside Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
Phone: 216.241.7437

Great Wolf Lodge
4600 Milan Road
Sandusky, OH 44870
Phone: 419.609.6000 or 800.641.9653


Indoor water park at Kalahari Resort, Sandusky, Ohio. Photo by Bobby HickmanIndoor water park at Kalahari Resort, Sandusky, Ohio. Photo by Bobby Hickman

Kalahari Resort
7000 Kalahari Drive
Sandusky, OH 44870
Phone: 419.433.7200 or 877.525.2427

Hotel Lakeside lobby. Courtesy of The Lakeside AssociationHotel Lakeside lobby. Courtesy of The Lakeside Association

236 Walnut Avenue
Lakeside, OH 43440
Phone: 419.798.4461 or 866.952.5374

Ritz-Carlton Cleveland
1515 West Third Street
Cleveland, OH 44114
Phone: 216.623.1300


Flannery’s Irish Pub
323 Prospect Ave. E
Cleveland, OH 44115
Phone: 216.781.7782

House of Blues
308 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
Phone: 216.523.2583

2058 East Fourth Street
Cleveland, OH 44115
Phone: 216.621.5562

Mariner’s Club at Sawmill Creek Resort
615 Mariner Village
Sandusky, OH 44870
Phone: 419.433.5985

The Garden at the Lighthouse Restaurant
226 E. Perry St.
Port Clinton, OH 43452
Phone: 419.732.2151
(No Web site)

2071 East Fourth Street
Cleveland, OH 44115
Phone: 216.781.0420


"A Christmas Story" house and museum. Photo by Bobby Hickman A Christmas Story House and Museum. Photo by Bobby Hickman

A Christmas Story House
3159 W. 11th Street
Cleveland, OH 44109
Phone: 216.298.4919

Cedar Point Amusement Park
1 Cedar Point Drive
Sandusky, OH 44870
Phone: 419.627.2350

Cleveland Institute of Art
11141 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106
Phone: 216.421.7000

Dinosaur exhibit at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Rainforest. Photo by Bobby HickmanDinosaur exhibit at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Rainforest. Photo by Bobby Hickman

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Rainforest
3900 Wildlife Way
Cleveland, OH 44109
Phone: 216.661.6500

Cleveland Museum of Art
11150 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106
Phone: 216.421.7350 or 888.CMA.0033

Great Lakes Science Center
601 Erieside Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
Phone: 216.694.2000

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial
93 Delaware Avenue
Put-in-Bay, OH 43456
Phone: 419.285.2194

Pro Football Hall of Fame
2121 George Halas Drive
Canton, OH 44708
Phone: 330.456.8207

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
1100 Rock and Roll Blvd.
Cleveland, OH 44114
Phone: 216.515.1284

Museum at Thomas Edison Birthplace Park, Milan, Ohio. Photo by Bobby HickmanMuseum at Thomas Edison Birthplace Park, Milan, Ohio. Photo by Bobby Hickman

Thomas Edison’s Birthplace
9 Edison Drive
Milan, OH 44846
Phone: 419.499.2135


Cleveland CVB
Positively Cleveland and Visitors Center
The Higbee Building
100 Public Square, Suite 100
Cleveland, OH 44113-2290
Phone: 216.875.6600 or 800.321.1001

Lake Erie Shores & Islands CVB
4424 Milan Rd., Suite A
Sandusky, OH 44870
Phone: 419.625.2984 or 800.255.3743

Ohio Department of Travel and Tourism
P.O. Box 1001
Columbus, OH 43216
Phone: 800.BUCKEYE

Top photo: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by Bobby Hickman

Bobby L. Hickman is an Atlanta area freelance writer who specializes in travel and business journalism. He regularly contributes to several local magazines, an international news service and various Web sites. To contact him, visit www.blhickmaninc.com.

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