1. We’re Diverse City, Ohio. Cleveland has the twelfth largest Polish population in the US. Those Poles immigrated to an area in Cleveland, set up kielbasa and peirogi shops on every corner, and called it Slavic Village. Like OPEC and its petroleum-exporting countries, these sausage shops might as well have been a cartel.
But you’d be guaranteed to get the best smoked meats around. Now, most Poles have moved to Parma – a city which I’ll espouse no opinion on – but the fading Polish signs on dilapidated buildings, the flags spotted frequently, and that one old man who wears a traditional Polish vest and teeters down Fleet Avenue daily, murmuring about Poland’s greatness, hint at what was and still is an entrenched culture in the area.
While Slavic Village is slightly less Slavic these days (but on the cusp of being revitalized), there are are other ethnic pockets thriving – and so many you’d think nearly every nationality allowed to immigrate to the US did so, founding some variant of a neighborhood.
I could mention Little Italy… but let’s talk about the delicious albeit sketchy-appearing restaurants in Asiatown where you can get top-notch Chinese dim sum, Vietnamese pho, Korean bbq and, maybe, cat.
I could mention West Park’s Irish strip, but you won’t and don’t want to remember the nights had there.
So your neighborhood’s got a Taco Bell and an Angelo’s Pizza and a gas station that sells Turkish cigars and you don’t feel like traipsing all around Greater Cleveland to get a greater whiff of ethnicity? Then head to the Cleveland Cultural Gardens on MLK Blvd, where over 30 public gardens are dedicated to the different nationalities that immigrated to the US, and you’ll get some semblance of an epic heritage all within two miles.
But listen. I’m 25 and in my prime, so I’m not usually loitering around Little Arabia off West 117th; I’m looking for more than just some mean shawarma and falafel. I want the finest of locally-brewed beers to drink as I ogle the finest of Cleveland’s bachelors, so I’m in Tremont, Ohio City, Gordon Square, University Circle, Coventry, etc. On those particularly cavalier nights, I’ll throw some Warehouse District in there.
And I’ll disagree with those who say these neighborhoods have become a refuge for a mass of convening, thirsty yuppies.
No. These communities are beautiful economic drivers for this city and a good time and I will never, in my entire life, have better french fries than those served at Bier Market where they come with the variety of aiolis that you’ll later have dreams about and dare I say, consider showering in.
Ahh, to be young and worldly and willing to cab it across Cleveland, is to live.
2. Bridgeporn. I’m not going to even get into it. Just feast your eyes.
3. We’re an epicenter of culture and intelligence. Claude Monet spent 30 years of his life painting that pond at his home north of France. He had this great plan to create a panoramic painting of the pond that would surround the viewer in color. But because we all have to share Monet, that didn’t happen just as he intended, so his works were scattered around the world: Paris, St. Louis, Kansas City (?) and Cleveland. But the fact that we have one of his Water Lillies – and some of the most celebrated works from history’s greatest artists, housed in the most visually-pleasing architectural specimen of a museum — makes us shine, and frankly, makes me cry sometimes.
The Cleveland Museum of Art is world-renowned. And even if you hate art, I’ll take you there, leave you in the museum’s café BECAUSE THEY HAVE MANY VARIETIES OF GREAT LAKES BREWING COMPANY BEERS THERE AND SEVERAL DELICIOUS SANDWICHES, and I’ll wind up needing security to drag you out; I’ll bet on it.
And the same goes for our orchestra, our theater, heck, our hospital systems, and hey, we have that Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that some people say is lame… but it’s the only ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME in the world!
And if you feel like getting into your car and driving an hour south of Cleveland, you can stare at the blingy rings of past Superbowl winners at Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame… but don’t mention the irony of it.
Oh, and we’re also the home to the “The Christmas Story House” where Ralphie’s younger brother, Randy, sometimes lives.
4. YOU CAN BE A MARINE ANIMAL HERE. Look, if you’ve ever lived in a landlocked area — sans rivers, lakes or even ponds — and enjoyed it, then you and I aren’t going to get along. Between Lake Erie, the Cuyahoga, Rocky and Chagrin Rivers, and all of those little creeks that snake through NEO, our water systems are more than just a source of entertainment. They’re the blood running through our veins. Sure, sometimes they smell bad, but they make our sunsets perfect.
My fifth grade teacher was convinced World War III would occur due to conflict from a scarcity of water. While it appears there are other political events that might precede that (HELLO! Kim Jong-un!), if the world ends up fighting over water and you don’t know how to purify water backcountry style, you’d probably want to be chilling in Cleveland.
Sure, you won’t catch 75 lb. halibut here, but you will do some fine fishing.
For no less than three months out of the year, you can enjoy fishing, boating and the thrills of water sports. Thrills like falling overboard in a canoe on the Cuyahoga River because you like to “rock the boat” a bit much. Or getting dragged through Tinker’s Creek when the 200 pounds of dog you’re walking spot a deer and forget you exist. Or going jet-skiing by yourself on Lake Erie in September on a Monday afternoon just because you feel like it (Shannon, I love you). Unmatched, guys.
So our river caught fire? So questionable items litter Edgewater beach?
It’s called character.
5. We have three stadiums within walking distance of each other. The proximity of the stadiums isn’t as much the point as the fact that we have three major league sports teams, something few great cities can boast. If we leave the quality of these teams and their records out of this, that’s pretty kickass. And if we take those records into consideration, then you get an understanding of why Clevelanders are some of the most enthusiastic, unfaltering and intoxicated (literally and figuratively) fans around.
*In all fairness, I have to dock points here. Our stadiums have become branded and that makes breaks my heart. RIP The Jake, the Gund Arena, and Cleveland Browns Stadium.
6. We have one of the most impressive urban park systems in the country. Look, I’m no expert, but I did visit nine National Parks across the United States last year. And while you won’t find the jaw-dropping majesty you’d see in the mountains of Montana’s Glacier Bay National Park or experience the closest thing to Mars while you’re surrounded by the geography of South Dakota’s Badlands, the simplicity of the landscape here is really beautiful. Our riverways are small, though quaint. Our deciduous greenery envelops the city, even though it isn’t green for long. But the evolving seasonal colors in these parks remind you of the cycle of life.
Sure, it’s a cycle that’s mostly made of eight months of winter, but nonetheless. And when you leave the breweries on West 25th and I dunno, exercise outdoors, our Metroparks have trails for both the Patagonia-garbed enthusiast and those averse to even a .1% incline. They have dog parks and plaques describing the flora and fauna and gorgeous winding roads and unnecessary trailside exercise equipment. Unbeatable.
Oh, and this park system has eight golf courses – golf courses that are well-maintained, employing the finest, least pretentious staff you’ll meet, with the most reasonable greens fees ever, ultimately offering you multiple opportunities to take out a gander of geese with that drive you just sliced.
7. Have you seen this skyline? Sparse, but beautiful. And wait till evening, when that pretty lady in the middle puts on a show for us.
I know, I know, I’m only at #8 right now. But this list is to be, and will be, continued. Hitting 100, my friends. At a minimum. Stay tuned.