The Heart of Ohio is in Cleveland

Genie Davis November 18, 2011 No Comments


Long ago I thought the Huey Lewis and the News Song “The Heart of Rock and Roll” had lyrics which espoused that the heart was in Cleveland. I was wrong, the actual lyrics are that the heart of rock and roll is still beating.

However, with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and it’s interactive listening rooms in Cleveland Ohio, maybe I wasn’t quite so wrong after all.

If you’re looking for a lovely city with much lake front to traverse, trees to stroll under, and much music – then your family is in for a treat in this once gritty, now very much revived metropolis.

Lolly the Trolley Tour

We started our visit to Cleveland on the Lolly the Trolley sightseeing tour. We’d never been to Ohio, much less Cleveland, and this was a great introduction to the city and its various neighborhoods. I had no idea that the city was nicknamed the Forest City until we saw the beautiful nature trails woven throughout town, the path of the Cuyahoga River, and lovely Severance Hall, the home of the Cleveland Orchestra, which offers family friendly matinees during the holiday season. We were impressed with all the green space and towering trees, and with the vastness of Lake Erie’s waterfront. The river, once heavily polluted, is now not only cleaned up but quite lovely, with public art works and paths along its banks.

Divided into East and West, with a variety of burgeoning art districts like the Warehouse District and University Circle, Cleveland could easily keep you occupied for many days. We had only a short visit, so the trolley served as a good introduction to the city over all, even areas we couldn’t explore as much as we would like to on foot.  Once off the trolley, we hit Vovinovich Park, whose green space is a great place to let the little ones run, before tackling some inside activities nearby, such as the aforementioned Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Warehouse District and University Circle, both of which contain many wonderful interactive exhibits.

The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland

The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Designed by I.M. Pei, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is impressive both inside and out. Much open space and light keeps the museum feeling fresh and exciting. While very small children might find the films shown loud for tiny ears, anyone over the age of three is going to be excited by the vast collection of artifacts, the music itself, and the extensive exhibits ranging from the Beatles to Women in Rock, Otis Redding, and the Music of the Midwest. In the latter exhibit, we learned about regional icons such as Detroit ’s Motown sound, and Motor City’s own Bob Seger, the Illinois jazzy rock of the band Chicago, Minneapolis‘ famous Prince, and Indiana‘s John Mellencamp. What did the kids like best? Seeing Stevie Wonders’ glasses and Michael Jackson’s bejeweled glove.

Great Lakes Science Center

Moving from music to science was easy, as the Great Lakes Science Center is conveniently close to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And it’s equally vast, with over three hundred and forty exhibits, many of them hands on. In fact, the entire third floor is devoted to hands on activities, guaranteed to keep the little ones, and their adult companions, well occupied. Favorite exhibit: touring the S.S. Mather, a Great Lakes freighter which once served as a flagship for Cleveland Cliffs shipping company. We also liked the outdoor live demonstration of what happens when you combine Mentos and Diet Coke, which we confess we’ve already tried ourselves in a parking lot at home. The exhibits were relatively uncrowded, even on a Saturday morning, and we easily spent most of the day enjoying them. When we needed a break, we went outdoors for a deck view of Lake Erie. Cleveland has more shoreline miles than any other North American city, and there are the boaters, jet skiers, and wave runners to prove it, along with pristine marinas and waterfront jogging paths. You can get a snack in the museum and take it outside.

Other Sites We Visited

East of downtown you’ll find more culture and outdoor beauty in the University Circle areas, which we explored the next day. We loved wandering leisurely through the Botanical Gardens, which include a butterfly sanctuary. We’ve seen this sort of exhibit before at other botanical exhibits in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. but this one felt particularly charming, and was lush with butterflies. Outside there was a rose garden and an herb garden filled with sniffable delights.

And near the gardens, is the wonderful Cleveland Museum of Art recently renovated to the tune of  $350 million, to provide a polished home for mummies, sculpture, and modern art such as Warhol and Picasso. We found it spacious and well laid out.

The Arcade in Cleveland Ohio

Light and fun to explore, The Arcade in Cleveland houses many shops and the downtown Hyatt Regency.

When it was time for lunch, we had our pick of eateries in Cleveland’s Little Italy, a short walk from the museum and Gardens. The holiday season finds this very walkable community holding gallery days and open houses at art shops and boutiques. But we were after pizza, and we found it at the appropriately named La Pizzeria. We had excellent cheese pizza and gelato for desert in this friendly and reasonably priced corner cafe. Try the hazlenut chocolate gelato for an extra rich treat.

If sit down dining isn’t for you, you could explore the wonders of Cleveland’s Little Italy, a food vendors paradise that’s been in business since 1840. We bought some very tasty muffins for breakfast from a vendor there.

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency at the Arcade, located in the heart of downtown in the historic Arcade building, which is a beautiful National Historic Landmark and easy walking distance to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Science Center. We found rooms on the small side, but friendly staff and the wonderful location more than made up for that. The Arcade itself offers shopping in an art deco building built in 1890. The glass roof lets in plenty of light and makes for a pleasant stroll even in the early morning before most of the shops open for the day.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling.

Tags: Travel Excursions

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