I recently retired and I am now checking things off my personal list of things “I want to do when I retire”. That list is ambitious, challenging, educational, but most of all fun. My wife and I accomplished two that have been near the top of that list for a long time. We went to Cleveland, Ohio. I wanted to go to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and there is a national park nearby.
Once known as “The Mistake by the Lake”, Cleveland sits on the southern shore of Lake Erie, at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. It had one of the most ridiculed baseball teams in history, the river itself actually caught fire and the lake was almost declared “dead”.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a vibrant, robust city with enough attractions to fill a week or more. We had two days [the first and last days were travel days]; we had to pick and choose.
From our home on Conesus Lake it was an easy 4.5 hour drive, with a couple of rest stops. We took the “Southern Tier Expressway” [I86/NY17], in my opinion, a much more scenic route than I90, especially with the autumn colors starting to show. This route brings you to Erie, Pa. and then on into Cleveland.
My ever resourceful wife found a deal that included a nice 3-star hotel that included parking, breakfast, happy hour [3 drinks apiece, enough food to make it your dinner, and admission to the Hall of Fame], 4 blocks from the Hall in downtown.
So what else do you do in Cleveland other than go to the Hall of Fame? We went to the market. Cleveland’s West Side Market is an indoor/outdoor market [which looks like a cross between a train station and a Gotham City villain's hideout] has, since 1840, served as an essential one-stop shopping place for chefs and home cooks, with dozens upon dozens of butchers, bakers, and produce-suppliers hawking their wares. It's also a place where you can graze on some of Cleveland's best street-foods, from sausages to gyros, pretzels, pierogies, and more.
About a 30 minute drive south of Cleveland is Cuyahoga Valley National Park and it’s free. We spent most of a day exploring waterfalls, wildlife, the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, local history and farmer’s markets.
After the park, and on the way back to our hotel, was a Hard Rock Café. We have been to Hard Rock’s all over the world. I collect the pins, and the T-shirts are a large part of my summer wardrobe. This Hard Rock is a casino, or as they called it: “The Hard Rock Rocksino, Northfield Park”. I was not impressed. They don’t allow table games, and I am not one for the machines, floor drinks were expensive and the food was mediocre. All in all, it wasn’t worth the stop, although I did get my pin, I passed on the T-shirt.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exceeded my expectations. We spent 6 hours touring the facility and could have spent more. I am a “boomer”; born in the mid-fifties. Music helped shaped our lives, and the exhibits document the growth and personalities of the “rock generation”. Highlights included seeing the guitar that John Lennon used to play “Hey Jude” on the White Album, being hung as a new exhibit [on loan from Yoko], being able to get pictures of it before the protective case went over it, while chatting with the staff about its history and how it got there. The multimedia shows included state of the art sound and video, the interactive displays let me trace the music I love back to their origins and how the artists were influenced to get to their own unique sound.
Cleveland is a city of surprises. A mix of old and new architecture, like the Cleveland Arcade, a Victorian-era structure of two nine-story buildings, joined by a five-story arcade with a glass skylight spanning over 300 feet, along the four balconies, to the ultra–modern Rock Hall of Fame. Entertainment districts, restaurant districts, a thriving waterfront that includes the Brown’s stadium, multiple museums, and recreation, round out the city. The restaurants range from high end steak houses to food trucks. We crawled the brew pubs, sampling unique beers and appetizers. As an added bonus, there was the excitement of the Cleveland Indians just starting their playoff run.
I highly recommend a visit. One caveat however, don’t go on a Sunday. We had a difficult time finding an open restaurant.