Midwest Living Review
Fifteen years have passed since Cleveland's main tourist attraction, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, opened in 1995 along Lake Erie, and much has changed in this city of 500,000 since then. Downtown continues to impress with its array of architectural styles and sports venues for major league baseball's Indians, the NBA's Cavaliers and the NFL's Browns. The sparkling Tower City Center offers shopping, restaurants and a reopened observation deck on the 42nd floor that gives visitors a sweeping view of the region. East 4th Street buzzes with nightlife, thanks to Iron Chef Michael Symon's Lola bistro and a half-dozen other bars and restaurants outfitted with plenty of patio tables. A handful of delightfully quirky neighborhoods also gives Clevelanders and their guests cool places to explore, whether they are East Siders or West Siders. First, the East Side. Though it's only about three blocks long, Little Italy oozes old-world charm, with competing Italian bakeries and restaurants straddling Mayfield Road. Visit on a Saturday night, and you'll see dozens of dressed-up couples coming to and from dinner, with the scent of garlic and recorded Italian love songs floating out into the street. Ten minutes away in British-influenced Coventry, a hipster crowd visits the storied Big Fun shop to marvel at the amazing array of circa 1980s toys and games before hitting Tommy's two doors down for milk shakes, legendary burgers and vegetarian diner food. Then, the West Side. In Ohio City, the West Side Market will mark its 100th anniversary in 2012, continuing to sell produce and Eastern European foods in a vast building stuffed with vendor stands. A few blocks away, a new urban garden tended by public-housing residents fuels some of Cleveland's finest restaurants. And in Tremont, bungalows that have belonged in the same families for generations stand alongside empty foreclosures -- along with small new chef-owned restaurants and a sweets shop that recommends wine and beer pairings with each handmade piece of chocolate. Add all of this to the impressive Metroparks system that rings the city (and Cuyahoga Valley National Park south of Cleveland), and visitors will be left wondering how they can possibly fit it all in.