Honestly, if I weren’t so obsessed with Cincinnati, I’d probably live in Cleveland. The 216 is packed with scenic parks, good eats, late-night hangouts, pro-grade sports teams, and more. And don’t forget about Lake Erie. It’s no Gulf Coast, but some of its beaches even have sand! All of this almost makes up for the fact Cleveland doesn’t have Kroger. Even Kroger-less, The Land is the place to be right now—or at least visit if you’re too stubborn to relocate. Plus, it’s only a four-hour drive from the Queen City—the perfect weekend getaway destination.
Where to stay
Cleveland is by no means small. While there are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore across its east and west sides, choose a hotel or Airbnb near East Fourth Street in the heart of downtown. Around the corner from Pubic Square and between Euclid and Prospect avenues, this pedestrian-only strip is neatly lined with restaurants, bars, and entertainment. Fill up at Lola Bistro (new American) and Mabel’s BBQ, both headed by Chef Michael Symon (of Iron Chef), and laugh your head off at Hilarities 4th Street Theatre, Cleveland’s Carnegie Hall of comedy. It’s cute as heck, too. Strings of twinkling lights connect the buildings on both sides, dining patios spill into the street, and fresh flowers overflow from standing baskets. A night out on East Fourth will make you feel like you’re anywhere but the Buckeye state.
Where to eat
Let’s taco-bout tacos. Oh, and margaritas. People flock to Barrio for both. The wildly popular Cleveland-based cantina known for its build-your-own tacos, handcrafted margaritas, and sizeable whiskey selection grew from its flagship Tremont restaurant in 2012 to five Cleveland-area locations (plus a traveling food truck) today. The Gateway site sits on Prospect Avenue right off East Fourth Street. Coincidence or fate? For just $3 a pop you can design the tacos of your dreams, choosing from a checklist of fillers that include Coca-Cola marinated steak, shrimp with garlic cream, housemade chorizo, Thai chili tofu, apple jicama slaw, and seven different sauces ranging in spice level. Upgrade your tortilla for just a buck more: The Green Goddess glues a soft flour tortilla to a hard corn shell using queso and guacamole. The Stoner does the same but swaps the guac for chorizo. Too nervous to create your own masterpiece? Choose from the chef’s eight favorite taco combos. Between the tacos and housemade margaritas, Barrio is the real deal. Throw in their Día de los Muertos decor and never-ending, always-fresh complimentary chips and salsa, and you have your new favorite Mexican spot.
What to do
Only a 10-minute drive from East Fourth Street, Ohio City’s West 25th Street offers more spots to shop, eat, and drink. First, check out Cleveland’s oldest municipally owned market on the corner of West 25th and Lorain Avenue. Opened in 1912, West Side Market is home to more than 100 vendors offering fresh and diverse selections of produce, meat, seafood, baked goods, cheese, flowers, and more. It’s like Findlay Market but bigger. Don’t get too carried away with the sweet treats, though. Save room for a cone of Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream at its flagship store—just a two-minute walk from the market. Mitchell’s has something for every taste, even those who opt for sorbet, yogurt, vegan, and no-sugar added. Plus, it’s all made from scratch in-shop, and you’re allowed to watch! After you’ve had your Mitchell’s fill, swing by Great Lakes Brewing Company, Ohio’s first microbrewery, right off West 25th on Market Avenue. Schedule an hour-long brewery tour for just $5 a person, or enjoy some beer and bar bites at the Brewpub. Either way, your stomach will leave happy.
Side trip: edgewater beach
Back to those Lake Erie beaches with sand: Cue Edgewater Beach. Less than three miles from downtown in Edgewater Park, it’s a tropical oasis in a busy city. The 2,400-foot-long beach boasts 1,000 feet of swimming access, plus designated kayak- and dog-friendly parts. There’s also a fishing pier, sand volleyball courts, and nearby offshore hiking trails for those who’d rather stay dry. For people like me who could bathe (sleep) in the sun all day and don’t mind a little sand between the toes, Edgewater Beach is a tiny taste of paradise. Just don’t forget sunscreen! Lifeguards perched in tall white chairs give it that authentic feel. The panoramic views of downtown aren’t bad either. Once again, Cleveland has us convinced we’re anywhere but the Midwest.