Does Cleveland Rock?

Shawn Braley
I was born and raised in Cincinnati. I have lived on both the West Side and the East Side. I have lived in rural towns (Blanchester, Goshen), the suburbs (Mason, Lebanon), and the city (Northside, Clifton). But I have never traveled the 4-hour drive up to Cleveland. Cincinnati has a rich music history with King Records, which got the likes of James Brown started, and the Herzog Recording Studio, where Hank Williams and many of the first ever R&B musicians recorded, but Cleveland rocks according to Ian Hunter. Cleveland is the place where the term Rock and Roll was born, and this is the story of my trip there.

After driving 4 hours to the northern city on the lake, the wife and I arrived at our hotel. The Groupon deal we got placed us in the outskirts of Cleveland in a nice town called Beachwood. Having little time that first evening, we simply went to the Beachwood Place Mall and felt completely out of place as poor, college students. We enjoyed the enlarged game of chess and the frozen yogurt at Menchie’s, though.

When entering a new city, my desire is to get a genuine feel. I don’t want to have traveled to a city, and feel as if it was just a trip. I really want to experience each city I encounter. Cleveland was no exception. We tried to make sure to hit Cleveland hot spots that said more about the city than the tourists. The only major tourist attraction we saw visiting was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, because how can you go to Cleveland for the first time and not go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

One of the most exciting things about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is its focus on Cleveland’s impact on music history. It is in Cleveland where the term “rock and roll” was first uttered. Such a genre title has become so expansive that it is nearly impossible to hear a song on the radio and not be able to speak of it as rock and roll in some way or another.

Anyone we knew who heard we were going to Cleveland for a trip always had the same question to ask: “Why Cleveland?” To be honest, I don’t know that many people see the value of Cleveland. I’ve obviously overlooked it for many years, but I think about how few people see the value of Cincinnati, and Cincy is a very underrated town for all that it offers. Cleveland, to us, turned out to be much the same way.

How can any self-respecting person visit Cleveland and not tour the Great Lakes Brewery? I have no idea, but we made sure to do so. The tour and the restaurant were one of the highlights of the trip. In fact, we went twice just to soak it all up. The food was delicious. The beer was scrumptious - yes, I am describing beer as scrumptious. Have you had Great Lakes beer on tap? - and the employees loved Great Lakes and Cleveland. This love for Cleveland was the defining characteristic everywhere we visited. It seems that although those who don’t live there miss out on its value, the citizens of Cleveland are very proud of their city, as they should be.

In fact, Ohio City, the section of Cleveland that Great Lakes Brewery is located, was such a wonderful place; along with Little Italy, it was our favorite area of the city. We had delicious burritos at Ohio City Burrito (we enjoy eating obviously) and delicious coffee at Koffie Café. Westside Market was a marvel, as well. The energy of a market like that is always exciting, but Westside Market’s size and set up set it apart from other city markets. While I kept from trying to compare my city with Cleveland, I couldn’t help but compare Findlay Market to Westside Market. I adore Findlay Market, but Westside Market may have ruined me for any other open-air market. The diversity of selection and people who shopped there, the beauty of the architecture, it just all came together to make the visit incredibly satisfying.

Living in Ohio, in the middle of the United States, can be a drag since we have no ocean. We have to swim in lakes if we want a beach experience. There are a few of these in Cincinnati, but obviously nothing like Lake Erie. We found Edgewater Park on the last day we were there and found it to be a beautiful area. The lake is so crisp and clean, unlike many Ohio lakes. The beach wasn’t trashed or dirty (though the bathrooms were... make sure you are good to go before arriving at this park). We spent a good hour or two sitting near the Weeping Willow Tree, on the rocks, as the waves caused by the boats crashed around us. It was a beautiful experience that many people miss out on because they miss out on the beauty of Cleveland.

Cleveland isn’t only beautiful, but it is able to fulfill childhood dreams. My favorite Christmas movie of all time is A Christmas Story. Found just outside of Downtown Cleveland is the original house that the movie was shot in (well the outside scenes at least). The house is decorated to look like it did in the movie, and for $10 you can take a tour, and plenty of pictures. You can also sit on the toilet and figure out the Little Orphan Annie code (“Be Sure To Drink Your Ovaltine”) or put on a bunny costume.

When we arrived back in Cincinnati, nearly everyone who asked, “Why Cleveland?” were telling us that we made the city look fun. What they fail to realize is that it had nothing to do with us, Cleveland really does rock.