I’m about to offer a proposition. You might laugh, you might even scoff. That’s fine, as long as you finish reading. It’ll make sense. Firstly, welcome to the US. I’m glad you’re here. Secondly, come to Cleveland. Yup, Cleveland, Ohio in the Midwest. We’re at the very tip-top of the state on Lake Erie.
Besides all of the press attention listing Cleveland as a “must do” in 2015, take it from a local why you should come and see us.
1. We’re cheap. Budget airlines like Spirit, Southwest and Frontier fly to Cleveland Hopkins Airport. Plus, according to Cleveland.com, prices in Ohio are 11 percent cheaper than elsewhere (on average). When I studied abroad, I blew plenty of euros on my weekends abroad. Save a buck in Cleveland!
2. We get around. Our public transportation system can take you anywhere you want to go. It’s called RTA, and it includes a bus line, a train called the Rapid, and trolley service downtown. On the Rapid, you can get from the airport right into town for $2.25. (Yup, no expensive cab ride from the outskirts into the city proper. Phew!)
3. We’ve got a place for you. I would never recommend a city to a student from abroad if it didn’t have a hostel. The Cleveland Hostel is in the thick of our urban renaissance, nestled in the near-west neighborhood Ohio City.
4. Cleveland rocks. There’s so much to do here that you’ll have trouble fitting it into one weekend. Here are my highlights, broken into specific days for an itinerary, and specially chosen because they’re: quintessentially Cleveland, easy to find, and budget-friendly.
Terminal Tower’s Observation Deck (Downtown)
- What? It’s our most recognizable icon in the sky. Standing at 235 meters, the tower was the world’s tallest (outside NYC) until 1953. (Thanks Wikipedia!)
- How much? Ticket information is available here (at $6.27 each).
- Where? Get off at the Tower City stop on RTA’s Red Line. You’re in the Terminal Tower!
- What? A park jutting into Lake Erie with a killer view of downtown skyscrapers and the water; and a world-famous, world-class museum celebrating the history of rock and roll.
- How much? Voinovich Park is free, and the Rock Hall is $22/ticket. (It’s one of the few splurges you’ll have to make in Cleveland. Promise!)
- Where? If you’re coming from the Tower City RTA Red Line stop, you can walk here by heading east to E. 9th Street, then going north until the road ends. Or, you can take the Waterfront Line at Tower City, getting off at the North Coast station.
Public Square (Downtown)
- What? It will soon be a beautiful public plaza, accessible for pedestrians and surrounded by some of Ohio’s most beautiful architecture. That includes our state’s #1, #2 and #4 tallest buildings! I say “soon” because it’s currently being renovated, and the completion date will be sometime in 2016 before the Republican National Convention next July.
- How much? Free!
- Where? Right outside Tower City Center, which is the Tower City RTA Red Line stop.
- What to eat? If you’re vegetarian, try the Flaming Ice Cube Meals are typically under $10.
West Side Market (Ohio City)
- What? It’s the nation’s oldest publicly owned market. Step inside, and you’ll be surrounded by a grand old building, throngs of people with no time to waste, and food of all sorts. If you need an ingredient, you’ll find it here. A fresh produce market is set up along the market’s side.
- How much? Free! (Unless you buy something, which you totally should, but it’ll still be cheap.)
- Where? Get off at the W. 25th/Ohio City stop on RTA’s Red Line. West Side Market is across the street.
- What to eat? Buy fresh local, produce and pick up some rice or quinoa. Then, head back to the hostel across the street and cook it into a fabulous stir-fry. I did exactly this in Seattle at the Pike Place Market and my hostel there, and the veggies and nutrients were heaven to my traveling carb-overloaded body.
Settlers Landing (The Flats)
- What? A beautiful, riverfront park where you can lie in the grass on a sunny day to eat lunch or relax.
- How much? Free!
- Where? It’s one stop down the Waterfront Line from Tower City Center, or you can walk down West Superior Avenue until it ends.
- What to eat? Head up two blocks to Johnny’s Little Bar.
Edgewater Park (Detroit-Shoreway)
- What? A fabulous urban park next to Lake Erie with a sick view of the city skyline and sunsets.
- How much? Free!
- Where? You can hop off at the W. 65 – Lorain RTA Red Line station and walk north 1.5 miles. You can take a break at the intersection of W. 65th and Detroit at Gypsy Beans and Bakery for coffee and pastries. Or, you can take an Uber.
- What to eat?
Cleveland Museum of Art (University Circle) and Little Italy
- What? One of the best, most beautiful art museums I’ve ever been to. They have a period and style for everyone, and their recently renovated space is sick.
- How much? Free! (But I would suggest tossing a few bucks into their donation box. Seriously, you won’t believe this museum is free. It’s funded by a county-wide cigarette tax that benefits arts and culture.)
- Where? Take the RTA Red Line to the University Circle – Little Italy station. Exit the station and turn right. Follow posted signs (or use GPS) from there.
- What to eat? Head to Little Italy for pizza at Mama Santa’s and cannoli at Presti’s Bakery. Get there by walking up Mayfield Road from the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Museum of Contemporary Art (University Circle)
- What? Inside a stunning new space (which you have to see to believe!), you never know what you’ll find. Sometimes its exhibitions are quietly understated, often off-the-wall, always interesting.
- How much? Updated information can be found here, but ticket prices now are $8 for adults and $5 with valid student ID. If you come on the first Saturday of each month, admission is free thanks to PNC, but I still recommend dropping a few bucks into the till. Support the arts!
- Where? Take the RTA Red Line to the University Circle – Little Italy station. Exit the station and turn right. Walk for a few minutes, and you’ll be there.
- What to eat? See above regarding Little Italy’s delicious offerings.
Based on this itinerary, if you started on Friday evening, you should have time to zip back to the airport via RTA’s Red Line and be back on campus by Monday morning!
A few extra notes:
- Try to come when it’s warm enough you don’t have to pack a winter coat, which means roughly between April and October. If you like guarantees, aim for May through September.
- Day trips from Cleveland will likely take just that: an entire day. Amish Country, Pittsburgh and Lake Erie’s islands (like Put-In-Bay) are a couple hours away by car. Plus, Niagara Falls isn’t as close as it looks.
- Cleveland is very safe. Precautions taken in other cities are well-worth remembering here: don’t go down dark alleys, don’t leave without a charged phone, avoid deserted streets at night.
- LGBT study abroad students would be warmly welcomed here. Cleveland is a bastion of acceptance. All are welcome. I can vouch for that.
Clevelanders, did I forget anything? Future travelers, we can’t wait to welcome you!