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I saw your query for information on underrated cities in the U.S. for tourists/vacations and I wanted to throw Cleveland into the ring. I'm not from Cleveland, but my sister has lived there for several years now and so I visit at least once a year. I love going there, but when I mention I'm on my way to Cleveland I hear everything from, "why in the world would you do that?!" to "hopefully it's just for a few days." As we left CLE on Monday, even our rental car airport shuttle driver got in on the critique: "What's the best thing about Cleveland?" he asked. The answer? "Leaving." I couldn't disagree more. Sure it's not San Francisco (or Oakland, where I live) or New York City, but Cleveland - and the surrounding areas - definitely has its charms. Here are my Top 5 Reasons Why Cleveland Rocks:
1. Lake Erie
Water as far as the eye can see, you may as well be at the ocean. Sure the water is cold, but it's no colder than any Bay Area beaches. Take a cruise on the water, or hang out for a picnic or BBQ at any of the beachside parks.
2. The Fall Colors
When you think of the splendours of autumn, most people think of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. I know I used to. And then I visited Cleveland in late October and fell in love. Not only are the trees ablaze with color, but this is a town that loves Halloween.
3. The Food & Beer
When most people think of Cleveland they think of deep fried fatty foods. And that would be correct. But there's a food renaissance going on in Cleveland that most people don't hear about. In fact, the co-author of the French Laundry cook book, Michael Ruhlman, lives in Cleveland. He could live in Napa - or anywhere really - but he doesn't. Michael Symon, the newest Iron Chef and acclaimed meat guy? Cleveland. And let's not forget beautiful and historic Westside Market and its bounty of fresh produce and locally and sustainably raised meats. And I'd be remiss if I didn't call out the wonderful concoctions brewed by the Great Lakes Brewing Company, which is conveniently located near the Westside Market. This past weekend we had the Holy Moses White Ale and Lake Erie Monster and enjoyed both. The LEM is as good as any IPA on the market today.
4. Music City, USA
Sure, other cities are more well known for their music scenes - Austin, Memphis, Nashville - but only Cleveland has the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and its exhibits on the history of music. Whether its an exhibit on women in rock, or the history and evolution of blues, bluegrass, and R&B, no other place in the country has more educational material around the history of rock & roll. It's location? Right on the banks of Lake Erie.
5. Roller Coasters!
Of all the amusement parks across the country, Cedar Point (outside of Cleveland in Sandusky, Ohio) has been consistently voted one of the best amusement parks in the country, with the the best coasters around - the park's Millenium Force broke 10 world records when it opened in 2000 and in 2008 (?) was named the world's best steel coaster. But it's not all about coasters. Having visited this weekend with a five year old and a two year old in tow, I can tell you the park is equally suited for families. We spent eight fun-filled hours switching between coasters, other thrill rides, and kiddie rides and never felt like we were losing out. Unlike some parks that put a kids section off to the corner where you're forced to stay for the day, Cedar Park does a great job of integrating smaller, friendlier rides with those that thrill seekers will love as well. Having grown up on Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, and Six Flags Magic Mountain I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Cedar Point just might be my favorite amusement park. And its location? Right on the scenic shores of Lake Erie.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you'd like any additional information I'd be happy to provide what I can. Again, I don't live there but Cleveland is a city that gets a really bad rap because of the economy and joblessness, but it's not hopeless. In fact, Cleveland reminds me a bit of Oakland - another beleaguered city going through its own renaissance - that I'd love to see it praised for what's right about it instead of perpetually put down.