I am back in my hometown near Cleveland, Ohio, for the holidays. Occasionally during my semi-nomadic life I have heard people belittle Cleveland as “the mistake on the lake.” I have a tendency to take that nickname a little more personally than I ought to. Sure, Cleveland has its fair share of pitfalls, but so has every city I’ve lived in. In defiance of such a crude attitude, I wanted to share a few places on my list to visit when I come home:
West Side Market:
The West Side Market predates the trendy farm-to-table movement by several decades. In fact it’s a relic of the era before the rise of mega-mart grocery stores. To this day, it reflects the ethnic diversity of Cleveland’s population; and it’s my favorite place to explore and expand my culinary pallet. (Usually by starting with the cannolis and working my way down the alphabet.)
Cleveland Museum of Art:
The Cleveland Museum of Art has been one of my favorite places for a long time, but now is a particularly exciting time for the museum which just reopened a big chunk of its collections as part of a long-time renovation project.
The collections are as splendid as they ever were. The special exhibition on Peru’s Wari culture has some of the most beautiful textiles I have ever seen. But the newly completed atrium made me a little thankful that I live thousands of miles from the Cleveland Art Museum. It is spectacular, and I suspect that if it were a little closer to home me and my laptop would be tempted to set up shop permanently and the museum would have a hard time getting rid of us. Did I mention that admission to the museum is free?
Cuyahoga Valley National Park:
I admit, I rarely find a park I don’t like. I may also be slightly biased because I grew up within a few miles of Cuyahoga Valley, but this park has the number one place in my nerdy park-loving heart.
If you go to Cuyahoga Valley expecting the same grandeur of scenery you would see in, say, Yosemite, I’m afraid you are going to be disappointed. Cuyahoga Valley also lacks the trackless wilderness of many of the glitzier national parks. There are even many native Ohioans who don’t realize that the park exists, or often mistake it for the regional metroparks. To some, these may seem like major drawbacks but they make Cuyahoga Valley Cleveland’s best kept secret.
The park covers 20,000 acres of land along the Cuyahoga River. It was originally created to protect the watershed of a river that was once so infamously polluted that it caught fire, but it is so much more than that. The corridor of the Cuyahoga River was one of the most important transportation routes in North America that was used by prehistoric Native Americans, and later an innovative canal system that revolutionized life for Ohio’s frontier settlers. It also preserves green spaces in a densely populated area, protecting them, but also making them accessible for a number of recreational activities. The real beauty of Cuyahoga Valley springs not from the superlatives that can be attached to it, but from the subtle way that history, habitats, and opportunities for education, conservation, and adventure intertwine.
And that is why all the little chicks with the crimson lips go “Cleveland Rocks!“