I’ve always loved visiting Downtown, Cleveland Ohio over the years and now that I live right next to it I feel as if I know it on a more intimate level. I’ve seen it when it was down and experienced its continuous renaissance and am still a cheerleader for its success. In this post, I will share my favorite things to do throughout Downtown Cleveland so you can plan your next visit.
North Coast Harbor
The North Coast Harbor should be on everyone’s to-do list when visiting Downtown, Cleveland. It’s just a small strip of the Lake Erie coast but you will find a lot to do. This is where you’re going to get some awesome views of the city skyline, Lake Erie, and find one of the more popular Cleveland Script Sign destinations. There are museums like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Science Center, and our football stadium. There’s a lakefront park, volleyball courts, and a pier with amazing Lake Erie views. If you’re looking for a great photo-op, this is your part of downtown.
Where to Eat
▶ You’re not going to find lots of restaurants in this area but you can enjoy some Mexican food at Nuevo Modern Mexican & Tequila Bar built on the pier with views of the city skyline and Lake Erie.
What to Do
Here are some of my favorite things to do in Downtown Cleveland’s North Coast Harbor.
▶ Visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to take a stroll through music history in one of the coolest buildings. Some of my favorite exhibits are seeing popular artists’ famous stage outfits, handwritten lyrics, and other memorabilia from every kind of musician out there. It’s a great collection of music history.
▶ Get hands-on fun at Great Lakes Science Center exploring science phenomena, NASA, Body World, and other exhibits great for all ages. There’s an amazing six-story high dome theater with ever-changing movies you can watch all around you.
▶ Take in the incredible views of Lake Erie and Downtown Cleveland from Voinovich Bicentennial Park. Spanning the lakefront of the pier and includes a huge, grassy area perfect for picnics and relaxing. My favorite part of this area is the stairs – a huge staircase spanning the length of the park and make for awesome views of Downtown.
▶ Enjoy a game of volleyball in the public sand volleyball courts or bocce ball in one of the two courts open to the public. During the warmer months, you can do yoga at North Coast Namasté at the Rock Hall. There are always different events and festivals happening and you’ll have amazing views of the Cleveland Air Show.
This is such a photogenic part of Downtown Cleveland, Ohio here are some must-get shots while visiting!
▶ The Cleveland Script Sign with the city skyline behind. Bonus if you get in the shot yourself – have your friends and family join you for the perfect memento of your trip to town or to show everyone how much you love your hometown.
▶ Amazing Lake Erie views off of E9th Street Pier. For an added bonus, visit during golden hour and sunset to see the city shine and the lake twinkle.
▶ Views from the Voinovich Bicentennial Park Stairs – great for posing on, getting an elevated view of the lake, or really cool Downtown skyline views.
The Flats: East & West Bank
Back in the day, The Flats were the epitome of fun in Downtown Cleveland. Old River Road would be lined with cars and revelers ready to party the night away at one of the many bars and concert clubs. Since then, The Flats experienced a decline and a revitalization making it once again a top destination for entertainment downtown.
The Flats consists of an East Bank and a West Bank separated by the crooked Cuyahoga River where it connects to Lake Erie. The East Bank has new construction on its north end with apartments, a hotel, new restaurants and bars, and a new river walkway. The West Bank is home to concert venues, an aquarium, apartment buildings, and businesses. There’s lots of history here and it’s exciting to see it come back to life.
Where to Eat
East Bank Eats
▶ Collision Bend Brewing Company brewery right on the river’s edge
▶ 27 Club Coffee popular coffee shop by local musician Machine Gun Kelly, with lots of pink and very Instagrammable scenes.
▶ Lago East Bank Italian restaurant
▶ Lindy’s Lake House coastal eats, riverside
▶ Dante’s Inferno Flats casual Italian grub
▶ Beerhead Bar & Eatery so much beer – from 500 bottles and 40 on tap, something for everyone
▶ Punchbowl Social every kind of bar entertainment you can think of from bowling, darts, vintage arcade games, and food
West Bank Eats
▶ Merwin’s Wharf a riverfront bar & Grill with Southern-inspired comfort food
▶ Sainato’s at Rivergate one of our favorite spots for Italian takeout with pizzas and pasta
▶ Brick & Barrel a cozy taphouse with house-brewed ales and wine
▶ Flat Iron Cafe unpretentious tavern with American fare
▶ Music Box Supper Club American eatery and concert hall on the river’s edge
▶ Harbor Inn Cleveland’s oldest continuously operating bar since 1895, the diviest of dives.
▶ Nautica Queen Cleveland’s dining cruise ship
What to Do
East Bank Fun
▶ Play the night away at Punch Bowl Social with their 27,000 square foot building-o-fun. Games from bowling and darts to billiards and foosball. Karaoke, eats, and a killer rooftop deck.
▶ Take a dip, or dance the night away at FWD Day & Nightclub along the river’s edge, complete with a pool for ultimate summer partying.
▶ Catch a show at The Odeon concert club
▶ Walk along the river’s edge taking in the beautiful views
West Bank Fun
▶ Have dinner and a show at Music Box Supper Club along the river’s edge of the West Bank
▶ Rock out to your favorite band playing with the river as a backdrop at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica (or as us locals still call it just “Nautica”)
▶ Explore under the sea at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium nestled inside a cool, industrial-like building
▶ Take a dinner cruise on Lake Erie on the Nautica Queen
▶ Photograph the bridges, there are so many bridges and they look so cool. From a distance for scale, but up close for the details. (P.S. See if you can find the Leif Erickson Viking Head bust on the West Bank near a bridge)
▶ Find the replica Guardian’s of Traffic located next to an office building on the west bank.
▶ If you hang out on the Superior Viaduct that goes over the flats, you can get some incredible aerial views.
▶ Capture the old architecture and hints of the past on Old River Road, East bank.
▶ Photograph the incredibly long ships navigate their way through the crooked Cuyahoga River
Visiting Downtown Cleveland Ohio wouldn’t be complete without a stop at E4th Street. One of the first areas of Downtown that started to revive itself in the East 4th Street area. Full of some of Cleveland’s best restaurants and entertainment, it’s the perfect street for a date night or fun night out with friends.
Where to Eat
▶ Citizen Pie Roman Cafe for a yummy slice of pizza unique from all the other options out there
▶ Butcher and the Brewer Communal dining with shared plates.
▶ Society Lounge prohibition-era inspired speakeasy that’s not-so-hidden
▶ Zocalo Tequileria yummy Mexican food in a uniquely decorated space
▶ House of Blues New Orleans inspired dishes with a concert hall attached
▶ Mabel’s BBQ Cleveland’s James Beard Award-winning and Iron Chef Michael Symon’s Cleveland BBQ joint
▶ The Corner Alley bowling alley with American bar & grill
What to Do
▶ Go bowling with friends at The Corner Alley
▶ Enjoy a comedy show at Hilarities when you’re craving a good laugh
▶ Catch a show at The House of Blues for an evening of music and fun
▶ Eat dinner at one of the patios of the restaurants lining the street
▶ Buy all of the Cleveland gear and mementos at Cleveland Clothing Company
▶ The street in general is the best photo op. Every direction, every part of the street has something great to photograph.
▶ Building details – there are some really unique architectural details all over this street.
The historic Gateway District greets you when visiting Downtown Cleveland, Ohio, and is where you’ll find the baseball and basketball arenas as well as a castle and old cemetery. The restaurants are more geared to sports fan gatherings than fancy date nights or casual eats. This area also encompasses the East 4th Street area but I kept that separate as it has so much to it on its own.
What to Eat
▶ Barrio Tacos yummy, build your own tacos, bowls, and more
▶ Chocolate Bar some very unique desserts and entree
▶ Cathy’s Gourmet Ice Cream Sandwiches yummy cookies with ice cream in between
▶ Colossal Cupcakes get the cupcake milkshake and thank me later
▶ Taco Bell Cantina it’s not the epitome of fine dining, but it is a novelty
▶ Wahlburgers Who’s your favorite New Kid? Was it Donny? Mine was, and now he has a restaurant that my 10-year-old New Kids fanatic self would have definitely wanted to go to.
What to Do
▶ Stroll through Erie Street Cemetery and get lost in history
▶ Catch a baseball game at Progressive Field (or, as the locals will forever call it, Jacob’s Field)
▶ Watch the Cavs play a game or catch a show at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse (or as the locals still call it “The Q”)
▶ Check out the historic Grays Armory, a castle-like armory in downtown Cleveland
▶ Photograph the history in Erie Street Cemetery and Grays Armory
▶ Lots of nice architecture and buildings in the area that would make great photographs
▶ Photograph your favorite baseball treat while watching a game
Known to be the largest theater district outside of NYC is our Playhouse Square. Home to ten theaters, many restaurants, and new living spaces, Playhouse Square is a fun place to visit for dinner and a show, or just to gawk at the largest outdoor chandelier in the United States. Visit the official Playhouse Square site for more info here.
What to Eat
▶ Hofbräuhaus Historic German brewery & fare
▶ Cowell & Hubbard World eclectic cuisine with French influences
▶ Cibreo Italian Kitchen Delicious Italian
▶ Republic Food & Drink Contemporary American
What to Do
▶ Catch a show at one of the ten theaters
▶ Enjoy dinner at one of the fancy restaurants
▶ Enjoy outdoor fun events (seasonally dependant)
▶ Admire the biggest outdoor chandelier in the US
▶ Gawk at the incredible beauty of the theaters’ interiors
▶ The biggest chandelier in the US makes for great photo ops
▶ The entire district looks amazing at night with all the lights on
▶ Playhouse Square vintage style sign above the buildings
Once known as the Financial District, this neighborhood now mixes cool, new residential areas and is a popular destination for food trucks. This area also includes some of Cleveland’s newest hotels and residential areas and one of the coolest grocery stores around town, a major to-do when visiting Downtown Cleveland, Ohio.
Need a staycation or a great place to stay while in town? Check out my post on our NYE Staycation at The Schofield Hotel
What to Eat
▶ Bets part of the Schofield Hotel and some delicious food! They also have outdoor tent spaces for safe dining during the pandemic. I can’t wait till it feels safer to eat indoors as it looks so beautiful inside!
▶ Azure part of The 9 hotel, Azure boasts amazing rooftop views for cocktails and light eats.
▶ Adega a more upscale modern dining experience
▶ Masthead Brewing spacious brewery just on the outskirts of the Ninetwelve district
What to Do
▶ Visit the Heinen’s on Euclid & 9th – a local grocery chain built in the old Cleveland Trust building with an incredibly beautiful glass-enclosed rotunda. The most beautiful grocery store out there.
▶ Have a staycation at the new, stylish hotels The 9 or The Schofield
▶ Within short walking distance from Playhouse Square, E4th Street, North Coast Harbor
▶ Enjoy the green space at Perk Plaza
▶ Marvel at the variety of architecture from NeoClassical, to Modernist, to Brutalist-style, and take photos
▶ Photograph your brunch as you eat it in a cute little tent at Bet’s
▶ Visit the downtown Heinen’s rotunda for an unforgettable grocery store experience (look up!)
Cleveland’s Public Square
When visiting downtown Cleveland, Ohio you’ll want to make sure to stop by Public Square. This is the heart of the city and connects you to so many of the areas on my list. Newly renovated, Public Square is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the city.
What to Eat
Check out the huge list in the Gateway District which is nearby
What to Do
▶ Hang out in Public Square during the summer you can get some fun in the splash pool, or ice skate during winter when it’s transformed into a lighted wonderland.
▶ Visit the Soldiers & Sailors monument
▶ Chance your luck at Jack Casino built within a historic downtown building you might recognize from A Christmas Story
▶ Head up to the Terminal Tower Observation Deck for incredible views that span all of Cleveland
▶ The Fountain Of Eternal Life, is always a fun statue to photograph
▶ The new water fountain in Public Square – fountain during warm months, ice skating rink during cold
▶ The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument a local Civil War monument and memorial
▶ The Mural on the back of the Rebol restaurant in Public Square
▶ Visit the Terminal Tower Observation Deck for incredible 360 degree views of Cleveland
▶ The Cleveland Public Library and surrounding buildings make for great photographs of their beautiful architecture and courtyard
Cleveland’s first neighborhood and also a National Historic Landmark is the Warehouse District. Originally a residential area then became more commercial after the Civil War, the Warehouse District spans 43 acres with over 70 buildings with some of the best Victorian-era architecture in the US. These days the Warehouse District has found a balance between residential, business, and entertainment. Check out the district’s official website here for even more info.
What to Eat
▶ Camino Taco & Tequila for Mexican food
▶ Insomnia Cookies yummy cookies delivered late into the night
▶ Mallorca Spanish & Portuguese cuisine
▶ Cleveland Chop more than a steakhouse, according to their slogan
▶ Filter Coming soon a unique restaurant with a focus on sharing your experience on social media.
▶ LULO Kitchen and Juice Bar Latin American Fusion Cuisine and some very Instagrammable food and interior
▶ Tomo Sushi and eccentric hibachi
What to Do
▶ Party at one of the several night clubs that line West 6th Street
▶ Have dinner at one of the many restaurants in the area
▶ Get coffee and pink themed eats at Machine Gun Kelly’s coffee shop 27 Club Coffee
▶ The Lake – City mural under the Shoreway bridge
▶ The cool, old Victorian-era architecture of the Warehouses and buildings
There is so much to do and see when visiting downtown Cleveland, Ohio and these are just some of the highlights. I hope this encourages you to visit or if you are local to explore more and find your own favorite spots around town. Have fun!
Note: While the pandemic is still happening some of these locations may be temporarily closed or have unusual hours – look them up before visiting to make sure they are open when you plan to visit.