Cleveland Rocks

3275779727_24fc3df68d.jpgPopular culture has done Cleveland a disservice. Most of its references to the city are negative: Drew Carey’s “Cleveland Rocks” anthem did little more than reinforce stuffy mid-Western stereotypes; basketball star Lebron James is from there, but can’t ever seem to stop talking about leaving town; David Foster Wallace used it as the ideal-because-it-isn’t-ideal setting for his first major novel, The Broom of the System; even Dr. Seuss commented on the polluted state of Lake Erie in The Lorax. There was that unfortunate burning river situation (due to pollution) back in the ’60s, and more recently, this series of “hastily made” tourism videos, which have drawn over a million views on YouTube, haven’t helped. 

As we noted earlier this year, Cleveland is making strides to clean up its act. And you gotta love a city that doesn’t take itself too seriously, as evidenced by the annual tongue-in-cheek Burning River Fest.

But the one attraction that has me itching to visit Rock City, despite negative media representations, is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (pictured above), which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Interestingly, the celebratory concert will be held in NYC’s Madison Square Garden (on October 29 and 30), rather than in the Rock Hall’s hometown. And with the opening of the Rock Annex in New York last year, it looks like Cleveland may be experiencing some competition to maintain its nickname. In the meantime, click through the jump for a few reasons to add the original Rock City to your destination list:

  • A great option for a long weekend: bunk up at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Louis Penfield House, one of the six Wright houses that allow overnight guests (all are in the Midwest). It’s only a 20-minute drive from downtown to the house in Willoughby Hills, but you have to make a reservation to find out the exact address. Make plans in advance for this one because reservations fill up fast.
  • While in the city, be sure to join local chefs at the historic West Side Market for an authentic Cleveland experience.
  • Taking the family? Our friends over at Gadling suggest heading to Cedar Point this month for shorter lines and Halloween-themed fun.

Photo: diurba2332 via Flickr


  1. Dan
    March 10, 2010, 11:28 pm

    When does LeBron ever talk about leaving town?

  2. Samantha Fryberger
    October 14, 2009, 10:12 am

    We’d love to have you visit. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has a tremendous Bruce Springsteen exhibit on right now (and it will be up into 2010), so please stop on by.
    Other reasons to visit Cleveland include:
    – Theater (PlayhouseSquare is the second largest performing arts center in the world, but we also have Karamu, Cleveland Play House, Beck Center for the Arts, Cleveland Public Theater and more)
    – Arts and Culture (Our orchestra is consistently rated one of the top in the world. The Cleveland Museum of Art–which is expanding to show off more of its impressive collection–is free and they have a wonderful Gauguin exhibit up at the moment. The Cleveland International Film Festival (March 18-28, 2010) continues to grow and garner more attention.)
    – Dining (Cleveland’s food scene is really fabulous . . . no lie. Most of our major restaurants are indepedently owned an operated. You have to try places like Lola (Chef Michael Symon), Greenhouse Tavern (Chef Jonathon Sawyer), Flying Fig (Chef Karen Small), Table 45 (Chef Zach Bruell), Sergio’s SARAVA (Chef Sergio Abramof), Farenheit (Chef Rocco Whalen), CROP Bistro (Chef Steve Schimoler) or fire food and drink (Chef Doug Katz). Our comfort food (like gourmet grilled cheese at Melt Bar & Grilled, corned beef at Slymans or bread pudding at Great Lakes Brewing Company) is, well, incredibly comforting. And, because of our 117 ethnicities residing here, we have a great array of ethnic eateries (Mint Cafe, Phnom Penh, Sokolowski’s University Inn, etc.) too.
    – Pop Culture (In addition to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, we have a hall of fame devoted to gridiron greats, a museum immortalizing the cult classic holiday film A Christmas Story, several automotive museums, crazy good vintage and vinyl stores and more than a dozen major live music venues.
    – Family Attractions (Cedar Point Amusement Park, Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo + RainForest, Amish Country, Lake Metroparks Farmpark, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, indoor waterparks and the list goes on . . . Buy a Cleveland Plus Pass and you get admission to 10 major attractions at a savings of 30% or more, too.)
    As somoene who shows people around Cleveland regularly, I can honestly say that time and time again, first-time visitors to Northeast Ohio are pleasantly surprised by what we have here.