Most of the words commonly associated with Cleveland — “hard luck,” “blue-collar,” “Rust Belt,” etc. — bear little resemblance to the town I’ve gotten to know growing up a half-hour south in Akron. Yes, the city’s sports teams have been historically snake-bitten, but if one sets aside all the Michael Jordan/John Elway/Lebron James-induced sadness, it’s hard not to be optimistic for Cleveland, with its assortment of unique museums and thriving bar and restaurant scene. Here are a few ways to spend your time during a summer visit to our northern neighbor.
For those about to rock
At this year’s ComFest, Van Dale singer/guitarist Joe Camerlengo ended the band’s set by remarking, “Listen to The Beatles [and] listen to [Saintseneca’s] Dark Arc and listen to nothing else and you’ll end up like me.” Odds are the local sparkplug would enjoy the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s current exhibit on The Beatles, which includes more than 70 artifacts ranging from the wool coat John Lennon wore in “Help!” to Paul McCartney’s handwritten arrangement for “Birthday.”
Christmas in July
Most people have seen “A Christmas Story,” the 1983 holiday classic that spawned oft-quoted lines like “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Now you can visit the home where the movie was filmed, which has been restored and turned into “A Christmas Story” museum complete with a classy-yet-trashy leg lamp prominently displayed in the window.
Fine dining to cheap eats
If your budget allows, spring for a meal at Momocho, the mod-Mex restaurant launched by two-time James Beard Foundation Best Chef-Great Lakes Region nominee Eric Williams. Start with the guacamole sampler (the smoked trout/bacon/poblano and jicama/pineapple/habanero/mint varieties are particular favorites), and then order a round of tacos to share (tuna and braised pork are solid starting points). For a more affordable dining option, hit up Happy Dog, where you can slather your wiener in toppings ranging from classic (ketchup, sauerkraut) to avant-garde (SpaghettiOs, Andy Capp’s Hot Fries). Bonus: the Dog offers a “Field Roast Veggie-Vegan” option for those eschewing meat.
Grab a cocktail, or go blue-collar with a brewski
Out for a romantic night on the town? Impress your date by swinging into The Velvet Tango Room, an upscale lounge that specializes in the timeless craft cocktails one would expect Humphrey Bogart to order up onscreen. If you’d prefer to knock back a few cold ones in a local dive, hit up Edison’s Pub, a laid-back watering hole situated in the middle of the trendy ’hood of Tremont.
Have a gay old time
The Gay Games, which originated in San Francisco in the early ’80s and have since evolved into the world’s largest sporting event for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes, take place in and around Cleveland and nearby Akron Aug. 9-16. With competitors visiting from around the globe to compete in events ranging from bowling to the triathlon, expect a festive, Olympic-like environment that should spill over into the city’s various bars, clubs and restaurants at the close of each day.