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Best Golf Course
It's no wonder that Big Met is among the most popular courses in Northeast Ohio. For one, it's centrally located, but the reasons don't begin or end there. If it's not the most challenging course out there, it is equally beloved by weekend duffers and low-handicappers alike. And because Big Met is run by the Cleveland Metroparks, the course is well-kept and light on the budget, an unmistakable bargain in a world of overpriced greens fees.
4811 Valley Parkway, Fairview Park, 440-331-1070, clemetparks.com
Staff Pick: Sleepy Hollow
Best Community Recreation Center
Westlake Recreation Center
This western suburb didn't screw around when it erected the city's rec center. Amenities in the impressive, vast complex include five pools, two basketball courts, a 13,500-square-foot fitness facility, indoor track, enough exercise equipment to make Jack LaLanne jealous, and a full array of classes for kids and adults. It's enough to actually make you want to work out. Seriously.
28955 Hilliard Blvd., Westlake, 440-808-5700, cityofwestlake.org/recreation/reccenter.aspx
Staff Pick: Cleveland Heights Community Center
Best Local Sports Tradition
If the Browns played football as well as Browns fans tailgate, they'd win the Super Bowl every year. The Muni Lot is ground zero for every smoked, grilled, canned, bottled, bonged, funneled, or dipped parking lot delicacy, all served amid a stable of rabid Browns fans arriving in custom-made Browns buses, trucks, vans, and cars. It's fun, it's raucous, and clearly, it's the best part of every football Sunday.
Staff Pick: Tailgating
Best Batting Cages & Best Mini Golf
Batting cages are an endangered breed these days, and those that remain tend to be fancy indoor setups focused on using technology to make little Johnny the next Albert Pujols. Thankfully, Swings-n-Things is still around for the rest of us. Because not only do they still offer the old-fashioned outdoor batting cages with clunky helmets and yellow balls, but they also specialize in putt-putt ... and ice cream ... and arcade games ... and go-karts. It's an easy one-stop date night, weekend outing with the kids, or an outlet for all that stress at work.
8501 Stearns Rd., Olmsted Township, 440-235-4420, sntfun.com
Staff Picks: Best Mini Golf: Swings-n-Things; Best Batting Cages: Fielder's Choice
Best Place for Birdwatching
From meadow nesters to woodland migrants and waterfowl, the Arboretum has it all. There are 13 trails ranging from easy to rugged winding through different habitats — and spring is the perfect time to catch a flurry of feathered activity. For beginners, there are early morning bird walks with the Cleveland Audubon Society through April and May, and year-round classes on everything from sorting out birdsongs to building birdhouses are bound to get your inner-ornithologist chirping. The website features an up-to-date list of bird bios for the winged creatures currently frequenting the Arboretum.
9500 Sperry Rd., Kirtland,
Staff Pick: Cuyahoga Valley National Park
The Wine and Gold are in the midst of a rebuilding project centered around Kyrie Irving and a bunch of youngsters, so who better than a guy with gravitas and a bunch of NBA championship rings — and a former Coach of the Year nod (Hornets, 2008) — to serve as their shepherd. Byron Scott made the most of every drop of his talent as a point guard with the Lakers, and he's doing the same thing with the Cavs' roster. Bonus: Unlike a certain similarly bald former Cavs coach, Scott actually knows how to draw up an offense.
Staff Pick: Byron Scott