Best of Cleveland 2011: Sports & Recreation

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Best Beach

Mentor Headlands

With its mile stretch of pristine sand beach — the longest beachfront in Ohio — Mentor Headlands provides ample space for summer fun or seclusion, depending on what you're after. Changing areas make in-and-out easier, and hiking, fishing, and playground options supply plenty of dry fun too.

9601 Headlands Rd., Mentor; 216-881-8141;

Best Fitness Club


They're everything you'd want in a fitness club and nothing you don't need. There's a reason Fitworks has become the nation's top workout stop, and why Cleveland's sweating along too. Dozens of area locations make it easy to keep that promise to yourself.

Locations throughout Northeast Ohio;

Best College Team

Cleveland State Basketball

This one didn't end much like it started: The 2010-2011 Vikings stormed onto the national scene, ringing up 13 straight victories out of the gate. But after a setback to mighty West Virginia, the rigors of Horizon League play set in, and Gary Waters' squad lumbered back to the pack. Their NCAA Tournament dreams were dashed, but the fortunes of their all-conference senior guard remain intact: Norris Cole is turning heads among NBA scouts, and further bolstering CSU's growing rep.

Best High School Team

St. Edward

No arguing with this track record of success. In the current school year alone, the Lakewood Catholic school has served up state champions in football — where it took the big-school title with a 15-0 record — and wrestling. It's a good year for basketball too: The Eagles posted a 15-5 regular season record (including a split of four games at a holiday tournament in San Diego, of all places) before bowing out short of the state tournament. Also delightful for Eagle fans: Their Best High School Team title comes at the expense of arch-rival St. Ignatius, the most beloved school among Scene voters last year.

Best Place for Rock Climbing

Cleveland Rock Gym

Perhaps the only place in town that offers something called a "Crack Clinic," Cleveland Rock Gym is the all-weather answer for local climbing addicts. It's always a blast, and always safety first: Experts are welcome to come and go anytime, though newbies must call ahead to ensure professional help is plentiful. For advanced climbers there are competitive leagues, and for festive climbers private parties are welcome.

21200 Saint Clair Ave., Euclid; 216-692-3300;

Best Social/Recreation Club

Cleveland Plays

Would life march on if thirtysomethings had nowhere to play dodgeball? Thanks to Cleveland Plays, we'll never have to know. The coed sport and social club exists to keep young professionals active on the court and on the nightlife scene. With year-round leagues in everything from football to euchre, Cleveland Plays provides playgrounds for those of us who choose never to outgrow them.

Best Place to See a Game

Progressive Field

Take the basketball team out of the basketball arena, and funny how fast the thrill is gone. No such disappointments across the street at Progressive Field, Cleveland's big-time shrine to big-league ball. Even when the Tribe's not winning, the joys of nine innings here are innumerable: from the fantastic sight lines to the glorious peek at our skyline, right down to the hot dog races. The place already holds no shortage of magic memories, plus the promise of new ones every spring.

Best Road Race

St. Malachi Run

It's a dash held in dreary early March through the bowels of the industrial Flats. So yes, there is liquor involved — but also a most noble cause: proceeds benefit the hospice operated by St. Malachi Catholic Church at the foot of the Detroit-Superior Bridge. The 31st annual running of the two- and five-mile races hosted more than 4,000 participants this year, despite an assortment of wintry crud falling from the sky. Runners were rewarded with an after-party worthy of their efforts at the downtown watering hole McCarthy's. Indeed, the thrill of victory never tasted so good.