Best of Cleveland 2011: Sports & Recreation

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Best Roller Coaster

Millennium Force

It's the one that changed the roller-coaster world when it opened 11 summers ago, and it's still the signature ride at America's signature coaster park. Though it may have relinquished a few of the 10 world records it set at the time of its unveiling, Millennium Force is second to none when it comes to ridiculous thrills: a 310-foot surge that gives way to an 80-degree plummet at 93 miles per hour. The park's longest lines still happen right here, and nobody ever seems to mind the wait.

One Cedar Point Dr., Sandusky;


Best Marathon

Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon

Hailed as one of the fastest courses in America, the Rite Aid Marathon has benefited in recent years from slight tweaks to its course layout. Last year it incorporated Ohio City and Tremont, and this year the action is slated to start and finish near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at North Coast Harbor — hence the tagline "The Cleveland Experience." Along the way, crowds from University Circle to Lakewood will cheer on the participants. More than 15,000 runners took part in 2010, and a record-shattering 19,000-plus are expected this year.

The 34th Annual Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon takes place Sunday, May 15. Learn more at

Best Triathlon

Greater Cleveland Triathlon

It takes a special brand of masochist to withstand the rigors of an international triathlon course — and in the blast furnace blaze of a midwestern summer, no less. Held each year in August, the Greater Cleveland Triathlon starts with a three-quarter-mile open-water swim at Headlands Beach State Park in Mentor, then gives way to a 23-mile bike ride through the enchanting burgs of Kirtland Hills, Concord, and Painesville. It ends with a 6.2 mile run back to the beach, followed by nine days of walking like a wounded penguin. Sound like your idea of fun? Welcome to the crazy club. This year's Greater Cleveland Triathlon takes place Sunday, August 7. Learn more at

Best Place to Swim

Edgewater Park

Nothing says summer in Cleveland like a Lake Erie dip in the shadow of downtown. That's as good a reason as any to settle in on the shores at Edgewater, where fun-seekers have been swimming their days away for generations. No beach better celebrates Cleveland — or sits so close to all the action.

6500 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway;


Best Pickup Basketball Courts

Village Green in Olmsted Falls

At a time when most cities are tearing down their courts or otherwise sabotaging them to prevent kids from committing the egregious offense of — gasp — playing basketball, Olmsted Falls remains committed to the blacktop. Thanks largely to their new hoops and smooth concrete, the Village Green courts, at the corner of Columbia Road and Water Street, are bustling most nights and weekends. It's where players of every talent level await your killer crossover or patented "I'll just stand in the corner and pass" move.

Best Community Recreation Center

Strongsville's Ehrnfelt Recreation Center

Steam rooms, saunas, a 24-person whirlpool, two swimming pools, a half-mile indoor track, strength training equipment, pool tables, and two gymnasiums: No, it isn't a high-priced gym or some highfalutin' spa. It's the community recreation center in Strongsville, where everyone from tots to seniors do their best to live up to their city's name.

18100 Royalton Rd., Strongsville; 440-580-3260;

Best Reason to Be a Cleveland Sports Fan

We Never Give Up

Remember that scene in Cool Hand Luke where Paul Newman keeps getting battered around the prison yard by George Kennedy, but stumbles back to his feet with a smile every time? Nobody ever said Paul Newman wasn't cool, and nobody says it about you either. Yeah, everyone admires the trophy cases in New York and Pittsburgh — but who the hell can stand their fans? Rest well in knowing that you may never see a title, but you will go to sleep with the sporting world's respect.

Best Place for Birdwatching

The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes

Our feathered friends can't read the signs identifying this urban oasis as an Important Bird Area and a National Environmental Education Landmark. Yet somehow they know that Shaker Lakes is for the birds. Those who watch the winged wonders have reported more than 150 species among the forests, streams, and lakes that make up this green sanctuary, including beauties like cerulean warblers, red-tailed hawks, great blue herons, kingfishers, wood ducks, and barred owls — often conveniently located along the park's trails or near the observation deck and visitors' center.

2600 South Park Blvd.; 216-321-5935;