The lifeblood of Cleveland courses through its many thriving neighborhoods in and around the city. Following is an introduction to the hubs & 'hoods you'll want to get to know.
The Warehouse District
An historic stretch of former warehouses and storefronts, this downtown district features a fun-loving mix of upscale lofts, pulsating clubs, casual watering holes, and fine-dining restaurants within sight of Public Square and the landmark Terminal Tower. Summer is an especially good time to visit, with plenty of sidewalk dining, an annual Street Festival (August 7), and free, guided, walking tours of the Victorian-era buildings. On the other hand, if you've ever longed to see a giant penis walking down the street, the district's Halloween festivities can't be beat.
Located four miles east of downtown, and tucked between the campuses of Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals, this busy neighborhood bustles with energy and excitement. As home to the city's finest cultural venues — including the world-renowned Cleveland Museum of Art, and Severance Hall, home to the Cleveland Orchestra — UC offers plenty of ways to have fun, ranging from first-rate restaurants like Sergio's and L'Albatros to winter ice skating on Wade Oval.
East Fourth Street
Once the turf of panhandlers and wig shoppers, this short downtown alleyway has been transformed into an action-packed block of bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues, along with some of the most coveted condos in Cleveland. Among the don't-miss destinations drawing visitors to the street, you'll find a comedy club, a bowling alley slash martini bar, the House of Blues, and Michael "Iron Chef" Symon's flagship restaurant, Lola. While the fun continues year 'round, summer finds the street decked out in alfresco patios and overflowing with flower baskets, making it one of the top spots for people watching in the city.
Yuppies, hippies, college students, and elderly Russian immigrants are all part of the strange parade that calls itself Coventry Village. While the Cleveland Heights 'hood has been a magnet for free thinkers since back in the 1960s, its countercultural spirit lives on in places like Tommy's, a landmark restaurant catering to carnivores and vegans alike, and in Big Fun, a retro toy store where you can nab anything from a whoopee cushion to a vintage G.I. Joe. Summertime brings Thursday-night movies to P.E.A.C.E. Park.
North Coast Harbor
Situated on the shore of Lake Erie, this district is known for its rock and roll, science, and football. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum brings legendary rock stars and countless tourists to the city that coined the term rock & roll. Next-door is the Great Lakes Science Center, Goodtime III sightseeing boat, and Cleveland Browns Stadium. The waterfront also hosts regular tall ship visits, and it's the permanent residence of the enormous steamship William G. Mather and the World War II submarine USS Cod, both of which are open regularly for tours.
Built on the parking lot of a former produce market, this downtown neighborhood is now home to an ever-abundant crowd of Cleveland sports fans. With baseball, basketball, hockey, football, and concerts on the bill at Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena, fans pour into the streets year 'round. Grab a beer at Flannery's, Nick's Sports Corner, or any of a handful of other hotspots before or after the game.
Gordon Square Arts District
Cleveland's newest emerging neighborhood, this West Side hub offers an up-and-coming combo of art, entertainment, and affordable residential options. Anchors include the experimental-leaning Cleveland Public Theatre, the recently restored Capital Theatre movie house, and one-of-a-kind eateries like contemporary Luxe Kitchen, Stone Mad Irish pub, and Sweet Moses, a retro soda fountain and candy store. Meantime, places like the burgeoning 78th Street Studios provide gallery and workspace for many of the city's artists.
Waterloo Arts District
Perhaps best known as home to the Beachland Ballroom & Tavern, this short strip of cafes, galleries, tattoo parlors, and vinyl shops has grown into a lively destination for arts and entertainment, with a retro vibe and a rock & roll attitude. Situated in the shadow of I-90 on the eastern outskirts of town, the district is also home to Arts Collinwood, a civic-minded hub for local artists and community activitists, and the annual Waterloo Arts Fest, a lively block party that brings together art, music, and eats; this year's edition happens on Saturday, June 25.
Vibrant and growing, this ecumenical community just east of downtown boasts a great collection of Asian restaurants, markets, and shops, making it the go-to destination for everything from Vietnamese pho and bahn mi sandwiches to "lucky" bamboo plants, wind chimes, and other feng shui essentials. During Chinese New Year celebrations, lion dances abound; any time, weekend dim sum at Li Wah and Bo Loong Chinese restaurants draw in plenty of locals, including many from among the hundreds of artists who call this 'hood their home.
Once the home of steel mills and ships, this 'hood is enjoying a state of revival, with family-friendly Wendy Park now occupying Whiskey Island and plans for a casino and aquarium on the horizon. For now it's home to the Nautica Queen cruise ship and Nautica Entertainment Complex on the west bank, featuring regular rock concerts and other events at 5,000-seat Jacobs Pavilion. Although the east bank is under construction, the west bank is lively with the venerable dining and nightspot Shooters on the Water, and the renowned Improv comedy club, which relocated this year to the historic Sugar Warehouse. Just inland up the Cuyahoga River, Rivergate Park and Hart Crane Park are emerging hubs for rowing, skateboarding, and other waterfront fun.
Boosters like to call Tremont "the small town in the heart of the city," and not without reason: This urban'hood just west of downtown is best appreciated for its blend of galleries, bars, and first-rate restaurants, along with housing options that range from the modest homes of former steelworkers to soaring contemporary condos and renovated lofts. Anchored by expansive Lincoln Park — home to a variety of outdoor activities — Tremont is graced with tree-lined streets, trendy boutiques, bakeries, and brunch options, giving it a true small-town feel. And don't miss the popular Art Walks held on the second Friday of each month.
Shaker Square and Larchmere
Few neighborhoods offer so much history compressed into so compact a district as circa-1929 Shaker Square, the second-oldest shopping stop in the nation, built near land once farmed by the North Union community of Shakers. Today, the revitalized square is lined with independently owned restaurants, cafes, shops, and a movie house. During warm weather, it's also home to the North Union Farmers Market, a Saturday-morning street fair that brings a unique assortment of locally grown produce, artisanal foodstuffs, and handcrafted wares to the Square from 8 a.m. to noon. One block north of the Square, you'll find the equally welcoming Larchmere Boulevard, Cleveland's largest arts and antiques district, with galleries, bookstores, and more dining options.
Centered along Euclid Avenue between East 14th and East 17th streets is the largest performing arts district outside the Big Apple: home to eight venues hosting an endless lineup of plays, concerts, operas, dance, comics, lecturers, and Broadway companies. The "stars" of this particular show are the Palace, State, Ohio, Allen, and Hanna theaters, five circa-1920s movie houses that were saved from the wrecking ball in the 1970s and have been painstakingly restored and repurposed as state-of-the-art performance spaces. This year's Broadway Series kicks off October 11 with the smash-hit musical Million Dollar Quartet.
This suburb might as well be considered a Cleveland neighborhood, sitting just five miles from downtown and offering a blend of vintage architecture and rich city nightlife. The residential community ranges from simple homes to luxury condos complemented by the hustle and bustle of renovated Detroit Avenue. With Cleveland's skyline in view, Lakewood is home to gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches from Melt, the gastropub Deagan's Kitchen + Bar, a Citywide Street Sale every summer (June 23-25), and the nationally recognized Lakewood Arts Festival, closing the streets on August 6.
Located just west of downtown, this 'hood may be best known for its boundless access to bountiful beer at semi-classy joints like McNulty's Bier Markt, the soon-to-open Market Garden Brewery, and of course the famous Great Lakes Brewing Company, housed in a building Eliot Ness is rumored to have frequented. But its heart lies in the venerable West Side Market, a foodie's paradise that draws more than 1 million visitors annually with its 180 ethnically diverse stalls of produce, meats, and baked goods. Also lining the main drag, West 25th Street, you'll find spots like the Garage Bar, Dragonfly, and Ohio City Burrito; and don't miss the 2011 Open Air in Market Square season, every Saturday through September 3.
It was once the spot for work-hungry immigrants, but this historic district has been transformed into a culinary and artistic hub accented with the aroma of Italian life. Adjacent to University Circle, Little Italy flourishes with Italian restaurants offering authentic tastes of the homeland. Don't forget the famous Art Walks thrice yearly (June, October, and December), Taste of Little Italy, and the Bocce Tournament kicking off in July with Notte Bianca, a night when restaurants and galleries stay open for late-night perusing. Every August, seemingly all of Northeast Ohio descends upon Mayfield Road for the Feast of the Assumption, with its celebration of food, music, and Italian culture.
This emerging neighborhood has a suburban vibe combining Oswald Kamms General Store and Post Office with the range of luxurious and affordable homes that dot the tree-lined streets. Just west of the city, the district abounds with an array of good fun, ranging from the nearby Cleveland Metroparks Rocky River Reservation, to a novelty comic book store, a smoke shop, and plenty of good eateries. (And did we mention the bars?!) Kamms Corners Farmers Market is becoming a staple of the town, boasting live entertainment and chef demonstrations amid the sale of fruits and veggies.