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Cleveland Summer, Now New and Improved

31 new ways to enjoy the summer months this year

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PHOTO COURTESY CLEVELAND METROPARKS
  • Photo courtesy Cleveland Metroparks

Summer is calling and you are poised to answer the call. You will sit on patios. You will go to warm summer Tribe games. You will leave work early. You will sit on the couch as the sun is somehow still out around 9 p.m. and feel bad about wanting to go to bed already. (Don't.) You will cook out, go to a concert under the stars, ride bikes, hit the beach, and totally get that beach bod in belated shape.

Or you'll tackle a portion of that bucket list and regret not doing more once winter hits, but that won't be our fault.

We're here to remind you to seize the summer, because this one is no run-of-the-mill Clevo season — it's chock-full of brand new things to do, things to see and things to experience. By our rough scientific estimates, it should, in fact, be about 73 percent better than last summer. So dig out the sunglasses, lather up, and get ready to enjoy what should be a glorious three months.

THE EDGEWATER BEACH HOUSE

The Beach House at Edgewater Park technically opened last summer, but it's new-ish enough to include in this year's guide. As the centerpiece of Cleveland's major lakefront park, lovingly designed by the architects at Bialosky Cleveland, it's a welcome visual upgrade from the damp mid-century structure of years' passed. The beach house is also the nucleus around which the Edgewater Live concert series, returning for its fifth consecutive season on Thursday, May 31, vibrates. This year, there is an exciting new addition to the Beach House: the Edgewater Nature Shop, (read: gift shop). According to the Metroparks, beach-goers will be able to rent standup paddleboards, umbrellas and chairs, and purchase towels, sunscreen and primo Metroparks merch. Speaking from experience, the sunscreen will be key.

STEEL VENGEANCE AT CEDAR POINT

Though the hotly anticipated roller coaster got off to an inauspicious start — a minor (injury-less) collision — the Steel Vengeance is still getting rave reviews from thrill ride enthusiasts and local theme park aficionados across the Land. Steel Vengeance has emerged from the shell of Mean Streak and is now the world's tallest, fastest hybrid (wood and steel) roller coaster. Scene's roller coaster correspondent called the ride "clearly" the best in the park. Unlike the Mean Streak, notorious for its viciously bumpy ride, Steel Vengeance remains unfathomably smooth, even as it whips riders to and fro. Starting at 205 feet, its opening drop is 40 feet higher than Mean Streak's was, and the ride clocks in at two minutes and 30 seconds, 10 seconds longer than the Millenium Force. If you haven't been out to Sandusky in a spell, Steel Vengeance is reason enough to get thee to America's Roller Coast.

JUDD'S city Tavern

Judd's City Tavern (10323 Madison Ave., facebook.com/judds-city-tavern) is everything good about your favorite Cleveland bars: It's a classic no-frills dive, where an attentive bartender — Dave Hridel, among the city's best — serves up drinks at the right price and gratis popcorn all night long. (We're partial to the $6 Tecate and Tequila, but with a prime-time happy hour from 8 to 11 p.m., Judd's won't break the bank.) Decorated with Cleveland historical memorabilia, Judd's evokes both an all-night diner and a watering hole of an earlier era. At West 103rd and Madison, it occupies an unassuming brick building and plants a flag in a no-man's-land on the west side. It's now the closest tavern for a huge number of residents in the Cudell neighborhood. Lucky for them, it's top-hole. We hear a kitchen's on the way.  

INFINITY MIRRORS AT CMA

If you waited in the digital line for tickets to Infinity Mirrors, the Cleveland Museum of Art's summer exhibit from Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, you won't need this blurb to excite you. Throughout its summer run, beginning July 7, there will be 100,000 timed tickets available. (Most have already been sold, but some still remain for mid-week slots in August and September; find them at clevelandart.org.) The exhibit includes seven of Kasama's spellbinding Infinity Mirror rooms and a host of paintings from various points during her 65-year career. The digital ticketing arrangement was the most elaborate in CMA's history and the exhibit is one of the most hyped. Along with Hamilton, it's the Cleveland cultural event of the year.

VISIBLE VOICE BOOKS

Visible Voice Books is now located on Tremont's Professor Avenue above Crust Pizza. It's a larger, more versatile space for the shop that took a three-year hiatus before it re-opened in the new location last fall. It has already integrated regular music programming and literary events into its schedule. Visible Voice can always be counted on for a solid inventory of leftist political material, contemporary journalism and world affairs, and books about music and cinema. That's all in addition to its curated literature offerings. The big change: Now that it's above one of the best pizza joints on the west side, you can grab a giant slice before you browse for your next beach read. Beer, wine, coffee and pastries are also available in the bookstore. The Visible Voice Loyalty Card is only $25 and comes with monthly freebies plus discounts and special offers.

The Who's Roger Daltrey with the Cleveland Orchestra

The Cleveland Orchestra celebrates its 50th Blossom season this summer with a huge rock 'n' roll event: The Who's Roger Daltry plays Tommy, arguably the world's first rock musical and concept album, in its entirety for one night only. Sure, Daltry and some of his Who crew are playing the show with eight other orchestras around the country this year. But to be clear, the Cleveland Orchestra is the highest caliber of the bunch. Expect a larger Blossom crowd than usual for this electric show under the stars on Sunday, July 8, at 8 p.m. The usual lax picnic basket rules for lawn seating will also change to accommodate the masses, and glass and overly large coolers are prohibited. Find out more at clevelandorchestra.com.

Wizards and Wands Pub Crawl

Not to say there's never been a wizard-themed bar crawl in Northeast Ohio before, but the new-to-Cleveland Wizards and Wands Pub Crawl takes Harry Potter, and his of-age acolytes, especially seriously. The roving event, which apparates all over the country this summer, stops at East Fourth Street on Saturday, Aug. 11, and includes butterbeer and much wizard merriment. Hogwarts' scarves and commemorative drinking cups are given to all dressed-up participants to use along the pub route, which currently includes Dive Bar, 2nd & High, City Tap and Wilbert's. Registration begins at 2 p.m. and tickets start at $15. All muggles are asked to purchase tickets at wizardswandscrawl.com/cleveland.

Alpaca Yoga

Doing yoga with a group of humans is so passe. These days, there's got to be some sort of furry friend involved, like kittens or goats. But alpaca yoga, or alpoga, is yet another option for Clevelanders looking to namaste with critters. Starting this month, the Vintage Alpacas farm in Brooklyn Heights is offering the practice multiple times a week. While larger than other yoga companions, alpacas are known for their kind and calming demeanors. Instruction is conducted outdoors as the animals move throughout. Classes cost $20, are weather dependent and run through September. Find out more at facebook.com/vintagealpacas.

Affogato Cat Cafe

Cleveland is finally getting its first cat cafe. Set to open in the heart of dog-loving Tremont sometime this summer, Affogato Cat Cafe plans to bring one of the world's furriest trends to 761 Starkweather Ave. Sip coffee beverages and chat with friends as dozens of cats roam around the open space. Connect with any of the animals? You can take it home, as the cats provided by the Cleveland Animal Protective League are all available for adoption. Kitty lovers can actually play a part in opening this cafe through its GoFundMe campaign. Find out more at affogatocatcafe.com.

Cleveland MetroParks Zoo Babies

Animals at the Ceveland Metroparks Zoo just keep popping out babies. And in the case of the nearly extinct rhino population, this is a wonderful thing. After an unenviable 15-month pregnancy, mama rhino Kibibbi gave birth to baby Lulu earlier this year. But she's not alone. Since last August, the zoo has welcomed a giraffe, red pandas and otters. Another female rhino is expecting a new calf this fall. Catch the infant animals on display now. Find out more at clevelandmetroparks.com/zoo. Don't forget that Mondays are free for Cuyahoga County residents this summer.

Jim Thome Hall Of Fame Celebration

On July 29, former Indians slugger and franchise leader in home runs, Jim Thome, will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. A few weeks later, on Aug. 17 and 18, the Indians will honor Thome at Progressive Field when they host the Baltimore Orioles. On the 17th, there will be a Thome-themed fireworks show set to highlights of Thome's career. On Saturday the 18th, you'll find a full celebration of Thome's career and Hall of Fame induction. The first 20,000 fans in attendance that night will receive a Thome souvenir jersey. Thome finished his career with 612 home runs, good for eighth all time in Major League history. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to mlb.com/indians/fans/thome-hall-of-fame.

Danny Lyon Photography at Cleveland Museum of Art

In 1966, at the age of 25, established photographer Danny Lyon returned to his hometown of New York City. At a time when Lower Manhattan was going through urban renewal, Lyon set about photographing the city's changes, including the leveling of entire neighborhoods in order to make way for urban revitalization. Cleveland native George Stephanopoulos owned 52 of the resulting photos, and has given them to the CMA. The exhibit, The Destruction of Lower Manhattan, runs from Saturday, May 19, through Sunday, Oct. 7. Lyon's photography was the beginning of what is now known as "ruin porn," which reveals the decay of infrastructure in American cities.

Hamilton

Starting July 17 at the State Theatre at Playhouse Square, the critically acclaimed, smash hit musical Hamilton will be in Cleveland. Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical has been a perennial sell-out, including during the four years of its current run in New York City, where tickets on the secondary market can fetch up to $2,000. The play, which has received 16 Tony nominations, and won 11, is a hip-hop musical about the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, based on the 2004 biography by historian Ron Chernow. The sold-out show will run through Aug. 26; tickets can still be found on secondary markets. Visit playthousesquare.org for more information.

On The Grill

Award-winning play On the Grill will make its American debut at Dobama Theatre in Cleveland Heights this summer. The play opens on June 21, and runs every Thursday through Sunday till July 8, for a total of 12 performances. Written by Israeli Dror Keren, the play won the 2015 Israeli Academy Award for Best Play. Leighann Delorenzo will be directing the play here. As for the plot: During an Israeli Independence Day party, conflict arises and the celebration takes a turn for the worse, as old and new tensions are brought up, complicating the evening. You can purchase tickets at dobama.org/on-the-grill.

AHA! Festival

Featuring theater, music, dance and renowned speakers, the annual Arts and Humanities Alive Festival, aka AHA! Festival, presented by Cleveland State University, will take place June 7 through 9 in the area surrounding CSU and Playhouse Square. Actor, writer and youth advocate Hill Harper will be presenting a keynote speech. All-time NBA scoring leader and activist Kareem-Abdul Jabaar will speak about the importance of reading books. Husband and wife duo Sen. Sherrod Brown and writer Connie Schultz will perform a play at the Hanna Theatre; and Hershey Felder will conduct a performance of the music of Irving Berlin. Want more? Swedish novelist Fredrik Backman, known for his best-seller A Man Called Ove, will speak, as will New York Times writer Maureen Dowd and New Yorker cartoonist Robert Mankoff. If that's still not enough, you'll also find public dance workshops from Derek Hough of NBC's World of Dance, along with a book festival, children's theater performances and much more. For tickets and more information, check out ahacsu.com.

InCuya

Earlier this year, concert promoter AEG Presents (the company that books shows at the Agora and produces about 30 festivals around the country) held a press conference at the Rock Hall to announce the lineup for InCuya, a summer music festival that takes place on Aug. 25 and 26, on the downtown malls. That lineup will include headliners New Order, Avett Brothers, SZA and AWOLNation. Local acts such as Tropidelic, the Jack Fords and Seafair will perform too, along with Rock Hall inductee Booker T. Jones. The Rock Hall, Destination Cleveland and Scene owners Dan and Andrew Zelman are among the local investors behind the festival. Find more information at incuya.com.

Brickman Bootcamp

Singer-songwriter Jim Brickman has said he found it frustrating that he didn't have better opportunities for collaborative writing sessions while growing up in Northeast Ohio. To provide locals with the support he never received, he'll hold his inaugural Brickman Bootcamp for Songwriters from July 26 to 29. The three-day event "brings together talented poets, lyricists and musicians to grow their skills, collaborate and discover industry secrets to take their songs to the top." It will take place in Brickman's private studios located off East 40th Street and conclude with a public songwriter showcase at the Rock Hall. More information can be found at jimbrickman.com/songwriter-bootcamp.

RE: Sound

This summer, the Cleveland Uncommon Sound Project (CUSP), a nonprofit organization dedicated to "strengthening the artistic engagement of the Northeast Ohio community by championing the creation and performance of new music," will debut Re:Sound, a new music festival that takes place at venues throughout town from June 7 to 10. In addition to the musical performances, there will be a panel discussion with some of the performers as well as a free post-concert improvisation jam session on opening night. Venues include the Bop Stop at the Music Settlement, Coda, Visible Voice Books, Spaces and the Magalen. Find more info at uncommonsoundcle.com.

Therapy Thursdays

Earlier this year, Coda, the small Tremont club on Professor Avenue beneath Dante Next Door, launched a monthly songwriter session dubbed Therapy Thursdays. Braxton Taylor of the local band Samfox hosts the event that debuted with a session featuring Collin Miller of the local soul act Collin Miller & the Brother Nature, Nashville-based Trevor Larkin, who's the guitarist for singer-songwriter Allen Stone, and Nashville-based singer-songwriter Ross Livermore. The event aims to feature unplugged performances; Taylor will serve as emcee and interview the musicians between songs to get them to talk about their craft. Find a schedule at coda.danteboccuzzi.com.

The Rock Hall's New Hall of Fame

Earlier this year, the Rock Hall debuted a new Hall of Fame, an entire floor dedicated to inductees. Part of the Rock Hall's multi-year, multi-million-dollar transformation that included the opening of the Power of Rock Experience in the Connor Theatre this past summer, the new Hall of Fame "completely reimagines how inductees are presented in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame." The area includes new displays, floor-to-ceiling video screens and interactive presentations of inductee moments, in addition to an impressive artist signature wall, directional audio, a real-time LED news ticker and a dedication to inductees who have passed away. Shine a Light: New Acquisitions and Spotlight Artifacts, a new exhibit occupying the space previously held by the inductee exhibit area in the Ahmet Ertegun main exhibition hall, features a Jerry Lee Lewis piano, a Pink outfit, drumheads from Tre Cool and a guitar donated by Robert Lamm of Chicago. That space will be updated frequently to highlight "touring artists, national holidays, important dates in music history and inductee birthdays." Go to rockhall.com for more info. 

dog Days of Summer @ Jukebox

It's time to party with the pups during Jukebox's Dog Days of Summer. Every third Saturday, May until September, Dogfish Head and Watershed Distillery are sponsoring dog-friendly nights at Jukebox. Tickets proceeds will be donated to various dog rescue organization; your purchase will also earn you discounted drinks, food specials, and a raffle ticket for awesome prizes. Plus, dog-friendly vendors will be on site. Presale tickets are $15, or pay $20 at the door. Jukebox will still be open to the public during their Dog Days evenings, but their dog-friendly patio will be ready for a night out with your favorite furry friend. Jukebox is at 1404 West 29th St., in the Hingetown neighborhood.

Big Bounce America

For anyone who has ever been jealous of children bouncing in bounce houses, your day is about to arrive. This summer, the largest bounce house in the country, Big Bounce America, will arrive in North Ridgeville, bringing with it a 10,000-square-foot main bounce house, along with a 10,000-square-foot Bounce Village containing a number of bouncy attractions. Food vendors will be on hand and a DJ will keep the party going. Ticket prices range from $10 to $17, and are dependent on age. Big Bounce America arrives July 13 to 15 at Victory Park, 7777 Victory Lane, North Ridgeville.

Pride in the CLE

After years of hosting separate events, The Center and Cleveland Pride, Inc. have united to present a single Pride in the CLE celebration, running from Thursday, May 31, to Sunday, June 3. The inclusive event will kick off Pride Month, and includes LGBTQ workouts, a youth prom, a special night of Fusion arena football, a book launch party for Ken Schenk's LGBTQ Cleveland, a drag show at the Grog Shop, a 5-K in honor of Stonewall and tons of other activities. The Pride in the CLE march and festival will be held on Saturday, June 2, at Public Square. For more information, and a schedule of events, visit lgbtcleveland.org.

Memphis @ Cain Park

Inspired by actual events, and the inspiration for the major motion picture of the same name, Memphis: The Musical is the story of a white radio DJ in the 1950s who wants to change the world of music, and a black club singer on the verge of her big break. Directed by Joanna May Cullinan with musical direction from Jordan Cooper, this Tony Award-winning musical will star Douglas F. Bailey II and Nicole Sumlin in the leading roles. With an award-winning book by Joe DiPietro and an award-winning original score with music by Bon Jovi founding member, David Bryan, Memphis will run at the Alma Theatre at Cain Park June 14 to July 1. Thursday through Saturday show times are 7 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinees on Sunday. Cain Park is in Cleveland Heights, at 14591 Superior Rd.

Parrot Head Run

Registration for the Parrot Head Scenic 5-K Run and 1-mile Walk is now open. Sponsored by Hermes Sports & Events, the Parrot Head Run will end with an after-party celebration at Margaritaville Cleveland, which opened last summer in the Flats East Bank. All participants receive a custom Parrot Head-themed "finisher" medal and the top three male and female finishers overall and in each category will receive awards. Prizes also will go to best Parrot Head attire, and complimentary food and beer go to the first 1,000 participants who register. The Parrot Head Run takes place on July 14, starting in the Flats East Bank. The event is also a fundraiser for Fostering Hope of Ohio. For more information, visit hermescleveland.com/roadracing/events/parrothead.asp.

OSPF & Comedy Connected Present: Stand Up Together

The Cleveland comedy scene lost one of its own this year with the passing of Nick Ramsey. ComedyConnected.com and the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation have joined forces to honor Ramsey, via a benefit showcase of some of Cleveland's funniest comedians. Stand Up Together will feature over 20 comics, with Alan Cox Show co-host Bill Squire serving as headliner. Stand Up Together intends to raise awareness and funds for suicide prevention and mental health, and do so with a smile. Tickets are $35 and include a raffle ticket for a chance to win a 2018 Ford Mustang. The event takes place at the Lakewood Civic Auditorium on July 21. For more information and tickets, visit standuptogetherohio.com.

Try-It Kayak and StandUp Paddleboard Sessions

You've probably seen the kayakers and standup paddleboarders on our nearby waterways and thought, hey, that looks fun. But, especially on the SUP front, you probably also thought, hey, I'm going to need some help learning how to do that. The Metroparks are here to help, with one-hour Try-It lessons that cost only $5. Not a bad deal. The classes are offered from June 20 through August 22. Registration is required. Check out the schedule at clevelandmetroparks.com/parks/programs-events.

New Food and Baseball With the Akron RubberDucks

If you don't want to watch the Tribe bullpen blow another lead, head on down to Akron for a RubberDucks game. Not only will you catch the rising stars of the Indians' farm system, but minor-league baseball tends to come with a lot more fun, and lower prices, than games at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. The RubberDucks debuted some extreme concession offerings this year, including the La Montagna, a double-decker sammie stuffed with Italian meats between three pieces of garlic bread, and the Thanks Joe, a Joe Thomas-tribute hoagie with two brats, craft beer cheese and more. Grab tickets at milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t402.

Retro Tuesdays at Aut-O-Rama

The Sherman family has been running the Aut-O-Rama since 1965 and has weathered every new-fangled cinema upgrade and trend. Turns out, they were ahead of the curve in some respects, as drive-in movies are once again gaining popularity. If you missed it last year, Aut-O-Rama tapped into that nostalgia with the debut of Retro Tuesdays, which features cult favorites and timeless movies from years passed. This year's season opens on June 5 and includes pairings like Dirty Dancing and Thelma and Louise, and Full Metal Jacket and Platoon. With old-school concessions and delicious treats, it's the perfect way to spend a summer night. Check out the full slate at autoramadrivein.com.

FRONT Triennial

Fred Bidwell and his team are betting on Cleveland in a big way with the debut of the Front International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, a new exhibition running July 14 through Sept. 30. The inaugural edition, titled An American City, will cost some $4.2 million and take place throughout Cleveland. Located in spaces both common and unconventional, Front aims to "spotlight particular sites, buildings and locations that carry social, cultural or political significance in relation to the city's history and current reality." The event is expected to draw tens of thousands to town. "Cleveland, as a Midwestern rust-belt city — I hate to use the term but others will, so I guess I have to — has an interesting story to tell," Bidwell says. "And I think this has the potential eventually to be an important slot on the international cultural calendar."

Cleveland SC

Semi-pro soccer is back in Cleveland thanks to Cleveland SC, a new expansion team in the National Premier Soccer League. It joins 96 other squads and plays its home games at Don Shula Stadium at John Carroll University in a season that lasts through early July. Tickets start at $6; and, with the U.S. absent from this year's World Cup, the exciting games will introduce a team that's bound to be filled with a roster of local talent. Find the schedule and tickets at clevelandsc.com.

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