Downtown Living with a Dog is Better in the CLE

Living in the City_Cleveland downtown dogs

City dogs are different than suburban dogs. They know how to ride on elevators, aren’t the least bit phased when a RTA Rapid flies by and they know all about patio drinking (from a water bowl of course). City dogs have the life. They get the entire town as their play area. City dogs even get to go on multiple walks a day simply by default because a yard isn’t an option.

I was warned that taking a dog in and out of the apartment multiple times a day and in all kinds of weather would be less than ideal. I never saw it that way (well maybe on the negative 10 degree days). I went out and got the fresh air I didn’t even realize I needed, and as long as I was dressed appropriately, it was always enjoyable. I also had the perfect excuse to explore downtown. Nena (my boxer pup) and I would walk down by the lake just to catch the sunset or take daily outings to see how The Flats were coming along.

Nena Downtown Cleveland

Having a dog downtown also made people nicer. If you live downtown and have a dog, you know it’s true. People are just generally not that friendly, meaning that most people have their heads down and don’t make eye contact with you when walking down the street. That may be because they’re on their phones (like you are now as you read this) or because they’re actually avoiding you.

Enter an animal and all of a sudden people are smiling, asking if they can pet your dog and cooing at your pet.  I didn’t know a single person in my apartment building until I got a dog. Suddenly I had an excuse to make new friends. I had no idea that dogs were such great ice breakers (and probably great for picking up girls/guys).

Nena Science Center Cleveland

Downtown Cleveland can be surprisingly dog friendly. Despite an overall lack of green space, there is a dog park along the river and poop bag stations are set-up all over the city. Mall C, Public Square, and The Flats are all excellent locations to take in the beautiful views of the city and find grassy areas for your dog to run around. As long as the restaurant has a patio, most places are welcome dogs and will even bring out water bowls for your pup (Beerhead in The Flats has a HUGE dog bowl and were incredibly accommodating).

Nena Downtown Cleveland Sign Tremont

While I had my doubts about living with a dog in the city, I now realize that I never would’ve experienced true downtown living without Nena. We were city people (and dog) and took advantage of the wonderful benefits of living in the center of it all. We always had an excuse to explore and check out what was happening in our neighborhood. I miss being the first to know what was going on. If you have a dog living downtown, I hope your taking advantage of it as much as we did.

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Last Minute Local Christmas Gifts in Downtown Cleveland

While we’re far from having enough shops in downtown Cleveland, I was able to get almost all my Christmas presents from local Cleveland stores. And the majority of the gifts were purchased right off Euclid Avenue in the heart of downtown. Plus, did I mention how absolutely beautiful it is downtown right now? Between the snow, lights and holiday decorations it really does look like a winter wonderland.

But back to gift buying, as I’m sure that I’m not the only one that waited till the last minute to shop.

Tickets

I’m all about buying experiences instead of things for Christmas presents. Tickets to Playhouse Square (or a gift certificate for a show of their choosing), a concert at the House of Blues or tickets to a CAVS game are all wonderful gifts and located right downtown.

Other great gifts that don’t come in a package are memberships to the Cleveland Museum of Art (or any of our other fabulous museums), Cleveland International Film Festival Tickets or a gift certificate to the Music Box Supper Club.

CLEVELAND MUSEUM

Clothing

We’re still nowhere near where we need to be in terms of retail downtown, but we’re starting to see more stores popping up. For the men in our lives, check out stores like J3 Clothing Company in The Arcade (their store was designed by Arhaus  and it’s beautiful), We Bleed Ohio or Kilted Bros. Women’s (and men’s) clothing can be found at Geiger’s  or the 5th Street Arcades. Cleveland Clothing Co. on East 4th Street offers plenty of clothing and gift options as well.

kilted-bros

Home Goods

Take your choice between any of the specialty shops in the arcades downtown or head to Ohio City or Tremont for more options. The arcades off Euclid Avenue include shops like:

Cleveland in a Box: Give the gift of Cleveland, or rather all things that represent and remind the people on your list about what makes Cleveland great. Boxes start at $30.

CLE Pets: While they may only have four legs, the dogs in your life should enjoy Christmas too. Locally made dog treats and food are for sale at CLE Pets, as well as dog calendars, clothing and more.

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Happy Hour Collection: This is one of my favorite stores just because the decor alone is darling. Here you can find vintage (and new) glasses for a bar, mixers, bitters, shakers and more. They even have a bitters tasting area so you can sample before you buy.

happy-hour-collection

Love, Anji: Real flowers may die, but you don’t have to worry about that with Love, Anji’s paper flowers. They are absolutely gorgeous and will last forever (or until you get sick of them). The flowers shown below feature maps of Cleveland.

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Monica Potter Home: I was surprised by how affordable the Monica Potter Home store is. I was expecting overpriced home items and found just the opposite. They also sell soaps, sprays and a few clothing items. Definitely worth a stop!

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Pampering

I’ve mentioned them before, but Marengo Luxury Spa is my favorite place to get pampered in downtown Cleveland. Their spa is awesome and they’re located in the beautiful Old Arcade. Tip: Marengo offers awesome deals twice a year (usually June/December) to buy one service and get a second for $10. Stock up during those sales for the whole year!

Food/Drink

There are obviously a million restaurants downtown and more popping up everyday. Treat someone on your list to a great night out by buying a restaurant gift card. An alternative option is to get them a gift certificate to Heinen’s. The downtown Heinen’s is more than just a grocery store, with great beer and wine tasting events available on the second story.

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Outside of downtown Cleveland there are plenty of great, local options too. Some of my favorites include Banyan Tree, Salty not Sweet Boutique and Room Service. Located in Tremont and Ohio City, these local shops offer unique gifts in all price ranges and many showcase the Cleveland love.

 

Nuevo Mod Mex Livens up the Lakefront

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It seems like all the new restaurants and bars in Cleveland come with a view. First you had Coastal Taco with their prime location on the Cuyahoga, then Bar 32 with aerial lake views and now you have Nuevo Modern Mexican sandwiched between Lake Erie and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How could you possibly go wrong with a location like that?

Kelly Nuevo Mod Mex

Nuevo Mod Mex is the perfect mix of tasty Mexican dishes and drinks, city skyline and lake views. If their set-up wasn’t good enough, three volleyball courts were added to the north of the restaurant where Hermes runs an ongoing league. That’s just pure genius if you ask me.

Interior

The restaurant decor is clean and modern. There is no shortage of natural light, with windows taking up every wall. You also have the option of staying inside or lounging on one of the plentiful patio seats. The restaurant is two floors, with the superior views definitely coming from the patio seating on the second floor.

View From Mod

Trying to figure out whether or not they deserve a try? I’ve already been there twice and this is what I’ve experienced.

  • The views are insanely good and the vibe is chill.
  • Their service isn’t terrible, but it still needs to be tweaked. We went for lunch and it took two hours from start to finish!
  • Their food is pretty darn tasty. It’s definitely one of the better Mexican options downtown.
  • The sides could use some extra flavor. While the main meals are good, I’m thinking that the rice and beans lack any real seasoning and they are a bit dry.
  • The margaritas are AMAZING. They are the best thing about the restaurant hands down. Try the watermelon one and you will not be disappointed. Tip: Order the flight for 3 different margaritas ($15). Choose your own speciality salt/sugar rim too!
  • As an added bonus you can check out the “Cleveland” sign while you’re down at Voinovich Park and take the obligatory tourist shot of the city skyline.

Margaritas

California Coast in 5 Days and 2,725 Miles

nuevo mod mex (1)

I rarely need an excuse to travel, so when my husband bought me tickets to see Metallica in San Francisco I knew we had to extend our time in California. We’ve been talking about driving up the coast for years, but never committed. Now we had the perfect excuse to check off a bucket-list trip. We booked our trip Wednesday though Sunday, which gave us five days to cram in as many sights as we could from L.A. to San Francisco while driving an obnoxious, touristy red Camaro convertible (that I adored). Tip: Extend your trip to six or seven days to ensure you have ample time to explore San Francisco or L.A.

Camero Convertible California

Day 1: Cleveland to Los Angeles

Highlights: Sanchos Tacos and Laguna Beach

We kicked off our trip in southern California. We scored a direct flight on United from Cleveland for the insanely cheap price of $258 round trip. Tip: Travel during one of the shoulder seasons (spring/fall) for great deals. The weather will be milder, but there will be fewer people and much better prices. It can be quite rainy during the winter months, but we lucked out and had sunshine and upper 60 degree weather the entire time we were on the west coast.

For this trip, we didn’t stay directly in Los Angeles. I’ve been to L.A. a couple of times, but the traffic in the city is enough to keep me far, far away. If you do stay in the city, I would highly recommend hiking in Griffith Park to see the Hollywood sign and gorgeous views of the city below. We stayed just south of L.A. in Huntington Beach with friends that offered us a free place to crash and to act as our tour guides.

Sanchos Shrimp Tacos

Our first stop in Huntington Beach was the In-N-Out Burger. They don’t offer anything vegetarian so I just ordered fries and a shake. The shake was delicious, but the best part was that we ate outside in the sun, in February. For a Clevelander, that is a really big deal. We ended up exploring Huntington Beach a.k.a. Surf City USA and then driving down the coast to see Newport and Laguna Beach.  I quickly realized that our vacation was going to be all about the food, as I sampled phenomenal shrimp tacos at Sanchos Tacos in Huntington Beach before enjoying a fabulous sandwich and vegetarian chili at Urth Caffe in Laguna Beach. If you’re going for a chill, beach experience I would highly recommend this area of Cali.

Laguna Beach Sunset

Day 2: Los Angeles to Big Sur

Highlights: Bagelmania Oreo Mocha, Santa Barbara, Bello Mundo Cappuccino, elephant seals at Piedras Blancas and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

We hit the road super early (5:45 a.m.), but once we had stopped at Bagelmania for a quick breakfast and coffee, we didn’t  make it on the road till 6:15 a.m. It turned out that was already too late for L.A. rush hour and it took us two hours to get out of the city. Tip: Stay overnight just north of L.A. if you’re looking to avoid rush hour traffic or leave at 5 a.m. I would say that we kept the road rage to a minimum, given that we were on vacation and really we had nowhere we had to be all day.

Santa Barbara Monastery

Our first stop was Santa Barbara. If we had more time, I would’ve spent a half day here. The main drag looked absolutely beautiful and I’ve heard this area be called the Mediterranean of California. Definitely worth stopping if even for a coffee and a quick walk in their downtown area.

Once you hit San Luis Obispo, this is where you would hop off Hwy 101 and onto Hwy 1. We stopped here and grabbed lunch at the Firestone Grill. This place received rave reviews, but we weren’t overly impressed. The food wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either. After lunch we grabbed coffee at Bello Mundo, where Derek attempted to teach me chess over cappuccinos. Definitely swing through for a cup of coffee before hitting the road.

Bello Mundo Cappuccino

Morrow Bay is right after this and you can see the mini-mountain rising out of the ocean from the road. Keep driving and you’ll hit the Hearst Mansion (it’s up on the cliffs to the right). They say to schedule three hours there and we just weren’t that interested, so we kept driving. Right after the Hearst Mansion is where you can see the elephant seals sunbathing at Piedras Blancas. The females had just given birth a month or so ago, so there were tons of them hanging out catching the rays. They are really great to see up close and you don’t have to walk far to catch a glimpse.

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seals

There are lots of little towns that dot Hwy 1, so it all depends what you’re interested in seeing and doing. We only had two full days to drive from L.A. to San Francisco, so we were a little picky with where we stopped. Big Sur was our main “destination.” This isn’t just one spot, but a rather long stretch of Hwy 1 that includes dramatic cliffs that drop into the Pacific. There are tons of vista points, so pull over whenever you feel the need to snap a few pictures and just enjoy the dramatic scenery around you. Whatever you do, try not to rush.

Big Sur Coastline

I would recommend stopping at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. A one mile round trip hike will take you to views overlooking an 80 foot water fall that drops into the ocean. Whales and sea lions  can also be spotted from up above. January through March is an ideal time to see the gray whales migrating. It’s also not a bad spot to take in the sunset.

Julia Pfeiffer State Park Waterfall

If you can (only in the off-season), don’t book a place to stay in Big Sur until you arrive. This allows you the flexibility to drive as far as you want, without feeling rushed to get to your destination. In the summertime you’ll need to book in advance, otherwise you risk not having anywhere to sleep.  Based on where we were at the end of the day, we stayed at Big Sur Lodge State Park. The rooms are normally $399 a night, but we were able to stay for $169 due to it being February. The rooms are nice, but pretty basic. We ate dinner at the lodge, and it was delicious! Be prepared to spend a lot eating in Big Sur. There aren’t a lot of restaurants and because of the location, you are going to be charged more than if you were somewhere else.

Day 3: Big Sur to San Francisco

Highlights: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Ventana Inn restaurant, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park,  and Half Moon Bay

In the morning we got up early (which seemed to be a theme this trip) and went back to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to go hiking. Our concierge at the lodge had recommended the EWoldson hike. What she failed to mention is that the first three miles of this six mile hike are practically straight up the mountain. I will say, it is worth the effort. You not only get to experience the coastal redwoods, but you also get fabulous views of the Pacific and coastline. It took us just over two hours, so we were famished when we were done. We ended up eating at the Ventana Restaurant, which is also perched on the side of the mountain with beautiful patio seating and views of the ocean. The food was so incredibly fresh and tasty. Definitely stop and sit outside if the weather allows.

EWoldson Hike View in Big Sur

After breakfast we went to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, which is right near the lodge. It’s a two mile, mostly one-lane road that dumps you out onto the beach. It’s a great place to spend half a day taking in the sun, but we only stayed for a quick walk on the beach before heading back to the car. The really cool thing about this beach is the purple sand beneath your toes. Once I’d gotten my early morning beach fix, we were back on the road, until yet another stop was required at the Bixby Bridge. This is a very popular stop, so we got out, took our pictures and kept moving.

Bixby Bridge in California

Once you get out of Big Sur, there is a stretch of Hwy 1 that takes you off the coast and into some less than attractive agricultural fields. Don’t fret too much, as you’ll be back to the coast before you know it. We did take the 17 mile scenic drive ($10 toll road). The views are pretty, but I’d say it is more to see Pebble Beach and the other golf courses more than dramatic ocean views. If you have the time, do it. However, I didn’t feel like the views were that much better than the rest of Big Sur.

Santa Cruz was our next stop once we got to this section. They have a great boardwalk with lots of rides (which are closed until the summer) even though it was 70 degrees and in my mind, summer. They have a cool downtown area as well and once we had refueled at the local coffee shop, we were driving to Half Moon Bay. We just happened to get there right in time for sunset. San Francisco isn’t too much further once you get out of Half Moon Bay, so we made it into the city right after dark.

Sunset along the Pacific Coast

Days 4: San Francisco

Highlights: Noe Valley, Chloe’s Cafe, Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park National Recreation Area (and Drive), Embarcadero

If you’ve never been to San Francisco, you need at least a couple of days to explore. We only had about a day and a half. We rented an apartment in Noe Valley, and I would highly recommend staying in that neighborhood. You get the sense of what it’s like to live in San Fran, while having the convenience of street parking and easy access to downtown via public transportation only a block away ($2.25 a person).

Breakfast at Choloe's Cafe in San Francisco

Like Cleveland, San Francisco is a huge foodie city. Our favorite restaurant on this trip was Chloe’s Cafe. The brunch was one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had – banana walnut pancakes, eggs and fresh fruit served with a top-notch cappuccino. Ah, heaven! We spent a good part of the day at Golden Gate Park National Recreation Area (about 25 minutes from Noe Valley), where the views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge are unparalleled. We drove through the park to the Point Bonita Lighthouse parking area, where views that were just as good as Big Sur were around every curve. I would highly recommend taking this little detour.

Golden Gate Bridge

On the drive back through the city we parked on Hyde Street and jumped on one of the infamous cable cars. Tip: We weren’t charged to take the car down Hyde Street from Lombard because we were so close to the end of the line. We did take it back up and that costs $7. About a third of people can get an outside seat; the rest are facing the interior. Don’t worry about taking pictures while riding the cable car. When you take the car down the hill, you can pose for pictures once the car has stopped and is waiting to be parked.

Powell and Market Street Car San Francisco

Lombard Street is prettier in the spring with all of the flowers, but still worth a stop. We spent most of our time along the Embarcadero, which is where the majority of the best sites are anyway. While Fisherman’s Wharf is okay, there are far less touristy areas along the water that are better. We ended the day with a fabulous concert by Metallica at AT&T Park. The excitement of the city for the Super Bowl, coupled with the concert, made for a very fun trip.

Lombard Street

Day 5: San Francisco to Cleveland

Highlights: Sun and Chloe’s Cafe (again)

We had just enough time to enjoy the fabulous food at Chloe’s Cafe one last time, before I begrudgingly returned the convertible I had grown so accustomed.  And we landed in Cleveland and were immediately greeted with snow. Sigh. Until next time San Francisco.

Chloe's Cafe in San Francisco

The RNC in the CLE: A Local Point of View

Cleveland

Cleveland is definitely showing off its red, white and blue with the first few days of the Republican National Convention already wrapped up. I’ve never seen our city look as patriotic. As a resident of the Warehouse District, I toyed with whether or not I even wanted to stay in Cleveland or if I was going to rent out our place and head for the ‘burbs. In the end, I decided to stick it out and work from home during the RNC.

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As always, I couldn’t help but be curious about what was going on in the city. So with Nena in tow, we set off to see what was going on in our neighborhood. The biggest difference you see (and feel) is the amount of police stationed around the city. While part of me feels comforted, it’s also a little disconcerting to see that many police officers in one place. In the wake of the horrible acts of violence in our country right now, I pray for their safety and of the safety of everyone in the city.

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Aside from increased security, the sheer number of people with cameras filming and photographing the events and activities around town is overwhelming. It seems like every other person I walked by was carrying a camera. On my run today there were detours galore, but I was interested to see that they were already moving those hideous black fences from around where events have already taken place.

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Wannabe entrepreneurs fill the sidewalks selling Trump t-shirts and other presidential paraphernalia. Head to the Flats East Bank and you’ll find patriotic floats from the Duck Tape Festival including Mt. Rushmore and the Liberty Bell. In front of the Marriott you’ll have a photo opportunity with a large elephant painted in red, white and blue. And in Public Square you’ll be treated to a handful of civilians walking around with assault rifles. Yes, you heard me correctly. For the first time since I moved downtown three years ago, I felt uneasy just from the sight of them.

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Aside from machine guns being spotted around downtown, the Republican National Convention seems to be running as smoothly as you could hope. While several of the restaurants downtown have been transformed into The Washington Post (Butcher and the Brewer), Twitter (Greenhouse Tavern) and The Atlantic (Blue Point Grill), I’ve been shocked by how many restaurants seem to be lacking customers.

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I wonder if this has anything to do with the lack of delegates who actually showed up coupled with the fact that people were hearing horror stories about how bad downtown was going to be. I think that everyone decided to stay away from downtown, when in reality now is one of the better times to be down here.  It’s just a bit of a maze once you get here due to the road closures.

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While everything seems to be going as well as it could, I think that we’ll all let out a collective breath when this week is over. What is your experience with the RNC so far?! Share your thoughts below.

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Top 20 Pictures You Need to Take When Visiting Cleveland

Cleveland is THE place to be this summer. With the momentum still going from the CAVS clinching the NBA Championship and the arrival of the Republic National Convention next week, Cleveland is unstoppable. To help welcome all of our new visitors into the city, I’ve compiled a list of must see places around Cleveland that will give them the most #Instagram worthy shots. So go ahead and give indulge your inner tourist, as there is a reason these are some of the most photographed spots around town.

  1. Greetings from Cleveland Mural located in Ohio City off West 25th Street. A photograph with this colorful mural is a must and it’s only a 5 minute walk from the West Side Market.

    Kelly Greetings

    #greetingsfromcleveland #ohiocity

  2. West Side Market aerial view from the second floor balcony. Find the stairs at the front of the building and take in the market from a totally different perspective. Plus you can scope out where you want to shop without the massive crowds.

    West Side Market

    #westsidemarket

  3. Superior Viaduct Bridge. Walk out onto this old bridge for some of the most beautiful views of Cleveland and the Cuyahoga River. Plus it happens to be the spot where my hubby proposed, so bonus points!

    Superior Viaduct

    #superiorviaductbridge #thisiscle #clevelandcityskyline

  4. GE Chandelier in Playhouse Square. As the largest outdoor chandelier, it’s a site that at least deserves a photo stop. Tip: It’s best viewed at night when it is all lit up.

    Chandelier

    #gechandelier #playhousesquare

  5. Edgewater Park at Sunset. Located just five minutes from downtown Cleveland, Edgewater Park gives you peace and tranquility and beautiful views of the lake. Plus our sunsets are stellar.

    Edgewater Sunset

    #edgewaterpark #sunset

  6. Cleveland Signs strategically placed around Cleveland. These signs are quickly becoming the go-to pictures for locals and visitors alike. These signs can be found at Voinovich Park, Edgewater Park (upper) and Tremont.

    Cleveland Sign Downtown

    #thisiscle #voinovichpark #clevelandskyline #northcoastharbor

  7. East 4th Street. While also of the most happening streets in downtown Cleveland for restaurants and bars, this street is too pretty not to be photographed. Even Nena thinks so!

    East 4th Street

    #east4thstreet

  8. Heinen’s Grocery Store. You’ll rarely have the opportunity to experience such a beautiful space that is also home to a grocery store. Aside from the stunning stained glass and architecture, you can do beer and wine tastings on the second floor.

    Heinens Ceiling

    #heinens #rotunda

  9. Fountain of Eternal Life. Easily one of my favorite stops in downtown Cleveland, you should definitely check out the beautiful detail of this memorial.

    Green Memorial Fountain

    #fountainofeternallife

  10. The Old Arcade. Home to one of the first shopping malls in America, this arcade is absolutely stunning and home to the Hyatt Hotel.

    Old Arcade

    #oldarcadecleveland #hyatt

  11. The Guardians. Known officially as the Guardians of Transportation, these giant statues adorn both sides of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge. You can either walk from Downtown to Ohio City over the bridge or catch a glimpse from the Towpath Trail down below.

    Guardian from the Towpath

    #guardiansoftransportation

  12. LeBron James Mural. While it was cool before, now that the CAVS won the NBA Championships this is a must take picture. And for all your RNC visitors, it is right outside the Q.

    LeBron James Mural

    #lebronjames #clevelandcavaliers #nbachampions

  13. Giant Freighters on the Cuyahoga River. Head on down to the river and see for yourself that it is looking better then ever and definitely not on fire. From the Flats East Bank (or West) you’ll have a prime viewing spot for these giant ships, while also the luxury of eating or drinking while you wait.

    Sam Laud Freighter on the Cuyahoga

    #freighter #cuyahogariver

  14. Terminal Tower. One of the most iconic buildings in downtown Cleveland being kissed by a giant bird. What could be better than that? But seriously, capture a shot of the Terminal Tower and the colorful art that is scattered throughout the city.

    Terminal Tower

    #terminaltower #landsstudio

  15. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and City Skyline from Voinovich Park. While Cleveland has many beautiful skyline views, the picture from Voinovich Park is one of the best. Turn 90 degrees and you’ll also have great views of Lake Erie.

    Downtown from Voinovich

    #rockandrollhalloffame #clevelandskyline #northcoastharbor

  16. Free Stamp. As strange as this giant stamp may be, it definitely deserves a picture or two.

    Kelly_Free

    #freestamp #willardpark

  17. Tremont Skyline View. This view of the city from Abbey Road gives you a more industrial perspective of the city, which is a huge part of our history.

    Tremont Skyline View

    #thisiscle #clevelandskyline

  18. A Christmas Story House. A trip to Cleveland probably wouldn’t be complete without a tour of the Christmas Story House. Plus, props are set-up all around the house to pose for silly pictures.

    Christmas Story House

    #achristmasstoryhouse #leglamp

  19. Murals in Waterloo. The largest concentration of street art has to be located in the Waterloo area of Cleveland. Located about ten minutes from downtown, you’ll be shocked at the amount of murals in such a small area. While you’re there, grab a pizza at Citizen Pie!

    Waterloo Mural

    #waterloo

  20. Atrium at the Cleveland Museum of Art. This shot was taken on the second floor of the atrium, but don’t forget about the beautiful views OUTSIDE the museum as well.

    Atrium Upper

    #clevelandmuseumofart

What’s your favorite #Instagram worthy shot in Cleveland? Share below!