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Best Things to Do in Downtown Cleveland: Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary

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These days, Cleveland, Ohio is challenging its infamous moniker “Mistake by the Lake”. Offensive and not so true anymore. As a local Clevelander, I have incredibly fond memories of spending time Downtown. And what’s more? The city keeps evolving and getting cooler every time I return home. Recently, I struck some luck and spent nearly a month back home in Cleveland. This of course prompted some nostalgia and wanderlust as I explored the new and improved parts of the city. The culture is vibrant as Cleveland pridefully acknowledges its history and makes room for the future. I mean, there are just so many hip things to do in Downtown Cleveland. From Lake Erie to the Rock Hall, to the second-largest theater district in the country, and city streets filled with unique neighborhood charm, Cleveland should absolutely make your Midwest travel list. 

In this weekend guide to Cleveland, I’ll provide an itinerary for a 3-day, 2-night stay that will knock your socks off. As a local, you can be assured that my guide includes unique things to do in downtown Cleveland along with epic stops that you can’t miss. It features the best places to visit in Cleveland Ohio from Tremont to Ohio City, Gordon Square, and the Flats. A final bonus to visiting Cleveland is that it’s definitely wallet-friendly. So, keep it in mind when you complain about not having enough money to travel. 

Day 1, Morning:

Breakfast from Cleveland Bagel Company 

  • Start your morning off right with the best bagels in Cleveland. Make sure you head to their Westside location on Detroit Ave. I highly recommend the rosemary bagel, it’s so salty and delicious. Their hours are Tuesday-Sunday 6:30-1 pm and it’s best to get there early on a weekend to avoid a long line and potentially selling out of your favorite bagel. 
  • Bonus stops include Brewnuts for delicious donuts & a beer if you’re feeling spicy. OR Ready Set Coffee for a perfectly crafted cup of joe.

Drive down to Edgewater Beach

  • Bring your bagels to the beach and relax at a picnic table as you listen to the waves of Lake Erie crash along the shore. The good news here is that Edgewater is also a gorgeously green park. So, don’t worry about getting sand in your bagels. After you eat, I recommend exploring the park a bit. There’s a beautiful bike path to follow along the water, a pier to check out, or if you’re looking for a lazier morning you can set up on the beach and hang out. There is swimming access and fishing along the rocks if you’re feeling up to that!   

Day 1, Afternoon:

Grab a bite or afternoon booze at All Saints Public House

  • If you’re feeling hungry (or thirsty) after your time on the beach, I recommend walking along the bike path to the Battery Park neighborhood (about a 5-minute walk from Edgewater). Here you’ll find one of my favorite patios in Downtown Cleveland at All Saints Public House. This is a quirky spot with a devilish vibe. 

Shopping & Exploring in Ohio City

  • City Goods
    • From the Gordon Square Neighborhood, you’ll head East along Detroit Ave. into Ohio City. Before hitting W. 25th, however, make sure you stop at City Goods. City Goods is a sustainably driven city market that’s home to some incredible local small businesses. This is an awesome spot for souvenirs and unique gifts. Also, be sure to stop at the public, free, and adult-friendly playground that features a big red slide and a giant seesaw. It’s tucked in the courtyard of the Church and State Apartment Complex. 
  • Westside Market 
    • Parking Tip: If you’re coming from City Goods, you’ll take a right on West 25th. The Westside Market is on the corner of Lorain and 25th. Turn left on Lorain and you’ll find a large public parking lot on the left behind the market. The first 90 minutes are free and then $1 per hour. I recommend staying parked here for the duration of your time exploring West 25th.
    • The most historic stop of your afternoon, The Westside Market is a Cleveland staple. You feel like you’re stepping back in time as you haggle with the produce vendors, take in the yellow brick interior, and smell the fresh fish…okay, that’s definitely more of a warning than something to look forward to. Anyway, feel free to just explore, take pictures, and/or grab a local snack here. I recommend some perogies, crepes, or pepperoni bread. 
  • Explore West 25th
    • I can’t make just one recommendation here as there are endless bars, restaurants, patios, art, and shopping on W 25th. I merely encourage you to aimlessly wander and spend your time on whatever feels right. If you just want a stroll, take one of the side streets on the North side to explore the beautiful and unique neighborhood homes. 
    • Recommended stops on/near W 25th:

Day 1, Evening:

Dinner at Il Rione

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  • After a day of exploring, go back to your stay to freshen up for some of the best pizza and salad I’ve ever had. Dinner at Il Rione feels intimate and authentic. The tiny dining area and patio seating are set in the middle of an unassuming neighborhood street. A true hidden gem and one of the best places to eat in Cleveland. Get the arugula salad but also be prepared to wait, there are no reservations and this place is extremely popular. You can pop into Stonemad Pub, another local favorite, directly across the street while you wait.

Go Out in the East Bank Flats (if you’re feeling up to it)

  • The Flats is an area right on the water offering the very best Cleveland nightlife. For a more chill night out in The Flats, head to Collision Bend Brewery. If it’s early enough, The Farm can also be a nice chill option as a country-theme bar right on the water. Late-night options that offer more of a club feeling include Good Night John Boy and Forward Night Club.

Day 2, Morning/Afternoon:

Breakfast at Grumpy’s Cafe

  • The ideal spot if you’re nursing a hangover from your night out, or you just need some incredible comfort food. Grumpy’s is one of my favorite places to eat in Cleveland. It serves up massive portions of all the classic breakfast favorites. And don’t worry, no one is actually grumpy here. This cafe gives a warm and welcoming neighborhood vibe.

Explore the Tremont Neighborhood

  • Grumpy’s will land you in the heart of Cleveland’s historic and artsy neighborhood of Tremont. Here you’ll find landmarks like the house from A Christmas Story that’s been preserved for tours. There are also brick streets for strolling, incredible shopping, art galleries, and one-of-a-kind bars and restaurants. 
  • Recommended Stops in Tremont:

Day 2, Afternoon/Evening:

Eat at Mabel’s BBQ

  • Of all the things to do in downtown Cleveland, East 4th Street is a must-visit as it sits in the heart of the city. This one block is not only strung with lights and blocked from traffic but it is also packed with the best places to eat in Cleveland. And that absolutely includes Michael Symon’s Mabel’s BBQ. You didn’t think you’d leave Cleveland without trying some of Symon’s grub right?

Continue Exploring East 4th Street

  • Next up, there are several bars to hit along East 4th plus a corner gift shop with Clevelandware. The newest addition to this lively street is Cordelia a gorgeous, high-end cocktail spot. If you’re looking for something a bit divier, one of my favorite spots is Wonder Bar. But honestly, you can’t go wrong with any spot you choose on this street.

Catch Some Cleveland Entertainment

  • Starting on East 4th Street provides the perfect gateway to many entertainment options in downtown Cleveland. It’s walkable to both Rocket Mortgage Field House for Cavs games, Progressive Field for the Guardians, House of Blues, and Playhouse Square. The type of entertainment you choose will obviously depend upon the season that you visit and your budget. Playhouse Square is probably going to be your highest-budgeted option at Broadway prices. But hey, if Book of Mormon has been on the bucket list, no better place to cross it off than the second-largest theater district in the nation. The best budget-friendly options are a Guardian’s game and House of Blues. 
  • Bonus Stop: Hit the Jack Casino if you’re feeling lucky. Just a short walk from any of the above entertainment options.

Day 3, Morning/Afternoon

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Option 1: French Brunch at Le Petit Triangle Cafe 

  • If you’re looking for character and some fine French cuisine, then Le Petit Triangle Cafe is the perfect stop on your last day in Cleveland. You’ll head back to Ohio City for this brunch, however, you’ll mozy your way into the neighborhood a bit more rather than the hustle and bustle of W 25th. Everything is so thoughtfully made and plated at Le Petit Triangle. I can’t recommend the coffee and croque norvegien enough.

Option 2: Coffee For Breakfast at Phoenix Coffee Co

  • If you don’t have much time to hang out, then I highly recommend stopping at one of Phoenix Coffee’s Locations. The Ohio City one is my favorite. The Coffee here has been locally brewed in Cleveland for 25 years and is absolutely my favorite cup of Joe in the city. Don’t worry they offer breakfast options like bagels and pastries as well.

Visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

  • If you’ve read any of my itineraries previously, you know that I am not one for museums or other “touristy” things. However, the Rock Hall is unlike any other and if you’re looking for things to do in downtown Cleveland, it’s an absolute MUST. You don’t even have to like rock and roll as it honors all great musicians from all the genres from past to present. The history in there is just so mesmerizing. My favorite part, of course, is the clothing exhibit featuring actual items worn by Michael Jackson to Lady Gaga. 
  • P.S. This could also be thrown into your day 2 Itinerary!

Cleveland is used to being the underdog of the nation, but in our local Clevelander hearts, we know that the city is very much back. There are so many unique and fun things to do in downtown Cleveland without breaking the bank on a trip to larger Midwestern cities. So c’mon do yourself a favor and give Cleveland a chance.

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