It’s no secret that travel can be an expensive interest – even for those of us who are down to travel on a budget. That being said, you don’t always have to hop on a plane to feed your travel bug. Sometimes a weekend trip in your own backyard can satisfy your curiosity too. My ‘backyard’ used to be the west coast of the United States and then briefly the east coast. Well now, it's the Midwest. The go-to Midwest city experience is Chicago, but after that, you might be left scratching your head wondering ‘Where else can I go?’. You're then presented with the opportunity to think of cities and places you may have overlooked. Case in point: Cleveland.
I’ve heard a lot about Cleveland having a renaissance of sorts, so when my friend Amanda and I decided to opt for a location closer to home, we chose Cleveland.
Believe it or not, in all my years of traveling, I’ve never gotten to do an actual girls’ trip. Sure, you might meet up with friends along the way or make new ones, but a planned vacation just for the girls? Nope, never.
Needless to say, I was stoked to take a road trip with one of my oldest and dearest friends. We were ready for a much-needed weekend away from the grind, some great conversation, and exploring a new place.
We hit the road Friday afternoon after finishing up work at our individual jobs. Amanda, coming from Grand Rapids, picked me up in Lansing on the way. We were looking at about a 3 ½ hour drive from Lansing. Not bad at all for a weekend trip.
As far as lodging goes, we wanted something in the heart of the city where we could just walk around and not have to worry about driving. We opted for the Crowne Plaza Cleveland at Playhouse Square. As the title suggests, we were right in the heart of the city’s theater district – a win for this theatre major I must say. They had valet parking available, which cost us an additional $36 a day, but when you split the price, it’s not so bad.
Once we were settled in, Amanda and I were ready to grab some dinner and see some of the city. Luckily for us, the entire weekend was gorgeous in regards to the weather. We had our first meal outside at a place called The Republic, which was a few blocks down from our hotel on Euclid Ave. A nice way were able to save some money (and not waste food) was to split a meal between the two of us. The food here was awesome. We got the chicken, and I’d totally recommend it in a heartbeat.
After dinner, we hit up a cool rooftop bar/lounge near our hotel called Azure. Surprisingly, for being a chic rooftop bar in the heart of a city, the crowd wasn’t too douchey. Yeah, you know the type…
A drink at Azure ranges in the $10-$15 range, so not terrible considering the prime location. That was definitely a spot I’d recommend if you’re looking for a nice place for drinks in Cleveland during the summer.
The next day was our big day to really get lost in the city and explore. We had some suggestions as well as spots we looked up on our own. One area multiple people recommended to us was The Flats. This is a popular area along the water there.
We walked from our hotel to The Flats. It’s at least a solid mile walk from Playhouse Square but totally doable. We hit up the aquarium over there, where I tried and subsequently failed to touch a sting ray. Listen, I’ll go skydiving or climb a mountain, but apparently touching a sting ray somehow freaks me out. I guess my adventurous side comes and goes.
After the aquarium, we stuck around The Flats for a late lunch and ate at one of the coolest restaurants I've been to. It’s called Lindey’s Lake House, and as you can imagine, it looks and feels exactly like a gorgeous lake house along the water. It’s a very open restaurant, with both inside and outside parts to it. It's such a pretty spot, especially on a beautiful summer day. Granted I was with one of my good friends, but if you’re ever in Cleveland and also need a good summer date spot, this place is perfect. I imagine it’s just as great in the evening there too.
As far as food goes at Lindey's Lake House, I opted for the Chicken Tinga Tacos. They were delicious and even came with a cucumber salad, which I hadn’t had since LA. So good!
By the time we were done with lunch, the two of us were ready for a nap. A cool fact: you can catch a free trolley to take you to different areas of the city, which you can bet we took advantage of on our way back to the hotel. It was super convenient. There’s a trolley stop right by Lindey’s Lake House, and it takes you right back to Playhouse Square.
Once we rested up for a bit, it was time to enjoy our Saturday night. Shout out to my friend Amanda for discovering Chocolate Bar, which is located on Euclid and 4th. They have the coolest selection of unique martinis that you can pick from. If you’re looking for a cute place for a photo op, head right across the street to a restaurant-filled alley decorated with lights. It’s prettiest at night (obviously). We enjoyed some bar hopping and ended our Saturday night back at Azure for a great time.
After checking out of our hotel the next morning, it was back to Michigan – but not before stopping at the Christmas Story house. This was the one thing I had to see while I was there. A Christmas Story is my favorite Christmas film! I can think of an endless array of classic Christmas Story quotes as I type this. Even though the film takes place in Indiana, they filmed it in Cleveland – hence the name of the street Ralphie lives on is ‘Cleveland Street’. The house came decorated with Christmas lights and even that iconic leg lamp in the window. Talk about the ultimate Christmas in July experience.
If you’re wondering why the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame wasn’t mentioned, well, that’s because we didn’t make it there. That’s the thing about traveling with other people: sometimes you have to compromise.
And speaking of rooftop lounges, coming up in September, I’ll introduce you Grand Rapids’ hip rooftop lounge you have to experience while the weather’s still nice. And after that, it’s Ireland 2019! Stay tuned….
About the author
Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer, comedian, and television producer who has been featured on Amazon, truTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Tiplr, ARTRPRNR Magazine, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com