November 20, 2011

Cleveland’s West Side Market

With chefs like Michael Symon and Chris Hodgson, the Cleveland food scene is certainly blossoming. Local restaurants like Melt, Lola, HodgePodge Food Truck and more have been featured on the Food Network. But, what happens if you want to do the cooking? West Side Market has all the ingredients for a perfect meal, snack, dessert or whatever else you want!

West Side Market

West Side Market goes back all the way to the 1800s as a publicly owned open-air marketplace. Today, the market has over 100 vendors and attracts over 1 million customers per year. In fact, they’ve recently been voted one of the best markets in the world. There are a variety of vendors that ranges anywhere from bakery to produce to meats to pasta and more. In the summer, there are even some vendors outside selling handmade clothing and artwork. It’s definitely a great place to check out if you like arts or food!

I went to West Side Market this week and had a hard time deciding what to buy because of the huge selection of both ready-made meals and ingredients. The produce all looks so good and smells amazing. We found some avocados that were almost as big as my head! I wanted to buy those bu I knew I couldn’t use them before they went bad since I’ll be having plenty of food with Thanksgiving coming up. I decided to settle on some sweet potato ravioli from the pasta place. There are a ton of different kinds of ravioli, pasta and sauces to choose from. I’ve tried some other ones, like black bean and spinach before, so I figured it was time to try a new kind.

West Side Market

After I got some ravioli, I had to get some dessert, right? That was especially difficult to decide. There are pastry places at practically every corner and everything looks amazing! I finally had to make a decision and chose some freshly made cannolis. The different flavors got me. I ordered some double chocolate, peanut butter, pumpkin pie and original, but there were still about 10 other flavors I could have tried.

I have trouble trying different things at West Side Market because whatever I’ve tried before was good and I just want to try it again! I don’t think I’ve ever had anything that wasn’t good, though. Next time, I think I want to try to buy spices to cook with. They all look so colorful that I can’t help but stop and look at them! Plus, I’m sure they’re better than the spices that sit on the shelves in the store.

Have you ever been to West Side Market? What are your favorite vendors or what would you like to try?

November 8, 2011

Shopping near Cleveland

This weekend, I set out to show my friend Carrie, an avid Pittsburgh supporter (I don’t hold it against her), why I love Cleveland. We both had some shopping to do so I figured there would be no better place to go than Crocker Park in Westlake.

If you haven’t been before, Crocker Park is shopping area with stores like Urban Outfitters, Loft, GAP and DSW. It also has restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory, B Spot Burgers and 87 West Wine Bar. There are also smaller restaurants that are amazing as well. Crocker Park also has a movie theater and a ton of lawn space to sit and relax after a day of shopping. My favorite part is the large chess board surrounded by smaller sets. I’ve always enjoyed playing and it’s neat to see a set that seems larger than life.

Crocker Park

We set out for Crocker Park in the early afternoon. Because it’s outdoors, we wanted to make sure we had nice weather (luckily for us, the weather is always fantastic in Cleveland). We came from the east side, so we had to pass Cleveland on the way. It’s important to note that Carrie excitedly asked, “Is that Cleveland?!” as we drove past the city and could see the skyline in the distance.

The atmosphere at Crocker Park is very cheery. I love the open spaces and variety of stores. It’s easy to find anything you need or anything you decided that you needed once you got there and saw it in a store window.

I’ve been going to Crocker Park since I was a senior in high school and I can’t remember ever having a bad experience with anyone who works there. It seems weird, especially because different stores have different policies, but the environment is one of happiness and helpfulness. In fact, my aunt and I were shopping there a few years ago and I had a coupon for a shirt. My aunt jokingly asked if she could have the same discount for a shirt she was getting for my brother and the cashier actually said yes. I think Carrie made a friend at H&M, t00.

Crocker Park

Perhaps the reason everyone seems so nice is the fact that Crocker Park is more of a community than a shopping center.They often have events and special occasions. For example, they had a pet costume contest for Halloween and a human costume contest when the final Harry Potter movie premiered. They also engage customers online by giving away gift cards. It’s probably difficult to be rude They to customers when you work at such a fun place.

After the trip, I think Carrie saw that Cleveland has some fun things to offer. She may stay loyal to Pittsburgh, but she can also be happy in Cleveland.

 

 

October 26, 2011

Downtown Cleveland is for You

Most people have probably seen the hastily made Cleveland tourism video by now. In case you forgot about it, the video pokes fun at how small, dirty and poor Cleveland is. It was made a few years back and ended up becoming so popular that the people who made it actually made a second video that (in my opinion) was even funnier. In case you’re the one person who still hasn’t seen the first video (seriously though, even my mom saw it), here it is:

I love Cleveland and believe it is a great city that is growing despite the current economy, but I still think that’s a funny video. Every city has its problems and the catchy beat of this video sure makes the run-down buildings look more inviting. Well, maybe not quite, but I really have seen that one guy at 0:16. They probably should have put the “I’m too sexy” guy in there, too. If you’ve been to a Cleveland sports game or SouthPark Mall in Strongsville, you know who he is (he wears a light-up belt and really colorful, flashy clothes).

While the video is sure to get some laughs, I recently found another Cleveland tourism video that does a better job at describing Cleveland’s attributes. The Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA) recently released a video titled, “Downtown Cleveland… Is It For You?”

DCA is a not-for-profit group that supports development in the Cleveland area. They do this by connecting with different organizations in the area and starting initiatives or creating special events. DCA does everything from helping the homeless to participating in Cleveland’s Winterfest. Simply put, they’re all about Cleveland.

While there are bad parts about Cleveland, the DCA video does a great job of highlighting the good parts. The lake, the food trucks and the shops (and the dogs) are all wonderful aspects of Cleveland. If I’m not mistaken, I think I went to the clothing shop that appeared in the video on one of the first days it was open with a friend of mine who lives in Cleveland. I really liked the clothes but they were a little too pricey for a college student.

Creating this video was a great way to show people what Cleveland is about. I’ve lived in the area since I was born and so much has changed from when I was a kid (not just the Tribe’s record). Sure, Cleveland might have been the place with the deserted flats, run-down food stands and drifters, but it’s much more than that. The shops, bars and restaurants are thriving and creating more jobs. We’ve got a casino, medical mart & convention center and aquarium on the way. Our basketball team hasn’t even lost a game this season.

When it comes down to it, Cleveland has some great potential to cash in on in the next few years. By being positive about what the city does have, we’ll create a better image for Cleveland.

October 18, 2011

Cleveland Metroparks

Like I said in last week’s post, I love taking walks in the fall (or summer or spring or winter, but it just so happens to be fall). If you’re looking for a place to take a nice stroll, you really should check out the Cleveland Metroparks. My parents used to take my siblings and I to the metroparks all the time when I was little to fish or just hang out. I always loved playing in the leaves or watching the waterfalls.  It’s a great place for some beautiful scenery.

The Cleveland Metroparks aim to conserve natural resources and educate the public about these resources. Cleveland officials started setting aside land for the Cleveland Metroparks in the early 1900s.  According to the website, there are 17 different metropark locations including the zoo. They surround the city of Cleveland in a circle, so it’s known as the Emerald Necklace. The plan is to connect the locations to form a long trail.

The locations all have some really cool things, like all-purpose trails, horse trails, kayaking and paddle boating, fishing and picnic areas. One of the 17 locations is actually a golf course. I also hear that they have geocaching, but I don’t know too much about that. Of course, the zoo has animals and lots of great activities. The other areas also have some activities during the year. They plan everything from group walks to children’s events. They even have hay rides going on now and other seasonal events all year long.


Personally, I usually make use of the trails. They’re great for bike riding, as many of the trails connect throughout Northeast Ohio. Running and walking the trails is also fun. In fact, one of my friends and I go for a run in the Cleveland Metroparks every year on the Fourth of July. There are a lot of the park features to stop and look at, like the lakes and trees. I’ve also tried my hand at kayaking, paddle boating, sledding, tobogganing and fishing. I can’t say any of them worked out too well, but they were fun to try! All of these activities are either free or very cheap, so it’s an awesome way to just try out an activity that you might be interested in.

Trying to use the paddle boat! Yes, I had to wear a life jacket because I can't swim.

Hinckley Reservation is the closest one to my house back home. I used to go there a lot to hang out or run. We even used to meet there to run for various sports teams I was on. It’s also the one with kayaking and paddle boat rentals. It’s very hilly and very pretty, and there’s also a waterfall (don’t get too close while you’re kayaking)! I was there this afternoon and I took some pictures in the beautiful fall weather. There was a man sitting near the top of the waterfall painting a picture and other people were walking or running the trails. What would you like to try at the Cleveland Metroparks?

October 12, 2011

Cleveland’s Pumpkins

This weekend, some friends and I went to my hometown of Brunswick in search of some pumpkins. We ended up at Mapleside Farm‘s Pumpkin Village. Pumpkin Village is a new festival this year that has a different theme every week, like Oktoberfest or Super Hero Week. This past week was Pumpkinfest.

I don’t know what I was really expecting before I went, but this place was crowded. It was difficult to find parking that my car wouldn’t get stuck in because it was all grass (and mud). The farm was crowded, too. There were a lot of little kids, as the event seemed to be tailored to children. There was a bounce house type of thing, a slide and little train rides. There was also an area that was further back into the farm that you couldn’t really see from the front and you weren’t allowed back there without a ticket. It seemed like it was just the slide and a corn maze, so we chose to not pay the almost $10 admission.

We did, however, get pumpkins! We went later at night so there weren’t that many left, but the ones that were left were quality pumpkins. What is a quality pumpkin? Well, I’m sure everyone has a different definition, but I think pumpkins are good when they’re fairly round and deep orange with few spots on them. There weren’t any sitting around that were decaying, either (like at WalMart). The pumpkins were pretty big, too. Mine tipped the scale at a little over 20 pounds, but when I had to carry it to my car I think it was more like 100 pounds.

The pumpkins were fairly expensive, but still under $10. My dad said they’re so expensive this year because Hurricane Irene wiped out some pumpkin patches. He also said that for every pumpkin sold at Mapleside, they’re donating one pumpkin to the community of Paterson, New Jersey. Not only were they hit hard by the hurricane, but the economy took a toll on them too. I can pay a few extra bucks for a quality pumpkin if it means a kid on the East Coast can have a happier fall.

If you’re looking for something fun and fall-ish to do, I’d check out Pumpkin Village. It’s a great way to spend a fall evening, because fall evenings in Ohio are spectacular. The deep red sunsets complement the oranges and yellows on the trees. I wish I would have taken pictures, but I had a pumpkin in my hands. I love doing different activities outside in the fall, even if it is just taking a walk. What do you like to do in the fall?

October 3, 2011

Cleveland’s Music Scene

When you think of music in Cleveland, what comes to mind? My guess is that you’ll think of the House of Blues, the Grog Shop, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and possibly even Blossom Music Center. However, I’ve recently discovered a lesser-known venue that ranks pretty high on my list of places to see live music. Have you ever heard of Beachland Ballroom and Tavern?

Beachland Ballroom

The Area
I went to Beachland for the first time this weekend to see The Head and the Heart perform. The venue is in East Cleveland so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I usually tend to stick around downtown and the West side. I had been around the area before and I knew there weren’t a lot of businesses in the general area so I was surprised to see the street that Beachland is on had quite a few cool places, like a coffee shop and CLE Clothing (That’s where I buy all my Cleveland gear, but I order it online). While it’s not the nicest area of Cleveland, it’s certainly not a bad place.

Beachland Ballroom



 

The Venue
Beachland is separated into two different venues: the ballroom and the tavern. The concert I went to was in the ballroom, which seems like the larger of the two. The place kind of looks like a dive inside. I don’t know about you, but I love dive restaurants, bars and music venues (Some things should not be dives, though. Like hospitals and airports.) so I gave the place some bonus points right there. The actual stage and floor is just like a middle school gym. Seriously. There is an old hardwood floor that looked like it had been there forever and there are some weird murals on the walls. State-of-the-art? No. Uniquely awesome? You bet. The venue is small and I really like that. It’s easier to be closer and see the band. There were probably around 200 people there. 

Beachland Ballroom

If you walk to the opposite end of the floor near the stage, you might find your way to the bar. Or you might accidentally (or on purpose) end up backstage. For a small place, this bar had a lot of drink options. The bartenders seemed really friendly, too, which is always a plus.

 

The Music
The Head and the Heart was fantastic, as were the two opening bands, The Devil Whale and Thao with The Get Down Stay Down. Not only did they sound fantastic, but you could tell that they were genuinely having fun. Members from each band kept running on stage and singing with the other bands and just jumping all over the place. A (drunk) girl in the front row was all decked out in Browns attire, including this winter hat made to look like a Browns helmet. She kept throwing it on stage and the bands kept wearing it. That’s what makes a concert fun. I highly recommend all of these bands, even though they aren’t from Cleveland.

Beachland Ballroom

 

 

What’s your favorite music venue in Northeast Ohio?



 

September 27, 2011

Coming Soon: Cleveland’s New Aquarium

I love Shark Week. Everyone knows that the TV is mine every night of Shark Week and that I’ll speak in shark terms for a month after. Shark Week even started following me on twitter. So I’m sure you can imagine how excited I am for the Greater Cleveland Aquarium to open this December!

What? You haven’t heard about the Greater Cleveland Aquarium? A lot of people haven’t. Those darn casinos (No offense, casinos. I can’t wait to go play roulette with Dan Gilbert.) have really taken over the spotlight. If you have heard something about some aquarium in Cleveland, you might not have heard a lot. Let me fill you in.

Back in 1954, the City of Cleveland opened the Cleveland Aquarium at Gordon Park. It included a large variety of fish species as well as other water animals like sharks and crocodiles, and it certainly attracted a large number of visitors. However, aquariums need a good amount of funding to keep the exhibits safe and functional. This wasn’t a priority of the city, so the aquarium had to be shut down in 1985.

Site of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium

Since then, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has served as Cleveland’s aquarium. While they really do have a great variety of fish, sharks and aquatic life, Cleveland is in need of an aquarium that is 100% dedicated to aquatic life.

So, enter the Greater Cleveland Aquarium project. Currently under way, the project will cost over $70 million and open this December. It’s located in the FirstEnergy Powerhouse on the West bank of the Flats near Nautica Pavilion. (Fun Fact: I took the picture for the banner of this blog from Nautica during a Moody Blues concert.)

Nautica Pavilion

The aquariums will include over 40 exhibit tanks as well as a SeaTube. SeaTubes are those long hallways that cut through a huge tank so you can look at the aquatic life through the sides and up above you. This is good for people like me who can’t swim because now I can feel like I’m swimming with the sharks even though I’m not. (Yes, I love learning about sharks but I can’t swim!) Developers are even planning a second exhibit about oceans that they can add after the aquarium opens.

Cleveland Aquarium construction

Cleveland Aquarium construction

They hope to attract nearly 500,000 people to the aquarium per year. Hopefully, the aquarium will bring in some city life along with the aquatic life. I know I’ll be making my way up to Cleveland this December to see the aquarium. Will you?

September 18, 2011

Reasons to Love Cleveland

Cleveland is a great place to live.  Trust me, I grew up here.  But if you don’t want to take my word, the Huffington Post recently posted an article about how Cleveland is the second best city for recent grads.  The study, done by CareerRookie and Apartments.com, ranked cities based on a number of different areas, including one-person apartment rent, number of entry-level jobs and population of people aged 20-24.  Had they also based the study on restaurants, things to do and loyalty of sports fans, we totally would have been number one.

In my opinion, the Cleveland area is a very livable place.  Sure, the winter is brutal but every other season in beautiful.  Taking a walk in the Metroparks on a fall day is a wonderful experience.  If going for a walk isn’t really your thing, there’s plenty of other stuff going on.  Here are my reasons to love Cleveland:

  • Our sports teams.  We might not be winning championships, but nothing beats a Tribe game on a warm summer night.  Plus, there really is always next year.
Tribe Game
  • West Side Market. The beautiful colors of all the fresh fruit and produce make me wish I could buy all of my food here. Don’t forget to try the homemade ravioli and pasta!
  • East 4th Street. This street is lined with festive lights and all kinds of restaurants and venues.
  • The Science Center. I went to Mars this summer via an exhibit there. How cool is that?
  • The Zoo. You can ride camels and see elephants up close.  They really need to get some penguins, though.
Cleveland Zoo
  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The building itself is cool, but just wait until you see all the awesome exhibits and artifacts. I would have never guessed Jimi Hendrix was so small if I didn’t see his outfits on display there.
  • Lake Erie. Yes, there are beaches in Cleveland.  It might not be the Caribbean, but it’s what you make of it.
  • The Metroparks. Like I said before, the metroparks are beautiful and perfect for a nice walk or bike ride.
  • Festivals. There’s always something going on. I think this week is patio week or something like that (No, I’m not even kidding.)
  • The Casino. Well, I think it will be great.  Right now I picture it as somewhere Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby would hang out.
This doesn’t sound like the most miserable city in America to me! What are your reasons to love Cleveland?
September 14, 2011

Cleveland Oktoberfest

I went to my first Oktoberfest in Berea at the beginning of September.  I never really knew what Oktoberfest is or why it’s always held in September instead of October (Oktober?), but I took this opportunity to find out (I should probably know since I’m more than half German).  To my understanding (and according to http://www.oktoberfest.de), Oktoberfest is a large festival that has taken place in Munich since 1810.  It started as a celebration of a royal wedding that took place in October (Oktober?).  Every year after, the people decided to keep celebrating.  Finally, they moved the event so it started in the middle of September and ended in October because it allowed for better weather.  Now people celebrate Oktoberfest all over the world.

Cleveland’s Oktoberfest had a lot more activities than I thought it would.  My favorite parts were:

  • Lots of different kinds of beer
  • Gingerbread house making contest (I was too old to enter)
  • Everyone wearing German dresses or lederhosen
  • The Wiener Dog Race
  • Food! Pierogies, paprikash and lemonade
Pierogies

Delicious Pierogies

Cleveland Oktoberfest is over for this year, but I highly recommend it to anyone who has ever thought about going.  It has events for children and also (of course) beer, so there’s really something for everyone.  They also try to promote all different kinds of cultures throughout the event by having presentations and other international events throughout the weekend.  You can find out more about this specific Oktoberfest here.