Category Archives: Tours

Cleveland Scares: West Clinton Historic Haunts Walking Tour

Giveaway Reminder: You have until Monday, Sept. 30 at 11:59pm to enter the L’Amour du Vin giveaway. Remember to tweet daily for extra entries, and tune into WEOL 940AM on Oct. 1 at 8:10AM, when Dr. Donald Sheldon – EMH president and CEO, and honorary chair of this year’s event – is scheduled to be interviewed.
Our garden gnomes are ready for Halloween. Are you?

Our garden gnomes are ready for Halloween. Are you?

The Halloween decorations and fall flowers have started to go up around the Hicken house, and with October’s arrival comes Halloween festivities.

Cleveland.com has a good list of haunted houses in Northeast Ohio, from zombies galore at Burton’s Undead Armageddon Haunted Forest and Elyria Hauntville’s 3-D zombie paintball hunt to the Mansfield Reformatory and Hudson Haunted House. Then of course there’s Cedar Point’s Halloweekends and Boo at the Zoo.

Personally, I love my Halloween haunts mixed with a bit of history, which is what you’ll find in the Detroit Shoreway Neighborhood next weekend.

Ghoulish tourguides at the West Clinton Historic Haunts Walking Tour

Ghoulish tourguides at the West Clinton Historic Haunts Walking Tour

On October 4 and 5, the West Clinton Historic Haunts Walking Tour will transport you to 1910 Cleveland. Guests will be met by famed former Cleveland Mayor Tom L. Johnson at Cleveland Public Theatre’s Parish Hall (6205 Detroit Avenue).

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Fun in the Sun Giveaway: Cleveland Bike Tours

Cleveland Bike Tours Giveaway

Enter to win a Cleveland Bike Tour for you and 11 friends

With my last two “fun in the Cleveland sun” giveaways, we’ve checked out upcoming concerts and gone to the beach. This next one is for the active Clevelander:

I hide indoors during the winter. So once the sun starts shining and temperatures rise, I like to get outside as much as possible: dragging Scott on walks, taking a swim at our pool, and – after last year’s bike tour of downtown CLE – hopping on a bike.

Biking used to make me nervous; I had one too many falls growing up. But when the Ohio Blogging Association went on a bike tour, Anne Smith of Cleveland Bike Tours not just taught us a lot about the city, but was also incredibly patient in getting newbies like me comfortable with biking. (My recap of the downtown Cleveland bike tour)

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12 Days of Cleveland – Thankful for Too Much To Do This Holiday Season

This Thanksgiving, there were many things to be thankful for. I’m lucky to have a pretty swell husband (understatement), fantastic parents and sister, friends and even in-laws (congrats Laura and Max on your engagement!). From work to home and in between, there’s not much to complain about.

And even better, I get to spend my time in Cleveland. Whether it’s Downtown, east, west or the suburbs – there’s always something to do. In fact, if I had one complaint it’s that there’s sometimes too much to choose from.

However, I consider that a very lucky problem to have. Clevelanders are blessed with a city that not just offers us a lot of unique entertainment, food, art and shopping experiences, but more importantly is small enough that most of it is accessible.

As we head into the holiday season, Cleveland is bustling with even more activity. In honor of one of my favorite carols, here are my “12 Days of Cleveland” Picks.

Holiday shopping events make it easier to take the pledge to shop local

Day 1. Shop Local Showcase: On Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, get your holiday shopping done early with Room Service’s Made in the 216 Holiday Shoppe (today-12/31), Bazaar Bizarre Cleveland’s eastside show (today and Saturday) and Downtown Cleveland’s Winterfest (Saturday).

And if you’re a procrastinator like me, Yelp Cleveland’s Shop Local Pledge has a full list of shopping events throughout December like Bazaar Bizarre’s huge westside show (12/8-12/9) and Screw Factory’s Last Minute Market (12/15).

Day 2. Circle in the City: One of the things on my Cleveland to-see list is the inside of the Cleveland Trust Rotunda.  Every time I walk by it, I stare longingly wanting to get a glimpse of the murals and stunning stained-glass dome I’ve only seen in pictures. Thanks to the Downtown Cleveland Alliance and University Circle, my holiday wish has been granted with Circle in the City!

Every Wednesday between now and Dec. 12, the Ameritrust Rotunda will open from 11:30am-1pm for free cultural events sponsored by University Circle institutions. A food truck or two will be outside where you can grab lunch.

On my day off this past Wednesday, I stopped in for the first Circle in the City: a performance by Robert Cassidy, Department of Music faculty member and pianist for the Almeda Trio, The Music Settlement’s professional ensemble in residence. It was a harmonious complement to the Rotunda’s artwork and architecture whose beauty surpassed the photographs.

Circle in the City offers up beautiful sounds for the holiday as well as a rare opportunity to see the inside of the Cleveland Trust Rotunda

Day 3. Tinsel Town: If you have children, gather your family together to celebrate the holidays at PlayhouseSquare’s Tinsel Town Party (12/1). From 12-2 pm, the beautifully decorated Palace Theatre lobby will host holiday crafts, cookie decorating and of course Santa! Snacks and hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles will also be available. All proceeds benefit community engagement and education programs at PlayhouseSquare (Family Four Pack: $40; Adult: $8; Child: $14; half-price discounts for Pals Members).

Day 4. Holiday CircleFest: Ring in December at the Holiday CircleFest (12/2). From 1-5:30pm, spend your day in University Circle experiencing more than a dozen of Cleveland’s cultural treasures free of charge. Meanwhile, enjoy live music, craft making, historic displays of holiday toys, storytelling, a singing Santa, live reindeer, the city’s best gingerbread house competition, and more.

Wade Oval will also be busy with free horse-drawn carriage rides, ice carving demos, and ice-skating at the Oval’s Rink. At 5:30, the celebration concludes with The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Winter Lights Lantern Procession.

A Cleveland holiday tradition returns to PlayhouseSquare with Cleveland Orchestra and Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker (11/29-12/2)

Day 5. The Nutcracker on Stage and Screen: The incomparable pairing of the Joffrey Ballet and the Cleveland Orchestra returns to PlayhouseSquare with their annual run of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (11/29-12/2). Audiences will delight in the breathtaking costumes, magical music and spectacular dancing.

Although nothing compares to a live performance, if you can’t make it to the Cleveland production, Fathom Events will present the Russian Imperial Mariinsky Theatre’s The Nutcracker (12/3) at ten local movie theatres. Performances are at 2 and 7:30pm. Find your closest location here.

Day 6. Warehouse District Holiday Tour: Each December, hundreds of people descend onto Warehouse District for their annual Neighborhood Holiday Tour. Now in its 13th year, the popular tour (12/5) features a behind the scenes look at the Warehouse District’s beautiful residential and office buildings as well as a feast from the neighborhood’s restaurants.

This year’s tour includes stops at the Bridgeview Apartments Atrium, 425 Lakeside, the Bradley Building, the Cloak Factory, Old Stone Church, the offices of Rieth, Antonelli & Raj, plus a construction tour of the Flats East Bank Project.

Guests will then enjoy holiday treats from Barley House, Bar Louie, The Blind Pig, Blue Point Grille, Bob Golic’s Sports Bar & Grille, BRGR 9, Constantino’s Market, Charkha Exotic Indian Cuisine, Gillespie’s Map Room, Johnny’s Downtown, John Q’s Steakhouse and Taza Lebanese Grill. Proceeds from the tour benefit the Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation.

A special Santaland Diaries YP Night on 12/6 features a pre-show reception and tickets to the performance

Day 7. Santaland Diaries: PlayhouseSquare is serving up some not-so-family-friendly holiday fare when David Sedaris’ classic Santaland Diaries comes to the E14th St Theatre (11/28-12/22). Produced by Cleveland Public Theatre, Santaland Diaries recounts the hilarious (and sometimes horrible) stories of an out of work actor who takes a job as Crumpet, the Macy’s Christmas elf.

And on 12/6, join me at a special YP Night at Santaland Diaries. $30 gets you a ticket to the performance and unlimited drinks and light appetizers at a pre-show reception hosted by PlayhouseSquare Partners.

Day 8. Howard Hanna’s Chow Chow: If you’re downtown on 12/7 and  looking for a good deal on lunch, stop by Howard Hanna’s Chow Chow Fundraiser. From 11am-2pm, enjoy food from Blue Point Grill, Brennan’s Catering, John Q’s Steakhouse, Mr. Chicken and Marigold Catering for only $10. Proceeds from the event’s tickets, silent auction, and bake sale will go to the Children’s Free Care Fund which supports local Children’s hospitals including UH Rainbow Babies, Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, MetroHealth and Akron Children’s Hospital.

Work off those holiday goodies at the Jingle Bell Run (12/8)

Day 9. Jingle Bell Run: Lace up your running shoes, pull on your santa hat or reindeer antlers and help raise money for the Arthritis Foundation with the Cleveland Jingle Bell Run/Walk (12/8). Jingle Bell teams and solo runners are raising money and participating in the 5K which kicks off at 9am in Legacy Village.  Register to run/walk here or make a donation.

Day 10. Christmas Carols Old and New: While one of Northeast Ohio’s favorite holiday traditions returns to the Hanna Theatre with Great Lakes Theater’s A Christmas Carol, the Cleveland Play House is helming a brand new carol at the Allen. Both shows run 11/30-12/23.

Great Lakes’ adaptation of A Christmas Carol takes place in London on Christmas Eve as the Cleaveland family sits down for their annual reading of the story. Children and adults will enjoy a fresh take on Scrooge’s tale as they see it unfold through the imagination of the family’s youngest son.

Down the street at the Allen Theatre, Cleveland Play House presents the world premiere A Carol for Cleveland. Written by local playwright Eric Coble and author Les Roberts, A Carol for Cleveland is a love-letter to the city and the determination and spirit that make it unique. With my love of Les Roberts and after last year’s stunning The Game’s Afoot, you know that A Carol for Cleveland is top of my list for holiday shows.

Have you been naughty or nice this year? Who cares at Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus Dinner Party! (12/20)

Day 11. Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus: It doesn’t matter if you’ve been naughty or nice this year, Emerging Chefs has a party for every boy and girl (well, man and woman since you should find a babysitter for this holiday dinner).

At Naughty Claus (12/20), Chef Adam Lambert will make the holidays merry, bright and delicious with festive cuisine at Cleveland’s Speakeasy.

From 8pm to midnight, the NY Times-featured prohibition-era-themed lounge will play host to a 5-course meal paired with libations. If you’re not already in a holiday mood, creative courses like Snow Globe Ornaments (with oyster, Douglas fir, juniper and tonic), XXX-Mas Cookies, truffle Snowballs, Who Ham for One and Kosher Khristmas will get you in one. Plus everyone will leave with a bit of “coal” for their stockings. If only for one night, it’ll be good to be bad.

Day 12. Ale, Cookies and Ugly Sweater Party: The Cleveland Foodbank’s YP Pantry hosts its first annual Ale & Cookies party for Cleveland young professionals.  Join them at Bier Markt-Bar Cento on Dec. 17, 6-9pm for some Christmas Ale and holiday cookies while helping the hungry. 15% of the group’s bar bills will go directly to the Cleveland Foodbank and donations of canned goods are always welcome. Best ugly holiday sweater wins a prize!

This list is only the tip of the gingerbread house when it comes to holiday fun in Cleveland. Share your picks in the comments below!

Disclosure: In exchange for previewing and reviewing Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus, I was offered one ticket to the event. I am also on the board of PlayhouseSquare Partners and the YP Pantry which are hosting Tinsel Town, the Santaland Diaries YP Night and Ale and Cookies.

Cleveland Architecture Book Colors Outside the Lines

Select pages from the Cleveland Architecture Coloring Book

I know I said I had been planning to take the week off to work on transferring my blog. But when I got an email about today’s post I couldn’t hold off.

While most of the local projects and events I blog about are geared towards adults, I’m a huge fan of those that encourage the next generation of Clevelanders to take an interest in their city.

And Rustbelt architectural designer Jeremy Smith has taken a very creative and fun approach to helping kids (and the young at heart) learn more about Cleveland’s history and many of its landmarks.

The Cleveland Architecture Coloring Book puts an interactive twist on the format of old architectural companions. Each page of the coloring book features a rendering of a local landmark accompanied by information about the architect and year completed.

Some of the featured buildings include the Greyhound Bus Terminal by William Strudwick Arrasmith, the ASM International World Headquarters by John Terence Kelly and R. Buckminster Fuller, Hillcrest Hospital by Westlake Reed Leskosky, and of course the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by I.M. Pei.

One of the features I like most is that the location of each piece is also included so readers can plan a field trip to see their favorite works.

The initial publication of the Cleveland Architecture Coloring Book sold out in less than a month. Now Smith’s designbelt start-up is working on a second printing featuring 1500 copies of an expanded edition.

Which is where you and I come in.

Now until Nov. 24, we can donate to Smith’s Cleveland Architectural Coloring Book Kickstarter, which is raising money for the book’s second printing in time for the holidays.

There are a handful of perks for donations starting at $10. Donate $20 or more and you can get your own copy of the book.

The ultimate goal of Smith’s book is to get it into public schools and children’s hospitals to promote design education and a better understanding of our region.

This reprinting is the next step, so help spread the word about a local project that colors outside the lines.

Images courtesy of designbelt.

A Downtown Bike Tour with Cleveland Bike Tours and Ohio Blogging

Thanks to this month’s Ohio Blogging Meetup, I got back on a bike for the first time in years and somehow managed to not hurt myself (or others!)

Cliches exist because there’s usually some element of truth to them.  And earlier this week I proved that you never in fact forget how to ride a bicycle when I got back on one after years and years of not biking.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I have almost no balance — check me out in a yoga class if you’re ever curious.  When I was a kid it took me a really long time – and a lot of falls into ditches – to get on a bike. But once I did, I didn’t stop – spending anytime I wasn’t in the water during the summer biking through the neighborhood and along the beach.

But then I stopped. After I moved to Philly, I had a huge fear of biking in the city because I thought my clumsiness combined with cars and crowded streets would likely result in an accident.

The group takes a break from the bike tour to check out Marine Week and get a photo in Public Square (photo courtesy of Ohio Blogging/Poise in Parma)

Flash forward to this week and the Ohio Blogging Association‘s latest blogger meetup.

For this month’s Blogger Night, we met up at the Bike Rack in downtown Cleveland for a bike tour with Cleveland Bike Tours.

Our fearless tour guide – Anne Smith, founder of Cleveland Bike Tours

Cleveland Bike Tours (iBikeCLE on Facebook; formerly called Great Lakes Tour Company) was founded by Anne Smith in 2010. As Northeast Ohio’s premier source for custom bicycle tours, Cleveland Bike Tours brings fitness and adventure together on Cleveland-area bicycle trails while promoting interest in regional tourism and history.

From Cleveland neighborhoods – like downtown, University Circle and Ohio City – to the Bike Aboards in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cleveland Bike Tours has designed excursions for riders of all experience levels – even (re-)beginners like me!

I love exploring downtown on foot – and now by bike – because you get the best view of Cleveland’s beautiful buildings

For the Blogger Meetup, we took a tour through downtown Cleveland. We picked up our cruiser bikes and helmets outside of The Bike Rack (Don’t have a bike? For a few dollars more you can rent one from BikeCLE). Then we were off!

We first biked past the Q and Progressive, learning about our sports teams’ histories, and then over to Erie Street Cemetary (my first time there!) to learn about the legend of Joc-O-Sot’s angry ghost and downtown’s other “permanent residents.”

Joc-O-Sot, why would you ever want to break out of your grave and leave the Cleve?

Biking down Euclid and E 9th Street, we stopped at PlayhouseSquare, the Cathedral and the Free Stamp for this fun group shot:

Taking a break from checking into FourSquare (photo courtesy of Ohio Blogging/Poise in Parma)

From there we headed to Public Square for the War Memorial Fountain, Medical Mart, Old Stone Church, the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument and Marine Week.

Everytime I see a helicopter in an unusual setting, I have an uncontrollable urge to take a photo and exclaim “Go-go-Gadget-copter!”

Although I work downtown, even I learned a few things about the buildings and monuments I pass by everyday thanks to Anne’s tour.  I also got over my near-paralyzing fear of getting hit by a car.

Anne did an excellent job at guiding us through the streets and sidewalks. I didn’t get hit, hit anything or fall over and embarrass myself (I know – I was shocked too!)

Even though I pass by this statue everyday, it was fun to take a closer look and learn some trivia about it

We finished the tour with a trip down E 4th to end up back at The Bike Rack. Through a partnership with the City of Cleveland and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, The Bike Rack offers the region’s first full service bicycle parking and commuter center for everyone.

Clevelanders like Julie who own their own bike can take advantage of The Bike Rack’s commuter facilities (Don’t have a bike? They do rentals too!)

With the goal of making downtown Cleveland a more bike friendly environment, it provides convenient, secure bicycle parking and fulfills everyday commuting needs with individual shower/changing facilities, lockers, bicycle rentals and a full service bicycle repair shop.

Although I didn’t need a shower, it was nice to have a spot to freshen up afterwards and relax. If you have the capability to commute and bike downtown, I would highly recommend taking advantage of their facility.

Cooker Girl’s husband Kevin goofing off — we clearly needed food in our stomachs at this point. Good thing there was food back at The Bike Rack!

While our group of bloggers hung out and caught up with each other, we grabbed a post-tour bite to eat courtesy of Cleveland Bike Tours. Anne even sent us on our way with a treat to enjoy when we got home – a bag of Love Kettle Corn. Cleveland Bike Tours has just started selling these to help raise funds for Blessings in a Backpack.

Because no child should go hungry, each purchase of Love Kettle Corn will provide a child with one meal through the organization.   After tasting devouring the bag I took home, I need to order some more.

So good! And for a good cause! Each purchase of BikeCLE’s Love Kettle Corn will provide a child with one meal through Blessings in a Backpack

It was great getting in a bit of fitness and Cleveland history in one evening – plus the chance to catch up with new and old blogger friends alike:

PlayhouseSquare will host our next Blogger Meetup on 7/11, courtesy of the young professionals group PlayhouseSquare Partners

Thanks again to Cleveland Bike Tours and The Bike Rack for hosting; all of the bloggers who were there that didn’t laugh at me wobbling on my bike; and Alicia (as always!) for organizing this month’s Meetup!

Getting out and Exploring Northeast Ohio

Scott, his family and I enjoying our Memorial Day weekend (somehow our only group picture – taken Monday at Debonne Winery)

For the three-day Memorial weekend, Scott and I decided to change things up a bit. Instead of traveling out of town like most of our previous weekends, we hosted Scott’s parents and grandmother.

I love having out-of-town guests because it means I can put on my tourist shoes and explore places in Cleveland I may not get to as often as I’d like. Call me a nerd, but I relish having an excuse to scour the Cleveland Scene or Plain Dealer’s Friday! section and think about the different things my visiting family or friends would enjoy doing.

I’M FREE!!!! (Scott may have enjoyed a little too much wine and open air at South River Vineyard)

Although it was Scott’s family visiting this time, I couldn’t help myself and still butted in on the sightseeing research. Because it was Memorial Day weekend, we had plenty of options to choose from (almost too many!).

We started the weekend out slow – with a leisurely drive out to Sandusky.

Besides taking a scenic drive down Route 6, we had a second reason to head out there – picking up our season passes to Cedar Point. Unfortunately, by the time we got out there the line for pass pickup was too long to justify making Scott’s family wait, so we piled in the car and headed back.

However, it wasn’t a wasted trip at all because we stopped in downtown Vermilon on our way home for a stroll and a bite to eat.

The Old Prague Restaurant serves up traditional Czech fare – along with some great Yellow Perch according to other restaurant guests

Scott’s Serbian grandmother loved the Czechoslovakian fare at the Old Prague Restaurant. It was difficult not to love – I will hardly ever turn down Chicken Paprikash, dumplings and spaetzles.

I also enjoyed the Shishki appetizer. The tangy apple mustard was a great complement to the spicy meatloaf rolls; though I found the batter the rolls were fried in ended up a bit hard to bite into at times.

To pair with their schnitzel, Old Prague offers a fairly decent selection of Czech beers – both Scott and I were happy with our Golden Pheasant Pilsner and Zatec Dark Lager.

Scott’s grandmother downed this entire Zatec Dark (kidding!)

Even though the Old Prague Restaurant offers homemade strudel and other desserts, we decided to save room for ice cream at Big Ed’s Main Street Soda Grill.

Big Ed’s is a very quaint, vintage-styled soda hop. When we got there the staff seemed a bit harried because of the Memorial Day crowd; however, we were able to grab a few seats at the counter and enjoy our ice cream sundaes, root beer floats and milkshakes.

I ordered the Red River which was a vanilla milkshake mixed with cherry syrup and 7UP. That brought me back to summers in Philly and our frequent visits to Rita’s Water Ice.

Although small, downtown Vermilion seems to pack a lot of restaurants, shops, and galleries within just a couple of blocks. It also has plenty of sightseeing to offer for boat and train fans, as Lake Erie is located on one side and the railroad (with a very cute depot) runs along the other.

It was our first time visiting Vermilion, but considering it’s a short drive from our house and on the way home from Cedar Point, Scott and I will probably be making pit stops there throughout the summer.

Scott and his grandmother read about the history of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad while we enjoy a ride through the national park

After Saturday’s drive, we decided on a different mode of transportation for Sunday’s sightseeing: the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

Scott and I are HUGE train fanatics (thanks to both of our families) and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is one of our favorite things to do in Cleveland.

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s Canal Visitor Center features a museum and a chance to experience the park’s natural beauty up close

Through a partnership with the National Park Service, the CVSR operates excursion trains along this railway that once carried passengers and freight back and forth between Akron and Cleveland.

This was my third ride on the CVSR so I knew from previous experience that Scott’s family would enjoy it. On Saturday, we made the drive to the small town of Peninsula and got some lunch while we waited for the train to depart.

The train comes into the CVSR’s Peninsula Station, as Tow Path cyclists wait to “ride aboard”

The train runs from Rockside in Independence all the way to Akron and back – Peninsula is the stop in the middle and my favorite because it’s an easy walk to a couple of antique and gift shops.

Because of the heat, we decided to save most of our sightseeing for the train. During the trip, there’s plenty of nature and other points of interest to enjoy right through your window – from meadowland, woods, rivers and marsh.

As the train crossed one of the streams in Cuyhoga Valley National Park, we caught this glimpse of kayakers enjoying their Sunday

If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of some wildlife too (there’s an eagle’s roost in the marsh right before the Rockside stop). And cyclists can enjoy the train and the Towpath Trail through CVSR’s Bike Aboard! program.

However, the highlight for me of this weekend’s trip was sneaking a peek inside their St. Lucie Sound executive car to snap this photo:

The CVSR’s St. Lucie executive car is used for special events as well as their Ales and Wine excursions

Seats on this luxury car are reserved for special events, as well as their Ales on Rails and Grape Escape trips.

If you haven’t been, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s summer season starts this weekend on June 2 – making even more stops and giving you more reasons to go.

Scott – a former sousaphone player in his high school band – was happy we got to Avon Lake’s Memorial Day parade just in time to see the ALHS Marching Band

We decided to celebrate Memorial Day by sharing one of my new favorite daytrips with Scott’s family — Geneva, Ohio.

Before we headed out for a day of sipping wine, we went to Avon Lake’s Memorial Day Parade and paid our respects to everyone whose service allowed us the freedoms to enjoy this beautiful weekend.

We then packed up the car and headed for wine country.

Scott’s mom and I decked out in our reds and whites, while drinking reds and whites at South River Vineyard

Because it was a Monday, our winery options were somewhat limited (many of their kitchens and the wineries themselves are closed). Fortunately, two of our three favorites were open: South River and Debonne.

We enjoyed burgers and hot dogs at Debonne along with a couple of tasting trays and their Cellar Rats beer. Now that Summer is moreorless here, their calendar is filling with events including the 30th annual Hot Air Balloon rally on June 9th and the Model Airplane Club’s demonstration on June 16th.

Ever the ham, Scott stole a sip from my rootbeer float at Rees’ Corner

After a stop at Rees’ Corner in downtown Geneva for more rootbeer floats (because you can never have enough ice cream!), we headed to South River. Because Monday’s sweltering heat finally broke and a breeze picked up in the afternoon, we were able to take our glasses of wine and cheese & fruit plate out to the pavilion and just relax while looking over their vineyard.

Scott’s father, who loves a good glass of wine, enjoyed South River so much that he picked up a case to bring home and Scott and I snagged a few more bottles of their Riesling Reserve, Temptation and Chardonnay to add to our collection.

South River has started offering bourbon and beer flights for those looking for something different. Between this and our last visit, South River has proven to be a consistently great choice and has climbed to the top of our favorites thanks to the winning combination of both their wine and setting.

Oh to end every weekend with a view like this!

After three days enjoying Northeast Ohio’s small towns and scenic views, Scott’s parents and grandmother packed up and headed home yesterday morning with more than a few bottles of wine and memories of a wonderful Cleveland Memorial Day.

How did you spend your holiday? Share your favorite moments down in the Comments section.

All I Want for Cleve-Mas, Part 2: Local Holiday Shopping in Cleveland

Shop local this holiday season at stores like Crafty Goodness and Room Service, as well as the fun Cleveland shopping events mentioned below.

Happy Thanksgiving, Clue Into Clevelanders! I hope you have a great holiday with family, friends or relaxing at home.

Of course, the day after (and even Thanksgiving night for some stores) kicks off the holiday shopping season. Before you get swept away in the craziness of shopping for gifts, I suggest making a trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art to see Brian Ulrich’s Copia: Retail, Thrift, and Dark Stores.

Scott and I went last week for the Museum’s Buyer’s Remorse Party where Ulrich led a tour through his exhibit and spoke about his photography series.  

The zoned out faces of shoppers in contrast to the delicate portraits of thrift store workers were striking. And although the photographs of abandoned malls and big-box stores were surprisingly beautiful in their quiet desolation, they were also incredibly sad and had a clear impact on exhibit goers.

For me, the series was a perfectly timed reminder of the importance of buying local. 

At times, that means gifting experiences. For fans of Cleveland theatre, check out All I Want for Cleve-Mas, Part 1 about tickets you can give for local holiday shows. 

Or you can gift museum memberships, certificates for some of the city’s amazing restaurants, or tickets to Indians Snow Days and the Frozen Diamond hockey game at Progressive Field.

If you’re looking more for a tangible gift, there are plenty of stores and events inspiring Clevelanders to shop local:

Cleveland Craft Coalition's Black Friday party is just one event in the coming weeks where you can find unique and local handmade gifts.

Cleveland’s Buy Handmade Events

This city has an amazing community of artists and shop owners who champion handmade, local goods.  Unique and funky clothing, jewelry, baby goods, artwork and home decor can all be found at these events from Black Friday through December (updated 12/6):

You can also check out locally made products year-round at stores like Crafty Goodness, Dredgers Union, Room Service and Salty Not Sweet (to name just a couple of my favorites).

Yelp Shops Local Pledge

Finally, head over to Yelp to learn more about their Shop Local campaign. Across the country, Yelp is challenging communities to make an effort to support our cities’ great local businesses and encourage others to “Shop Wisely. Give Locally. Yelp On!”

As part of the campaign, Yelp Cleveland is hosting Shopping Crawls in Cleveland Heights (Dec. 4),  the Near Westside (Dec. 10) and Lakewood (Dec. 17). 

You can also take the 30-day pledge. From Nov. 25 through Dec. 24, check into the Yelp Shops Local event page, see that day’s task and use the hashtag #YelpShopsLocal on Twitter and Facebook to keep everyone across the country in the loop on how you’re shopping local.

Dine and shop with NEO Food Tours on Dec. 1 and 8.

Shop-and-Dine Holiday Tours

On Dec. 1st and 8th, NEO Food Tours is offering Shop-and-Dine Holiday Tours of the Cleveland Heights and Ohio City neighborhoods. In addition to showcasing the neighborhood’s restaurants, the tour will make stops at locally-owned retailers.

For instance, on the Dec. 1st Ohio City tour, the newly opened SOHO Kitchen & Bar will host a pop-up restaurant in Room Service (other stops include Campbell’s Sweets Factory, Bar Cento, Salty Not Sweet, Dragonfly, Something Different, and BonBon Pastry & Cafe). 

If you’d rather explore the eastside on Dec. 8th, Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley will lead the Cedar Lee tour, stopping at the Heights Art Gallery, Abrash Gallerie, Lopez on Lee, Taste, Revive, The Wine Spot, and SweetieFry.

NEO Food Tours is also offering an extended Black Friday special. Go to neofoodtours.eventbrite.com, use the code  BLACKFRIDAY_6011 between now and Nov. 29, and save 10% on the General Admission price. 

Tickets include food and drink at every stop, as well as tax, gratuity and a donation to a local organization (the Cleveland Heights tour will benefit the Heights Emergency Food Center and Ohio City will benefit Ohio City Incorporated).

These are just a few of Cleveland’s local shopping events this holiday season.   If you know of any others, please leave a comment below with more info!

For another great post about shopping local, check out The Chef’s Widow’s My Favorite Things (she also has a pretty sweet giveaway of CLE stuff). 

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Disclosure: I work with NEO Food Tours doing outreach to the community on our monthly food tours. However, I started working with them because of my love for promoting the community’s dining and shopping establishments and as always am sharing opinions here that are 100% my own.

October's Brewery and Harvest Happy Hour Food Tours

Enjoy an afternoon in Ohio City's Historic Market Square District with one of NEO Food Tours' October events

The lucky thing about being a fan of food in Cleveland is that we not just have fantastic restaurants, but our strong culinary scene also features markets, breweries and specialty shops.

This month, NEO Food Tours is rolling out a few events that spotlight the variety of tastes that Cleveland offers the adventurous foodie.

We’re starting things off on October 14 and October 28 when our Harvest Happy Hour Tour explores Ohio City’s Historic Market Square District .

From 2-5pm, guests will “dine, drink and donate” through the Historic Market Square District as they discover firsthand the neighborhood’s impact on the Cleveland culinary scene.

Stops will include the West Side Market and local artisans such as Bonbon Bake Shop, Room Service, and Campbell’s Popcorn Shop.  A visit to Chef Matt Mathlage’s Light Bistro (one of my Ohio City favorites!) completes the afternoon.

And when the tour wraps up at 5pm, there’s still plenty of time to continue shopping or keep the happy hour going at the many restaurants that made Ohio City one of USA Today’s “best neighborhoods to bar hop.”

Tickets are $55 and include gratuitity. Furthering our commitment to the Northeast Ohio region, we’re donating $5 from every ticket to Ohio City Inc.

NEO Food Tours' Brews n' Pubs Tour spotlights some of the places that make Cleveland's beer scene so good.

In October, NEO Food Tours is also getting a taste of Cleveland’s brewing resurgence. During Cleveland Beer Week, we’re offering a Cleveland Brews n’ Pubs Tour.

The tour on October 15 will make stops at 4-5 breweries and pubs throughout the Cleveland area, including Indigo Imp and Market Garden Brewery.  At each stop, beer enthusiasts will sample various beers and food, as they talk with some of Cleveland’s brew-masters. 

Transportation between stops, beer sampling, gastropub fare and gratuity are all included in the $60 ticket. 

With the Brews n’ Pubs tour, we’re excited to partner with Taste of the Harvest to offer a special Beer Masters Ticket. For $100 (a savings of $15), you can attend both the Brews n’ Pubs Tour on October 15, as well as Cleveland Beer Week’s only local hand-crafted beer tasting on October 21.

It’s been an amazing 6 months working with NEO Food Tours (I can’t believe that much time has gone by!) and I’m really proud to see how we’re growing and offering events that showcase all of the region’s culinary assets.  

Tickets for the Harvest Happy Hour tours can be found at  http://marketdistrict1.eventbrite.com.

Tickets for the Cleveland Brews n’ Pubs tour can be found at http://clebeertour11.eventbrite.com.

Disclosure: I work with NEO Food Tours as their Communications Co-Director. However, I got involved with NEO Food Tours and am sharing these events on Clue Into Cleveland because I believe in our mission of promoting the neighborhoods and dynamic culinary industry that call Northeast Ohio home.

RTA Bar Crawl – August 27

RTA Bar Crawl of Cleveland - Aug 27

When I lived in Philly, I walked and took public transit a lot. For some reason, though, when I moved to Cleveland that changed. Whether it was the free parking at work or sheer laziness at not wanting to learn a new route, when I lived in Shaker Heights I never took advantage of the RTA‘s Rapid train into work.

I kick myself now because as much as I love Avon Lake, my RTA option is to drive to the 55F at Lake and Bradley and the route is only open during weekday rush hours. Still, as Joe over at Mildly Relevant pointed out, if you want to get around Cleveland proper, RTA is an inexpensive way to jump between neighborhoods. And – contrary to the inaccurate reputation public transit often gets – it’s safe.

Plus, Google Maps’ public transit feature will now map your route for you pretty instantaneously. No more deciphering timetables? Where have you been all my life Google Transit!

Inspired by his ‘RTA Day’ experiment (check his recap of the lovely time he had exploring Cleveland via public transit), Joe has taken it one step further and organized an RTA Bar Crawl.

On August 27th, the group will meet at 1pm at West Side Market in Ohio City and walk to the Red line Rapid stop. By taking the Rapid and the bus (here’s the full route), the Bar Crawl will explore University Circle/Little Italy, Larchmere/Shaker Square, E.4th Street/Downtown and then return to Ohio City/W.25th at 8pm. Along the way, the group will visit different bars in each neighborhood and show that it is easy and safe to get around Cleveland without a car.

If you’ve read my blog for awhile, I think you know I LOVE when someone sees a problem (in this case — the bad reputation public transit wrongly gets) and instead of just ranting about it, proactively goes out there and does something. 

The solution Joe’s come up with combines some of my favorite things: exploring Cleveland’s neighborhoods, enjoying good food and drink, and clueing people into a facet of the city that gets a bad rap. Plus, he is working on finding a local charity to collaborate with that will receive a percentage of the proceeds. (The charity announcement is coming soon and I plan to update here once it does.)

Unfortunately, I will be driving home from Virginia that day so I won’t be able to make it.  However, with 47 rsvped ‘Yes’ (as of this posting) — @WhyCLE, @CrookdRiverWmn, and @CourtMarshall among them — I expect this to be the first of many RTA Bar Crawls and can’t wait to make it to the next one.

Help make more of these Bar Crawls happen by attending the inaugural crawl on August 27. You can learn more by joining the RTA Bar Crawl Facebook group and RSVPing “YES” on the event page.

And if someone knows of a bus route from the westside into downtown (even if it means driving a little closer to downtown than Lake and Bradley), let me know!

Disclaimer: I think this goes without saying but don’t drink and drive. If, like me, you need to drive to the first RTA stop, take a cab or have a designated driver drive you to and from the Bar Crawl. And as The Most Interesting Man in the World says — stay thirsty, responsibly, my friends.

Gearing Up for NEO Food Tours' Kamm's Corners Market Series with AMP 150 – July 10

Part of NEO Food Tour's new Kamm's Corners market discovery series will include a horse-drawn wagon ride through the historic neighborhood

I don’t think I’ve ever looked more forward to a 3-day weekend than I am this July 4th holiday.  And while it’s partially because I love picnics and July 4th is always full of them, it’s mostly because I need that one extra day to work on my to-do list. 

I looked at my planner this week and July and August are going to be a revolving door of things. That’s not to say I’m not excited. There’s going to be my first 5k (7/9), IngenuityFest’s SpeakEasy 2.0 (7/15), Brick and Mortar Pop-Up with Chris Hodgson (7/11 and 13), a handful of trips to Blossom, roller derby’s season championships (7/16) and friends coming to visit. And of course – all of the blog posts about them!

However, I know that by the time August 18 rolls around, I’m going to be in desperate need of the trip to Virginia I’m taking for my birthday.

So this three-day weekend will give me the time to work on other upcoming stuff before the scheduled craziness begins Tuesday with a trip to see Jersey Boys:

NEO Food Tours

The big project right now is NEO Food Tours. Last Wednesday we wrapped the first Tremont tour and tickets for E 4th on July 20 just went on sale. With three of these signature tours under our belt, we’re expanding our line of tours starting July 10th.

The second Sunday of July is when we kick off our first Market Discovery Tour Series with the Kamm’s Corners Farmers Market Tour featuring AMP 150. It will be an ongoing series from July through October so if you can’t make it July 10, you have three more opportunities to join us on the second Sundays of August, September and October.

Seeing what Todd, Kamm’s Corners Farmers Market and AMP 150 have put together has me really excited not just to help promote the monthly series through community/media outreach, but also because as a food-lover and avid student of Cleveland it sounds like it will be a really unique tour to attend.

Here are a few things you’ll find on the tour (and tell me if this doesn’t get you excited because it has me really pumped):

  • Meet at AMP 150 in the Cleveland Airport Marriott with a mimosa toast (ok, I love AMP 150 and mimosas )
  • From AMP 150, a shuttle will take guests to the Kamm’s Corners Farmers Market (I have wanted to check out Kamm’s Corners for over a year now )
  • At Kamm’s Corners Farmers Market, enjoy a live chef demo and fare from the local market vendors (I’ve always loved our local markets and the idea of a chef demo sounds right up my alley )
  • Horse-drawn wagon from the West Park Historical Society guides the tour through the historic neighborhood (love history and learning about Cleveland’s different neighborhoods )
  • After returning to the Cleveland Airport Marriott, the culinary team at AMP 150 will serve a special fixed menu brunch (did I mention how much I love AMP 150 — so √√ and !)

Plus $5 from every ticket will be donated to Kamm’s Corners Development Corporation.  I know that Todd, myself and everyone at NEO Food Tours feel very strongly about supporting the community and giving back to organizations like KCDC, who have been active in Cleveland for over 30 years.

Check out our Eventbrite page to buy tickets for the Kamm’s Corners Market Tour with AMP 150. Tickets to the July 20 E 4th signature tour are also available on Eventbrite.

Scott and I at this year's Jump Back Ball

Jump Back Ball 2012

In other good (but busy) news, I found out last week that I will be co-chairing Jump Back Ball 2012.

I’ve written before about PlayhouseSquare Partners (if you’re interested in joining, let me know — there are lots of benefits in addition to discounted tickets). Plus, earlier this year I had a great time blogging a first-timer’s guide to Jump Back Ball

So needless to say — I’m honored, excited and admittedly a bit nervous about co-chairing.  Fortunately, because of my co-chair Meredith, all of the other Partners, and the team at PlayhouseSquare, I know that it’ll be a fantastic night of revelry!   More details will be posted soon and throughout the coming months as planning gets underway.

With the months ahead I can’t help but be excited; however, I first need this long weekend to plow through my to-do list. And while I’m at it — take in some beautiful Cleveland fireworks. 

What are your plans for the July 4th weekend?

(photo source)