My parents discussing model trains with a volunteer at the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum - one of our stops during their whirlwind weekend visit.
When it comes to the weekend, I typically don’t need an excuse to go out and explore. Honestly, I’d say my biggest problem is forcing myself to stay home and do things around the house that need to get done (like this weekend’s project: clean the garden).
Because of this, when I have friends or family in town, I go into Clue-Into-Cleveland overdrive – trying to hunt down places and events in Cleveland that align with each person’s interests. Suffice it to say, when my parents told me they were coming into town this past weekend, we packed their short visit full of Cleveland fun.
With another weekend kicking off tomorrow, I figured I’d share our adventure in case you were in need of some more ideas. Fortunately, with the exception of a couple items on the list, a lot of these places are things you can visit anytime of year.
And while we’re on the subject … Where do you like to go on the weekend? I’m always looking for new places to try out so leave a comment at the end of the post with your suggestions! I enjoy mini-roadtrips so even if it’s not in Cleveland-proper, shoot me a line with your recommendation.
The Ohio Pinball Show
Scott, my parents and I started the weekend off by driving out to Cuyahoga Falls on Saturday morning for the 7th annual Ohio Pinball Show. Growing up, my parents had a jukebox and Chicago Cubs pinball machine that I would spend hours playing on. Along the line, I inherited my parents’ love for the lights and noise of the machines.
We shareed this mutual love with Scott at the show, which offered all-day free play on over 100 machines. For a few hours, Scott and I hopped from a few of the more antique machines to our personal favorites – Dr. Who, Twilight Zone and Last Action Hero. Meanwhile, my parents talked to the vendors and found the jukebox manual they had been searching a long time for. We even happened upon the Die Hard arcade game and played a few levels. Definitely a winning start.
Saturday's special at Great Lakes Brewery was a corned beef sandwich with cabbage and a fried egg. Paired with a stout, their chips, and beer-cheese sauce, this was a perfect lunch.
Great Lakes Brewing Company and Ohio City
Playing that much pinball made us hungry, so we took my parents over to Ohio City. After showing them West Side Market and a few of the neighborhood’s sights, we decided on Great Lakes Brewing Company for lunch. Since watching Robert Stack in the Untouchables as a child, my mom’s had a fascination with Eliot Ness. And recently she’s been reading up on his days in Cleveland. Even though they’re only rumored to have come from his gun, the bullet holes at the Brewery were on my mom’s list of something to see.
We not just got to see that, but we enjoyed GLBC’s sandwich of the day – delicious corned beef with fried egg, as well as their mac and cheese. My mom who doesn’t really like beer discovered she loved their Porter, and after sampling a bottle of beer named after my mom’s favorite Prohibition agent, my dad was drinking Eliot Ness the rest of the weekend.
My dad quickly brought himself up to speed on the rules of roller derby by reading the Burning River Roller Girls' program.
Burning River Roller Girls
Saturday was capped off with the specific reason my parents chose this weekend to visit Cleveland: Burning River Roller Girls. After talking up roller derby for the last year, my parents were determined to see a match. For Saturday’s doubleheader, we sat right behind the players’ benches. This was the first time we’ve sat on that side of the arena and so close to the action. It gave my parents a really great perspective of what was happening on the track and we were able to watch the coaches and players in between jams calling line ups and plays.
Although there’s no derby this weekend — the BRRG have a second match this month on April 30th when the Steamers take on the Rolling PinUps and the Hellbombers take on the Hardknockers.
At the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum in Mentor, you can not only watch but also play with a couple aspects of their platform. The pictured button allows you to operate the pushcar.
Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum
After seeing a mention on Positively Cleveland’s blog about the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum, we knew this was a can’t-miss stop for my parents’ weekend tour. Collectors of the American Flyer gauge trains, my parents are always interested in anything to do with model trains (and with Scott’s and my burgeoning HO platform we’re right there with them).
The Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum is based out in Mentor – perfect for a leisurely Sunday drive. Its 19,000 square foot facility houses 26 different gauges of trains on tracks that are constantly growing and changing. So even if you’ve been before, go back because you’re apt to see something different.
One of my favorite things about the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum were the humorous touches, including this show down between a little green man and the military.
Regardless of whether you collect model trains or have children who enjoy toy trains, I highly recommend visiting the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum. Building and maintaining these platform layouts is an art that the volunteers at Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum have worked hard to develop. Additionally, they know how to have fun with the platforms – with a number of non-realistic elements thrown in for good measure (my favorite was the little green men invading the military airport).
However, as we learned when we were there on Sunday, the Museum is suffering the same problem a lot of other non-profits are – due to government cuts, a number of grants have been withdrawn. Between this and the museum’s policy to offer free admission, they’re in the unfortunate position where they need donations to stay open. They are running a single-donation and annual pledge campaign right now — so if you are able to support them, check out their website to donate: www.wrmrrm.org.
A favorite weekend (and weekday) haunt of mine: Gordon Square's Capitol Theatre.
The Capitol Theatre
By this point in the weekend, we were ready to take a break from being on our feet so often so we headed over to one of my favorite movie theaters: the Capitol Theatre in the Gordon Square Arts District. This wasn’t just on our list because their Midnight Cult Classics and Sunday Classics & Brunch series make it an awesome weekend haunt, but also because they were showing Kill The Irishman, the film about real-life Cleveland mobster Danny Greene.
This movie has gotten a lot of accolades and they’re all well-deserved because the cast did a bang-up job in their portrayals (lame puns strike again). As usual, Walken, D’Onofrio and Val Kilmer were fun to watch. And Ray Stevenson – who I loved in HBO’s Rome and can’t wait to see as Volstagg in Thor – managed to make Greene both sympathetic and menacing. Even though it was filmed in Detroit and not Cleveland, all four of us loved the movie and enjoyed the news clips of Cleveland in the 70s.
The new addition to my Happy Dog playbook: Pineapple-Ginger-Currant Chutney with Bacon, Gouda and Bok Choy.
This brings us to our last stop on my parents’ trip — the one place my mom always asks to visit when she’s in Cleveland: Happy Dog. Hot dogs are high on her list of favorite foods and Happy Dog has the dish down to an art form. So much so that my parents and I ordered 2 hot dogs each. I even got my mom to try the Blueberry Ale they have in bottles there and my dad stuck with his newfound love – GLBC’s Eliot Ness.
While I love brie with garlicky escarole and marcella grape jelly/chile sauce on my dog, I experimented during this last visit and paired their pineapple-ginger-currant chutney with bacon, bok choy and gouda. I might mix up the cheese next time, but the chutney and bacon combo was like a hawaiian pizza on a hot dog — but even better! I’m glad to have added a new combo to my Happy Dog playbook.
Hands down, this past weekend was one of my favorite visits with my parents. And I can credit that in part to our shared love for exploring Cleveland. Although I’m sad they’ve headed home to Virginia, I’m glad the experience reminded me how #HappyinCLE I am to live here.
I hope you find your weekend – and weekday – experiences equally enjoyable!