Tag Archives: HappyinCLE

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). 


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.

WhyCLE Challenge: Reasons 7 – 13 to Love Cleveland

One of this week's reasons why I love Cleveland: going to an Indians game. Although the Indians didn't win on Wednesday, getting my picture with "Slider" (well, Slider's statue) and hanging out in Progressive made up for it.

As I posted last week, I’m taking the WhyCLE Challenge in May where I’ll be tweeting a daily reason why I love this city.  You can follow those reasons and my other tweets @ADHicken.  I’ll also be recapping these reasons on my blog each weekend.


Reasons 7-13 to love Cleveland taken straight from this week’s Twitter stream:

#WhyCLE Reason 7:  Cleveland’s comic book history & celebrating @FreeComicBook Day @WestlakePorter http://ow.ly/4O5Kg #FCBD

#WhyCLE Reason 8: More natl coverage for #CLE! @playhousesquare’s work w/@cleveplayhouse @wviz = economic success in arts http://ow.ly/4PHeY

#WhyCLE Reason 9: Events like Chef Jam, where food meets rock at @rock_hall. http://wp.me/pPIgG-Aj #HappyinCLE #clefood

#WhyCLE Reason 10: Tues. in @TremontWest. Tonight eat @ Civilization, Ty Fun & Tremont Scoops &10% benefits Arts in Aug. http://ow.ly/4R21x

#WhyCLE Reason 11: The #Indians! There’s nothing like catching a game after work to make the day that much better. #GoTribe! [Another picture from Wednesday’s game: http://tumblr.com/xu12hda3ec]

#WhyCLE Reason 12: Bowling at Mahall’s in #Lakewood where I can score games by hand. Love this place! http://ow.ly/4SU5k #happyinCLE

#WhyCLE Reason 13: Another excellent exhibit to check out at #CLE’s @rock_hall. Women Who Rock opens today: http://ow.ly/4TLnk


Want to catch up on previous reasons why I love Cleveland?

31 Days, 31 Reasons to Love Cleveland

Want to play mini-golf in the Palace Theatre? Check out my giveaway for PlayhouseSquare Partners’ Mini Golf Par-Tee. You have until Wednesday at 11:59PM to enter!


Why do you love Cleveland?

I enjoy a good challenge and I love Cleveland, so signing up for fellow blogger CLEGal’s WhyCLE? Challenge was a no brainer!

Inspired by Pretty in Orange’s May challenge to identify one thing that you love about your body every day, CLEGal’s challenge is to identify one positive thing you love about Cleveland every day. They can be big things, small things, personal reasons, or shared reasons.  The idea is to get you thinking about why you’re here and to promote CLE love.

Because I’m all about sharing ways to clue into Cleveland, I’ll be taking part in The WhyCLE? Challenge on Twitter (@ADHicken) as well as on my blog.

Each day I’ll tweet my daily reason to love Cleveland; then at the end of the week, you’ll get a recap on Clue Into Cleveland.

Since I need to catch up on the first 6 days of May, here are 6 reasons I love Cleveland:

1) We’re Believeland Even when we’ve been pushed down (whether it’s a less than ideal sports season, a tough economy or a nasty snow storm), we brush ourselves off, toughen up and look for creative ways to move forward.

2) There’s a lot to do … really: I’m surprised when I hear people say there’s nothing to do in Cleveland. From food to sports to museums and art, I’m never at a loss. I hope by sharing how I’ve clued into Cleveland, others will discover they can do the same.

3) Opportunities to engage: Cleveland’s an active city and there are plenty of ways you can involved. Volunteer at the Cleveland Foodbank or join a group like PlayhouseSquare Partners to open up opportunities not just to contribute to improving Cleveland, but to have fun while doing it.

4) Cost of living: When I first contemplated moving to Cleveland, the cost of living was definitely a factor. We were floored when parking for a night on the town didn’t equal what we spent on dinner. It’s allowed me to live where I want and do things I wouldn’t be able to in other cities.

5) Collaboration not competition: One example of Cleveland building community by collaborating instead of competing can be seen in the local food industry. With groups like Cleveland Independents and events like NEO Food Tours, Emerging Chefs, and C-Town Chow Down, many restaurants in the city have realized that it’s more sustainable to partner and grow together, instead of cutting others out.

6) Ohio’s blogger community:  I constantly find inspiration from the “blends” (blogger-friends) I’ve met in the Ohio Blogging Association. They help me figure out how I can grow as a blogger, and challenges like CLEgal’s provide me with new ways to clue into Cleveland.

I’m looking forward to sharing my daily reasons for why I love Cleveland. Follow me @ADHicken and read my weekly recap on Clue Into Cleveland.

Want to join in the fun? Sign up for CLEGal’s challenge on her blog WhyCLE.

Clue Into Cleveland, One Year Later

One year later and I'm still here with Clue Into Cleveland! (Photo of Scott and I at Parade the Circle, one of our Cleveland adventures this past year)

One year ago yesterday I started Clue Into Cleveland.  I’m both a little surprised and proud of myself for keeping this up for twelve months.  Before this blog, I had had Livejournal and Blogger sites, but they were personal blogs and after a few months my interest in them would wane. 

I had partially given up on blogging because I couldn’t think of anything worthwhile that I wanted to write about. However, early last year on a long car ride between Philadelphia and Cleveland, Scott and I were discussing the notorious Forbes article and I found myself getting really worked up.  

This outburst had been building up for a while – a culmination of other little moments where I’d have to defend Cleveland to people we know or listen to jeers about the city.  But it was the miserable Forbes article that tipped my frustration over the edge. I couldn’t understand why Cleveland had such a negative reputation — I had lived in the city for only three years but was in love with it. There was so much to do, I could afford to do it, and the people here were friendly and passionate about the community (two attributes in people that are really important to me). 

At some point in the conversation, Scott asked (probably a little tired of listening to me go on about the subject) ‘Why don’t you do something about it?’ I replied that I didn’t think there was much I could do. However, knowing that I used to enjoy writing, he suggested starting a blog and seeing where that took me.  An hour later, we even had a name – Clue Into Cleveland. It seemed appropriate enough since we thought people needed to get a clue about what this city has to offer.

So, here I am one year later and still “#HappyinCLE” to be writing about this city.  Looking back, I was never sure where the blog would take me and I’ve ended up in some (pleasantly) surprising places. 

I think that I’ve been most surprised by how much I personally clued into the city by blogging about it.  Although I may have started Clue Into Cleveland because I wanted to tell friends and family back in Philly and Virginia about the places I love here, I discovered so many new things along the way.  From the Cleveland Sketch Crawls, Hidden Cleveland Tours and various festivals, it’s been a whirlwind year exploring Cleveland more than any other city I’ve lived in before.

By opening myself up to these new experiences, I’ve found organizations and businesses that have given me my truly favorite moments of the last twelve months (and some of the best turnout on my blog):

  • Burning River Roller Girls: In a year when Cleveland saw the nasty side of pro sports, our city’s roller derby league provided a welcome alternative and demonstrated true athleticism and sportsmanship. Their new season opens up this Saturday. I’ve already purchased my season tickets so you know I’ll be there!
  • Great Lakes Theater Festival: One of the best designed theaters I’ve ever been in with a fantastic company of actors and crew. I’m looking forward to Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged on Sunday and Two Gentlemen of Verona in April.
  • The Happy Dog: Not just a great and unique dining experience, but also a fantastic bar with events like DJ Kishka’s Polka Happy Hour and Orchestral Manouvres at the Dog. Whenever I have visitors in town, this is usually our first stop.
  • The Cleveland Play House: I’m amazed by the variety and frequency of shows the Cleveland Play House produces — and how well they do it. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, Fusion Fest and the beginning of their next chapter as they move to PlayhouseSquare this Fall.
  • The Cleveland Orchestra: With world-class musicians playing in the breathtaking Severance Hall, it’s easy to lose yourself in a night of music with the Cleveland Orchestra. They also do an excellent job promoting the community not only at home with music education programs, but also throughout the country and abroad when they go on tour.  

In addition to affording me the opportunity to observe Cleveland, writing this blog has also pushed me to get involved. Without it, I would not have been introduced to organizations like PlayhouseSquare’s Partners and Twestival. It’s been a very rewarding year being able to help with Jump Back Ball and Partners’ other initiatives and I’m really looking forward to how Twestival Cleveland comes together on March 24th.

Most of all, though, I’ve enjoyed meeting other members of Cleveland’s community who are as passionate and proud of this city as I am.  I mentioned earlier how amazed I’ve been over the last twelve months to learn about what Cleveland has to offer. However, none of it would be possible if we didn’t have community members who strive to make it all work – from the Downtown Cleveland Alliance to groups like Emerging Chefs (and all of the restaurants in our thriving food scene!) and the Gordon Square Arts District. These are just a few of the organizations working to continue Cleveland’s revitalization.

I’m also happy to be a part of a network for Ohio bloggers.  The Ohio Blogging Association has been a fantastic introduction to a vocal group of individuals throughout the state. From personal and fitness blogs to blogs about food, motherhood and Cleveland, it’s been a great experience getting to meet other people who feel strongly about their community and want to share this commitment.  I’m looking forward to our next event on March 23rd when we head to the Cleveland Food Bank to volunteer for two hours.

Now that I’ve made it through my first year, what’s next for Clue Into Cleveland? Right now I’m focused on working with @KaseyCrabtree and @KimiKay on Twestival Cleveland. We hope you can join us on March 24th at AMP 150 from 5-9pm. Be sure to keep an eye on cleveland.twestival.com and @TwestivalCLE for today’s announcement about which local charity was selected to benefit from the event! 

I’m also always on the lookout for new ways to get involved with the city and new experiences to write about.  So, if you have any suggestions, let me know at clueintocleveland (at) gmail (dot) com or on Twitter @ADHicken.

When Scott and I were visiting Philly a couple months ago, we ran into some friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  After a night at an old Irish bar we used to frequent, my friend Lou commented that I seemed really happy. Like honestly, truly happy.  This made me pause for a moment because it’s not something I think about that often. However, as I was sitting there, I realized I had to agree with him. 

I am happy – happy that Scott and I have found a home as rewarding as Cleveland and that I get to share it with all of you reading this. So thank you for accompanying me on this adventure so far and I hope you stick around as I find out what happens next!

Happy New Years Cleve from Clue Into Cleveland


The entire New Years Cleve gang after our visit to The Christmas Story House.

New Years Cleve started last year in Manny Brown’s, a bar on Philly’s South Street. It was New Years Eve; Scott and I were in Philly visiting family and friends. We had recently moved into our house and were telling our friends from college about it.  This was months before I started Clue Into Cleveland.

While we were huddled around the table, we talked about having people out to Cleveland to stay at the house. When we realized the next New Years Day fell on a Saturday and would be recognized by our various employers on the Friday, we discussed celebrating the extra long weekend in Cleveland – jokingly calling it New Years Cleve. Flashforward a year (give or take a few days) and we had four houseguests pull into our driveway after an 8-hour drive ready to take on Cleveland for a few days.

When I have guests in town, I usually like to put a few ideas together based on their interests. If they like art, we have a number of larger museums and smaller galleries to take them to; food, there are plenty of restaurants; theater and film, the Cleveland Cinemas, PlayhouseSquare, and a myriad of other theater companies.

Matt's sketch of himself enjoying a Happy Dog hot dog. (photo by Matt and Lish)

However, our first stop was a no brainer.  I took them to the one place I typically take all visitors: the Happy Dog. It has excellent choices for food and drink, prices that don’t hurt your wallet, vegan options, music, and most importantly a laidback atmosphere (especially if you’ve just driven 8+ hours and want to relax).  When we got there last Thursday, we ordered a round of PBRs and our hot dog creations. I had my usual favorite: marcella’s grape jelly and chile sauce, baked beans, garlicky escarole, and brie. However, I also branched out a bit, trying garlic-tomato-basil jam and “alien” pickle relish with my fries. So that they could get a taste of polka, Scott played a few songs from DJ Kishka’s album in the jukebox. Not surprisingly, a few new fans were won over.

After a night of playing Clue, we woke up early the next morning and ventured over to The Christmas Story House in Tremont. My friend Angie is a fan of the film, and considering the tickets are only $8, we couldn’t really pass up the pop culture/kitsch appeal. This was all of our first times visiting the house, including mine. And there’s another post that needs to be written about it at some point.  However, it was a very interesting look behind the scenes of the classic holiday movie. Also, Ian Petrella (the actor who played Randy) is wrapping up his stay at the Christmas Story House and was there meeting fans and signing autographs for anyone who wanted to pick up a unique souvenir.

Our final stop in our New Years Cleve tour before heading home was the West Side Market. Instead of going out for the night, we stayed in and made a dinner featuring food from the Market.  Thanks to everyone on Facebook and Twitter who suggested their favorite West Side Market stands.  We had a number of options of where to go when we got there. Being New Years Eve, the parking lot was the craziest I’ve ever seen it. However, we got in and out with what we needed thanks to the efficiency of everyone working there that day.

Meeting Ian Petrella (Randy from Christmas Story) at the Christmas Story House.

With all of the great options at West Side Market, it was no surprise that dinner was delicious. We started out with some cheese, sausage and olives, as well as two kinds of dip thanks to Lish and Matt. Our main courses consisted of sweet potatoes and pork garnished with apple, onion and spices, as well as parmesan tilapia (thanks, Angie and Jess). We finished with Theresa’s cannolis for dessert.  The meal was topped off with wine and – what else – some Great Lakes beer.

While it was the first New Years Eve in a long time that I spent at home, those two days were a most fitting end to 2010. Since starting Clue Into Cleveland last March, I’ve explored Cleveland more than any other city I’ve lived in in the past.  And although I loved living here before I started blogging, I’ve enjoyed learning how much more there is in Cleveland than I ever expected.  Getting to share my favorite places and discovering new ones with my friends was a delightful way to start 2011.  At midnight, we even got in a little ‘mumming’ in our front yard – in honor of the one Philly New Years tradition that can never be replaced: the Mummer’s Day Parade.

Happy New Years Cleve — I hope you had a great end to 2010!  I’m looking forward to the new year and everything it’ll bring for Cleveland.

We ended the evening by sharing a little 'mumming' with Cleveland - a tip of the umbrella to a great Philly tradition. (photo by Lish and Matt)

PlayhouseSquare Partners / Dine Around at Crop Bistro

With PlayhouseSquare's Partners program, members can decide how they want to be involved by joining one of five committees or simply enjoying the Partners events and pre-sale ticketing benefits. (logo from playhousesquare.org)

I’m often looking for ways to get involved in an event beyond the basic experience. For me,  I find that doing instead of attending has always led to a more enriching and enjoyable experience. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy the Cleveland Sketch Crawl. It allows me to get out there and see different angles of the city through drawing. When I found out about the PlayhouseSquare’s Partners program, I knew this would be another unique opportunity to actively support an aspect of Cleveland I love — the city’s theater scene. 

Partners is the young professionals group at PlayhouseSquare.  Although it’s a donors program, it’s about more than just making a tax-deductible donation to the theater. It allows members to also support the country’s largest performance arts center outside New York City by volunteering their time and abilities.  Unlike other donor programs where you have to ‘buy in’ at a level way beyond the average income to get involved, even the lowest donor amount for Partners ($50 per individual/$75 for a couple) allows you to volunteer on one of the committees.  

The Jump Back Ball committee, for instance, is responsible for planning and organizing the group’s largest fundraising event – an annual black tie/costume ball located inside of PlayhouseSquare. Education committee members help raise money and awareness for the Bus Subsidy Fund, which brings children to the PlayhouseSquare theaters for educational performances. One of the Education committee’s programs is the Tinsel Town Party, an annual holiday-themed party for children and their families. The other committees include Membership, Social, and Fundraising. 

Next Monday, Partners will host a Backstage Tour of PlayhouseSquare open to current members and anyone interested in joining the Partners program. The event will be followed by a complimentary happy hour at Bricco. (image from playhousesquare.org)

Of course, signing up for a Committee is optional. Those who don’t want to get involved in a Committee can still benefit from Partners with invitations to seasonal parties, pre-show receptions, master classes, pre-sale ticketing and other events.  One of these events is the Partners Dine Around program. Dine Around is a networking event (in the social – not business – sense of the word) that allows members to enjoy a Cleveland restaurant while meeting different members of Partners. 

From a list of four options, participants rank their favorite restaurants and then are assigned to one based upon availability. Each restaurant who participates sets everything up on separate checks so you don’t have to deal with splitting a check between a large group.  And because the 4 restaurants are all located in the same neighborhood, participants meet up afterwards at a bar to mingle some more. 

This month’s Dine Around was held downtown with the options of Crop, Metro, Blue Pointe and Sushi Rock (the post-dinner locale was D’Vine Wine Bar).  Scott and I happily ended up with our first choice – Crop Bistro. I’ve enjoyed their lunch before, but wanted to try them out for dinner before they moved from their W. 6th location to W. 25th Street.  Although I usually reserve Crop for a nice meal out, I really enjoy the reputation for creativity, sustainability and local food patronage they’ve built over the last couple of years. 

The interior of Crop Bistro's current location on W.6th (photo by Crop and photographer Doug Kiley; cropbistro.com/tight-crop/food-gallery)

Scott and I started off with the Lobster Latte and  Chile Deviled Eggs with Prosciutto.  I’m going to borrow the description shared by another Crop fan when they recommended the Lobster Latte — it was sheer buttery goodness. A latte-style cup was filled with large chunks of lobster in a rich buttery broth topped with a mouth-watering buttery foam. Sure, it’s probably not the best for your health, but definitely good for the tastebuds.  The deviled eggs were also very delicious.  The mix for the egg yolk tasted and looked like it had a browner mustard than I’m accustomed to eating with deviled eggs and the crispy prosciutto that accented each piece was a nice complement in taste and texture to the rest of the egg.  

For our main dishes, I had the Thai D Bowl; Scott had the Pot Roast Short Ribs.  The Thai D Bowl consisted of cinnamon pappardelle, shiitakes, carrots, bell peppers, leeks and coconut curry.  I was very happy that the cinnamon in the pappardelle didn’t overpower the rest of the dish, which is what I had been a little apprehensive about when I ordered it.  I’ll admit – I didn’t have room for it all so I had to take some home for lunch the next day.  I didn’t reheat it and it was an entirely different (and delicious) experience having it as a cold noodles plate.  Scott’s Pot Roast Short Ribs came with braised root vegetables, pearl onions, and herb jus. Scott loves meat — I’d say he’d be happy eating some sort of beef product every day of his life if he could.  So for him to say it was the most tender, fall-off-the-bone dinner he’s ever had is a large compliment.  As much as I loved the Thai D Bowl, when I tasted some of the Short Ribs, the carnivore in me was kind of sad I hadn’t ordered that as well. 

Crop’s deviled eggs – just one of the delicious items Scott and I tasted during the Partners Dine Around. (photo by Crop and photographer Doug Kiley; cropbistro.com/tight-crop/food-gallery)

I figured if I was going to go all out at dinner, I might as well experiment with one of their drinks.  I ordered the AT&B which was a crisp mix of Apple Vodka and Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc.  It was accented with a slice of spiced apple, which complemented the taste with an amazing aroma.  Another drink definitely worth trying was the Applewood Punch which a couple of the other guests in our party ordered, It consisted of Goslings Rum, Domaine de Canton, Apple Cider and Cinnamon Apple on the Rocks.  The evening was punctuated with excellent service from our waiter Nathan.  It can sometimes be hard to get attentive service in a large group, but Nathan and the rest of the Crop staff definitely delivered. 

The next Dine Around is in January, and I’ve heard rumors that we may be heading to Rocky River for that one.  Other events before then include the Partners 20th Anniversary Celebration Event (a pre-show party and tickets to the delightful Dixie’s Tupperware Party)  and a Backstage Tour of PlayhouseSquare featuring Joe Garry, host of Broadway Buzz, PlayhouseSquare historian and director of Jacque Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.  Although the 20th Anniversary Event is open only to current and past Partners, the Backstage Tour of PlayhouseSquare is open to anyone interested in learning more about Partners.

This year is the Partners’ 20th anniversary and since it’s founding in 1991, the group has raised more than $2.5 million to support the not-for-profit mission of PlayhouseSquare. I’ve only been a member since August, but I’m definitely excited to have discovered the program and hope to see it continue growing through its next milestone anniversary.


PlayhouseSquare Partners / Crop Dine Around 411:

About PlayhouseSquare Partners:

About Crop Bistro:

Making Connections in Cleveland – A Look at Sparx City Hop

Tower City - the centerpiece of the Cleveland skyline

 UPDATE: The 2011 Sparx City Hop takes place on Sept. 10, 2011. More info about the 2011 neighborhood hop can be found on Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s website. Read on for a review of last year’s Sparx City Hop.

Saturday was the Sparx City Hop. As I mentioned last week, I headed down there for September’s Sketch Crawl but ended up staying the whole day. Now, despite the fact that I like exploring the city,  I’m really not a huge fan of crowds. While I figured the 25,000+ expected attendees would be somewhat spread out throughout the two trolley routes and 10 neighborhoods, I was surprised at the fact that I didn’t have to fight through a horde.  There was only one time when I felt frustrated by a crushingly packed trolley.             

It wasn’t just the high level of efficiency from the Downtown Cleveland Alliance that surprised me, it was also discovering some of the out-of-the-way places the trolley stopped at.  While there were places on the ‘Hop’ that were familiar sites (Tower City, Westside Market, Playhouse Square), there were other sites that I wasn’t aware of:             

Old Bank Vault door in Downtown Cleveland building

City Arcades: During the Sketch Crawl, we made a short stop near Tower City in an old bank arcade that was closed for the day. Because it was empty, it gave us the opportunity to really examine the building’s beautiful interior. The reliefs on the ceiling, the old bank vault door – another amazing example of the hidden architecture found throughout Downtown’s buildings.            

Tremont History Project: The west-bound trolley stopped in Lincoln Park where the Tremont History Project staged a living Civil War reenactment. It was a two-day event that commemorated the encampment and U.S. General Hospital located in Tremont during the Civil War. The 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Hale Farm re-enactors and the 5th Michigan Regiment Band performed drills, period music and firing demonstrations.            

Art installation in Asian Town Center

Asian Town Center: While the west-bound route stopped at West Side Market, the east-bound route stopped at the Asian Town Center. The Center opened in April at the corner of Superior Avenue and East 38th street. It’s another example of repurposing an older building which was used originally for manufacturing as a mixed-use retail center. The Asia Food Company – the largest Asian supermarket in the area – makes up the majority of the center. It carries a full line of Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Thai, Laos, Korean, Japanese, and Indonesian groceries. Although we just left with some snacks and aloe juice, Scott and I are heading back the next time we want peking duck. In addition to the market, there were other stores and art galleries. If you want to check it out, this Saturday is the 2010 Mooncake Festival – a free event with cultural performances and food.            

Josaphat Arts Hall: I’d say the place that surprised me the most was the Josaphat Arts Hall. One of the things I love about Cleveland are the number of art galleries. The space for this gallery, though, is unique. Located in in the old St. Josaphat Roman Catholic Church, which closed in 1998, Josaphat Arts Hall houses the Convivium33 Gallery, several art business studios, and a main event hall. Private classes, workshops and lectures are offered including stained glass, painting, web design, and glass fusion.            

It was definitely a day well spent where I got to clue into other parts of the city I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to. The fact that it was free didn’t hurt at all.             


Free Lolly the Trolley service helped connect 10 of the Downtown neighborhoods

 Sparx City Hop also helped me better understand some of the problems with the city.  Riding from stop to stop, I got to see these pockets of activity across all of the neighborhoods.  However, oftentimes there was a lack of commotion in between. Even walking a couple of blocks from E4th (the main hub for the day’s trolley rides) to our car at E9th, there was a quick dropoff in foot traffic.  Without as much to connect the sections, it’s easy to become confined in a comfort zone. I recognize it in myself constantly.  Although I’ve gotten better at exploring outside of my comfort zone since starting this blog, attending the Sparx City Hop demonstrated that there’s still a lot I haven’t seen yet.            

There’s a lot of work the city can do to fill the gaps between the pockets of activity. In the long-term, we need to provide support and development in the areas of inactivity so that we can create a bridge between those areas that have more bustle. With Cleveland State University’s Urban Affairs program – one of the top 10 in the country – we’re producing people each year who can help those already working on it.  Downtown Cleveland Alliance is also working on Storefront Renovation and Business Assistance programs.            

An artist at Sparx City Hop promotiong this upcoming weekend's Art Museum Chalk Festival

In the short-term, we have to support programs like the Sparx City Hop and Take a Hike. By providing free or low-cost transportation throughout the city and initiatives that encourage the community to get out and experience those neighborhoods less traveled, more people will hopefully be as pleasantly surprised as I was by some of the hidden treasures in Downtown.

How Distance Made Me #HappyInCLE

Scott and I at the Bealeton Air Show in Virginia


On Sunday night, I got home from a week long trip visiting my parents in the Chesapeake Bay area. (Thanks again to @egrepp for posting while I was gone.)   

While Scott and I were in Virginia, we took in an airshow and hot air balloon festival, local seafood restaurants, antique shopping, and our fair share of water activities. Highlights were revisiting the Bealeton Flying Circus, where I had taken my first biplane ride in grade school, and the ferry trip to Tangier Island (both worth checking out if you’re in Virginia).   However, the reason these were my favorite parts of the trip was not because of the places we visited, but because of the time spent with our families when we were there. I don’t get to see my parents or my sister often, and Scott’s parents and grandmother also drove down for the week, so it was nice to catch up with everyone. 

As we made the 8-hour trek home, I scanned through my calendar looking forward to our Cleveland plans in the weeks ahead – shows and games we have tickets for, Sparx City Hop, Labor Day festivities, eating at our favorite restaurants.  Sitting in the car for such a long time got me to thinking about the difference in my feelings towards Cleveland and where I grew up in Virginia.  

With my hometown, the fondness I hold is not for the place, but rather for spending time with my parents and my sister. Now when I visit Fredericksburg and Northumberland, I’m just a tourist without a huge attachment.  To a certain extent, the same could be said about my feelings towards Philly. We make the trip along the Pennsylvania turnpike so we can see Scott’s family and reconnect with our friends from college – not necessarily because of a need to reconnect with the place itself.     

On the other hand, when I think about Cleveland, there is something about the actual city that continues to draw me back – something more than just the people here. (Of course, the devil’s advocate in me would argue that without the people, we wouldn’t have so many great places to experience in the city.)  The Hanna Theatre, Cleveland Orchestra, Burning River Roller Girls, Happy Dog, Bar Symon, Dim and Den Sum (who you should vote for as America’s best food truck).  These are some of the places that have me happy to come back. They keep me #HappyinCLE.  

Cliches are cliches because there is a bit of truth to them. And this time, when it comes to Cleveland, distance did make the heart grow fonder.

If a LeBron Plays in the Q, and No One is There to Watch It …


… Does it Make a Sound?  


A number of Cleveland restaurants are trying to answer that question when Miami plays the Cavs in Cleveland this season.



What boggled my mind the most about last Thursday’s ‘LeBron Show’ was how many people tuned in.   Nearly 10 million U.S. viewers watched what has been considered a low point for journalism and pro sports.  Although the majority of those who watched it were annoyed, we still contributed to the madness by tuning in.  In fact, Ari Emanuel (Rahm’s brother, the inspiration for Entourage’s Ari and one of the individuals behind the entire thing) has even defended the ESPN special as a win for advertiser-funded programming.   

And he’s right.  From this point of view, it was a success.  No matter what happens to LeBron’s reputation, the advertisers who spent money to get exposure time reached almost 10 million people with their message.  And when it comes down to it, this is only because we fed the media frenzy.  And I count myself among those at fault. Although I decided to read my new batch of comic books instead of watching (thanks, Astound!), I still got suckered into reading the endless coverage of it on Twitter.  

What would have happened if we hadn’t watched this spectacle?  How much of an epic fail would it have been for ESPN and the advertisers?  And how can we starve the LeBrand machine when Miami inevitably faces off with the Cavs this season?    

A growing group of Cleveland restaurants has created ‘The Official Miami Boycott Bargain‘ to answer that question.  

Since LeBron, Wade and Bosh have said they won’t be bothered by Cleveland’s boos and that people will be eager to watch them no matter where they play, ‘The Official Miami Boycott Bargain’ has proposed a plan to boost restaurant and bar sales during these games, support the Cavs’ ticket sales, and get back a little at ‘LeBron and The SuperFriends.’    

The plan is still in the works as they continue to recruit more and more local restaurants; however, ‘The Official Miami Boycott Bargain’ is encouraging fans of the Cavs and Cleveland to purchase tickets to next season’s Miami-Cleveland basketball games and then not attend.  As an incentive, ticketholders can bring their unused ticket to one of the participating restaurants during the hours of the game and receive a discount on food. Right now, they’re asking restaurants to allow for a 50% discount (not an insignificant price cut).   

The goal of all of this is to make the Q as empty as possible during the Miami game while supporting the Cavs’ ticket sales at the same time. Plus, they hope to pack all of the supporting restaurants to disprove the myth that LeBron leaving will affect the city’s economy as much as some think.   

There are a lot of great restaurants who already signed on to participate, and the group only started organizing the boycott this past Saturday:  

Since silence is the best way to starve an attention addict, I hope ‘The Official Miami Boycott Bargain’ gets as much attention as was unduly given LeBron last week. Personally, I think it’s an enterprising proposal and plan on buying my tickets as soon as I can.   

Official Miami Boycott Bargain 411:  

Miami Boycott Bargain on Facebook
Cavs Ticket Info

Cedar Point: Summer on the Roller Coast

With 17 coasters, including Mantis and Millennium Force (pictured), Cedar Point is home to the most coasters in the world.

The Cedar Point Coliseum, originally built in 1906, today houses an extensive arcade in the lower level.

Although summer officially begins in late June, the season seems to start weeks and even months before the solstice.

For some, summer starts the first time they dine on the patio of their favorite restaurant; for others, it’s when the neighborhood pool opens or they break out the grill for a barbeque.

For Scott and me, it’s the first time we go to Cedar Point.

From being surrounded by the history of summers long past, to the delicious assortment of traditional – and non-traditional – park food, and of course the rides, Cedar Point is the thing that most epitomizes summers in Cleveland for me.

The Town Hall Museum houses exhibits showcasing Cedar Point's history.

Long before it was the number-one-rated amusement park in the world, the Cedar Point Peninsula was used for fishing and hunting. In 1870, the idea of Cedar Point as an entertainment center grew when local businessman Louis Zistel opened a small beer garden, bathhouse and dance floor that he would bring guests over to with his steamboat Young Reindeer.

It wasn’t until 1892 that the first roller coaster – the Switchback Railway – was introduced. The 25-foot-tall, 10-mph coaster was the predecessor of the Maverick, Millennium Force and Top Thrill Dragster of today.

Cedar Point helps preserve this long history with the Town Hall Museum. Located near the park’s Frontier Trail, it features displays, videos, mementos and parts of retired rides from the park’s past. One of my favorite features is the display of horses from a former Cedar Point carousel.

Growing up, I visited my fair share of amusement parks – from Kings Dominion right outside of my hometown, to Six Flags, Busch Gardens and Disney. However, it wasn’t until I came to Cleveland and visited Cedar Point that I found a park which successfully delivered not just superior rides but also food and entertainment.

Probably best known for its roller coasters, the park is home to the most coasters in the world — with a total of 17 ranging from wooden to steel, inverted, wildmouse, backward-and-forward launches, stand-up, and a dual-track racing coaster.

But it’s not just quantity that Cedar Point delivers, as three of the coasters are listed among the top 10 steel coasters in the world and year-after-year the park has received Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards in a variety of categories.

Regardless of how great a coaster is, though, you still need to be able to ride it.  One of the things that sets Cedar Point apart from other parks I’ve visited is how efficient the staff is at running the coasters and keeping the wait to a minimum.  For the most part, there’s no need for a ‘fast-pass’ system since most of the rides’ lines run from 15 minutes to an hour giving you plenty of time to fit the majority of the 17 coasters into a day’s worth of riding.

The steam engines of the Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad provide a scenic trip throughout the park.

The 60 horses and chariots of the Midway Carrousel - the park's oldest operating ride - were repainted and restored for the 2010 season.

For non-coaster fans, the park also boasts a number of classic thrill rides such as the Matterhorn and Calypso (just one of the park’s variants on the Scrambler), as well as family-friendly, less aggressive selections.

When it comes to non-coasters, my personal favorites include the Cedar Downs Racing Derby – one of only two racing carousels in the U.S. dating back to 1920; as well as the Paddlewheel Excursions – a relaxing, narrated trip around the  Cedar Point Lagoon on one of the park’s paddlewheel boats.

And when we want to take a break from coaster-hopping, there’s always the Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad.  As huge fans of model trains and classic locomotives, Scott and I never tire of taking the two-mile-long trip through the park on actual coal-burning steam trains.

Scott's grandmother enjoys dessert at last Halloweekends' Boeckling Banquet in one of the park's haunted houses.

Although many parks can deliver thrilling rides, they often lack in quality food options – suffering from dry burgers and grimy food courts.

Cedar Point, on the other hand, provides a myriad of dining options including standard park fare to grab on the run, the Midway Market buffet, and the Game Day Grille which offers an air-conditioned respite with pulled pork sandwiches, lobster bisque, and perch sandwiches.

In addition to the in-park restaurants, Cedar Point excels at serving up different events such as their Picnic at the Point outdoor bbq and the best park dining I’ve ever experienced — last Halloweekends’ Boeckling Banquet, a feast of lamb chops, lobster tail, and filet mignon in the dining room of one of the haunted houses.  No matter where I’ve eaten, I’ve always found the food to be appetizing and the venues well-maintained.

Among other vintage video games and pinball machines is a doublewide Hercules pinball machine with a cue ball for the pinball.

If excellent rides and food weren’t enough, Cedar Point offers a rotation of shows, games and entertainment.

Highlights have included the Hot Summer Nights fire show (try riding the Mantis coaster while the pyrotechnics are flaming close by) and the Starlight Experience canopy of lights through Frontier Trail.

There’s also the Main Arcade in the Coliseum on the Midway which gives the opportunity to play current arcade games as well as an extensive collection of vintage pinball machines and video games.

Not to rest on their laurels, Cedar Point is continually updating their selection of rides and entertainment. 2010 saw the debut of the water coaster Shoot the Rapids.  In 2011, Cedar Point is unveiling WindSeeker, a 301-foot-tall, nothing-below-your-chair-but-air experience that soars over the park’s beach!  With continual updates each year, Cedar Point provides new experiences for even the most veteran Ride Warriors.  (updated 5/15/2011 to reflect park additions)

Between the food, games and neon lights of the Midway, Cedar Point is reminiscent of an amped up carnival after dark.

With the exception of the warm weather’s return, visiting Cedar Point is my favorite part of the Cleveland summer months. Over the last couple of years, we’ve found that the Season Pass is the most economical option if you’re going to visit more than a few times. Between the free parking, admission to any of the Cedar Fair parks, and discounted renewals, the Platinum Pass usually pays for itself if we visit more than three times.  And with the coasters, local history, and feel of an endless summer carnival, there’s more than enough reasons to visit time and again.

Cedar Point 411:

General Park Info
Admission and Season Passes
Staying Overnight
Park History 

Things to do at the Park