Duck Island, Cleveland
Don't know where Duck Island is? It's the no man's land between Ohio City and Tremont, supposedly named after a bend in the river. Two intimate, creative, fashionable bars have sprung up there in converted old buildings. They're out-of-the-way places with which to surprise your date at the end of an evening to make her or him think you're in the know. Stop by the semi-secret Velvet Tango Room (2095 Columbus Road, 216-241-8869) for drinks after a high-class night on the town. Look for a little neon sign only visible at night and dress well or you'll be turned away at the door. For a more casual place to drink, round the corner to the Duck Island Club (2102 Freeman Ave., 216-621-7676) in a former house. It has good beer, provocative art and a quiet back room and patio.
Cain Park, Cleveland Heights
There's nothing quite like Cain Park west of the river. During its summer-long season, you can sit in the airy, intimate Evans Amphitheater or, better yet, recline on your own blanket on the grassy slope that climbs gently upward from the theater while you watch local dance troupes cavort and leap or lose yourself in live concerts of folk, jazz, klezmer, blues, bluegrass, Latin and a little bit of everything else by local and national acts. Cain Park also features 22 acres of bike and jogging paths, tennis and basketball courts, a playground, a skate park and picnic tables and pavilions — but it's eclectic music under the stars that really makes it unique. (216) 371-3000, www.cainpark.com
Ed's vs. Ignatius
They call it the Holy War. For decades, the football rivalry between St. Ignatius and St. Ed's has been heating up and selling out tickets as fast as any professional sporting event. This fall, the Ignatius Wildcats beat St. Ed's Eagles for the third year in a row, playing to a SRO crowd of 13,100 at Parma's Byers Field, which was chosen as the venue to allow more fans than at Lakewood High School, where the teams normally battle. While Ignatius has won every game but three since 1988, the overall record is more balanced, with Ignatius winning 22 times and Ed's winning 18. Want in on the action? Good luck. St. Ed's distributes its share of the tickets to students and alumni. St. Ignatius opens it tickets to students the Sunday before the game. Any remainders are sold to the public for $6 the next day, beginning at 7 a.m., with some fans lining up as early as 4 a.m. If that's not your style, you can always try eBay, where tickets sold this year for as much as $125.
The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
More than 1.3 million visitors — not all of them wide-eyed half-pints excited to see their first pachyderm — can't be wrong. No matter where you live, the zoo is worth the trip. In addition to ogling animals large and small from the African Savanna, the Australian Outback and nearly every other exciting place on earth, you can learn about endangered species on special animal-awareness days, as well as how they reproduce in February's Animal Attractions program (for those 21 and over, of course). At press time, the zoo was one of five finalists in the America's Favorite Zoo contest. Once word gets out, people should be traveling from the far reaches of the country, not just from the far East Side, to check it out. Free on Mondays for Cuyahoga County residents. (216) 661-6500, www.clemetzoo.com
Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland
Jog next to President James A. Garfield, have lunch with Eliot Ness, talk business with John D. Rockefeller — where else but at Lake View Cemetery can you find living history among the dead? The 135-year-old cemetery is located on 285 acres that are the final resting place for more than 100,000 people, from famous Clevelanders to favorite grandparents. Linger among the star magnolias and Japanese pagodas, stopping at the James A. Garfield Monument and Wade Chapel. Take the $5 self-guided audio tour or arrange for a group tour for 12 or more people. Interested in a longer stay? The cemetery has 70 acres of undeveloped land left for plots. (216) 421-2665. Visit www.lakeviewcemetery.com for a list of events, including Lolly the Trolley tours and heritage hikes.
Collinwood a hot nightspot? Five years ago, we never would have sent West Siders there for fun. But now, the Grovewood Tavern and Wine Bar (17105 Grovewood Ave., 216- 531-4900) fills its rustic confines every night with diners eager to try dishes from the tiniest kitchen in town. If you can't get a dinner reservation, you can still enjoy its impressive wine and beer lists — it even has Belgian raspberry beer on tap. Down the street, Thermadore (17406 Grovewood Ave., 216-531-5343), a new bar, attracts a mostly neighborhood crowd so far, but is clearly aiming to become a hipster destination. Its trashy mannequins, cool leather couches and old portraits of someone's great-grandparents in their youth evoke a comfortably spooky feel. Nearby, the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern (15711Waterloo Road, 216-383-1124), our favorite place to see live music since it opened in 2000, has been joined by Music Saves (15801 Waterloo Road, 216-481-1875), a record store that jams a top-notch selection of cutting-edge CDs at cheap prices into a small storefront. It stays open ultra-late to catch the Beachland crowds.
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin
With works from virtually every culture and all of history, the AMAM is the kind of place you'd be sure to visit if you were on vacation. But it's not 300 miles away; it's right in your back yard and you haven't been there yet, have you? The museum has a collection of more than 11,000, including works by Claude Monet, Paul CÃ©zanne, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee, Peter Paul Rubens and Filippino Lippi. To sweeten the pot, Oberlin College also boasts a Frank Lloyd Wright house and a charming campus with a nice choice of lunch and coffee spots.(440) 775-8665, www.oberlin.edu/allenart
Camp Hi Canoe Livery, Hiram
For a fresh take on the river that splits the city, shoot out Route 422 to Camp Hi Canoe Livery, 45 miles east of Cleveland, where you can rent a canoe or kayak for a paddle on a 25-mile stretch of the scenic Upper Cuyahoga. Trips run from one to six hours and are suited to everyone from novices to veteran paddlers. Floating past woods and wetlands, watching a great blue heron lofting into the air on a 6-foot wingspan, you'll find it hard to believe this is the same river more familiar to Clevelanders as it trudges wearily through downtown's 6-mile shipping channel between ISG Steel and Lake Erie. This is the Cuyahoga as it was meant to be. Take a picture here (but don't take a souvenir). For a restorative meal after your float, check out Pastimes at 4680 Prospect St., a little cafÃ© and bar in "downtown" Mantua (pronounced MAN-tu-way). If you can avoid filling up on sauerkraut balls, try the chocolate Ã©clair cake or apple dumplings for afters. Camp Hi Canoe, (330) 569-7621, www.camphicanoe.com. Pastimes, (330) 274-9002
Dave & Buster's, Westlake
Wear your tennis shoes, we were told, and brace yourself for a totally new kind of night out. Such was our initiation into this Westlake world of simulators and video games. We did indeed find ourselves happily trotting from the simulated Harley ride to the classic Ms. Pac-Man to the eight-person melee of Battle Tech. In between it all, we had a nice meal and a drink at the bar. Dave & Buster's has the raw energy (and pleasant chiming noises) of a casino, but without the smoke and guilt. Plus, it manages the trick of appealing to both kids and adults. By the end of the night, we had pockets full of tickets and aspirations to win a huge stuffed Grinch. In other words, we felt like a kid again. (440) 892-1415, www.daveandbusters.com
Cinema, Cleveland Heights/Cleveland
For movie lovers who want a big-screen experience with a selection beyond the usual bang-bang (sex or guns, take your pick) at the multiplex, your popcorn bucket runneth over only on the East Side.
Cedar Lee Theatre, 2163 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, (440) 717-4696
Along with foreign and art fare, the Cedar Lee also reserves the first Saturday of every month for a midnight screening of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" with live floor show (discounted if you come in costume).
Cleveland Cinematheque, Cleveland Institute of Art, 11141 East Blvd., University Circle, Cleveland, (216) 421-7450
Cinematheque director John Ewing is Cleveland's one-man band of alternative cinema, bringing in local, state and even U.S. premieres, tracking down obscure masterpieces, even screening independent and student works on videotape and 16mm. Filmmakers both unknown and renowned talk shop with audience members.
"Panorama: Moving Pictures @ the Art Museum," Cleveland Museum of Art, Gartner Auditorium, 11150 East Blvd., University Circle, Cleveland, 1-888-CMA-0033
Titles run the gamut from just-released documentaries to silent shorts with live musical accompaniment to Bollywood extravaganzas. As at the Cinematheque, Ewing, who also runs CMA's Panorama program, sometimes brings in filmmakers for audience forums.
Little Arabia, Cleveland
Traveling east along congested Lorain Avenue, with its understated bars and used-car lots, you'll notice things getting a little more ethnic starting around the 12000s. Signs with Arabic lettering pop out of mostly nondescript storefronts, advertising the handful of Middle Eastern bakeries, markets and restaurants that have given this part of Cleveland its nickname. For those who don't understand Arabic, the signs might as well say "fantastic falafel!" or "yummy hummus!" because that's what you can expect here, along with more exotic dishes for adventurous palates (Musabaha, anyone?). Restaurants such as Ali Baba (12021 Lorain Ave., 216-251-2040) and Sahara (12501 Lorain Ave., 216-671-9300) welcome patrons to a delicious, unpretentious, inexpensive good time. Visit the Assad Bakery (12719 Lorain Ave., 216-251-5777) for fresh-baked pita and scrumptious spinach pies.
Amish Country, Geauga County
"Amish country," to Clevelanders, usually means Holmes County, southwest of Canton. But there's a quieter, less touristy Amish settlement even closer to Cleveland in Geauga County. Take US 422 or Route 87 east to Middlefield, Burton, Mesopotamia or Parkman and you'll be dodging buggies less than an hour from the city. In Middlefield, the Amish will hitch their horses next to your car at Arby's, Dairy Queen and the shopping center. The Amish are happy to have you as customers at their farm stands and craft shops. Mary Yoder's Amish Kitchen in Middlefield (14743 N. State St., 440-632-1939) stocks guides to Amish businesses in its gift shop.
Memphis Kiddie Park, Brooklyn
Pack the kids up for a trip to the West Side's Memphis Kiddie Park, a 52-year-old amusement park designed just for little ones ages 2 to 5 (here, unlike the bigger parks with their minimum height requirements, you often have to be under 50 inches tall in order to ride). You won't spend a whole paycheck on one afternoon's fun either. Single ride tickets start at only $1, with the best deal being a book of 25 for $18. If you don't use them all, save the extra tickets for next weekend or even next year: They never expire. Rides include a merry-go-round, a train, boats, rocketships, a tiny Ferris wheel and your child's first coaster trip, twice around a 280-foot track with a top height of -- 12 feet. There's also an 18-hole miniature golf course, an arcade and birthday packages in a covered pavilion. The Metroparks' Big Creek Reservation is next door if you'd rather picnic than grab lunch at the Kiddie Park's concession stand. (216) 941-5995, www.memphiskiddiepark.com
Parade the Circle, University Circle
If you head to the East Side only once next year, make sure it's for June's Parade the Circle celebration. The annual event shows why University Circle is such a cultural gem, and the promise of a free day of family fun is truly refreshing. University Circle institutions throw open their doors and a host of local organizations operate booths where kids can learn and create art to take home with them. There are also multiple stages of live music ranging from rock to reggae to blues and food from local restaurants. But the true highlight is the dazzling midday parade itself, complete with stilt-walkers, dizzyingly elaborate costumes and hundreds of participants. You'll walk away with a smile on your face. www.universitycircle.org
Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-in Theatre, North Ridgeville
Halfway through the flick, you leave the cozy haven of your car to make a break for candy or corndogs at the snack shack. The cool night air keeps you moving as you head across the gravel lot. In the cheery fluorescent light of the 1965 concession stand, kids beg parents for more candy, while teen girls in low-slung jeans giggle and flirt. Sno Caps in hand, you begin the search for your car, prop your feet on the dash and recline your seat. It's a cozy kind of feeling good that reminds us — and allows us to share in — the wild optimism of youth. Open from the beginning of April till the end of September, (440) 327-9595, www.autoramadrivein.com
Detroit Avenue pub crawl, Lakewood
There are 31 bars on a 3-mile stretch of Detroit Avenue. Some are shot-and-a-beer places. Others serve better-than-burgers food. Some cater to locals. Others attract a trendy crowd looking to mingle. You get the point: This is an interesting, fun place for a crawl. So gather a few of your East Side friends, designate your driver and head west. You'll spoil the fun if you map your route, so we suggest simply meandering. Three places to try to hit: Around the Corner (18616 Detroit Ave., 216-521-4413) at the far west end of the strip for great wings and a great summer outdoor scene; West End Tavern (18514 Detroit Ave., 216-521-7684) for such tasty entrees as steamed Prince Island mussels and gourmet meatloaf with homemade buttermilk mashed potatoes; and the Rush Inn Bar and Grille (17800 Detroit Ave., 216-221-3224) for good burgers and pierogis, a pleasant vibe and Eric, our favorite bartender on this side of town.
Lake County Captains, Eastlake
If you love baseball and want to get close to the action and to the soul of the game, head to the Eastlake Ballpark to see the Lake County Captains. No seat costs more than $8, and the young, hungry players at the single-A Tribe affiliate only make about $800 to $1,000 a month, so you know they're motivated by a love of the sport (and a shot at the big leagues). The ads on the outfield fence, the laid-back concessions manned by high-school students and the corny promotions between innings make a night in Eastlake feel like game night in a friendly small town. Try to stand under the press box when they start throwing T-shirts into the crowd. 35300 Vine St.; tickets: (440) 954-WINS
Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lyndhurst
Where else can you rub elbows with former president Jimmy Carter and millionaire porn star Jenna Jameson? No, this isn't a joke. When it comes to book signings, Joseph-Beth Booksellers' beautiful and sprawling Legacy Village location (which relocated from Shaker Square earlier this year) has no rival. Aside from the simple curl-up-with-a-book factor of the place, which is reinforced throughout with comfy chairs and an upstairs that begs you to get lost in it, Joseph-Beth Booksellers is the local champion of bringing authors and readers face to face. The list of notables Joseph-Beth has drawn to town is a long one that includes Mitch Albom, David Sedaris, George Carlin, Amy Tan, Bob Edwards, Tim Russert, Bob Costas, Billy Corgan, Hillary Clinton, Jamie Lee Curtis and George McGovern. Do we need to go on? Legacy Village, 24519 Cedar Road, Lyndhurst, (216) 691-7000, www.josephbeth.com
The only true part of Cleveland that is neither east nor west, the bridges across the Cuyahoga River are oases of neutrality, pillars of strength and beacons of history. Each has its own personality. Take, for instance, the serious Hope Memorial Bridge (still better known as the Lorain-Carnegie), lorded over by the stately titans of transportation.
Then there's the madcap Veterans Memorial (better-known as the Detroit-Superior), enjoying a second youth thanks to a new, art-bedecked pedestrian lane. And, of course, the grumpy Center Street, a swing bridge underneath the Veterans Memorial, whose creaky artifice offers a backward glance in time. Old, yet ageless. Fun, yet functional. Our bridges call out to us during all seasons, in all weather, at all times of the day and night. Take a gamble on the other side, they say.
Retailer John Bryan: Style on Both Sides
As he prepared to open Knuth Shoes in Rocky River 12 years ago, John Bryan received some unusual advice: "You'll sell more wide shoes on the West Side," he remembers hearing. Bryan's Pepper Pike Knuth Shoes was stylish and upscale. His West Side store, he was told, would have to cater to the fashion-impaired.
"That was not the case," reports Bryan. "I get the exact same merchandise on both sides of town and we sell it across the board." Bryan's River store is temporarily closing this month as its Beachcliff Market Square home shuts down for renovations, but he's determined to keep a presence on this side of town. "The West Side's been very good to us," he says. In the meantime, check out his trendy clothing, including Juicy Couture and 7 For All Mankind jeans, and shoes at Landerwood Plaza (216-831-1116).
Businesswoman Jennifer Frimel: A '440' World
Jennifer and her husband, Rich, lived happily in West Park — until he got a job as a principal in Concord and they moved to Mentor. Now, her commute to her job as a communications manager for Greater Cleveland Partnership has gone from 10 minutes to an hour. But what really bugs her about living way out east is the attitude she encounters.
"I feel as if, where I live now, nobody goes downtown," she says. "Nobody even tells their area code out here." It's just assumed that it's "440," even if it's your cell phone. On the flip side, she notes that many people on the far West Side don't venture east.
What does Frimel like best about her new locale? They live right on the lake. "It indulges the nature side of us," she says.
Rabbi Alan Lettofsky: Jewish Life on the West Side
You've heard this stereotype before: If you're Jewish, you must live on the East Side. But of the 33,700 Jewish households in the Cleveland area, 6,300 are on the West Side. Rabbi Lettofsky, of Beth Israel — The West Temple on Triskett Road in Cleveland, is in fact pushing to expand his 50-year-old congregation into a center for Jewish life that would serve all people of his faith on the West Side (in addition to the Cleveland synagogue, there are two in Lorain County).
"There's a misconception," he says, "that if you're Jewish and you live on the West Side it must mean you don't care about being Jewish. That's just not true." What's more, Lettofsky says he sees evidence that Judaism is on the rise west of the Cuyahoga: Supermarkets are finally beginning to stock kosher food during Passover.
Realtor Lou Barbee: East vs. West Is Dead
"Cleveland is no longer a divided city," proclaims RE/MAX Realtor Lou Barbee, who switches sides herself every few years. "The boundary that used to be the Cuyahoga River is disappearing." Why? Barbee, who does about $35 million in sales each year, credits both transplants and a new attitude among the natives. "People tend to be more liberal, more educated and more accepting of people from other backgrounds," she explains.
When Barbee moved back to town from Philadelphia about 20 years ago, she debated between Bay Village and Beachwood, both of which she saw as great places to raise her young daughter. She settled on Bay, but since has lived in University Circle, Old Brooklyn, Shaker Heights, Westlake, Pepper Pike, Seven Hills and South Euclid. Most recently, she moved to Lakewood, which she sees as the "parallel universe" to Cleveland Heights. "I wanted to be more toward the middle," she says. "And the right house came up."