The best things to do in Cleveland

CNN  — 

Walk into most Cleveland sports bars and you’ll see shirts boasting “We’re not Detroit!” and “Cleveland: It’s not that bad, have a beer!”

Welcome to Cleveland 2.0, where the down-home mingles with the high-brow; where the self-deprecation morphs into hometown pride; where the Matisse and Monets beckon as seductively as the sticky shellac of a brewpub floor.

Yes, you can (and should) go to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but there are other things to do when you travel here. You can also dine with James Beard award-winning chefs, see art in a former train car power station, and hike under cascading waterfalls. Read on for our favorite ways to soak up C-town:

Noteworthy neighborhoods

Start with Gordon Square Arts District, the city’s bohemian quarter. Test your skills at Superelectric Pinball Parlor with games dating to the 1950s, catch a show at one of four theater companies, or tour the region’s biggest fine arts complex, 78th Street Studios.

Wash down the culture with poutine and brews at Banter Beer & Wine or at Sweet Moses’ Soda Fountain and Treat Shop.

Victorian-era homes and eclectic bistros pepper Ohio City’s W. 25th Street, home to one of the country’s first public markets, West Side Market. Scope out OC’s Hingetown, a funky district where you can visit Transformer Station, the aforementioned gallery tucked into a 1920s transit hub, and attend a poetry night at looseleaf peddlers Cleveland Tea Revival.

Superelectric Pinball Parlor, 6500 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102, +1 (440) 822-1011

Banter Beer & Wine, 7320 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102, +1 (216) 801-0305

Sweet Moses, 6800 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102, +1 (216) 651-2202

Cleveland Tea Revival, 1434 W 29th St, Cleveland, OH 44113, +1 (216) 375-0854

Cultural staples

The Cleveland Art Museum is free to visit (plus a blast to explore).

Get lost among 45,000 pieces of art – artists range from Otto Dix to Andy Warhol – at Cleveland Museum of Art. While there, make your own creation with gesture-sensing projection technology in the ARTLENS Gallery.

(“Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors,” runs July 7 through September 30; book now to reserve your time and date.)

Carve out an afternoon for the I.M. Pei-designed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, perched on Lake Erie’s shoreline.

Packed with four theaters and seven floors of memorabilia, don’t miss the Power of Rock Experience, where you can “hang” with greats like Smokey Robinson and Alice Cooper.

Next, embark for an evening at Playhouse Square, America’s largest performing arts center outside of New York City.

In addition to five historic theaters, you’ll find four more performance spaces and an outdoor plaza. Before showtime, marvel at the GE Chandelier – the world’s largest outdoor chandelier – on Euclid Avenue, which glimmers with more than 4,200 crystals.

Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Boulevard, Cleveland, OH 44106, +1 (216) 421-7350

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, 1100 East 9th St., Cleveland, OH 44114, +1 (216) 781-7625

Playhouse Square, 1501 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115, +1 (216) 771-4444

Parks and rec

The Virginia Kendall Ledges Overlook is one of the best photo spots in Cuyahoga Park.

Break a sweat at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a verdant swirl of waterfalls and trails along the Cuyahoga River. If you can time it, catch a show at Blossom, an amphitheater with unreal acoustics inside the park. This summer, they’ll welcome acts ranging from Dave Matthews Band to Poison.

About 20 minutes from the park’s north end, venture to riverfront Collision Bend Brewery. As you swill on IPAs and eat wood-fired pizza, the nautical-inspired interiors may very well send your mind floating down the brewery’s namesake river.

Save room for the beloved pierogies and award-winning brews at Great Lakes Brewing Company, which offers tours, trivia nights and yoga. To complete your beer crawl, swing by Market Garden Brewery.

Fancy a craft cocktail? Our vote is The Plum, which serves riffs on classic libations like the bourbon-forward Alcindor and its pièce de résistance, The Cheryl: A four-person punch bowl starring rosé, lavender and chamomile.

Boston Store Visitor Center, 1548 Boston Mills Road, Peninsula, OH 44264, +1 (330) 657-2752

Blossom Music Center, 1145 W Steels Corners Rd, Cuyahoga Falls, OH, 44223 +1 (330) 920-8040

Collision Bend Brewery, 1250 Old River Road, Cleveland, OH 44113, +1 216-273-7879

Great Lakes Brewing Company, 2516 Market Ave., Cleveland, OH 44113, +1 (216) 771-4404

Market Garden Brewery, Restaurant: 1947 W 25th St., Cleveland, OH 44113, +1 (216) 621-4000 Production Facility (for tours / store): 1849 West 24th Street Cleveland, OH 44113, +1 (216) 373-0700

The Plum, 4133 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, OH 44113, +1 (216) 938-8711

When hunger strikes

Mabel's BBQ is helmed by Food Network celebrity Michael Symon.

Owned by celebrity chef Michael Symon, you can’t go wrong with Lola, which serves creative Eastern European, like calf’s heart with za’atar olives. Another Symon mainstay is Mabel’s BBQ, where pig parts reign, and if you’re not grabbing Cleveland’s iconic stadium mustard, you’re doing it wrong.

A locavore’s dream, Greenhouse Tavern is helmed by James Beard winner Jonathon Sawyer. The chef doles up hits ranging from hand-ground beef tartare (yes, with more of that stadium mustard) to vegan tonkotsu ramen. The eatery also has bragging rights as Ohio’s first LEED-certified restaurant.

For a distinctly Cleveland treat, feast at Brewnuts, which serves doughnuts made with beer that are precisely as good as they sound. A block away is Happy Dog, where Shangri-La awaits in the form of a pimento mac ‘n’ cheese smothered hot dog or vegan sausage.

The Ohio City Galley, a food hall and restaurant incubator project in the Ohio City neighborhood, will open in summer 2018. The 9,000-square-foot space will be modeled after Smallman Galley, the Galley Group’s original grounds in Pittsburgh.

Lola Bistro, 2058 East 4th St., Cleveland, OH 44115, +1 216-621-6562

Mabel’s BBQ, 2050 E 4th St., Cleveland, OH 44115, +1 216-417-8823

The Greenhouse Tavern, 2038 E 4th St., Cleveland, OH 44115, +1 216-443-0511

Brewnuts, 6501 Detroit Ave., Cleveland, OH 44102 +1 (216)600-9579

Happy Dog, 5801 Detroit Ave., Cleveland, OH 44102, +1 (216) 651-6474

Ohio City Galley, 1400 W. 25th Street, Cleveland, OH 44113

Hit the hay

The Ritz Carlton is a luxe-but-cozy option.

For a hotel within walking distance to many attractions, post up at the Hyatt at the Arcade, which opened in 1890 as America’s first indoor mall. The historic atrium features an 85-foot-high skylight, brass fixtures and two marble staircases. It’s a hell of a wedding venue – or photo opp.

The Ritz-Carlton Cleveland also provides luxe digs; its 206 rooms and fitness center underwent a major remodel in 2017. At the property’s TURN Bar + Kitchen, there’s a DJ on Fridays and Saturdays.

A few steps away from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and new Jack Cleveland Casino sits the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. Erected in 1918, you can channel prohibition-era vibes in the dimly lit and leather-heavy lobby bar. Bottoms up, Believeland!

Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the Arcade, 420 Superior Ave. E, Cleveland, OH 44114,+ (216) 575-1234

The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland, 1515 West Third St., Cleveland, OH 44113, +1 (216) 623-1300

Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, 24 Public Square, Cleveland, OH 44113, +1 (216) 696-5600