By Celece Seegmiller for The Spectrum Newspaper/9-13-2011
When I think of where I want to spend my summer vacation, I normally consider a tropical destination with a beautiful beach; sailing the seas on a new cruise ship; or cooling off in the mountains. A few months ago, I received the invitation to visit Cleveland, Ohio with a friend for a family celebration. “Cleveland? You want me to spend my summer vacation time in Cleveland ?” I asked. I only knew a few facts about Cleveland: 1. It was home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 2. It’s humid in the summer and freezing in the winter. 3. The Cleveland Cavaliers lost LeBron James last year to the Miami Heat. Obviously, Cleveland was never a destination I considered for my vacation.
That being said, I consider myself to be the kind of person that will try new things and keep an open mind. I feel that you can discover something unique about any destination , so I said yes and my flight to Cleveland was confirmed before I knew it. A few weeks ago, I said goodbye to the 110 degree desert heat and boarded my plane for what was once referred to as “The Greatest Location in the Nation” (FYI the local weather man still refers to the city that way). Apparently, I visited during a perfect time as it was just 75 degrees and low humidity. As it turns out, I was not only surprised by Cleveland, I now consider it to be one of my favorite vacations. When I mentioned that at a party a few nights ago, my friends were shocked. After all, I have been fortunate to travel to some amazing places throughout my life. It was a combination of beautiful scenery, historic buildings, and good Midwestern people that made my vacation memorable, so I decided to share a few of the highlights:
My first day consisted of a behind the scenes tour of Progressive Field – home to the Indians and Cedar City’s own Mitch Talbot. The field is located in the heart of the city and despite my love for the Boston Red Sox, I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and learning about the Indian’s history. We were lucky enough to watch fan favorite Grady Sizemore during batting practice right from the dugout. Next was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the museum is incredible. The history of rock and roll is brought to life through special exhibits displaying everything from Johnny Cash’s tour bus to Lady Gaga’s meat dress. Yes, the real meat dress (they dried it like jerky and painted it bright red to bring it back to the original condition, just in case you were wondering). The Hall of Fame is next door to Cleveland Browns Stadium on what locals call North Coast Harbor as the area is located along the great Lake Erie.
We ate at delicious restaurants, but my favorite was located in Little Italy. It was there that my palate had the pleasure of discovering Corbo’s, the best Italian bakery I have ever encountered. I was overwhelmed with the choices in the display cases. Although the Cannoli was my favorite (they hand-piped the filling fresh while I waited), the Cassata Cake and almond cookies were a close second. Cassata Cake is a delicious sponge cake moistened with fruit juices (strawberry in this case) and layered with ricotta cheese and vanilla filling similar to canoli cream. At this point, I did not even care if I ate lunch, so I ordered a pound of Italian cookies for the road.
A highlight from downtown Cleveland was the observation deck at Terminal Tower, a landmark skyscraper. It was built during the skyscraper boom of the 1920s and 1930s, and was the second-tallest building in the world when it was completed. After September 11th, the observation deck was closed. However, it recently re-opened and we were offered a 360 degree view of Cleveland, Lake Erie, historic buildings, and the beautiful suburbs. There were photos of Cleveland during its manufacturing era lining the walls. What a vibrant, thriving city this once was! I learned that Cleveland was home to John D. Rockefeller and the birthplace of Standard Oil. As my eyes glanced over the art deco style décor and photos of Cleveland in its heyday, I could not help but think of many great manufacturing cities that built our country and now find themselves trying to restructure after so many lost jobs. However, there were several signs that Cleveland is making a comeback, including the movie being filmed right at Terminal Tower during our visit. We were lucky enough to be on the set of The Avengers, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson.
My visit was not confined to the city. We made our way to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, about one hour away. If you have ever wanted to find your real age or discover that you are not as young as you thought, then I encourage a visit to Cedar Point. Cedar Point is the second oldest amusement park in North America, with a history dating back to 1870. This classic amusement park/resort is located on the shore of Lake Erie features some of the most thrilling roller coasters in the world. In 2000, Cedar Point stunned the coaster world when it debuted the tallest (310 feet) and fastest (93 mph) “giga-coaster” on the planet, Millennium Force. My personal favorite was the 420-foot-tall, 120-mph Top Thrill Dragster, which again made Cedar Point home of the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world. There are rides for every member of the family and Cedar Point is a must see attraction in Ohio.
Although Downtown Cleveland and Cedar Point were great attractions, my favorite area was in the suburbs of Mentor and Kirtland. Now I understand why so many people choose to visit Kirtland every year. Not only is it rich with their church heritage, it is very picturesque with green trees and colorful flowers lining the streets. Holden Arboretum is located nearby and features over 3600 acres of hiking trails, flower collections and gardens. After spending so much time in the red desert sands of Dixie, Holden was a nice change of scenery with breathtakingly beautiful flowers, lush trees, and ponds filled with fountains and Lillie pads. The Hydrangea flowers were bigger than both of my fists put together. I would definitely recommend a stop at Holden for a walk or picnic if you are ever in the area.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the space to write about the other great attractions I discovered during my introduction to Cleveland like the wine country, Downtown Willoughby, and Lake View Cemetery . However, there are spectacular photos on my blog at www.stgeorgetravel.com that showcase the area. Although Cleveland was not on my “must see” list, it is now on my “must return” list. Regardless if travel takes you away for business, family functions, or a vacation; it is great to learn about the history, discover the food, and experience the culture. After all, that is what travel is all about. There is a famous quote that is on the front page of my website that summarizes my experience:
“The World Is a Book and Those Who Do Not Travel Read Only One Page.” – St. Augustine.