Car Trip to Cleveland, Ohio

June 26-28, 2006

"Why Cleveland?"

 I've never heard that question asked so many times before.  However, every time we'd mention our plans to head there for a few days last month, that was the invariable reaction. And, indeed, our  only real response was "well, why not?"  It's a major city, it's fairly close, and we'd never really been there before, other than to breeze through on our way to Chicago.  So, with school being out for the year and a few days to play with before the relentless summer activities began, we decided to throw caution to the wind and go for a few days.

We booked a room at the one and only Best Western in town - a pool was a must, and the hot breakfast they promised didn't seem like a bad idea either - and picked up some maps at the CAA.  A bit of digging around on the Internet provided us with some ideas of things to see and places to go, and then it was merely a matter of throwing some clothes in the car, and hitting the road!

This we did at 6 o'clock on a Monday morning, hoping to avoid the worst of the traffic, and we arrived in Fort Erie at 8, just in time for breakfast at Sharon's house.  Hot coffee and bagels hit the spot, and the kids enjoyed some time with their grandma before we got back in the car to continue our journey.

"Why Cleveland?" asked the American boarder guard.  "Because we've never been there," I replied, and that answer must have satisfied him, because we were on our way through beautiful, scenic Buffalo (don't roll down the car window, or get off the highway!) and onto the I90 in no time.

Here are some photos from our little adventure!

Downtown and University Circle, June 27, 2006

One of the places we'd wanted to see was the Great Lakes Science Center.  Since we are members of the science centre in Toronto, we were able use that to get into Cleveland's facility, which is located downtown, right on the lake.  Our hotel was close to a rapid transit line, and a day pass for the family was only $7, so we decided to leave the driving to the pros, and we took the train into town.

The main downtown transit station is at Tower City, a shopping/hotel complex right on the appropriately named Public Square.  The hotel itself, a Mariott Renaissance, was evidence of Cleveland's propserous past.  The floors were marble, the walls ornate with art deco images, and the ceiling... well, the ceiling was a bit fancier than mine!


We were distracted from our goal of the Science Center, however, by a tall monument a block over.  The huge column supporting a statue beckonned, and we wandered over. 

It turned out to a the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial from the Civil War, and the gentleman inside who told us all about the place was fascinating.   He told us about the 1800-pound hollow bronze doors which are so well balanced that a child can open them with one hand.  He told us about the reliefs surrounding the centre block that holds the 14-ton marble column atop the memorial, and he told us about the ghosts who apparently inhabit the memorial.  They're protective spirits, though, so nothing to worry about! 


We must have spent 45 minutes in the memorial, learning and listening.  Eventually we started wending our way towards the lake and the Science Center.  There is a lot of modern public art and public space in Cleveland.  As we got closer to the lakefront, we passed through one open square after another.  Elaborate fountains, beautiful landscaping, and whimsical windswept flower urns greeted us as we approached our goal. 


The Science Center itself was interesting, although perhaps not quite up to par with ours here in Toronto, and we spent several hours wandering around, playing with sounds and sights, and exploring the various exhibits they had set up.  Eventually, faint with hunger, we set off again in search of food... but not before taking this picture of the one place we did NOT visit: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Next time, Folks!

Replenished and ready to keep exploring, we returned to the train station and caught a train to University Circle, although not before finding and spending an unfortune at a games shop in the mall.  We later figured out that the total of our purchases there was less than the full price of any one item as purchased at home.  I love a good sale!

University Circle is beautiful.  Someone, a long time ago, had vision, and lots of it.  It is everything that a city should have: beautiful buildings, peaceful and interesting landscaping, places of interest, and a vibrant street life to keep it all around.  The art gallery was, unfortunately, closed for major renovations, but the park in front of it was open, and we spent some time wandering around the small lake in its centre.  Toronto would be richer for an area like this.


The Zoo, June 28, 2006

The next day was our last in town.  I'd arranged to meet a web friend at the zoo, which we wanted to see.  Cleveland's zoo is smaller than Toronto's, but that didn't detract from its charm.  Again, thoughtful and interesting landscaping had created an oasis in the city, and we thoroughly enjoyed wandering around with Angie and her growing family. 


Dassa and Jace

And then we had to fly!  We wanted to be back in Canada in time to grab supper with Sharon again, and still make it home by around ten, and I hoped to stop for coffee in Erie to meet a friend there.  We tracked down a nice falafel joint on our way out of town, thanks to, and then hit the road once again.

Hadassah had the final word on the excitement of the day...

Cleveland gets two thumbs up from us!  Definitely worth a return visit.