Before it gets too far away from me, I wanted to post about my return weekend to Cleveland in July. Now that we’ve been gone for five years, it’s still surreal to go back and see all the changes — and we both cannot get over how weird it is that we don’t recognize anyone anymore! I went back two years ago as part of a blogger trip with Visit CLE, and I have to say that being in downtown Cleveland still feels strange to me. It’s quickly obvious that it doesn’t have quite the life to it as downtown Pittsburgh… but it still makes for a wonderful weekend getaway.

One thing’s for sure, we will NEVER stay at the Doubletree downtown again. That hotel is just the worst, free points or not.

Friday:
We started off with drinks on the roof of The 9. Initially, we were supposed to meet friends for dinner, but they had an emergency and couldn’t make it out. This is another place that I don’t ever have to go to in my lifetime. Lame and not my scene. Too bad, considering the amazing views.

Rooftop, the Flats, and a running tour of CLE stadiums.

Rooftop, the Flats, and a running tour of CLE stadiums.

But Heinen’s in the old Ameritrust rotunda building is DEFINITELY for me! Those wine vending machines? I hope that inventor won a Nobel or something. I loaded up a card and sampled plenty (including a cab that was $7 for 1-oz taster… yeah, it was perfect), and we enjoyed a wonderful cheese plate (with gluten-free crackers!). Heinen’s, if you’re not from Northeast Ohio, is a local chain grocery store, and MAN do I wish it existed when we lived on East 4th Street! I lived in the suburbs for many of my Cleveland years though, and Heinen’s is even better than Wegman’s in my book.

Heinen's in downtown Cleveland is incredible.

Heinen’s in downtown Cleveland is incredible.

We followed up our cheese with Dinner at the Greenhouse Tavern. The chef’s course is still one of the best deals in town, and we both left plenty full. While we people-watched in the front window, I noticed Sinbad was listed on the marquee at Pickwick & Frolic.

HECK YEAH, WE WENT TO SEE SINBAD! That guy made us laugh for over two hours. Totally spontaneous decision, and after being a fan of his for decades, I can finally say that I saw him live!

Saturday:
I like when I can wake up refreshed and early when traveling — and to beat the brunch crowd. We went to Urban Farmer where a former derby teammate works, and HEY-YO TO THE GLUTEN-FREE GODS, I enjoyed my breakfast immensely. I had eggs benedict (on gf toast) and a large bowl of fruit. Also, the coffee was crazy good.

Afterward, we walked to the West Side Market for snacking and people-watching; meat sticks from Czuraj were a must. On the way, we stopped into Nano Brew (for the boyfriend). After meeting up with my sister for a bit, we continued our “drinking tour” at Great Lakes Brewery (again, for the boyfriend). Considering that I came of age in the hey-day of the Flats party scene, it was interesting to walk through and see all the development on both the West and East banks. Was disappointed to see all the bars and restaurants closed on the East Bank near the Aloft Hotel though — we did go in and check out that building a bit. A cool space for Cleveland! On our climb back out of the Flats, we found Portside and HOLY RUM. The drinks were amazing! What a treat on our self-guided tour.

Drinking and walking tours of CLE.

Drinking and walking tours of CLE.

After a few drinks at Portside, we DEFINITELY needed dinner. I’m glad that we read online about Townhall before our visit because this choice was perfection (and quite busy). I was really impressed by their different options for gluten-free (and other dietary restrictions) and my burger (with gluten-free bun!) was delicious. We also ordered this veggie crudo appetizer, which was insanely gigantic but a good starter to share.

For dessert, we Uber-ed over to the Tremont neighborhood for ice cream at Tremont Scoops — our friends own it and they have gluten-free cones! We also walked over to Lilly’s Chocolate to bring a couple boxes home. We really wanted to check out the New Orleans-style bar (its name escapes me right now) but upon experiencing some weird power outage, they weren’t letting anyone in. Alas, we had a drink at Edison’s by the koi pond out back — a must-visit place for pizza and beer (if you can have both of those things) if you’re in the neighborhood. Really random Cleveland trivia: I almost rented an apartment in my mid-20s above Edison’s. It’s always weird to remember that.

Short night for these two ol’ fogies. But I guess the day was plenty exciting.

Sunday:
We didn’t plan to stay late or do anything tourist-y on Sunday, but I needed to get my 8 miles in. After some quickie room service, I took off to run towards the lake and over the two major bridge spans connecting downtown to Ohio City. The Lorain bridge itself is close to a mile across, and it was a good reason to check out my old stomping grounds at Cleveland State campus. Also, there is this super-old cemetery that I’ve always wanted to walk through on East 9th Street, so I ran through there as well as around Progressive Field (ahem, THE JAKE!) and Browns Stadium (GO BROWNS!).

It was a good trip back, and I’m glad I got a little bit of that lake-side humidity before my half marathon there in August.

Is there anything that I missed that I should do on my next visit?

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