If you have travel plans in your future, and you’re wondering where to stay in Cleveland, Ohio, this list of our five favorite neighborhoods will help you find the right digs, in the right neighborhood.
In this post, we’ll give you an overview of the Campus District, the Civic Center/Public Square District, Playhouse Square, The Flats and the Warehouse District – and highlight some of our favorite attractions, watering holes and restaurants. (We’re a bit food obsessed, and nearby restaurants play a major role in our travel plans.)
Home to Cleveland State University – and to the college sports and world-class concert performances at its Wolstein Center (aka The Convo) – the Campus District makes a great home base for people visiting kids at school or folks who are in town to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Superior Avenue – a major thoroughfare that was once the heart of Cleveland’s Garment District – is now lined with historic warehouses that are being reimagined as housing, office space, restaurants, retail and galleries, making it a satisfying place for getting out on foot and exploring.
If your visiting Cleveland and your accommodations lack a kitchen, you’ll be pleased to learn that the Campus District is home to over two-dozen restaurants, cafes, bakeries and coffee houses.
Since it’s a college neighborhood, it’ll come as no surprise that there are many options for burgers (Chuck’s Place) and pizza (Pizza Pan, Fanucce’s). If you’re craving Japanese or Korean fare, the fabulous Ha Ahn restaurant won’t disappoint. The neighborhood also offers a wonderful place to grab some Indian food: Bombay Chaat specializes in Indian street food, albeit served in a comfortable indoor restaurant. If you happen to be visiting the CSU campus, be sure to check out Elements Bistro – it’s right on the campus, and the foodie-worthy yet affordable offerings and friendly staff make it a popular spot for students, neighborhood business people and in-the-know tourists.
Visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and just looking for a great spot to grab a sandwich at lunchtime? You’re just steps away. With an out-of-this-world Reuben and fries done just right: Barrister’s Deli has been a locals’ favorite for years. If it’s breakfast or lunch you seek, the absolutely adorable Artefino Cafe (which is open to the public, not just residents of the Tower Press live/work space) is the kind of place that even locals feel lucky to have stumbled upon. Breakfast selections include a nice selection of pastries and breakfast sandwiches, along with smoothies and espresso drinks. For lunch, you’ll find a nice array of sandwiches, soups and salads, with plenty of vegetarian options. Care for a bit of philanthropy with your meal? Bloom bakery and cafe – along with its pastries, sandwiches and soups – is dedicated to helping give people a second chance at building a self-sufficient life.
As a college neighborhood, it should come as no surprise that there’s no shortage of options when it comes to bars. Cleveland State University go-to, Moe’s Tavern, is perfectly located for grabbing a bite to eat before or after heading to Playhouse Square for a show. Becky’s is another low-key but high-quality establishment with great cocktails and stellar burgers and wings. Happiest when you’re belting out tunes? Check out Galaxy KTV – a karaoke bar with an amazing staff, beer and cocktails, and private rooms that you can rent if you’re there with a group.
Superior Avenue is home to over 150 working artists, who showcase their work at studios like Red Space and the Artcraft Building. Other galleries include The Bonfoey Gallery, the cleverly named Lake Affect Studios, Tower Press Artists and The Galleries at CSU.
If you’re deciding where to stay in Cleveland, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been on your bucket list, the Campus District will put everything from Johnny Cash’s guitar to Elvis’ custom-built super trike to a copy of the first issue of Rolling Stone just steps from your doorstep.
Situated in the Playhouse Square District and steps away from Cleveland’s Campus District, Stay Alfred on 12th Street and Stay Alfred at The Garfield give you the space and conveniences of home – like a full kitchen, a washer/dryer, and private bedrooms – combined with the dependable customer service of a hotel and some wonderful building amenities. If you’ve been wondering where to stay in Cleveland, these spacious travel apartments are well worth a look.
Civic Center District/Public Square
Home to some of Cleveland’s best architecture.and statues, to Public Square – a large space in the center of downtown Cleveland that hosts ice skating in the winter – and to The Cleveland Mall: a grassy green space that makes a great spot for a picnic, the Civic Center district is the heart of the city.
What can’t you find in the heart of downtown Cleveland?
Let’s start with traditional Midwest fare. If you’re looking for sophisticated, locally-sourced dishes in the traditional, American steakhouse style, Urban Farmer (attached to the Westin hotel) should definitely be on your shortlist. Are you a vegetarian or vegan who doesn’t settle for less-than-flavorful foods? Check out Pura Vida. Their all-veggie rendition of a Big Mac doesn’t disappoint. The meat dishes, like beef tenderloin with roasted shallot parsley butter and salmon in a sweet Thai chili glaze – are wonderful, too. Planning a date night and want to pull out all the stops? Head over to the Marriott, where you’ll find Il Venetian – the go-to spot for fine Italian cuisine. Expect an elegant , sophisticated atmosphere, well-informed servers and dishes that might make you consider a move to Cleveland.
Thinking about staying near Public Square? Do as the locals to and head over to Yum Yum’s for breakfast. Line out the door? Fear not – you’ll be enjoying scrumptious egg & cheese bagels, donuts and coffee in no time. No seating? No problem. Making a to-go order and heading over to Public Square to find a place to sit down and dine is a totally acceptable way to go. For a classic diner experience that you might not expect when walking into a Holiday Inn, you’ll want to try Mike and Dee’s Diner – a time machine that will transport you back to the ‘50s. Bacon, eggs and toast with a nice cup of coffee... what else do you really need? Urban Farmer, mentioned above, also does a wonderful breakfast, with a menu that includes, of course, steak and eggs, but also French toast topped with apple compote, creme anglaise, granola and butterscotch caramel, and buttermilk pancakes served with blackberry & lemon marmalade.
Hecks Express is another solid option for breakfast (served all day), with classic breakfasts and new favorites like avocado toast. They also serve a tasty selection of sandwiches, burgers and salads. And milkshakes. Never had a chocolate/peanut-butter milkshake? Here’s your chance. Of course, nothing could be closer – physically, at least – to the heart of Cleveland than REBoL, which is located in the heart of Public Square. This establishment prides itself in serving clean, non-GMO foods with gluten-free options, and they serve everything from bone broth to bulletproof coffee to paleo smoothies to cold-pressed juices to delicious breakfast sandwiches and build-your own bowls. They even serve beer, wine and a small selection of cocktails. Right in the heart of Public Square. Yum.
Looking for someplace cozy, with dark wood and velvet, a speakeasy vibe and knowledgeable mixologists that make a truly outstanding drink? Head downstairs to Society Lounge. Although generally a spot for drinks, they do offer a small selection of melt-in-your mouth small plates. But really, this place is all about the booze. If you’re in the mood for something more casual, and you’d like to fill your belly with something more substantial – and especially if that something more substantial is corned beef – head over to Ontario Street Cafe. The eats and drinks are among the most reasonably priced and well-portioned you’re likely to find, and the neighborhood-bar atmosphere is right out of a distant decade.
The Civic Center District offers more than just the pleasure of relaxing and people-watching in Public Square. If testing your luck at gambling is on your list, head over to JACK Cleveland Casino. Born out of an amendment legalizing casinos in Ohio’s four largest cities, JACK features slot machines galore, table games and electronic table games.
While you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument – a 125-foot tall tribute to Civil War soldiers from Cuyahoga County, Ohio. It’s free and open to the public. The reliefs on the outside are accurate depictions of battle – and quite graphic. Inside the monument, marble tablets list the names of the 9000 local soldiers and sailors who served in the war.
Want a bird’s eye view of Cleveland? Head to Terminal Tower – the second tallest building in the world in 1933, when it was completed. The views from the observation deck, located on the 42nd floor, don’t disappoint.
Situated in the Playhouse Square District and near the Campus District, Stay Alfred on 12th Street and Stay Alfred at The Garfield give you the space and conveniences of home – like a full kitchen, a washer/dryer, and private bedrooms – combined with the dependable customer service of a hotel. If you’re wondering where to stay in Cleveland, you’d be hard-pressed to find better digs.
In the mood for a little live entertainment? It might come as a surprise that Playhouse Square – with nine theaters and five resident companies – is the largest theater district outside of New York – a testament to the city’s love of the theater. (Fun fact: Did you know that Playhouse Square is home to the world’s largest outdoor chandelier? It’s located at the corner of Euclid Avenue and E 14th Street.)
Of course, there’s more to the Playhouse Square district than just theater. You’ve got to eat and drink, too, right?
Dining in the Playhouse Square district
If it’s a dinner and a show night, this establishment may leave you tempted to pare down the evenings activities to just the “dinner” portion – the food at chef Zack Bruell’s Cowell & Hubbard is that good. With a menu steeped in French tradition and a bright, elegant interior, dishes like braised beef shoulder with mushroom risotto, peas, pearl onions and cabernet demi, and a mouthwatering vegan shepards pie will transport you as far as any Playhouse Square production would. District is another solid option. Beef Bourguignon. Seafood risotto. And a dessert menu that will give you the will to find room. It’s no wonder that this establishment has earned a spot on Cleveland’s list of A-list restaurants year after year. Sometimes, though, all you want is a Margarita and some traditional Mexican dishes. Puente Viejo stands by, ready to please.
A cozy diner with indoor and outdoor seating, plus all the classic American diner breakfasts, Yours Truly Restaurant hits all the marks for a wonderful way to start the day. Or to sustain the day – as they have a great lunch menu that features burgers, salads, seafood, steaks and more. Plus a full bar. Handy, if you’re vacationing, and brunch = Bloody Mary time. Looking for vegetarian and vegan options? Check out Phuel Cafe. It’s menu is diverse, eclectic and delicious, so you’ll find any number of healthy ways to start your day. Green Rooster Farms is an additional option for made-from-scratch, hearty breakfasts and lunches – ordered at the counter. Another restaurant by chef Zack Bruell, Dynomite Burgers – with its enviable right-on-U.S. Bank Plaza location – is always a good bet for al fresco dining. Delicious burgers, fries, sandwiches, milkshakes, beer and wine await, and the expansive patio makes a great place to eat, converse with a friend and people-watch. Sometimes, though, there’s nothing like a big breakfast buffet. If that’s what you’re craving, head over to the Crowne Plaza Hotel’s restaurant, Ghost Light Lounge, because Ghost Light isn’t just for dinner. (They also happen to offer outstanding lunch and dinner menus.) If you’re wondering about the name, it’s an homage to a legend that the city’s theaters are haunted, and leaving a single light on in a theater will let the spectres enjoy their moment on the stage.
The cozy atmosphere at Bin 216 pairs nicely with the establishment’s extensive wine list and craft cocktails – as do the small plates. A door that exits directly to the theaters makes this the perfect, quiet pre-show spot. (Be sure to come early if you’re headed to a play, though – Bin 216 does not take reservations.) Do you prefer to save a few dollars, and often find yourself looking for a great happy hour? From 3 - 6 p.m. weekdays, Parker’s Downtown serves cocktails that are unbelievably inexpensive for a place this nice, along with half-price small plates.
Theaters. Lots of ‘em. But first, let’s talk about the city’s “unofficial 10th stage,” U.S. Bank Plaza. The plaza hosts musical performances and farmers markets, and it’s a wonderful place to sit down and enjoy lunch while enjoying some some fresh air and the company of businesspeople taking a break from the office. Theaters include the Allen Theatre Complex, which includes 500-seat Allen Theatre, which opened in 1921, the adaptable Outcalt Theatre, which seats up to 334, and the 150-seat Helen Rosenfeld Lewis Bialosky Lab Theatre, home to CSU and Case Western Reserve University productions. Built in 1921, the Hannah Theatre seats 550 and is home to Great Lakes Theater. The Ohio Theater, also completed in 1921, seats 1000 and features a lobby that’s worth a visit in its own right. Below the lobby of the Ohio Theatre, you’ll find Kennedy’s Cabaret – a popular spot for 1-person productions. The first of Cleveland’s 1921 theater-construction boom to be completed, KeyBank State Theatre has a massive 3200-seat capacity and gorgeous lobby murals by James Daugherty, and it regularly hosts major Broadway musicals. Connor Palace, which first opened as a vaudeville venue in 1922, seats 2800, and the stage has been graced by the likes of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Often used for TV production, the high-tech Westfield Insurance Studio Theatre seats 300.
Traveling to see some shows and wondering where to stay in Cleveland? Located in Playhouse Square District and just a short walk away from Cleveland’s Campus District, Stay Alfred on 12th Street and Stay Alfred at The Garfield give you the conveniences of home – like a full kitchen, a washer/dryer, and private bedrooms and plenty of space – along with wonderful building amenities and the convenience of 24/7 customer service that you won’t get with your typical Cleveland vacation rental. All just a short jaunt away from the night’s entertainment.
Situated on the southwest side of downtown Cleveland, The Flats occupies low-lying ground on both the east and west banks of the Cuyahoga River (If you’ll be getting around on foot, the Metroparks Water Taxi is a great way to cross the river in every season except winter.) Over the years, this former home to Cleveland’s steel mills, oil refineries and shipyards has seen an influx of investment, and it’s a now booming with residences, retail, dining and attractions along the winding river – the neighborhood’s centerpiece.
Dining in The Flats
If you’re looking for a spot with an amazing river views, perfectly poured cocktails – and you’ve got a hankering for oysters that won’t be denied – head to Alley Cat Oyster Bar on the east bank of the the Cuyahoga River. Located riverside, both indoor seating and the expansive deck offer stunning river views. You’ll enjoy friendly service and a wide variety of seafood that’s flown-in fresh from across the U.S. The Flats also has a wonderful Italian restaurant in Lago East Bank. If the weather’s right, you’ll have the option of enjoying your meal on a deck that earned honors as Cleveland’s best. Favorite dishes include lobster gnocchi and beef short rib with cheddar polenta. Looking for a more casual meal – maybe something along the lines of pizza and beer? How about pizza and over 100 beers, plus a full bar. BeerHead Bar and Eatery has all that – plus an expansive deck with spectacular river views, and giant pretzels that seem to be the talk of the town.
Whether you’re rising and shining or you’re looking for a midday meal, The Flats has options. You might not have guessed it, but Lago East Bank, mentioned above, has a knockout brunch and lunch options. Chicken and waffles, frittatas and egg sandwiches are the go-to brunch items, and, of course, cocktails are available. For lunch, brace yourself for a huge selection of appetizers, pizzas, sandwiches, salads and bowls. Bold, which specializes in modern American food, also offers a crave-worthy lunch menu, sustainably sourced.
With an enormous river-view deck, a great live music stage, full bar and an menu packed with classic American fare – think burgers, wraps, seafood, steaks and more – Shooters on the Water is a classic Flats establishment that we could’ve just as easily listed under the “dinner” heading. It’s a great place to grab a drink and enjoy the view with a friend – or to dance the night away to a live band. If you want to do more than just watch the entertainment, give Punch Bowl Social a try. With a full bar and self-entertainment options that include bowling, mini golf, vintage arcade games and karaoke, it’s a complete playland for adults. (Why should kids have all the fun?) Another bar featuring fun activities is Backyard Bocce. In addition to bocce, skee ball, oversized Jenga and Connect Four, and air hockey, they’ve got a full bar, a delightful menu and a guaranteed good time. If Irish bars are more your style – tonight, at least – The Flat Iron, which has existed in one form or another for over 100 years, has a full bar, live music (featuring frequent appearances by Celtic bands) and a concise yet hearty brunch and dinner menu. Sláinte!
Sharks? In Cleveland? It’s true. Although, thankfully, you won’t have to worry about them if you choose to rent a kayak, power boat or jet ski to explore the river. Located in a former west-bank power plant, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium lets you see these carnivorous wonders safely, from behind a wall of glass. Looking for a place to take a stroll after your sea-life encounters? Rivergate Park is a great place to kick back and watch the clouds roll by.
Wondering where to stay in Cleveland and looking for something more than a hotel room? Perfectly situated between The Flats’ neighborhood’s east bank and the Warehouse District, travel apartments at Stay Alfred at Flats East Bank and Stay Alfred at Bridgeview offer sweeping city and water views, along with perks like in-unit laundry, full kitchens, large living spaces and private bedrooms. Plus, unlike typical Cleveland vacation rentals, every travel apartment is professionally managed: you won’t find other people’s stuff in the closets, and you’ll enjoy 24-hour customer service.
Originally a neighborhood of warehouses constructed in or around the 1890s, the Warehouse District’s gorgeous buildings are now home to apartments, retail and restaurants, making it a prime example of ideal urban, mixed use living. It’s home sporting events at Quicken Loans Arena, outstanding live-music venues and more than a few dance clubs and bars that cement the neighborhood’s reputation as nightlife central.
While the Warehouse District may have a party-hearty reputation that brings to mind sports bars, the area is home to some wonderful fine dining, too. Case in point: Blue Point Grille, an establishment that’s consistently earned honors as the best seafood restaurant in the city. A full bar is manned by supremely competent mixologists, and the wine list has earned awards from none other than Wine Spectator. It’s truly a date night or impress-a-new-client classic. If it’s high-end dining you’re looking for, than you’d also do well to consider Osteria Di Valerio e Al, which consistently wows patrons with its exceptional fare and first-rate service. Veal tortellini may have truly found its highest from here. Another Cleveland Italian classic – Johnnys Downtown – specializes in pasta, veal and fish, and its wine list has also earned Wine Spectator accolades. While dining, patrons are treated to live piano music, which adds to the establishment’s old-school charm. Adding to the Warehouse District’s bragging rights as a fine-dining destination is Mallorca, which specializes in Spanish and Portuguese seafood, prepared in an absolutely true to the Iberian peninsula fashion. Pro-tip: The Spanish coffee – a blend of coffee and spices – is to die for. Speaking of delicious, ever had a short-rib grilled cheese sandwich? If you like the sound of that combination, head over to Cleveland Chop – a steakhouse that also does an outstanding Sunday brunch, compete with the requisite full bar – a necessity for many a brunch enthusiast.
Ahoy! If your tummy’s rumbling for a nautical brunch, The Nauti Mermaid is ready to satisfy your cravings with hearty meals like crab cakes, fried calamari, steamed mussels or clams, popcorn shrimp and other seafarer’s faves. Those of you who lack a taste for the brine will be pleased to find landlubber eats, too, such as Buffalo wings and burgers. The aforementioned Cleveland Chop also does a mean brunch, if your tastes are running more to the upscale, and you’re seeking a brunch that’s complemented by a full bar.
What the Warehouse District’s drinking establishments run the gamut from upscale to sports-themed to dance clubs.
Headed to see the Buckeyes play? If it’s game night, Dive Bar is sure to be packed with fans getting pumped for the action. If there’s a Browns game happening, you can bet it’ll be on the screen at Barley House – a full restaurant and bar with a great patio by day – and high-energy dance club by night.
Stunning industrial Victorian architecture is the name of the game in the Warehouse District, and a walk through this small neighborhood offers views of dozens of beautiful buildings that are being repurposed for the modern era.
Wondering where to stay in Cleveland? Located between The Flats East Bank and the Warehouse District, Stay Alfred at Flats East Bank and Stay Alfred at Bridgeview make getting out and exploring downtown Cleveland on-foot a cinch. And, with outstanding amenities and homelike comforts that include a full kitchen, a washing and dryer, private bedrooms and a living room – you may just find it hard to go back to a plain old hotel room on your next trip.
Here’s to a wonderful trip to the Rock and Roll Capital of the World!
Now that you’ve gotten acquainted with the Campus District, the Civic Center/Public Square District, Playhouse Square, The Flats and the Warehouse District, all you need to do is find a great place to stay. If you like idea of staying in a spacious travel apartment with all of the comforts of home, access to some great amenities, and locations right in the heart of it all, keep us in mind.