Kick the weekend off Friday evening with a culinary bang by snagging a table downtown at Lola (2058 E. 4th St., 216/621-5652, www.lolabistro.com ), home to Cleveland-based food celeb Michael Symon. This sophisticated bistro showcases Symon’s trademark style of transforming familiar dishes into contemporary showstoppers.
After dinner, stroll down East 4th Street and take your pick from a host of entertainment options. The Corner Alley (402 Euclid Ave., 216/298-4070, www.thecorneralley.com ) is a modern-day bowling venue that combines lane-side cocktail service and pencil-free scoring.
Ditch the rental shoes and walk the short distance to Pickwick & Frolic, where lower-level Kevin’s Martini Bar (2035 E. 4th St., 216/241-7425, www.pickwickandfrolic.com ) conjures images of Vegas complete with cabaret.
Visit the West Side Market (1979 W. 25th St., 216/664-3387, www.westsidemarket.com ) on a Saturday morning and you’ll swear every last Clevelander is present and accounted for. This bustling public market is a treat not just for cooks, but also for people-watchers and architecture buffs.
Start your day with a sausage sandwich from Frank’s Bratwurst. To keep the line moving, it helps to know the drill: hard or soft roll; kraut or plain; spicy-brown or yellow mustard. Those who prefer to restrict their pork consumption to afternoons should grab a Belgian waffle from Crepes De Luxe and a cup of joe from City Roast. Each is located in the market.
If it’s between Memorial Day and Labor Day, set aside some time to prowl the knickknacks at Open Air in Market Square (Market Square Park, corner of Lorain Ave. and W. 25th St., 216/781-3222, Memorial Day weekend–Labor Day weekend Sat. 10 a.m.–4 p.m.), an outdoor flea market and block party that takes place across the street from the West Side Market.
Stroll north on West 25th Street and check out the various shops that dot the eclectic urban strip. Hit Elegansia (1873 W. 25th St., 216/861-2553, Mon.–Sat. 12:30–5:30 p.m.) for glam vintage threads, Glass Bubble Project (2421 Bridge Ave., 216/696-7043, www.glassbubbleproject.com , Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–6 p.m.) for original blown-glass art objects, and Something Different (1899 W. 25th St., 216/696-5226, www.somethingdifferentgallery.com , Mon.–Sat. 10:30 a.m.–6 p.m.) for, well, something different.
When hunger sets in, try Great Lakes Brewing Co. (2516 Market Ave., 216/771-4404, www.greatlakesbrewing.com , Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m.) for pub grub or Bar Cento (1948 W. 25th St., 216/274-1010, www.barcento.com , Sun.–Fri. 4:30 p.m.–2 a.m., Sat. noon–2 a.m.) for Neapolitan-style pizza.
To see what Cleveland looked like 150 years ago, stroll down Jay Avenue (btwn. W. 25th and W. 30th Sts.) to admire blocks of restored 19th-century homes.
In the afternoon, make your way over to Nautica Entertainment Complex on the west bank of the Flats to hop aboard Lolly the Trolley (2000 Sycamore St., 216/771-4484, www.lollytrolley.com , One-hour tour $11 adult, $8 child, $10 senior; two-hour tour $17 adult, $12 child, $16 senior). These fun and informative sightseeing tours wind through downtown, PlayhouseSquare, and University Circle.
When the ride is over, travel to the North Coast Harbor for a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (1100 Rock and Roll Blvd., 216/781-7625, www.rockhall.com , Thurs.–Tues. 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Wed. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., closed Thanksgiving and Christmas, $22 adult, $13 child, $17 senior, free 8 and under). Though the iconic museum looks small from the outside, it can devour entire afternoons in a single visit.
If kids are in tow, swap the Rock Hall for a visit to the adjacent Great Lakes Science Center (601 Erieside Ave., 216/694-2000, www.glsc.org , Daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m., closed Thanksgiving and Christmas, $9.50 adult, $7.50 youth, $8.50 senior).
Spend Saturday evening in fun-spirited Tremont. Before dinner, pop into a few of the neighborhood’s many galleries and boutiques, including Asterisk Gallery (2393 Professor Ave., 330/304-8528, www.asteriskgallery.com , Second Fri. of the month and by appt.), Paul Duda Gallery (2342 Professor Ave., 216/589-5788, www.pauldudagallery.com , Second Fri. of the month 6–11 p.m., call for other hours), and Banyan Tree (2242 Professor Ave., 216/241-1209, www.shopbanyantree.com , Mon.–Wed. 11 a.m.–7 p.m., Thurs.–Sat. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.).
For upscale pasta and pizza in a lively bistro setting, visit Fahrenheit (2417 Professor Ave., 216/781-8858, www.fahrenheittremont.com ). While not technically an Asian restaurant, Parallax (2179 W. 11th St., 216/583-9999, www.parallaxtremont.com ) has some of the city’s finest sushi and seafood. Or go to Michael Symon’s affordable Lolita (900 Literary Rd., 216/771-5652, www.lolabistro.com ) for Mediterranean fare.
After dinner, peruse the wonderful collection of art, film, and music books at Visible Voice Books (1023 Kenilworth Ave., 216/961-0084, www.visiblevoicebooks.com , Tues.–Fri. 2–10 p.m., Sat. noon–10 p.m., Sun. 12–8 p.m.), or grab a nightcap at the quirky and comfortable Prosperity Social Club (1109 Starkweather Ave., 216/937-1938, www.prosperitysocialclub.com , Mon.–Sat. 4 p.m.–2:30 a.m., Sun. 4–10 p.m.).
Thousands of Clevelanders start their Sundays with a leisurely dim sum brunch. Make your way to AsiaTown, just east of downtown, to enjoy this popular weekend feast. For a great selection try Li Wah (2999 Payne Ave., Asia Plaza, 216/696-6556, http://liwahrestaurant.com ).
If you prefer an American-style à la carte brunch, head to Fire Food & Drink (13220 Shaker Sq., 216/921-3473, www.firefoodanddrink.com ) at Shaker Square for refined seasonal cuisine in a casual atmosphere.
For proof there is more to do in Cleveland than eat, head to University Circle for a day filled with art, architecture, and history. Though presently in the midst of a seven-year, $350 million construction and renovation project, the Cleveland Museum of Art (11150 East Blvd., 216/421-7340, www.clevelandart.org , Tues., Thurs., and Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Wed. and Fri. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Free) is very much open for business. The original 1916 building has reopened, and new wings will open in the coming months and years.
Science and history geeks would be wise to spend some time exploring the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (1 Wade Oval Dr., 800/317-9155, www.cmnh.org , Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Wed. 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. noon–5 p.m., closed major holidays, $9 adult, $7 child and senior, planetarium tickets $4 with general admission), while the horticulturally minded might prefer the Cleveland Botanical Garden (11030 East Blvd., 216/721-1600, www.cbgarden.org , Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sun. noon–5 p.m., open late Wed., $7.50 adult, $3 child).
Stroll over to the nearby campus of Case Western Reserve University to view the Peter B. Lewis Building (Bellflower Rd. and Ford Dr., 216/368-4771, www.weatherhead.case.edu , Free), an avant-garde structure designed by famous architect Frank Gehry.
And, for proof that even a “fly-over” state can serve sparkling sushi, grab dinner at Sasa Matsu (13120 Shaker Sq., 216/767-1111, www.sasamatsu.com ), a sleek Japanese-style tapas bar at Shaker Square.