One reoccurring theme I’ve found since I’ve been in Cleveland? Locals saying, “Cleveland gets a bad rap.” Clevelanders, stop saying that. You guys live in a great city. Friendly people, lots of history, and, even though I had to do some digging, plenty of things to do for a few days.
One of my new staples of any first-time city visit is to take a tour of some of the local landmarks. I found the “Lolly the Trolly Tour” online and reserved a spot on the 2.5 hour tour. They also had a $5 discount for admission to the aquarium if you ask.
Our morning tour was small, as it was just myself and one other couple on the tour (they were from California too!). Our driver was PJ, and she knows her way around Cleveland and definitely knows her history. I highly recommend this tour if you’re new in the city and want a lead of where you should go and what to visit. PJ was also a great resource for food and a little bit of nightlife (the art museum hosts mixers, apparently). The downside of this tour is, even though PJ slowed down as much as she could so we could see the sights, it’s horrible for pictures. It’s great if whatever you want to take a picture of is on your side of the trolley, but if you want to take pictures of something on the other side, good luck.
Some of the sights included on this tour are The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Millionaire’s Row, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Tower City, and the Cleveland Museum of Art (not in that order. Just a general recall). I say sights because you don’t really stop on this trolley tour — you just drive by everything. The only stop you have is 10 minutes at the art museum to use the bathroom. And PJ does not play. You better have your butt back on that trolley when it’s time to go. Quicken Loans Arena is also a stop on this tour, at which time my male trolley-mate tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Cover your ears.” In case you don’t get it, I’m from Northern California. It’s 2016. If not, you probably don’t watch basketball. His wife didn’t get it.
2.5 hours later I was redeeming my trolley coupon for admission to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. This place is small, but makes good use of the space it has. Two displays stand out for me at this aquarium — the tortoise exhibit and the shark tunnel. The tortoise exhibit is a plexiglass corral with several tortoises making laps inside. The staff member assigned to this area on my visit was really friendly and informative. First thing I noticed — these guys are actually speedy. I always imagined these animals constantly in slow motion, but that was not the case.
Also, these tortoises are rude. If two of them cross paths, they’ll start climbing over each other, determined not to interrupt their route. Oh, and they stink. I don’t know why. I thought it might be rude to ask. And their waste is this weird white liquid, that apparently is a bitch to clean. The staff member told me that, but in more professional terms. You can also pet the shells of these guys, but they also harbor bacteria, which is why a hand sanitizer stand is conveniently set up nearby.
The shark tunnel was my favorite part of the aquarium. The large tank is modeled as a faux shipwreck, and several sharks, as well as other fish, swim around it. The sharks did also make several trips over the top of the tunnel, which looked pretty amazing in person, but the same sense of the amazement is unfortunately not reflected in my iPhone photos.
I felt like I was on a “roll,” (insert corny laugh) so I decided to make my way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, complete with Johnny Cash’s bus outside. I didn’t think I would like this place, but it was actually pretty interesting. I noticed that a lot of the visitors on my day there were from the generation ahead of me. It was kind of cute to see them singing along to some of the songs from bands I had never heard of.
They, of course, have displays of typical rock and roll bands like Aerosmith and Metallica, but there were also displays honoring artists like Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, and the Supremes. My favorite displays were those of handwritten song lyrics from artists like N.W.A. and Billy Joel. It’s nice to know that superstars buy the same lined notebooks that I do. Except mine are full of notes I can’t read and I won’t make millions of dollars from them. There’s also a display of different mediums for music throughout the years. Have you ever heard of an 8 track? Me neither. But there’s one on display at this museum, and it looks like a giant cassette tape. And if you don’t know what a cassette tape is, I don’t want to talk to you.
There were a couple of special exhibits while I was here. One was a video tribute to some show called “American Bandstand,” which was super long, so I only watched about half of it. Another exhibit was “Louder Than Words,” which showed the impact music has had on peace, freedom, and human rights, among other topics. This was a cool exhibit because it also showed the influence music has had on politics, including the last few presidential campaigns, complete with listings of “official campaign songs,” which I didn’t know was a thing.
It started to rain after lunch, so I decided to hide from the rain at various locations around Cleveland. The first one I stumbled upon was the Cleveland Arcade. Currently it’s attached to the Hyatt and has a small array of shops and restaurants. It can be reserved for private events, and I apparently walked in on the tail end of one because there were only signs on one side of the mall. That and nobody stopped me. Even though it was cloudy outside, I still thought it was a pretty building, which I learned was designed to be a mall some time in the 1800s.
I also found my way to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in the square in front of Tower City. This monument was built to honor the local men who fought in the Civil War. Another book inside of the monument lists the names of this who died in battle. The attendant inside the monument was super friendly and gave a lot of information about the history of the monument.
He was also a great resource for tourists, as he is familiar with pretty much every major tourist site in the city. Fun fact about this place — the figure at the top of the monument was modeled after the artist’s wife, who modeled in her wedding dress.
The rest of the day I passed by following the morning’s trolley route and taking slightly better pictures of some of the sights of downtown Cleveland. I don’t really have extra stories about these sites, but here are some pictures. *Insert Vanna White pose*