Locals Know Best: Cleveland
When you think of destinations for music-lovers, Nashville, Detroit, Kansas City, and Austin easily spring to mind. But you’d be remiss if you left Cleveland off that list. Home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the city, a longtime industrial metropolis that suffered economic decline, devastating pollution, and population flight in the 1970s, is in the throes of a renaissance today. But its old-world character persists. Beyond the roster of tried and true tourist must-sees, like the world-class Cleveland Museum of Art, the shores of Lake Eire and, of course, the house made iconic by “A Christmas Story,” there’s a booming circuit of local restaurants and a vibrant indie arts scene to be explored. We caught up with Greg Harris, President and CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, to give us the lowdown on this magnificent city with a resilient rock’n’roll soul.
EAT YOUR HEART OUT
Cleveland landmarks come in all shapes and sizes and, as it turns out, flavors. Having just celebrated its centennial, West Side Market is arguably something of a food museum, what with its abundance of traditional provisions (think: handmade sausages, cheese, spices and oils) sold alongside countless fruit purveyors and butchers. While locals stock up on groceries, Harris recommends you join the dependably long line for made-to-order crepes.
Cleveland has its fair share of James Beard Award nominees and winners, but it also has a long and solid legacy of old-world ethnic fare, thanks to the many immigrant groups who made their way here when the city was a booming industrial center. In the 1950s, its strong Hungarian and Slovenian populations gave the city Sterle’s Country House, a mecca for Eastern European comfort food. Plus, in a nod to German heritage, polka bands often play. The classic chicken paprikash is Harris’s go-to here. The city’s Polish heritage is on display at Sokolowski’s, which has been family-run since 1923. They offer stuffed cabbage and roster of other standards that, Harris happily notes, you can smell from blocks away.
That Eastern European influence makes its way into the city’s signature barbecue, as evidenced at another one of Harris’s go-to, Mabel’s BBQ, a hip industrial-chic smokehouse with an extensive bourbon list. An old-world pride is also the cornerstone of the local-minded Butcher and Brewery, which Harris recommends for its house-cured meats.
And no visit to a rock’n’roll city would be complete without knocking back a few in a classic dive bar. Cleveland’s most legendary is the Harbor Inn, a local institution that, Harris explains, used to the be gathering spot of merchant seamen. For those with more mondern inclinations, the Velvet Tango Room, a speakeasy-style cocktail den, is a must for craft cocktails.
LONG LIVE ROCK
When the President of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame endorses a music club, you know it’s gotta be something special. Harris declares Beachland Ballroom “the finest live music venue in the city. I’ll even add in the country.” Its lineup regularly ranges from rockabilly to punk to Americana and plenty more. The club is the anchor of the Waterloo Arts District, where local businesses are open for a street-party-style walk-about the first Friday of each month.
And then, of course, there’s the Hall of Fame, which is more than just a museum. Harris notes is mission: “to engage, teach, and inspire through the power of rock and roll,” and they're tenacious about that commitment. The museum is open 362 days/year and while music history is the spotlight of most exhibits, today’s talent comes to life in the busy concert schedule. They hosted 40 concerts on the pavilion in front of the museum, which was christened with a 80-foot-long “LONG LIVE ROCK” sign, dedicated in November.
Here’s an interesting tidbit: In 2006, Cuyahoga County approved a tax on cigarette that would fund Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, an organization that organizes and funds all sorts of programming for the community. “The county collects cigarette tax greater than most cities’ funding,” Harris notes. “It’s fueled a lot of great artists—large and small—through its various arts programs.” It’s a bit of an incubator for young talent, so make sure to check out what events are on when you’re in town. You never know—maybe someday in the future you can say, “I saw her when…”
Of course, when it comes to art, the Cleveland Museum of Art is a treasure trove of masterpieces, from Edgar Degas to Edward Hopper, but the city’s galleries should not be overlooked. Harris points to the burgeoning scene at Gordon Square Arts District, which was officially established in 2007 by the area’s theater and the local community development organization. Today, 78th Street Studios, which is set in an old automobile parts factory and dubs itself an “eclectic arts maze,” is one of the District’s anchors. On the third Friday of every month, from 5PM to 9PM, all the resident galleries and studios are open, pop-up shops, and food trucks are onsite, and visitors mingle. According to Harris, it’s “uniquely Cleveland.”
In addition to revitalized theaters and an independent movie theater, there’s a broad range of bars and restaurants to choose from. One of Harris’s favorites is Spice, which offers creative updated southern fare made with local ingredients, much of which is grown in the on-site hoop house or the restaurant’s nearby farm. For something a bit more nostalgic, Happy Dog is, first and foremost, “a classic, untouched dive with hot dogs with any toppings,” he explains. It’s also a music venue featuring everything from punk to polka. And if that aforementioned nostalgia is your thing, check out the vintage video games in the basement. It may take you back to your early rock’n’roll memories.
Like so many other cities around the US, Cleveland has seen a remarkable hotel-building boom in the past two years, so much so, that Harris nearly guaratees that savvy travelers can find deals. One particularly cool new spot to check out is the Drury Plaza Hotel, retrofitted into an old Board of Education building. The $52 million project opened in April 2016.
Everywhere you go in the USA these days, you can find local beer. Cleveland’s brewing scene is exceptionally attention-getting, what with several top-rate breweries located in lively areas of the city. Harris calls out Market Garden Brewery, located next to West Side Market. It’s known for its brewpub, which is open until 2.30AM and offers what Harris simply deems “terrific atmosphere.” A 35,000-square-foot production facility, complete with tours and a tasting room, recently opened next door. Harris also gives a nod to Great Lakes Brewing Company, which offers tours Fridays and Saturdays from 12PM to 8PM, and he's looking forward to getting acquainted with the new Platform Beer Company.
Deal of the day: Your NYC vacation at a price beyond compare
This is not a typo: you can stay in the heart of New York City for $229 per night Thursdays through Sundays this winter. That's a savings of over 50% off standard rates. We're not kidding. In fact, to make things even more unreal, the rates on select dates are as little as $189. The Westin New York at Times Square is going all out and offering luxury and convenience at an unprecedented price. And we mean Convenience with a capital "c." The Theater District, shopping galore, and subway lines that get you nearly anywhere in the five boroughs are all within a short walk from the hotel's front door. This Deal, which gets you a standard room, also includes a breakfast offering you gotta see to believe: start your day with a full breakfast for two for $1 at Foundry Kitchen and Bar, a welcoming spot adorned with all the fixings of a country kitchen. It's regularly $65 for you and a companion. We're not mathematicians here at Budget Travel, but it looks like that works out to nearly 100% savings. The hotel boasts a state-of-the-art 24-hour fitness center. It's true: like the city outside, it never sleeps. And the Westin hotels recently instituted a Gear Lending program, which offers New Balance workout clothes delivered right to your room for $5. So there you have it: Food, fitness, and a room smack in the middle of one of the greatest cities on Earth, at a price that leaves you plenty of coin to explore. For more information and to book, click here.
Escape winter with these Caribbean deals
This is the time of year we always get a little tired of the winter grind, and the snowstorms across the country this past week sure don’t help. A nice Caribbean escape could sure come in handy right about now. Here, three of our favorite "ultimate islands" that won’t break the bank. ANTIGUA & BARBUDA is inviting Americans to discover this elegant, beautiful pair of islands with (no kidding) 365 beaches -- yes, you could literally stay all year and never visit the same beach twice. The Verandah Resort & Spa is a high-end luxury property but the good news is... Expedia is offering a great all-inclusive deal: $462 for a room that sleeps four -- that’s just a little more than $100 per person per day for lodging, meals, beverages, and non-motorized water sports included. CURACAO may be the most colorful island in the world, with its mix of gorgeous beaches and bright Dutch-colonial buildings. Snorkelers love its coral and underwater caves (not as scary as they sound). JetBlue has vacation packages that include airfare and four nights’ lodging from $459. PUERTO RICO is a world away from home, but it’s part of the U.S. (no passport required!) and a short flight from the East Coast. Stroll the old-world streets of Old San Juan, kayak in tropical waters, taste local fare like arepas and spicy Asian-fusion dishes. We love Copamarina Beach Resort & Spa for its secluded beach, acres of tropical gardens, and diving opportunities, from $145 per night.
Small-town must-see: Pottstown, PA's new carousel
It’s no secret that Budget Travel loves small-town America. Our annual Coolest Small Towns contest has celebrated 110 exceptional communities around the U.S. over the past 11 years, and we’re always on the lookout for “small-town must-sees.” Our latest must-see is the newly opened carousel in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, a historic town on the Schuykill River about 40 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Offering $2 rides, the carousel is a beautiful example (literally and figuratively) of what a community can accomplish when it works toward a common goal. Pottstown’s carousel is a large-scale lesson in “reuse, recycle”: The building that houses it was once home to Pottstown Metal Weld and has been renovated to play host to the spectacular Derek Scott Saylor Memorial Carousel, which itself is a rebuilt retro gem dating back to 1905. The carousel’s animals were hand-carved at cost by Ed Roth, a Disney carousel carver, and were painted by volunteers over the course of several years. Pottstown defrayed the cost of the carousel by seeking out sponsorships ($4,000 per animal) and holding a variety of fundraising events. And for those who might see a community carousel as an exclusively “feel-good” venture, those involved in the project note that the carousel, initially valued at about $25,000 prior to renovation, is now worth more than $1 million. The new carousel is part of Pottstown’s Tourism & Recreation District (or TREC), which includes a wide array of cool attractions such as the Colebrookdale Railroad’s Secret Valley Line, the Schuykill River Trail, and the Schuykill River Heritage Area’s “River of Revolutions” exhibit. (Pottstown's proximity to Philadelphia, the birthplace of American independence, makes the town an absolute feast for history buffs and students learning about our country's founding.) I’d like to thank my friend Evan Brandt, from the Pottstown Mercury newspaper (pottsmerc.com), for bringing the awesome carousel to our attention. Got a small-town must-see to recommend? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
These are the destinations and travel trends everybody was searching on Google this year
Google has revealed the top search terms of 2016 (Google.com/2016), and Budget Travelers will find lots of inspiration among the top destinations and travel trends. Of course, we've been searching right along with you all year long and have served up some great inspiration and start-today tips to go along with these rankings to stoke your wanderlust in 2017. TOP SEARCHED TRAVEL DESTINATIONS OF 2016: 1. New York City. Budget Travel editors live and work in the Big Apple, where the Statue of Liberty welcomes visitors from every corner of the globe, and we are psyched to share "16 Secret Bargains in New York City." 2. Washington D.C. Who doesn't love a town where nearly every major attraction is free? To learn more, read "20 Fabulously Free Things to Do in D.C." 3. London. Each year at Christmastime, my thoughts turn to the Big Smoke and its greatest literary chronicler, inspiring "A Stroll Through Dickens's London." 4. Hong Kong. Among the countless reasons why this beautiful Chinese city should be on your travel list, we have learned how to score "Hong Kong's Most Stylish Steal: A Custom Tuxedo." 5. Thailand. We were feeling Thailand's affordable awesomeness this year too, which inspired us to produce one of our "day in the life" videos and an accompanying feature, "Make It Happen: Bangkok." TOP SEARCHED TRAVEL TRENDS OF 2016: "Airbnb" came in at no. 1 among travel-related search trends in 2016, underscoring the appeal of the company's home-sharing model. Among Google's top 10 searched travel trends are several that Budget Travel regularly covers in depth: "Weekend getaways" are more popular than ever, as travelers look beyond the idea of one big annual vacation and resolve to go exploring as often as possible. Our popular "Three-Day Weekend" series most recently celebrated Norway, Quebec City, and the Bahamas. "U.S. national parks" was near the top of our personal list this year thanks to the centennial of the Naitonal Park Service. We were thrilled to share "Which National Park Is Best For You?" "Independent travel" is, of course, a growing trend. We shared inspiration in "35 Easy Solo Trips to Try." "Bucket list travel" certainly resonates with Budget Travelers, making our recent look at South Korea, "A Bucket-List Asia Trip You Can Afford," one of our most popular stories ever. "Roadtripping" is one of the cornerstones of what we do at Budget Travel. Ready to go big? My last road trip was an epic "Park-to-Park Adventure: Glacier to Yellowstone."