Likely best known for housing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and being the birthplace of the beloved hero Superman, Cleveland is peppered with culture beyond just comics and guitars. Home to the second largest theater district in the U.S., its venues rival any of which you will find in New York City. Our biggest tip while wandering through downtown Cleveland? Be sure to check out the interiors of the surrounding buildings! You never know when a grocery store, might reveal gorgeous architecture from the past, or that you may stumble upon the smallest printed book in the world. This city is always revealing surprising new secrets.
Malley’s Chocolates is a 3rd generation family-owned chain of candy stores in the Cleveland, Ohio area. Albert ‘Mike’ Malley began the company with a $500 loan, and opened the first store on Madison Avenue in Lakewood in 1935.
The State Theater was the first & largest theater to welcome guest opening with the silent film A Polly with a Past, accompanied by the music of the Hyman Spitolny Orchestra. It is not only the largest theater in Playhouse Square with a seating capacity of 3,400 guest but once held the title of being the venue with “the world’s longest theater lobby”. That same lobby is now home to four (priceless) murals by American modernist James Daugherty.
The Ohio Theater has experienced a rollercoaster of a journey to get to where it is today. In 1935 the venue was turned into a casino, however the poker tables were empty because, well, gambling was illegal. They were forced to close their doors and a few years later rebranded as a movie theater, only to be devastated by a fire that consumed the lobby. To hide the smoke damage, the interiors were painted red, but that didn’t help the theater from being forced to close its doors for a second time and being threatened with demolition. Luckily, dedicated members of the Playhouse Square Assn. came to its rescue and worked tirelessly to restore it back its original glory.
When the Hanna Theatre opened in 1921, the most expensive seats cost three dollars, but guest didn’t have to pay more for a little extra leg room—they just needed to reserve a seat in a particular row. Owner Dan Hanna decided the standard thirty-one inches between rows was not enough room for him to enjoy a show. As a result, he had 4 extra inches added between the fourth and fifth row where he preferred to sit making it the best location in the house, especially for taller guest.
Originally designed as a silent movie theater, the Allen Theater is one of the few “daylight atmospheric” theaters in the country. With a ceiling painted to resemble the open daylight sky and a rotunda that looks like the Villa Madama in Rome you will truly forget that you are in the heart of Cleveland.
When its doors opened in 1921, no one could argue against that fact that the Palace Theater was “Most Magnificent Theatre in the World”. Decorated with 154 crystal chandeliers, a million-dollar art collection, and the world’s largest woven-in-one-piece carpet, not an expense was spared. Well, except one. While the lower level of the lobby features genuine Italian marble, the 2nd floor is made up of plaster, with a faux-marble finish that can easily convince anyone it’s the real deal. The theater was restored back to its original glory in 1988, and although, the artwork and carpet are long gone, theatergoers would never notice any grandeur missing.
All rise! Today, we may find ourselves in court, but we can only be charged with multiple counts of curiosity. This hallowed courtroom resides in the palatial Howard M. Metzenbaum Courthouse, located in the heart of downtown Cleveland. Born out of a movement seeking to improve America’s cities, this grand structure was the centerpiece of a bold city plan.
Once the third largest bank in the United States, the Cleveland Trust Company is best admired from the inside looking up. Resting 85-feet above ground level, the 61-foot wide concrete rotunda is embedded in gold gilt and hundreds of intricate, repetitive, stained glass panels. Though the bank is no longer, money is still exchanged for fresh bags of groceries, and while shopping for weekly-eats, customers can admire the ceiling while perusing the frozen food section.
The tower that was never meant to be a skyscraper ended up becoming the second tallest building in the world upon completion. The original plan called for a 14 story train terminal but after much debate and budget increases, the 52-story Terminal Tower graced Cleveland’s skies. It may not be the second tallest building in the world anymore, but still holds the title of the second tallest building in Cleveland.
Stepping into the Arcade, you feel transported to Italy in the blink of an eye. Modeled after the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, it is identified as one of the earliest indoor shopping malls in the U.S. and now one of the last of its kind. Made of 1,800 panes of glass spanning over 300 feet, it is an internationally renowned structure and the first location in Cleveland to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Possibly one of Cleveland’s best kept secrets is not a secret at all. If you find yourself wandering through the library, head upstairs to the Special Collections Department where it feels as though you have just stumbled across a secret museum, rather than a library. Here you will find the world’s largest chess collection, an astonishing assortment of miniature books, and even a brick from the Great Wall of China.
A museum you will want to get lost in, and probably will. The Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the country’s largest and most important art institutions. The collection houses over 45,000 works by the likes of Picasso, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Monet, van Gogh, and more.
With the thrust of a knob and a push of a pedal, a storm of sound erupts from the waves of pipes. Though this scenery may bring to mind a dark lair of a villain or the hull of a Viking ship—we’re in a museum. In Cleveland.
Unassuming from the outside, Wade Chapel is referred to as one of the finest small buildings to grace America, and when you walk in past the 4-ton bronze doors, you will see why. Everything from the tiled mosaic floors, to the walls consisting thousands of cut pieces of mosaic glass, to the wooden pews, and of course, the 9 ft high stained glass window, were designed by Louis C. Tiffany. The 33 ft wide, 66 ft long chapel was estimated to have cost anywhere from $100,000 – $350,000 in 1901 when it was built. (That’s $3.1 million – $10.9 million today.) However, the price does not include Tiffany’s stained glass window, which as of today, the cost is still unknown.
If you had to guess which President of the United States has the biggest and most elaborate burial site, chances are you probably wouldn’t put your money on James A. Garfield. Only serving 200 days in office, (the second shortest presidency in U.S. history), Garfield is an unlikely contender for such amassive monument. The 180-foot-tall memorial includes over 110 life size figures, a golden mosaic dome, stained glass windows, and a stairway leading to a balcony with a view of Lake Erie. If you didn’t know President Garfield before, it’s a safe bet you won’t forget him after a visit to his final resting place.
On a cold winter night on February 5th, 1931, Cleveland audiences “packed to the roof” witnessing the inaugural gala concert of the Cleveland Orchestra performing in their grand new home. Described as a “giant jewel box,” the Severance Hall was the talk of the town, and to this day is home to what has been ranked as the 7th best orchestra in the world.
Like the best compositions, this story begins with the humility of a single note, then builds and builds until something truly beautiful is born. The year was 1920, and the Cleveland music scene needed a hook. The city was failing to persuade the musicians of the future to be trained and educated on the shores of Lake Erie. Then came an idea that really struck a chord…
The best place to escape the cities hustle and bustle covers 200 acres of the city’s east side. Scattered within the park are 33 Cultural Gardens each representing a distinctive culture and collectively stand as a symbol of peace. The greenhouse includes an entire acre of botanical gardens with seasonal displays. Just keep an eye on the sprinklers so you don’t get an unwelcome surprise while exploring.