Niagara Gazette

June 13, 2008

LIFESTYLE: Cleveland is a divine time

By Paul Lane<br><a href="mailto:lanep@gnnewspaper.com">E-mail Paul</a>

CLEVELAND — “The Mistake by the Lake” is more like Buffalo than many Western New Yorkers might think.

Like its shoreside cousin to the north, Cleveland has seen several of its best inner-city restaurants (Dick’s Last Resort, Alice Cooperstown) shut down due to financial woes. Just as in the Queen City, a visitor is best served visiting the city’s outer rim and suburbs to find the most entertainment options.

And the same way that decent options can be unearthed in Buffalo, there are some definite gems worth seeing within the city proper.

A recent visit to Ohio took one travel group to a music fan’s mecca and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to view religious artifacts. Along the way were discovered several unexpected options that could make the 3 1/2 -hour trip well worth it some weekend.

That will be the focal point of the Close Enough series — trips that aren’t necessarily one-tank getaways yet are within reach (both in terms of distance and finances) as gas prices soar. About once a month through the summer, a profile will appear on a different location that has something to offer travelers.

Does Cleveland, in fact, rock? Let’s find out.

What to do

• ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME: The museum is located in the heart of the city’s lakeside district, with several restaurants, Cleveland Browns Stadium and the Great Lakes Science Center within eyesight.

Visitors to the museum won’t be able to avoid being engaged, as numerous interactive exhibits offer something for fans of any musical taste. Listening stations, movies and touch screens line every floor of the six-story museum, allowing visitors to listen to the 500 songs that influenced rock, every single from every inductee and select works of the featured artists on display.

The hall runs a series of rotating exhibits to complement its permanent collection. Among the temporary showcases is “Break On Through: The Lasting Legacy of The Doors,” which takes viewers through a five-decade journey from Jim Morrison’s youth to his modern-day legacy. On display through Sept. 1, the exhibit features numerous rare artifacts that remain important today; even though Morrison died in 1971 and only recorded with The Doors for five years, the band still sells some 2 million albums worldwide each year.

Beatles fans can get their fix with an exhibit highlighting the making of the film “Help.” Also running through Sept. 1, this showcase features scripts, costumes and many behind-the-scenes pieces from the band’s 1965 film, which spawned an equally successful soundtrack of the same name. The uninitiated can see the entire film during screenings that run throughout the day.

Other temporary exhibits (including one on baseball that includes original sheet music for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”) complement the permanent collection, which features items from rock’s pioneer days, burgeoning times of the 1960s-70s and modern day music (including hip-hop and 21st century chart-toppers).

• VATICAN SPLENDORS: Cleveland is one of three cities to host this tour of religious artifacts, many of which have never left Italy or been seen by the public.

Cleveland’s Western Reserve Historical Society is hosting the exhibit through Sept. 7; it previously visited St. Petersburg, Fla., and will move in to St. Paul, Minn., before returning to Europe.

This exhibit will hold special meaning to the faithful, but you need not be religious to get something out of the more than 200 artifacts on display. Some of these items — including what are said to be the bones of St. Peter — date back to the time of Jesus Christ, with most of them going back at least 300 years.

Among other interesting items are the Mandylion of Edessa — the first believed representation of Christ’s face — drawings and tools from the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica (including some items used by Michelangelo himself) and many of the ballots and other items from the election of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

All of the displays are combined with descriptive plaques, allowing the visitor to understand the history behind the item; audio tours are available for an additional fee that offer even more information.

The touring exhibit is housed in the society, which also is home to the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum and several other adjoining exhibits; admission to Vatican Splendors allows visitors to tour the rest of the grounds.

Museum-lovers will be in their glory in this spot in the northeastern part of the city, as within a couple blocks are the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland Botanical Gardens, Children’s Museum of Cleveland and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Where to eat

• HOUSE OF BLUES: If you want the relative comfort a chain restaurant provides but feel just a bit adventurous, this is the perfect spot for you.

The House of Blues specializes in Southern cooking that’s homogenized for the masses, but you leave still feeling as though you had something different. Most of the dishes offer spices or other unique touches (the corn bread, for example, is laced with peppers to give it delicious kick).

As the name suggests, this also serves as a concert venue — and a busy one, at that. Acts of all genres are booked pretty much every day, so if you’re lucky you might be able to score some tickets if you decide to visit on a whim.

The House of Blues is located in the city’s East Fourth Street neighborhood, an artsy villa in the middle of downtown that’s host to several other eateries and concert halls. If you want something more local, several pubs and eateries on this block will allow you to sample a truer taste of Cleveland.

• MAGGIANO’S LITTLE ITALY: This is also a chain restaurant, but it has no presence closer to Western New York than Pennsylvania, so any local visiting Ohio will get their first taste of it here.

They’d be wise to do so.

The restaurant’s specialty is its family-style dinner, where diners get all they can eat of two appetizers, two salads, two macaronis, two main courses and dessert. The best part is you’re encouraged to order extra to take home — and the take-out containers even come with reheating instructions so you get it right.

Sure, a lot of food is nice, but Maggiano’s is great because the food is so good. A dinner for two could easily surpass $60, but it’s worth it when you factor in that the leftovers are enough for two more meals.

Maggiano’s is located in Beachwood, a suburb just northeast of Cleveland (and within minutes of the Western Reserve). The restaurant is located within the expansive, upscale Beachwood Place Mall. Travelers coming from Cleveland pass two other malls before reaching Maggiano’s, so shoppers could easily make a day just out of that.

Contact editor Paul Laneat 693-1000, ext. 116.



IF YOU GO

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

• WHERE: 1 Key Plaza, Cleveland

• HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily; extended hours until 9 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday

• MORE INFORMATION: Call (216) 781-7625 or visit rockhall.com

• PAUL’S TIPS:

1. Go on a Saturday if possible. There is more than enough interesting memorabilia here to spend an entire day, so going on a day when the museum closes at 5:30 p.m. might not give you enough time.

2. If you’re a baseball fan, you can easily coordinate your trip so that you can take in an Indians game, as well. The team plays at Progressive Field, which is within walking distance of the hall.

3. Don’t be afraid to take your young ones. My 10-month-old daughter spent hours swaying back in forth in her stroller to the music that plays throughout the building.

Vatican Splendors

• WHERE: Western Reserve Historical Society, 10825 East Blvd., Cleveland

• HOURS: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, through Sept. 7

• MORE INFORMATION: Call (888) 582-8422 or visit vaticansplendors.com

• PAUL’S TIPS:

1. We found the exhibit thorough enough without the audio guide, so that’s an easy way to save $5.

2. If you have a young child, leave the stroller behind because exhibit officials don’t allow them inside.

3. If you’re the type who loves museums, leave an entire day to visit the numerous venues within walking distance of the society.

General visitor info

• MORE INFORMATION: Visit positivelycleveland.com