When you think of Cleveland, Ohio, do Superman, rock 'n' roll and awesome architecture spring to mind? They should. Superman was created here, soaring above stunning Art Deco high-rises. One wonders what the comic book hero would make of the city's newest buildings and skyscrapers, several designed by superstar architects I.M. Pei and Frank Gehry. As to rock 'n' roll, local DJ Alan Freed coined the term. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame dedicated to this rocking music genre is an I. M. Pei design.
It's said Cleveland, on the southeast shore of Lake Erie, was the country's first city to have an indoor shopping mall. Now known simply as The Arcade, it's well worth a visit for its Victorian look as well as its collection of shops.
You might be more familiar with the city's Standard Oil connection. John D. Rockefeller, one of many millionaires living here in elaborate mansions in early days, was instrumental in founding his oil company in Cleveland. Rockefeller was lured by the accessibility of ship and rail transportation to bring in crude oil and send out the refined product. To his credit, he donated a large tract of land to the city, now Rockefeller Park. This lovely green park is known for its cultural gardens which pay tribute to poets and philosophers from around the world.
Whatever your preconceptions of Cleveland, you're bound to be surprised -- in a good way. A number of Great Lakes cruisers say it's their favorite port.
The Port of Cleveland is an industrial port, which hadn't seen cruise ships in years -- at least not until 2017 when several ships plying the Great Lakes began arriving on a regular, seasonal basis. The actual port has no facilities of any kind. You step off your ship into an abandoned parking lot. Fortunately, the downtown location is close to shops and museums. You'll need to walk a block or two for cabs or public transportation.
Weather on the shores of Lake Erie is changeable. It's wise to dress in layers and carry an umbrella, even on sunny days.
On Foot: Several of Cleveland's tourist attractions are an easy 10-minute walk from the dock, including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Great Lakes Science Center.
By Public Transportation: The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) operates buses, light-rail and trolleys. The easiest way to catch the light-rail is to go to Tower City at Public Square, the hub for lines running in all directions. Have exact change, or you can buy a five-trip farecard (no discount) from vending machines. Fares for a single trip are $2.50 ($1.25 for seniors with proof of age). As an alternative, free downtown trolleys operate every 10 minutes, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. The C-Line Trolley also operates until 11 p.m. and on weekends from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
By Private Trolley: Lolly the Trolley looks like a San Francisco cable car, but runs on gas, not a cable. And, it's not public transport. It's actually a tour. That said, the trolley tour is a great way to get an overview of Cleveland. Some Great Lakes cruise ships include the trolley ride as a shore excursion. If not, you will need an advance reservation. (1101 Winslow Ave.; 800-848-0173)
Cabs can be found at Public Square taxi stands, or you can order one by phone. Try Taxi (216-361-8700). Uber and Lyft are also available.
U.S. dollars are used, and ATMs are readily available.
English is the main language spoken in Cleveland. If you listen closely, you can hear a dozen different languages in such ethnic hot spots as the West Side Market. Just remember to say "pop" when you want a soda.
Seti's Polish Boys: Cleveland is known for its ethnic food scene, especially Eastern European, and there are a few local staples you might want to try. The Polish Boy is a charred-to-perfection kielbasa (a Polish sausage) in a bun, topped with coleslaw and French fries. The whole thing is doused with barbecue sauce. You can taste test one at Seti's Polish Boys (W 4242 Lorain Ave.).
Pierogi Palace: A traditional pierogi stuffs potatoes and cheese into a pan-fried dumpling. You can find trendy versions filled with crab or cheesesteak at various vendors, such as Pierogi Palace, in the West Side Market.
Seven Roses: Then there is paczki, a deep-fried doughnut filled with jam. Check them out at Seven Roses (6301 Fleet Ave.).
Chocolate 76: Give buckeye candy a go; it's a ball of peanut butter dipped in chocolate that's made to look like Ohio's buckeye nut. Buy a box for yourself or as a fun souvenir at Chocolate 76 in The Arcade.
West Side Market: The historic West Side Market (1979 W. 25th St.) is an indoor (it gets cold here in winter), European-style food hall open to the public. A century ago, it was an open-air market catering to Cleveland's immigrant community. Today, foodies browse more than 100 vendors in the yellow brick halls for ethnic treats ranging from Hungarian sausages to Middle Eastern baba ghanoush made with eggplant and olive oil.
Piccadilly Artisan Creamery: On a hot summer day, Piccadilly Artisan Creamery (11604 Euclid Ave.) dishes up liquid nitrogen ice cream made from locally sourced ingredients. While there, don't miss the 137-foot-tall clock tower, a city landmark. (Closed Tuesdays and Thursdays.)
Boney Fingers BBQ: Cleveland barbecue has its following, too. Within walking distance of the cruise dock is Boney Fingers BBQ (401 Euclid Ave.) in The Arcade shopping center. Smoked meats are the big deal here, and they're smoked fresh every day. Open for breakfast and lunch on weekdays only.
Great Lakes Brewing Company: Beer-lovers may want to drop by Great Lakes Brewing Company (2516 Market Ave.), Ohio's first brewpub and microbrewery. Lunch is served every day, except Sunday.
The downtown Victorian-era Arcade (401 Euclid Ave.) features two nine-story buildings connected by a glass-roofed atrium. Opened in 1890, it is considered to be one of the earliest indoor shopping centers in the U.S. Nicknamed Cleveland's Crystal Palace and one of the nation's oldest remaining arcades, it has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was renovated in 2001 and contains boutiques, restaurants and a food court on the two lower floors.
Above, it's a hotel. Unusual shops to explore include Prosperity on Payne for glass jewelry, and Daydreams & Tea -- Through the Looking Glass for ornate picture frames and Steiff teddy bears. Even if you're not shopping, it's worth a wander to admire the architecture.