I would have never thought I would find myself planning a trip to Cleveland. I mean it’s the home of the Steelers much despised division rivals Cleveland Browns and brunt of many jokes. But when I decided I wanted to get out of town for a family getaway I had to find something that was close enough that we wouldn’t be spending all of our time on the road. Two hours away and some interesting options found Cleveland in my sights!
The weekend I picked was because our son David had a Friday and Monday off to make a nice long weekend, which also happened to be the weekend of my birthday. So I thought, what a great way to celebrate. I planned and thought out my options and we headed for the much maligned city along the coast of Lake Erie.
We left early on Friday February 18th and with only one brief rest stop (when Lynda said, “Hey I have an Au Bon Pain Gift Card!” so we got yummy goodies and coffees and a cold drink for David) Then the girl behind the counter looked at my wife's gift card and said, “Sorry we’re not Panera!” $18 later we were back on the road.
Our first stop was the Ohio "AAA" office in Independence, OH to buy our discounted tickets to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. We purchased two adult tickets for $35, normally costing $44. (We had to purchase the child ticket at the hall for $13) Ten minutes later we were in downtown Cleveland and the Embassy Suites. We were greeted by friendly folks with genuine smiles. Unfortunately we weren’t prepared with tip cash so we had to find an ATM really quick. Always remember to carry tip money. It was around 10:10am when we arrived and yet our room was ready and per my request our room had been upgraded to an Executive Suite! Our room was huge and very nice but sparingly appointed with furniture. We could have had a big party in there! I started rearranging the furniture to make more sense of the room and after a few minutes we were taking our complimentary hotel shuttle over to the R&R Hall of Fame.
The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame is right on the shores of Lake Erie and with its glass pyramid shape it really stood out. We really enjoyed our time at the hall. There is SO MUCH to see and hear it’s overwhelming. We saw a short film on the roots of Rock n Roll and a ton of memorabilia from hundreds of musicians and groups. Famous outfits, hand written songs on scratch paper, album covers and guitars, guitars and even more guitars of every shape, color and size.
One of my favorite collections was of Elvis Presley which featured his bedazzled and bejeweled studded jump suit (from when he was thin) along with his hand written set list. Above the glass encased display was a TV with the concert playing. To the right was Elvis’ 1973 purple Cadillac with white leather interior. He bought 13 Cadillac’s that day. He bought them for family and friends and even one for the lady who happened to be looking at Cars that day! “Hey give her one too!” The total cost was $140,000.
I was also moved by an amazing collection of Michael Jackson costumes including his Thriller jacket and wolf mask, his famous glove, the outfit he wore in Billy Jean and one of his Grammy Awards. Before we left Lynda scouted out a movie that had just started featuring all of the inductees since 1996 (which happened to be the year we were married) so that was really cool. The entire museum was amazing. Our only regrets were that we couldn’t take any pictures inside the actual museum and that the Beatles display wasn’t open. But thanks to Lynda talking to someone expressing our disappointment in missing the Beatles we are able to go back in the future for FREE. We bought two T-shirts ($50) and decided that our stomachs were yearning for food. So we called for the shuttle. We opted out on our planned lunch destination and decided to get Subway sandwiches which were right next door to the hotel.
When my son David and I arrived at the room with the sandwiches I was surprised to find balloons, three chocolate bars, three bottles of water and a Birthday card with a coupon for a free movie in our room. Who was it from? Our really sweet valet/bellhop/shuttle driver LeTeesha. I was so touched by her kindness. This was a theme for the weekend as we were treated like royalty from the time we arrived. EVERYONE at the hotel was amazing. It was like being on a cruise. If you have ever been on a cruise you know exactly what I mean.
Our room, which faced Lake Erie had an entire wall of sliding glass doors and a balcony. The windows were dirty but it was still nice to see the lake. That was until we heard what sounded like cats fighting from the wind blowing through a seem on the sliding galss doors. We were very familiar with that sound and we had hoped to leave that sound at home. I called the front desk to tell them about it and they said they would send someone up. The hotel was full this weekend with a Black Christian College group called Ignite and a huge youth hockey tournament so I wasn’t holding out hope for a quick resolve. We decided to hit the pool and Jacuzzi. I love Jacuzzi’s and Lynda’s shoulder did too. David enjoyed swimming and even joined us for a quick warm up. There were two rooms filled with work out equipment and weights but we opted for the less stressful approach!
We had reservations at 7PM for dinner which allowed us to take advantage of the Free managers reception in the Atrium Bar which ran from 5:30 – 7:30PM. Drinks (including mixed drinks, beer and pop and snacks were all FREE!) We called the front desk to get the shuttle and we left for dinner.
For our first dinner of the weekend I picked a place called Zócalo Mexican Grill & Tequileria. It’s owned by Food TV host and Chef Aaron Sanchez. I had purchased a $25 Restaurant.com certificate for here and before the trip I tried to sign up for their email club to get whatever they gave for birthdays (which I found out was a free appetizer) and I kept getting an error message. I called and spoke to the manager Heather and she apologized and said to ask for her when we arrived. So, I did and boy did she take care of us! We had an amazing dinner. I had a special Filet Mignon, Lynda had a Grilled shrimp salad and David had grilled shrimp tacos. We found out that she gave us a $30 discontinued Groupon discount. We were in shock! If that wasn’t enough, as we were expecting our bill I called to get the shuttle. All of a sudden here comes our waiter with a HUGE margarita glass filled with a chocolate flourless cake, Kahlua Ice Cream, chocolate fudge, whipped cream and a strawberry topped with a candle! Needless to say I had to call and delay the shuttle! What an amazing meal! We only paid $28 with a 20% tip! I ended up giving our Restaurant.com certificate to the girl who surprised me for my birthday! They all work very hard and what she did for me was just over and above what is expected.
Back at the hotel we were greeted by high winds and howling cats (windows)! It really was something to hear. Kind of like a horror film. We decided to rent Iron Man 2 with our FREE coupon and the movie wouldn’t work. They sent a guy right up and Karl worked like crazy to get it to work to no avail. But in the process he heard our howling windows and said “what the heck is that?” He worked on the howling problem for a while but had no luck there either. We ended up having to watch the movie in the bedroom. The howling woke me several times during the night so I had a fairly restless night.
We started our second day with complimentary delicious made to order omelets with all the trimmings. They were excellent. After breakfast I went and talked to the front desk about our howling windows issue and they gladly moved us to a beautiful room on the top floor. It was actually even nicer. They discounted our first night 50% and gave us $20 off the rate for the second night. Everything was working out just fine. We moved our things to the new room and called to get our car. We were heading out passed the 2 mile radius of the shuttle for a very special place.
Heading just about 6 minutes out of town we ended up in a little town on an unknown street to a very specific house. The house that was featured in the movie “A Christmas Story” You know the one with Ralphie and his quest for a Red Rider BB Gun.
This quaint house was the very house that was filmed from the outside as well as some inside shots has been completely restored and made to look just like some of the sets from the movie. There is also a museum and gift shop across the street which features actual memorabilia from the movie. Having watched the movie for years during the Christmas holiday it was so cool to reenact some of the famous scenes from the movie. The Pink Bunny pajamas, the Bowling Ball Gift, Little brother Randy hiding under the sink scared because “Daddy’s gonna kill Ralphie!” The Major Award Leg Lamp! If you’re like us and watch the movie every year it’s a great place to check out.
Lunch was next on our agenda but parking was a problem outside our destination Harry Buffalo. So we went back to the hotel and the shuttle gladly took us to our destination. David and I enjoyed their hallmark Bison Burgers but Lynda wasn’t so happy with her mahi mahi wrap which tasted like chicken. I had a $10 free entrée for my birthday from joining “The Herd” online! Booyah again! We called the shuttle and headed back to the hotel to enjoy our new room. David watched some TV, Lynda napped and I headed back to the Jacuzzi! I LOVE VACATIONS!
We had dinner reservations for 5PM since we were heading to a concert at 7:30PM. At 4:45PM we took our favorite shuttle to The Chocolate Bar. I had a $25 Restaurant.com certificate and a FREE Berries and Chocolate Dipping Sauce from the restaurant email club. They gladly let me use both! With that in mind we decided to go for it and order some extras. We started with their signature Chocolate Martini’s – mine was a Black Forest which tasted like a chocolate covered cherry, and Lynda had Chocolate Peanut Butter. David had a delicious Chocolate Shake. We ordered a Spinach Artichoke Dip for an appetizer. For dinner David enjoyed Crab Cakes, and Lynda and I had a delicious Roasted Pork Loin crusted in a chili cocoa dusting. We then enjoyed our large Strawberries and chocolate dipping sauce. Our whole bill including an 18% tip (added automatically as per the certificate) was only $61!
We had a little time before having to head to the theater so we decided to check out the amazing building known as The Arcade which the restaurant was a part of. All the shops were closed but it was a beautiful building all the same built in 1890 for $900,000. It was recently totally refurbished for 8 Million dollars! The Arcade sits at the intersection of Euclid Ave and E.4th Street. E. 4th Street has been developed into a pedestrian only block long collection of awesome restaurants and bars. Lights are strung across the street which makes it very festive. Even though I didn’t plan it all of our restaurants were within this block and on either end.
The shuttle was once again the prowl and took us, along with a bunch of other hotel folks around town to different stops including the Palace Theater to see Clay Aiken. We were able to buy tickets ahead of time for just $10 per ticket, but when we arrived we were told they were going to be upgrading our seats. We were now seated in the middle about half way back on the main floor. What a great treat! Clay has a simply amazing voice and his notes in his upper range are huge. He sang songs from the 50’s and the 60’s. Songs he grew up listening to his mom sing, on the radio and on records. It was an awesome walk down memory lane. What a great way to end our weekend getaway and my 47th birthday! While waiting for the shuttle back to the hotel I met Officer Gary Wojcik. We struck up a conversation because I was wearing my Steelers jacket in the middle of Browns country. One guy even came up and asked him why he hadn’t arrested me and taken me away! (He seemed to be joking but you never know) I couldn’t resist getting a picture as if I was being handcuffed! We’re now Facebook friends!
Back to the hotel for a final night sleep in Cleveland. What a wonderful birthday and city. We will return soon. I still hate the Browns but Cleveland you will no longer be the brunt of my jokes!