Cleveland, November 16, 2013 – It’s always been a dream of mine to one day visit one of the coolest places on earth. Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is a Mecca for rock and roll enthusiasts, as well as a time capsule of fashion from the most influential and stylish musicians of our time. Seeing as the Rock Hall is hosting the Rolling Stones: 50 Years of Satisfaction exhibition until March 2014, I figured why not make the trip now before the brutal winter weather moves in.
The drive from Toronto to Cleveland was long. We crossed Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, and finally Ohio to get there at close to eight hours each way. We made a couple of stops along the way for food and gas and made the most out of our $800/person Canadian Customs shopping exemption by shopping at Ohio’s picturesque Aurora Farms Premium Outlets. Maybe not so picturesque in the fall/winter though. They do have an impressive selection of stores (and a lot of parking) including a Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, Michael Kors, Coach, Ann Taylor and many more. Erie, PA is also a great stop as there’s a massive Target, Walmart and tons of good eateries in what is roughly the halfway point of the trip.
Arriving in Cleveland, I found the city generally lacklustre and from what friends told me, a shadow of its former self. The happening area called The Flats has been reduced to just a few bars and The Warehouse district is just full of drunk kids with nothing but really loud seedy pubs like Bar Louie and the Velvet Dog to go to. Great if you’re a college freshman or sophomore. The one saving grace in a city whose downtown is dead during the day, was that little strip on East 4th Street where the House of Blues is. There were a few great places to eat and hang out at including a bowling alley, speakeasy, and decadent chocolate bar.
The Rock Hall was as good as I expected it to be, with some moving exhibits that bring on a tsunami of nostalgia from my early teen years. Some of the highlights included seeing the massive props from Pink Floyd’s Division Bell and The Wall albums and tours, the original awning from New York’s legendary CBGBs, one of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s guitars, Michael Jackson’s sequinned glove, DMC’s Adidas tennis shoes, gold chains and eyeglass frames; Notorious BIG’s leather jersey, the Achtung Baby / Zoo TV tour suspended Trabants and other U2 relics. The ELVIS sign from the 1968 comeback special, probably one of the coolest television concert performances ever, the history of the Les Paul guitar and so much more. There’s honestly too much to list and if you’re a Stones fan you’re going to lose it. The Stones exhibit is a comprehensive retrospective that chronicles the band from the mid-1960s until today. It takes up two-and-a-half floors of the Museum, celebrating the Rolling Stones’ incredible contribution to popular music from their earliest days playing small clubs, to their era-defining recordings.
Admittedly, Cleveland is a pretty dry boring city compared to American iconic cities such as New York, LA, Miami, etc. If you can stomach the trip out and salty-fatty food though, the trip to the Rock Hall is worth that check off the bucket list. If you’re driving through be sure to stop off at the Aurora Cemetery for a moving scene of flags and memorials paying tribute to brave American soldiers that served from WWI onwards. We found it an appropriate stop being Veterans Day (Remembrance Day) long weekend. On a final note, Twinsberg, Ohio has the best tasting Starbucks coffee I’ve ever tasted. The one in Cleveland however, gave me the runs.
Photos: Spiro Mandylor