When contemplating a waterfront getaway, don't overlook Cleveland. For palm trees, you'll have to follow the Cleveland Indians to their baseball spring training headquarters in Arizona, but life is good and the people are welcoming in this cosmopolitan city on “America's North Coast” on Lake Erie.
The city took the name of General Moses Cleveland, who surveyed the region then known as Western Reserve in 1796. He laid the plans for Public Square, still the city center, on the bluffs above the Cuyahoga River. The first settlements, however, were down in 'the Flats,' an area that later became the source of great wealth when John D Rockefeller chose it as the location of his first refinery, launching the Standard Oil empire. The steel mills that followed further filled the city's coffers and attracted multitudes of workers.
Like many great American industrial cities, Cleveland began to rust in the 1970s. Since then, hip institutions such as the Rock and Roll Museum and the Great Lakes Science Center have helped energize the waterfront. Downtown has been revitalized with modern towers, and the lakeside districts across the Cayahoga are flourishing once again. Immigrants have left their mark with cuisine and the city encourages the many festivals around town that celebrate Italian, Greek, Irish and Slavic cultures. Beautifully restored period buildings grace several historic neighborhoods such as Ohio City and Shaker Heights.
Cleveland is known for its world-class arts scene. The city can boast a sprawling theater district, a ballet company, and one of America's Big Five symphony orchestras. The Cleveland Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art house impressive collections, and the Cleveland International Film Festival early each April, has screened cutting-edge films since 1977.
Among famous Clevelanders, screen stars Bob Hope and Paul Newman were raised in the area. The comics and cartoons of R Crumb and Bill Waterson (the latter of Calvin & Hobbs fame), and works by '60s counterculture poet DA Levy were penned here. Superman originated in Cleveland in 1932 collaborations of Jerry Siegel and Canadian Joe Shuster. Musicians Pere Ubu, Tracy Chapman, Nine Inch Nails, Filter, Rude Boys & Bone Thugs-n-Harmony also came from Cleveland.
From Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, the RTA trains will whisk you downtown in 30 minutes. Taxis, hotel shuttles and rental cars are other options.
Most of the city’s major sights can be reached via the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s three light-rail lines or its system of buses. Check RTA for information. If you’re covering a wide area, you might prefer to drive.
Much of Cleveland gay nightlife takes place on or within a few blocks of the long stretch of Detroit Avenue that runs parallel to, and close by Lake Erie. The trip begins at the Detroit-Superior Bridge crossing the Cayahoga, connecting downtown Cleveland to Ohio City. At the far end is Lakewood, with the Beck Center for the Arts, many stores, cafes and restaurants, and more than a few gay households. In the middle is the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood with it's Gordon Square Arts District giving new life to this diverse community.
Ohio City was once an independent township on the west bank of the Cuyahoga, an economic rival to Cleveland as the two cities developed. This culturally rich neighborhood of historic homes is now the site of several gay bars and restaurants. The Westside Market here, dating from 1840, is easily spotted with it's 137 foot clock tower landmark and has over 100 market vendors of great ethnic diversity. The nearby eight mile stretch of Lorain Avenue to Westown Center is a relief from modern retail trends, with old-fashioned charm, restaurants, markets, entertainment, New Age emporiums, and antique stores without fancy price tags.
Downtown Cleveland no longer has specifically gay bars, but there's plenty to do with seven theaters at Playhouse Square; the Cleveland Public Library boasting close to ten million items; the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Great Lakes Science Center; several indoor shopping malls, and many restaurants; plus big league sports at Browns Stadium, the Indians at Progressive Field, and the Cavaliers at Q Arena.
University Circle is home to the Cleveland Museum of Art with over 30,000 works covering 5,000 years of civilization; the Museum of Natural History and the Botanical Garden. The nearby Museum of Contemporary Art with it's impressive collection, in a brand new University Circle building.
Other notable gay enclaves are found to the east of downtown, out on St Clair, and on Hamilton Avenue, where Flex, a big men's bathhouse, accommodations and nightclub complex, has transformed the old Greyhound Bus terminal building into a gay destination of note.
Media & resources
The LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, at 6600 Detroit Avenue, has information resources, community services and events. Cleveland Pride takes place each June, and they sponsor other events such as Dancing in the Streets in late July, and the Colors Multicultural Festival, in August. Cleveland and Akron hosted the Gay Games in August 2014.
CLAW, the Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend, is a big April date on the local leather/fetish calendar. The Cleveland Bears have monthly dinner gatherings, and other outings they list on their website.
Cleveland.com is an informative website about Cleveland from the Sun News and Plain Dealer. The Cleveland Scene is the weekly alternative paper good for listings of the music, arts and film scenes, and local events calendars. Cleveland Nights is an online guide to restaurants, bars, concerts, sports, arts and cultural events, also with a gay section.
The Gay People’s Chronicle, a longtime GLBT newspaper with news and listings for all of Ohio and a website, ceased publication in December 2015. Their archives continue to be available online.
For map locations and website links to the businesses below, and more, see our gay Cleveland listings pages.
Clifford House (1810 West 28th; 216-589-0121), Queen Anne-style brick beauty, comfortable Ohio City B&B within walking distance of restaurants and bars -- easy access to downtown.
J Palen House (2708 Bridge Ave, Ohio City; 216-664-0813), 6 rooms, suites and lofts, private baths, gourmet breakfast; plus The Kabat House 2-story home with living room fireplace and courtyard patio.
Stone Gables B&B (3806 Franklin Blvd; 216-961-4654), five guestroom Ohio City gem, plush comforts, gourmet breakfasts and location that's perfect to access local restaurants, gay clubs and downtown attractions.
Check our Cleveland map & listings section for links for these and other area accomodations.
ABC Tavern (1872 W 25th), mixed cocktail bar with food, Ohio City locals' institution for over 20 years. Now also at 11434 Uptown Ave, Uptown in University Circle.
Bounce (2814 Detroit Ave), Wednesday - Sunday Ohio City bar, kitchen and lounge at Hinge, with tapas-inspired snacks and Sunday brunch; weekend drag shows, DJs, dancing.
Cocktails Cleveland (9208 Detroit), welcoming clubhouse feel, karaoke, movie nights, strippers, smoking patio. Their leather bar Daddy's has required dress code Saturdays, but less strict on Fridays.
Hawk (11217 Detroit), neighborhood "down to earth gay bar" with mixed crowd, mostly guys; pool table, internet jukebox, videos, gaming machines, free WiFi, patio smoking area.
Now That's Class (11213 Detroit Ave), Mexican meat, veggie and vegan options, 80 beers plus non-alcoholic drinks, vintage video and pinball games, jukebox, cult movies, live music, comedy and quirky special nights
Twist Social Club (11633 Clifton), Clevelands most popular gay social club/bar; basement cocktail lounge, DJs, dancing, drag bingo, Wii and trivia games, drag shows, art shows, food truck nights, summertime sidewalk tables; Clifton Arts & Musicfest June events.
Vibe (11633 Lorain Ave), neighborhood gay/mixed bar, drinks specials, underwear nights, large outdoor patio, cookouts, pool table.
XYZ Tavern (6419 Detroit Ave), with a mixed crowd, craft beers on tap, a wide variety of whiskey and bourbon choices, lunch, brunch, pizza and BBQ.
Downtown and East Side bars
Anatomy Nightclub (1299 W 9th St), upscale two level dance club and ultra lounge, good sound and lights, mostly straight/ gay-friendly crowd.
Aura (1313 E 26th St), LGBT nightclub, weekly shows, special events and entertainers in the first floor video lounge and second floor showbar. Former Mean Bull.
Leather Stallion Saloon (2205 E St Clair), long-time men's favorite for drinking, cruising, leather and bear club events, with a big patio. DJs play everything from disco to country. Events include: corn hole competitions, monthly summer steak roasts, and fundraisers for their Mustangs softball team.
At various locations around the city Gay Guys Happy Hour third-Friday monthly events for 300 or so men to convene at otherwise straight clubs. See website for events and venues.
Big Egg (5107 Detroit Ave), all-day diner breakfast on the Detroit Shoreway, open 24-hours on weekends; shrimp, chicken fingers, wings, sandwiches.
Diner on Clifton (11637 Clifton Blvd), 50s-style diner with traditional American comfort foods, big portions at low prices; hearty all-day breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.
Happy Dog (5801 Detroit Ave), hot dogs and veggie sausages, a huge range of toppings, plus falafel, tater tots and fries, plus live music Fridays through Sundays. Serving over 75 kinds of beer, including two dozen on tap.
Lola Bistro (2058 E 4th St), elegant New American restaurant downtown, inventive and creative seasonal menu; sandwiches, lunch and dinner entrees, wine and cocktails.
My Friends Restaurant (11616 Detroit Ave), open 24-hours/ seven days, breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee bar, beer and wine, WiFi. Join the Cleveland Bears for dinner, each first Thursday of the month here -- arrive at about 6:30pm.
The Nautica Queen offers dinner cruises on Lake Erie and the Cayahoga River.
Check our Cleveland map & listings/restaurants for more restaurant options with locations and web links.
Saunas & playgrounds
Flex Cleveland (2600 Hamilton), world's largest bathhouse hotel, 16 quiet rooms, 18 suites with private baths. Also all-weather outdoor pool, massage, and cafe; state-of-the-art gym, indoor swimming pool, media room, sauna, steamroom, and whirlpool. Open 24/7 for men 18 and over, free and secure parking.
Club Cleveland (3219 Detroit) CLOSED after many years in Ohio City. Check out their 24-hour clubs in Columbus, Indianapolis and five more cities around the USA.
A first stop for gay visitors, Body Language (11424 Lorain, at West 115th) is open late with gay magazines, books, gifts and erotic items. Now part of the Inz&Outz Memphis group.
Dean Rufus House of Fun (1422 West 29th, at Detroit) has designer clothing, underwear, jocks and accessories; DVDs and toys. Open late.