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Enjoying Summertime in Cleveland

A summer evening in Cleveland.
A summer evening in Cleveland. Photo © Erik Drost, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

When you experience “winter” in the truest sense of the word, you relish every opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. Fortunately, Cleveland is blessed both with dreamy summertime weather and the outdoor recreational pursuits to lure folks out into it. From May or June until those first cool, crisp autumn days, locals find every excuse in the book to get out and stay out.

Come summer, Cleveland’s rich arts and culture scene escapes the confines of air-conditioned museums and galleries and heads outdoors. In arts-minded neighborhoods like Tremont, Little Italy, and Collinwood, monthly art walks invite shoppers to stroll the sidewalks late into the night. On a larger scale, major events like Parade the Circle, Cain Park Arts Fest, Clifton Arts & MusicFest, Wade Oval Wednesdays, and the Cleveland Flea draw thousands of people to an open-air patch to enjoy arts, culture, and everything else that’s wonderful about the season. Even the lofty Cleveland Orchestra heads outdoors, trading in Severance Hall for the bucolic outdoor amphitheater at Blossom Music Center.

Colorful performers at Parade the Circle.
Colorful performers at Parade the Circle. Photo © Bruin, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Summer is a great time for outdoor sports, and there is no shortage of opportunities to watch or participate in athletic pursuits in the great wide open. Northeast Ohio is a golfer’s dream, with dozens of world-class courses waiting to test one’s ability (and patience). There are few finer ways to spend a sunny summer afternoon than by eating hot dogs, drinking cold beer, and catching a baseball game at Progressive Field. For cyclists, regular Critical Mass rides, a velodrome, and miles and miles of bike paths keep two-wheelers moving along.

Pull back the lens from downtown Cleveland and what comes into view is a Great Lake, a Metroparks system with dozens of reservations, and a national park with more than 30,000 acres of natural splendor. Come summer, the parks, beaches, rivers, bike paths, and hiking trails are alive with activity. Lake Erie’s beaches are never far, making a sandy sunset stroll an easy proposition. For nature on a grander scale, locals make the short drive to Cuyahoga Valley National Park to truly immerse themselves in the natural environment.

Cleveland is a bona fide melting pot of ethnicities—just stroll through the West Side Market for proof of that—and they all seem to host a summertime festival that draws huge crowds. From the Greek Fest and Asian Festival to the Puerto Rican Parade and Little Italy’s Feast of the Assumption, these neighborhood get-togethers always are filled with great food, live entertainment, and plenty of neighbors and friends to enjoy both.

Wade Park Lagoon and the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Wade Park Lagoon and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Photo © Erik Drost, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

What would summer be without road trips, those spontaneous expeditions to somewhere else? Clevelanders need not travel far, however, to experience everything from island life to wine country. All along the Lake Erie coast are scores of wineries that flourish thanks to a beneficial microclimate. The same cool-climate varieties that do well in Austria, Germany, Washington, and Oregon thrive here, and going tasting-room hopping is a great way to sample them. For a taste of the island life, hop a ferry to Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island or its quieter sister to the east, Kelleys Island, where lazy days are filled with sun and swimming and nights with cold beer and baskets of fried perch.

Of course, the easiest—and possibly most popular—way that Clevelanders enjoy those few fleeting summer months is by being parked on a restaurant patio, brewery beer garden, or any other alfresco eating and/or drinking establishment. Whether it’s a chef-driven farm-to-table bistro or a burger-and-a-beer corner tavern, every establishment seems to have an outdoor perch on which to enjoy food and drink. And that’s good news, because before you know it, we’ll be back indoors snuggled under our blankets waiting for next year.

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