The Best Things to Do in Cleveland When You Aren’t Watching the 2021 NFL Draft

The Rock & Roll Capital of the World will welcome NFL fans from April 29 to May 1

April 19, 2021 9:35 am
An aerial view of FirstEnergy Stadium along  Lake Erie near downtown Cleveland.
An aerial view of FirstEnergy Stadium along Lake Erie near downtown Cleveland.
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When the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off in Cleveland on April 29, presumptive No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence will not be in attendance, as the 21-year-old quarterback will be watching the event at his alma mater Clemson with family members and friends. But Lawrence will be the exception, not the rule, as the NFL is welcoming top prospects back to the annual event after going with a virtual draft last year due to the onset of the pandemic.

Though some prospects will participate in the festivities remotely from their homes around the country, many of the top talents who will hear their names called by commissioner Roger Goodell will be in attendance on the shore of Lake Erie, sandwiched in an auditorium between The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and FirstEnergy Stadium, the home of the Browns. And since the NFL is also welcoming fans back to the event with free tickets, you could be in attendance as well.

If you’re considering or have already decided you’ll be traveling to The Rock and Roll Capital of the World for the event from April 29 to May 1, an excellent lodging option is the Hyatt Regency Cleveland at The Arcade, a 293-room hotel located within easy walking distance of the draft site in a landmark building that opened in 1890 as the country’s first indoor mall.

The Hyatt Regency Cleveland at The Arcade
The atrium inside the Hyatt Regency Cleveland at The Arcade.

Featuring shops, watering holes and restaurants, The Arcade atrium is visible from many of the hotel’s rooms, making for a unique throwback ambience that’s hard to replicate. Though much of the downtown area is within easy walking distance of the hotel, public transit via the RTA is also nearby (Uber and Lyft are also options, but leave yourself some extra time, as drivers are not always readily available during COVID).

What else should you do besides watching the Draft and visiting the Hall of Fame during a visit to The Land? Here are some great options.

Put away a Polish Boy at Seti’s Polish Boys: A grilled sausage topped with coleslaw, French fries and BBQ sauce served on a fresh bun, the Polish Boy is a Cleveland staple. Seti’s, Cleveland’s first food truck, has been selling ’em for more than 20 years, along with options like chili dogs and cheese fries.

The A Christmas Story House and Museum
The “A Christmas Story” House and Museum is worth a visit.

Remember Ralphie at the A Christmas Story House and Museum: Remember the rabbit suit, leg lamp and the Red Ryder air rifle from the classic holiday film? They are all present and accounted for at this museum, which is housed in the actual house where the 1983 flick was filmed. The tour is fast, fun and packed with enough interesting tidbits about the movie and creation of the museum that even casual fans will be entertained.

Take a stroll through the Cleveland Botanical Garden: In addition to boasting 10 acres of beautiful outdoor Japanese, herb, rose and topiary gardens, this longtime destination features the 18,000-square-foot Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse. Full of birds and butterflies, the Glasshouse is divided into two halves, with one focusing on the desert of Madagascar and the other attempting to replicate a Costa Rican Rainforest.

The West Side Market
The West Side Market can meet all your meat needs.

Pick up some smoked meats at the West Side Market: Forget Arby’s — this marketplace has the meats. Also, plenty of baked goods, cheese, fruits, vegetables and other local favorites. Cleveland’s oldest continuously operating, municipally-owned market, this Ohio anchor is home to more than 100 locally owned independent businesses. For more specific shopping opportunities, Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood and AsiaTown are also options.

Stuff your face without restraint at Mabel’s BBQ: One of many quality eating and drinking establishments on popular East 4th Street, Mabel’s is pretty popular and only takes walk-ins, so arrive early if you want to eat in or place your takeout order well in advance. Meats are served by the half-pound alongside sides like baked beans and loaded fried potatoes, and Mabel’s also offered aged-in-the-bottle cocktails which are meant to be shared between multiple people.

Get an out-of-this-world sandwich at Dave’s Cosmic Subs: With locations spread throughout Cleveland, Dave’s is dedicated to the mission of “spreading love around the world one sub at a time.” The rock music-themed eatery does that by serving an eclectic menu of fresh takes on classic subs that can be ordered hot or cold and usually come doused in Dave’s Cosmic Sauce.

Grab a beer or two at one of Cleveland’s many, many breweries: Located throughout the city, Cleveland is flush with breweries offering local brews and bites such as Platform Brewery, Market Garden Brewery, Great Lakes Brewing Company and Hansa Brewery. To enjoy some doughnuts and coffee along with your suds, head to Brewnuts.

Pierogis doused in Buffalo sauce.
Pierogis doused in Buffalo sauce are a thing you will like.

Order pierogis and a pint at the Rowley Inn: Located a stone’s throw away from the A Christmas Story House, this no-frills restaurant serves up Cleveland comfort food and pours a solid variety of local beers. Ever wondered about the existence of Buffalo-style pierogis? Well, they’re real — and they’re spectacular. Also offering breakfast and a variety of meaty options on Steak Day (aka Wednesday), the Inn is the place to go before or after your visit to the museum.

Appreciate the collection at the Cleveland Museum of Art: An interesting indoor-outdoor space that you can take in over the course of an afternoon, the museum boasts a collection of more than 60,000 works and is recognized for its focus on Asian and Egyptian art. It’s worth noting that while the museum is free, you’ll have to order your timed tickets in advance.

Forest City Shuffleboard
Customers on the court at Forest City Shuffleboard.

Enjoy some fun and games at Superelectric Pinball Parlor: Boasting a collection of more than 20 pinball machines ranging from the 1950s to the 1990s as well as some vintage arcade consoles, Superelectric provides an easy trip down memory lane. If you prefer your drinking games a bit more physically demanding, Forest City Shuffleboard offers a full bar alongside a pair of regulation shuffleboard tables to accompany the joint’s five indoor and two outdoor shuffleboard courts.

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