Cleveland sports travel guide
Our city guides are meant to showcase the best of a metropolitan area from the perspective of a sports fan visiting to watch a game or two. Here’s our guide to the best of Cleveland sports travel.
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Sports fans know Cleveland as the home of passionate fans in three major professional sports. And even though that fan base has met up with some serious heartbreak over a span of more than 50 years without a championship — a streak finally broken by the Cavaliers’ title in 2016 — the city itself is welcoming, vibrant and full of interesting things to do, whether you’re a sports fan or not.
If you’re reading this, then you must be interested in planning a Cleveland sports travel vacation. You’ll find that the venues are easy to get to, and there’s also plenty of attractions to bide your time until the games begin. Although perhaps not quite well known nationally, Cleveland boasts a strong cultural scene and regional personality.
Read on to find out exactly why Cleveland rocks.
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The landscape: Where to watch sports in Cleveland
All of Cleveland’s sports venues are located within the downtown area, and it has been that way since the Cavs moved downtown to Gund Arena (now Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse) and the Indians opened Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field) in 1994. FirstEnergy Stadium sits on the same site as the old Municipal Stadium, which the Browns and Indians shared for more than 50 years.
The Cavs’ old arena, the Coliseum at Richfield, was torn down in 1999, five years after the Cavs moved out. Interestingly, the site, in Richfield Township about 20 miles from downtown Cleveland, bears little trace of an arena after it was allowed to be returned to nature.
• FirstEnergy Stadium: Home of the Browns. Located at 100 Alfred Lerner Way.
• Progressive Field: Home of the Indians. Located at 2401 Ontario Street.
• Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse: Home of the Cavaliers. Located at 1 Center Court.
For Cleveland sports travelers, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) is the region’s primary entry point, located about 10 miles southwest of downtown. Once a major hub for Continental Airlines, it now hosts service from most major airlines and offers flights to many destinations around the U.S. and Canada, particularly cities in the Midwest and East Coast.
Amtrak’s Cleveland station is located downtown, next to First Energy Stadium. Routes through Cleveland extend west to Chicago and east to New York and Washington, D.C. Greyhound’s station is also located downtown, near Cleveland State’s campus, and operates service to many cities around the Midwest.
Major highways into Cleveland include Interstate 90, which runs east-west along Lake Erie; I-71, which leads southwest to Columbus and Cincinnati, and I-77, which extends south to Akron and Canton. Pittsburgh is about two hours southeast via I-80 and the Ohio and Pennsylvania turnpikes.
Where to stay
Given that all of Cleveland’s sports venues, and most of its major attractions, are downtown, the central city area is typically where folks on sports travel vacations stay. The area’s biggest hotels can be found near Public Square and are generally a short walk from both Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse and Progressive Field. You’ll be able to find commuter-type hotels in other neighborhoods (University Circle and near the airport, in particular), but in general you’ll need a car to get around if you choose a lodging option outside downtown.
If you don’t have a car and plan on spending time outside the downtown area, Cleveland has a light rail system, known as RTA or “the Rapid.” The Red Line travels between Hopkins Airport and downtown; use Tower City-Public Square to access Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse and Progressive Field, both a short walk away. The Waterfront Line travels north from Tower City to First Energy Stadium.
Large lots and structures can be found near all three venues, and private parking lots are also available to fans throughout the downtown area. Click on the links for parking guides to Progressive Field, Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse and First Energy Stadium.
Even if your reason for coming to Cleveland is sports travel, the region has so much more to offer. Here are just some of the things to see:
Opened in 1995, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has become Cleveland’s signature tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over the world. The distinctive pyramid-shaped building occupies a spot along Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland and includes exhibits from the history of the rock and roll genre, from Elvis to the Beatles to Jimi Hendrix and much, much more.
For more exploring, head next door to the Great Lakes Science Center.
Sample local food
Cleveland lays claim to its share of food items — distinctly Eastern European dishes such as pierogies and kielbasas are prevalent. Look for the “Polish Boy,” a kielbasa served on a bun with french fries and cole slaw on top, at many locations; the most well-known include Seti’s Polish Boys and Hot Sauce Williams.
Another good spot to sample local dishes is the Westside Market, home to nearly 100 vendors. And fried perch (a fish native to Lake Erie) is a common dish at many local restaurants.
For pregame eating and drinking before Indians and Cavs games, head to East 4th Street and the surrounding area — there are many restaurants and bars that fill up with sports fans in the hours before most games. and all of them are just a short walk from Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and Progressive Field.
See the art scene
Between the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art and many public installations throughout the city, Cleveland has a vibrant art scene. Perhaps its most well-known single piece of art is “Free Stamp,” a sculpture which can be found at Willard Park, just down East 9th Street from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
For a different cultural sight, head south of downtown to 3159 W. 11th Street, where you’ll find the actual house depicted in the cult classic movie “A Christmas Story.” The house has been turned into a shrine to the film.
While most Cleveland sports travel trips revolve around the pro scene, there’s more to see. Within the city limits, the college athletic scene consists of Cleveland State University — its campus is downtown and it counts a Division I basketball team among its athletic programs.
However, if you’re talking to someone about college sports in Cleveland you’re likely talking about Ohio State. Despite its campus being two hours away in Columbus, all of Ohio follows its football and men’s basketball teams very closely.
An hour south of Cleveland on Interstate 77 is the city of Canton, Ohio, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The NFL always kicks off its preseason with the Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium, next door to the Hall of Fame building.