There’s a feeling I get when I’m back in Cleveland, a familiarity that starts with the street names–Euclid, Franklin, Abbey, names that sound like the cast of an ’80s multi-camera sitcom. And like most sitcoms, the city has a familiar story. It’s familiar, at least, to fellow Rust Belt cities like Detroit, St. Louis, and Milwaukee.
The story starts with a reputation for being tough. Cleveland’s was immortalized by Daffy Dan’s Cleveland: You’ve Got To Be Tough tee shirt in the ’70s. A reputation of toughness and resiliency has been a common fallback in Rust Belt cities with a history of getting screwed.
Nowadays the narrative isn’t so simple. Cleveland can’t (if it ever could) be summed up in one or two words. It’s more complex than that. And with complexity comes controversy, disagreement, and heated debate over what the city really is, should become, and is going to be if we don’t get our way.
None of this is to say that Cleveland’s grit and grime (that you either love or hate) is gone. But the breweries, boutique coffee shops, and fitness studios are just as much center stage these days as the cracked sidewalks lined by broken chain-linked fences overlooking the poorly funded subway. What remains consistent are the people. It’s the people, from the commuter trying to find the sidewalk in the plowed snow to the musician playing Beachland, who have a story that keeps Cleveland grounded and unique.
So when you check into your hotel, chat up the person standing across from you at reception. Let the bartender split your ear and say ‘hello’ to your neighbor on the Rapid. Because when you stay at one of these coolest hotels in Cleveland, it’s the people that will make your visit special.