Winter is a desolate landscape, and you can only go on so many indoor Tinder dates before the monotony sets in. Fortunately, Cleveland's temperate springs and summers have made their triumphant return, which means it's time to take full advantage of the outdoors with your potential soulmate (or, like, whoever) in tow. Here are some legitimately great Cleveland date ideas that let you take the best advantage of your own backyard.
University Circle Explore the contemporary art museum’s sleek new building on the first Saturday of the month, when all exhibits are free to the public. Post-visit, treat yourselves to some macarons and maybe some grower Champagne over at Coquette Patisserie.
Birdtown This 1920s bowling alley-turned-music venue has a fully stocked bar offering everything from rock concerts to salsa dancing and comedy on two stages. The fried chicken at this place is almost as famous as its old-school lanes, where you’ll have to keep score by hand if you want to win the game.
University Circle This renowned theater is located inside the Cleveland Institute of Art, specializing in independent and foreign films in an intimate, state-of-the-art setting. Fun fact: this place was recognized by The New York Times as one of America’s best repertory movie theaters.
University Circle Every first Friday, the Cleveland Museum of Art fills its spacious courtyard with the biggest party in the city, with each event thematically celebrating parts of the museum's collection and new special exhibits. Bonus: Nibble on snacks from the attached restaurant, Provenance, manned by the illustrious chef Doug Katz.
Detroit Shoreway The doors to 78th Street Studios -- a converted 1905 automobile factory stuffed with a variety of contemporary art -- open to the public every third Friday. Pro tip: Cap off your night with a visit to Popeye Presents at Survival Kit on the top level, where live performances by musicians local and national (from rock to classical to experimental) take place in the gallery that doubles as a recording studio.
Detroit-Shoreway Few things are more intimate than telling stories to a roomful of strangers. At Keep Talking, featured speakers dole out anecdotes on the topic of the night at Happy Dog -- submit your pitch ahead of time for a chance to get on stage. If that doesn’t break the ice, ordering a hot dog smothered in “alien relish” (or other 52 off-the-wall toppings) definitely will. Would it really hurt to share your tater tots?
Ohio City A walk around this historic market’s buzzing grounds lined with purveyors is a lively way to spend an afternoon, but its balcony view overlooking the stands might be even better. After lunching on local eats, make your way down the street for a little shopping, including neighboring boutiques Room Service and Salty Not Sweet stocked with handmade local goods. While you’re out and about, take an Instagram in front of the #Clevelandmural and check in at Ohio City Moto or Tabletop Board Game Café before grabbing a drink, dinner, or skip off to mainstays like Mitchell’s, Soho, and ABC the Tavern.
Downtown Since the Western Reserve School of Cooking -- Hudson’s beloved culinary school -- brought its new outpost to CLE, it's ushered in a steady stream of experts from the partnering incubator Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen to talk shop. With the addition of Kitchen 216, Downtown now has more culinary class opportunities than ever.
Battle it out at an arcade bar
Various locations Challenge your date to a round of old-school video games at B Side, an arcade and bar, while local DJs spin throughout the night. At 16-Bit, get unlimited free play on any of the machines while you enjoy pop culture-themed drinks. Last but not least, Funhouse holds it down with alcoholic slushies and carnival games like Skee-Ball to keep everyone entertained.
Ohio City Bringing poetry to bars has long been the idea behind Brews + Prose’s monthly readings held on the first Tuesday of the month in the basement of Market Garden Brewery. The pop-up events span genres, bringing in everyone from the authors of major motion picture adaptations to beer scribes, and even setting up in places like boxing rings.
Various locations It don’t mean a thing if you’re a novice or an expert jitterbug: You’re welcome at Get Hep Swing’s dance parties on the second Friday of every month in Lakewood, and last Saturday of every month in Waterloo.
University Circle The Cleveland Institute of Art offers life-drawing classes, where beginners and professionals alike come to practice gestural drawing from nude models. Impress a date by letting your creativity shine through -- or, for the less mature among us, Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School nights are hosted on the last Tuesday of every month at Market Avenue Wine Bar.
Whiskey Island Not quite an island, this lakefront park is home to a marina where you can dock your boat or just stroll along Lake Erie and watch the sunset. Sit on the large outdoor patio at Whiskey Island Still & Eatery and enjoy live music with a great backdrop.
University Circle/Tremont If you and your date have already hit up CMA, mix things up a bit: try the Dittrick on campus at Case, which hosts a wonderfully odd assortment of medical devices (including an exhibit on the history of contraception). Or, check out the Buckland Gallery of Witchcraft & Magick in Tremont, which manages to be both spooky and educational.
Asiatown Go for a ride on the West Side Shuffle, from Park to Shop (an aptly named grocery store) to a variety of food destinations in the Asiatown neighborhood. Chinese, Korean, Thai, and other Pan-Asian nationalities are all represented in this authentic sampling of one of the most ethnically diverse areas in Cleveland proper.
Ohio City Hopefully you have the same taste in music, because at Jukebox, the tunes will be playing all night long from the bar's... jukebox. Stocked with new, local, and touring musicians’ songs, grab some free tokens and load it up! You can bring your own vinyl to spin on Tuesdays, and Wednesdays feature a trivia night that offers the chance to win concert tickets.
Medina Take the trip down to Medina for a round of Alien Vacation Mini Golf. If the name doesn’t sell itself -- and we don’t see why it wouldn’t -- it’s an absolutely trippy, 3-D glasses putt-putt experience that will make you feel like a kid again in the best way. And if that’s not enough, the same building hosts Castle Noel, America’s largest year-round indoor Christmas attraction. Just go already.
Various locations Cleveland’s bustling East Fourth Street has become a showcase for the city’s finest chefs and drink-slingers; grab an intimate Italian dinner for two at Chinato, followed by a few drinks at The Greenhouse Tavern's rooftop bar, then take a romantic pedicab ride around the neighborhood to settle your stomachs. Sure, pedicabs might not be quite as romantic as carriage rides, but there's no fear of animal cruelty, and the odds of you smelling poop are significantly diminished.
Larchmere Reading is sexy, and fortunately, Cleveland has no shortage of great bookstores. Browse the carefully curated section at Tremont’s new Visible Voice, or explore stacks ceiling-high at the Larchmere neighborhood stalwart Loganberry Books (and try to catch their classic movie screenings the fourth Thursday of each month).
University Circle Pick a dreamy evening for stargazing at the Ralph Mueller Observatory, which is open on Wednesday nights (when visibility is clear) during CMNH’s extended hours. Want a primer on what you’re seeing? The museum’s Shafran Planetarium is an entertaining crash course in the night sky.
University Circle Take a guided tour through the herb, rose, and woodlands gardens (among others) at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, then end up in the steamy glasshouse, where you’ll walk through waterfalls while birds flutter by and, at 2pm each day, newly hatched butterflies take flight for the first time.
Kirtland The Holden Arboretum's Kalberer Emergent Tower takes you 120 feet above the trees and gives you a view clear out to Lake Erie. We'd say this is the ultimate tree fort, except there are some truly great treehouse hotels in the world. This one'll do, though.
Old Brooklyn Who doesn’t like a competitive game of putt-putt between adults? To raise the stakes, play by our rules: whoever loses owes the winner an ice cream cone from B.A. Sweetie’s Soda Shoppe, or all you can eat candy from the 40,000-square-foot bulk candy store next door (the largest candy store in America).
Civic Center There’s a reason so many weddings take place within the Cleveland Public Library: the place is stunning. In fact, it’s the perfect setting for the Music at Main series, which features live music on select Saturday afternoons, either by the Cleveland Institute of Music or a jazz band that happens to have dropped in.
Various locations In the summer, seek out the cascading falls of Garfield Park Reservation and Bonnie Park Picnic Area, just to name a few of the hidden gems inside the extensive Metroparks system. For added adventure, check out Go Ape, an aerial zip line and adventure course that takes you up into the treetops for two hours of action.
Act like you mean it
Gordon Square Cleveland Public Theatre and Near West Theatre are adding some extra drama to the Gordon Square Arts District. Both regional theaters help to develop community and young talent in the area, hosting their own versions of well-known productions or presenting new and adventurous works. Meanwhile, on the East Side, Dobama Theatre makes its mark with relevant dramas and beautiful set design.
Ohio City The Cleveland Brew Bus is the original craft brewery and tasting tour, where you can hop on board and sip the night away. Tours of brewery hot spots are arranged by location or theme, with an average of three to four stops per tour and up to four tastings at each spot.
North Coast Harbor The Goodtime III claims to be the largest sightseeing vessel in Cleveland, but even if that wasn't true, it wouldn't take away from the romantic potential of a jaunt down the river. Take a Happy Hour cruise, or see the lights of Downtown from the deck while listening to blues music on Saturday evenings. Just make sure your date doesn't get seasick first.
Ohio City Ohio City Psychic offers group rates, which include one tarot card and two palm readings, perfect to get to know yourself or your potential partner a little bit better -- namely, whether they believe in tarot cards or palm readings. Head downstairs afterward to discuss your future over a stiff drink by candlelight at Townhall.
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Nikki Delamotte is a Cleveland-based pop culture writer who you shouldn’t put it past to podcast about her dating disaster with you. Find her on Twitter: @nikkidelamotte.
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