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TRAVEL Cleveland does, indeed, rock, as Gay Games approaches
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, will be ready for Gay Games 9 next August.

That was the message delivered during a recent media trip to Cleveland that highlighted spots where Gay Games activities will take place—and that featured venues that show the cultural aspects of the city.

Seeing the sites

One of Cleveland's cultural highlights is PlayhouseSquare ( 1501 Euclid Ave.; ). Annually, more than 1 million guests visit the opulent theaters at PlayhouseSquare for more than 1,000 annual events including Broadway's best shows, international and national performing acts and musicians.

The eight theaters—five of which have been beautifully restored to their splendor of the 1920s—make PlayhouseSquare the largest performing arts center in the nation outside of New York City.

Next, the writers had lunch at The Greenhouse Tavern ( 2038 E. Fourth St.; ). Chef Jonathon Sawyer, a Cleveland native, evokes the farm-to-plate movement in the eatery's extensive menu. ( By the way, as the first LEED-certified restaurant in Ohio, nearly everything inside is made of recycled or repurposed materials. ) The decor is captivating in a quirky kind of way—with bicycles adorning the venue, and with a bookcase with, yes, VHS tapes. As for the food, I'm still dreaming about the corn and creste pasta dish.

We then toured downtown Cleveland to get a sense of the venues that will host various Gay Games activities. Among those are the Cleveland Convention Center ( 300 Lakeside Ave.; ), which includes the Global Center for Health Innovation. The global center—which features an 11,000-square-foot, column-free junior ballroom—is the only facility in the world that displays the future of health and healthcare presented on four themed floors. It will be the site of several Gay Games competitions, including volleyball.

The Marriott Renaissance Hotel ( 24 Public Square; ) is the 2014 Gay Games host hotel. As such, it will welcome participants at the beginning of the event through the opening accreditation activities as well as other events throughout the week, including darts and dancesport. One impressive factor is that the hotel has almost three dozen meeting rooms that total 64,734 square feet of total space.

Another Gay Games site is Cleveland State University ( ). The institution will host several competitions, including swimming ( in its Robert E. Busbey Natatorium ) and tennis. By the way, I'm sure the writers thank the swimmers for allowing photography.

Then, it was on to the cultural venue known as Severance Hall ( 1101 Euclid Ave.; ), a concert hall that opened in 1931 as the home of The Cleveland Orchestra. The building is named for John L. Severance and his wife, Elisabeth, who initially pledged $1 million for its construction of the hall, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. ( In addition, the hall can be rented for various events. )

The writers' host hotel was the InterContinental Cleveland ( 9801 Carnegie Ave.; ). Among the perks the hotel offers are 299 elegantly appointed non-smoking guest rooms, including 23 suites and two lounges. There's also 24-hour in-room dining, a 24-hour fitness center and meeting facilities.

Table 45 ( ), located in the Intercontinental, is a sophisticated restaurant that offers, among other things, curry mussels, Asian duck, seared salmon and ginger spice cake. Each of the restaurant's five zones is designed for different moods, from quiet and intimate to casual and high energy.

After having drinks there, it was on to Spice Kitchen + Bar ( 5800 Detroit Ave.; ), a sustainable restaurant that's minimalist in decor but has dishes with big taste. The options look and taste delectable—and I learned that pawpaw is apparently a staple in Ohio, as I encountered it on a trip to the state earlier this year.

We wound up the first night at the gay nightspot Twist ( 11633 Clifton Blvd.; ). If there's one thing I learned at this dance spot, it's that the residents of Cleveland can be very friendly—but don't read too much into that.

Seeing the sites: Day two

The second day started with a trip to West Side Market ( 1979 W. 25th St.; ), which is like farmers' market on steroids. Located in the area of town known as Ohio City, West Side is open Monday through Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Among the many businesses there is the lesbian-owned Pork Chop Shop—but there are so many items there, ranging from apple fritters to Mexican cuisine to, yes, Chicago hot dogs.

Bon Bon Pastry and Cafe ( 2549 Lorain Ave.; ) is literally a hop, skip and a jump away from the market—and, judging from the lines, is very much in demand as a breakfast/brunch spot. ( FYI: The dishes are massive. ) Lesbian owner Michelle Tomallo informed the writers about how she is involved with an initiative with local LGBT businesses to let them know they can be certified as such.

After getting fueled, we went on a tour of University Circle ( ), home to more than 20 artistic and cultural venues such as the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Botanical Garden, Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland Institute of Music and the aforementioned Severance Hall.

The Museum of Contemporary Art ( 11400 Euclid Ave.; ) opened in late 2012, and is the first piece of architecture designed by London-based Farshid Moussavi in the United States. The building itself is quite a work of art, and Director of Communications Tom Poole emphasized that the museum revolves around three concepts: transparency, sustainability and flexibility. Stopping by the gift store is a must, by the way.

Art aficionados should also check out the Cleveland Museum of Art ( 11150 East Blvd.; ). The only major museum in the country to still offer free admission to its permanent collections, among its current special exhibitions is the intriguing "Sicily: Art and Invention Between Greece and Rome." Also, be sure to stop by the museum's restaurant Provenance ( ), as Chef Doug Katz offers light and hearty fare. Desiring the former, I opted for the mesclun greens salad ( with strawberries and cucumbers with mint-champagne vinaigrette )—and it was absolutely delightful. However, other dishes include trout Meuniere and Moroccan chicken. ( Also, the host and hostess were ridiculously good-looking, which never hurts. )

One of my favorite stops was the Cleveland Botanical Garden ( 1030 East Blvd.; ), a combination of indoor exhibits housed in a glasshouse and 10 acres of diverse outdoor gardens. ( I got an idea of the fun to expect outside of the venue, where a few of us encountered a praying mantis. ) I could've stayed in those outdoor gardens forever.

After some down time, it was time for Market Garden Brewery ( 1947 W. 25th St.; ). The brewery features 11 unique beers created by native Northeast Ohio brewmaster Andy Tveekrem. Two things I'll remember from this place are the beer flights and ( again! ) the very good-looking staff—and I'm talking men as well as women.

Dinner was at Parallax ( 2179 W. 11 St.; ). Parallax is located in the Tremont area, an artsy neighborhood located just south of downtown Cleveland. The pan-Asian menu includes sushi; seared salmon with curried quinoa, roasted cauliflower and mushroom dashi; and tempura lobster tail and vegetables with ponzu sauce and spicy mayo.

Lastly, the writers sampled Cleveland's nightlife again—this time, by going to the city largest LGBT bar, Bounce/Union Station Video Cafe ( 2814 Detroit Ave.; ), a restaurant up front with a dance club in the back. The venue is no longer for those between 18 and 21, but that doesn't mean the energy has been diluted. In fact, the night we went RuPaul's Drag Race alumna Carmen Carrera performed—and either transfixed clubgoers or gave them body issues.

Of course, this wrap-up only is the tip of the iceberg of the myriad offerings Cleveland has—from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum to restaurants from celebrity chefs such as Michael Symon ( currently on ABC's daytime show The Chew. )

Many thanks go to Positively Cleveland and Gay Games 9 for sponsoring the excursion and providing information.

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