One Day at the Rustic Charm of Cleveland

A Rusty Neighbor

Ratings Best Travel Date Cost Length


May - October $40 4-6 hours


  • Aquarium Admission: $20
    • Aquarium Parking: Free
  • Food: $20
  • Parking: $2 (street parking)
  • Total: $40

Urban Decay

During mid-20th century, US sees a decline in major industrial manufacturing city along the “Rust Belt” such as Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, this leads to a significant job losses and economy downturn. Many people move out of the urban areas, leaving poverty and crime remain.

I get to see what it looks like first-hand in Cleveland, just 1.5 hour away from where I lived: Columbus Ohio.

Arriving Cleveland

When I first saw Cleveland’s skyline, I felt excited and a bit curious. Cleveland might not be as famous as some cities nearby, but it has its own special vibe. I noticed its unique atmosphere. The streets had this mix of old and a bit gloomy feeling, mostly telling story about its rusty history.

Driving around, you can see this history in the worn-out look of the houses and bridges over the Cuyahoga River. Driving around, the city felt a bit grey and quiet. The buildings were in muted colors, and there were some bright graffiti here and there.

The gloomy city with industrial vibe

Li Wah: Cantonese Restaurant

Li Wah is a really decent Cantonese place in Cleveland’s Asian Town Center. It’s kind of hidden inside a building with only a sign out front. Inside, it’s cozy and buzzing with people in my surprise.

Their menu has a lot of classic Cantonese dishes, I tried the sesame ball and it was amazing. It was crispy and golden on the outside, with tasty sesame seeds that added a nice crunch, just like back home. Inside, the red bean paste was sweet and smooth. This dish showed me Li Wah’s authentic Cantonese food. Cantonese food in my opinion is all about simple dishes.

Great sesame seeds ball with red bean paste inside

West Side Market

When I visited the West Side Market in Cleveland, it was quieter than expect. Usually the market place is famous for being lively and full of people, but on that day in cleveland, it was calm and almost empty. This gave me a chance to really see how clean the market is. The building itself is pretty old and has a lot of nice details, and the light coming in through the big windows made it look even better, the ceiling is very tall and formed a big curve.

We didn’t buy anything, as just finished our lunch at Li Wah, but there are food, drinks and produces if needed.

Side hall of the West Side Market

Main hall of the West Side Market

Greater Cleveland Aquarium

The Greater Cleveland Aquarium is a small place in the city. I was excited to see what they had since Cleveland is located next to one of the great lakes. The aquarium was easy to get around, they have a bunch of different sea creatures in tanks.

But, to be honest, it was a bit less than I expected. I was hoping for a bigger, more immersive experience, but the aquarium was pretty small and I finished looking around in less than an hour. The highlight is one of their bigger tanks and a medium save shark. There were school trips that day from some elementary school, lots of kids roaming around. Overall, it was interesting, but I left wishing there was more to see.

Exterior of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium

The shark which is their star

Voinovich Bicentennial Park: Cleveland Sign

Visiting Voinovich Bicentennial Park located at the harbor of Cleveland was like stepping into a winter postcard. The park was super peaceful, but chilly, but nearby is the famous Cleveland sign.

Lake Erie is frozen behind it, the whole scene was stunning. We can’t stay for too long because of the breezing wind and the cold in late winter. Though the park was quiet, and looking at the frozen lake felt like taking a break from the busy city life.

Lake Erie is frozen near the harbor

The stadium and the famous Rock hall (the one and only real Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) is just next to the park. Please also see my second visit at Cleveland where I choose a different route:

More of the harbor view

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