Cleveland’s sports history hasn’t always been positive. In fact, it took until the 2016 NBA Championship win by the Cleveland Cavaliers for the city to shake the so called “Cleveland sports curse,” bringing home its first professional sports championship in more than half a century. These days, there’s plenty to celebrate. With NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. joining the Cleveland Browns this fall, and the MLB All-Star Game on July 9, sports fans are buzzing with excitement. Even if you’re not a Cleveland fan, there’s so much for a sports enthusiast to explore. Here’s what not to miss.
MLB All-Star Week 2019
Fans of America’s pastime will flock to Cleveland this July to witness the best baseball players in the league battle for bragging rights, and to celebrate the 150th anniversary of professional baseball. Held from July 5 to July 9, there will be live music, food trucks and opportunities to participate in baseball demos with rising star, former All-Stars and coaches at the free Outdoor Fan Fest at PLAY BALL PARK. The Inside Experience allows fans to try the latest baseball-themed video games and virtual reality experiences, view exclusive exhibits from the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and even snap photos with the World Series trophy.
One of the best things about a sports-themed getaway to Cleveland is that all three major sports venues are walking distance from downtown. From fall until spring, the 20,000-seat Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse is packed with basketball fans ready to cheer their beloved Cavaliers to victory. Literally steps away is Progressive Field, home to the Cleveland Indians since 1994. 2019 renovations brought new food and drink options, including a Harvest & Grounds coffee cart with mini donuts, the new Miller Lite porch, sauerkraut-topped hot dogs from Cleveland Kraut, spicy fried chicken from Fat Rooster and local ice cream from Pierre’s, just to name a few. Both stadiums are part of the Gateway Sports and Entertainment Complex, and fans are known to flood Gateway Plaza to watch games on jumbo screens or for post-win celebrations.
Cleveland Browns fans are counting down the days until the start of the 100th NFL season thanks to the latest addition to their team. OBJ, arguably the best wide receiver in the league, is bringing a ton of hope to wary but loyal Browns fans this year and it’s hard not to get caught up in the hype. That said, although we know OBJ is great and so is FirstEnergy Stadium, the real scene-stealer here is Cleveland tailgating culture. Fans in the know head to the Municipal Parking Lot aka The Muni Lot for an epic experience that fills up with decked out RVs, buses and trailers by 8 a.m. Don’t worry if you don’t have a setup, just take a stroll through the lot where friendly fans will hand you a drink, breakfast plate or a brat.
Game Time Eats and Drinks
No tickets? No problem. Visit Butcher and the Brewer for elevated brewpub fare like house-smoked corndogs and pierogi flatbreads while watching the game at the bar. There’s also a wide range of craft beers brewed onsite, like the hoppy “Ophelia’s Second Coming” American Wheat or the “Keep on Keep’n” IPA. Mabel’s BBQ has a few screens so you can keep your eye on the game, but we have a feeling all of your attention will be on the Cleveland-style BBQ (Bertman’s Ball Park Mustard and Eastern European spices in the BBQ sauce) like smoked beef brisket, pork belly with maple and mustard glaze or J&J smoked kielbasa. If eating and drinking while watching a nail-biter seems too stressful, focus on drinking at Barley House, where there are more than 20 television screens and 20 craft beers on tap to cheers (or drown your sorrows) with.
Stay in the center of all the action at the Kimpton Schofield Hotel, perched in the heart of downtown Cleveland.