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The city once nicknamed “The Mistake on the Lake” is now enjoying a surge in popularity—and not just because of LeBron James. A new crop of attractions, along with old standbys, lured 16.9 million visitors to Greater Cleveland, Ohio, in 2014. Come spend a few days in “The Land,” and see what all the fuss is about firsthand. Here some of our favorite things to do in Cleveland.

Day 1: Downtown

Get your blood pumping with a kayak tour of Lake Erie, where you can get the lay of the land and savor a cityscape only visible by water. Then paddle up to Merwin’s Wharf on the bend in the Cuyahoga River for a lazy brunch as you watch the ships pass.

Next, spend a few hours browsing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, which features memorabilia, interactive exhibits and occasional live performances from some of music’s biggest names. Remember to take a selfie in front of the iconic pyramid-shaped building.

Rock n Roll Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame

Refuel with lunch at Heinen’s Grocery Store. Yes, a grocery store. The downtown location is housed inside the jaw-droppingly ornate, historic Cleveland Trust building. Hit the soup and salad bar or grab some prepared foods in the rotunda (seriously), then headupstairs to relax with a glass of vino from the self-serve wine dispensers.

Related: 8 reasons why your next trip should be South Dakota.

When evening arrives, depending on the season, you can take in a professional football, baseball or basketball game; the Browns, Indians and Cavs all play downtown. If sports aren’t your thing, catch a musical at Playhouse Square—the country’s largest performing arts center outside of New York City.

East 4th Street

East 4th Street | Flickr CC: Erik Drost

End the night by taking in the scene on East Fourth Street, a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare full of restaurants, bars and entertainment.

Day 2: East Side

The Cuyahoga River divides Cleveland geographically, and loyaltywise, into the East Side and West Side. Start your eastern adventure in University Circle, a square mile that packs in Case Western Reserve University, the renowned Cleveland Clinic medical complex and too many world-class museums to list here. For the sake of time, concentrate on the always-free Cleveland Museum of Art. The museum’s 6,000 years’ worth of art and artifacts are a lot to tackle, but definitely make time for the Armor Court. Grab a late-morning snack in the museum’s impressive Provenance Café, and enjoy it under the light of the stunning glass atrium—Cleveland’s largest free public space. Bring your good camera and save time to snap pictures around the University Circle grounds, whose sculptures, water features and landscaping are the site of many a wedding photo op.

Cleveland Art Museum

Cleveland Art Museum | Flickr CC: Erik Drost

From there, head to Lakeview Cemetery. For real. Check out the over-the-top tombs of folks like President James A. Garfield and oil magnate John D. Rockefeller. The cemetery’s 285 acres of scenery, not to mention the kitschy tours and even occasional beer tastings, make it one of the area’s most lively attractions, so to speak.

Next, walk or drive about a half-mile east to Little Italy, where you can dive into a cheap and oh-so-good pizza at Mama Santa’s. Then as day turns to night, drive to the far East Side for a laid-back evening in the picture-perfectvillage of Chagrin Falls. Browse the boutiques along Main Street before to Hunan by the Falls for some authentic, upscale Chinese food. For dessert, it’s gotta be the Popcorn Shop, a Rockwellian sweet shop known for its kettle corn and ice cream. Take your treats to the base of the Chagrin waterfall for a picture-perfect end to the evening.

Day 3: West Side

West Side Market

West Side Market | Flickr CC: Erik Drost

It doesn’t get much more authentic than the West Side Market, a century-old architectural gem full of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, flowers and prepared foods. It’s the type of place where a vendor will eagerly cut you a sample of pineapple to prove that his is fresher than the other guy’s. But don’t fill up here. For a sit-down meal, head next door to Market Garden Brewery to enjoy inventive food and a hard-to-beat selection of craft beers.

Related: Raise a glass to these 10 unexpected wine regions—one of them is in Ohio!

Christmas Story House

Christmas Story House | Photo courtesy of ThisisCleveland

Fun fact: The house featured in the movie A Christmas Story is real, and it’s in Cleveland. Indulge your inner child with a visit to the A Christmas Story House and Museum, where you can tour the home, check out original props and costumes and buy your own leg lamp in the gift shop.

From there, browse the galleries and boutiques in the nearby Tremont neighborhood, and stick around for dinner at Lolita, celebrity chef Michael Symon’s chic eatery that lives up to the hype. After dark, make your way to the night district known as the Flats for a memorable finish to a trip that’s been anything but a mistake on the lake.

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Tagged: Destinations

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Dalia Colon

Dalia Colon

Dalia is a multimedia journalist in Tampa and the Smart Travel Insider for VISIT FLORIDA. Follow her on Twitter @daliacolon.

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