You may not immediately think “Instagram gold” when you think of Cleveland, but I’m a firm believer that there are hidden photo gems in every destination – you just need to know where to look.
As someone who’s been seeking out the most photogenic spots in Cleveland for a couple years now, I have to say that photographers don’t give this city enough credit.
You’ve got a little bit of everything here in Cleveland: cool downtown architecture; the river and lakefront; industrial areas; unique public art; and some very pretty parks and green spaces.
And now I’m finally ready to share with you some of my favorite photo spots in Cleveland.
The most Instagrammable spots in Cleveland
I’ve divided this list into four different categories:
- Instagrammable atchitecture
- Instagrammable parks/outdoor spaces
- Instagrammable art
- Instagrammable restaurants/food
Here we go!
Instagrammable architecture in Cleveland
Cleveland has no shortage of historic buildings and cool architecture, especially in its downtown core. Various eras of Cleveland’s past are on display depending on where in the city you are. The following are some of the most photogenic:
1. Cleveland Arcade
One of my favorite spots in the city has to be the Cleveland Arcade. Spanning a space between Euclid and Superior Avenues, the Arcade looks like something straight out of Italy – or maybe New Orleans.
When you walk inside, it’s all gold touches and intricate railings – and of course the glass skylight that’s more than 300 feet long.
The Arcade was built in 1890, partially funded by John D. Rockefeller. It was built to resemble an Italian galleria, and is said to have been one of the first indoor shopping malls in the United States.
Today, the Arcade is a little quiet, but it’s a great place to come if you want to get a taste of “old” Cleveland. It’s also especially beautiful when it’s decorated for the holidays.
My top photography tip: Go both during the day and at night for slightly different looks.
BONUS: The nearby 5th Street Arcades, while not quite as ornate, are also very pretty and historic!
2. West Side Market
The West Side Market in Ohio City is a place I recommend to everyone visiting Cleveland for the first time. The building itself is more than 100 years old, and is officially the oldest indoor/outdoor market space in the city.
The market is home to dozens of vendors selling everything from fresh meat and produce to yummy baked goods to all sorts of specialty foods. It’s not just a fun place to take tourists, but also a place where locals frequently do their shopping.
My top photography tip: To get that classic overhead view of the inside of the main market building, there’s a stairwell near the restrooms at the market’s entrance on W 25th. A quick flight of stairs, and you’ll be on the second-floor balcony with that great view.
3. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
The I.M. Pei-designed Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a must-see building in Cleveland. This striking bit of architecture makes for a great photo backdrop, as does the “Long Live Rock” sign that sits out front.
The museum is right on the edge of Lake Erie, too, meaning there are lots of photo opportunities at any time of day.
My top photography tip: If you want to get one of the Cleveland script signs in your photo, walk over to North Coast Harbor/Voinovich Bicentennial Park, which looks onto the back side of the Rock Hall. This is one of my favorite views of the Cleveland skyline!
It’s also a great spot for nighttime skyline shots like this one:
4. Cleveland Trust Co. building
Located at the corner of Euclid and East 9th in downtown Cleveland, the former Cleveland Trust Company building is now home to a Heinen’s grocery store. But I promise you that this is unlike any other grocery store you’ve probably visited!
The Cleveland Trust Co. building was built back in 1907, designed by George B. Post (who designed, among other things, the New York Stock Exchange). It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and is known for is glass-domed rotunda.
The rotunda dome looks like something Tiffany would have designed, though it has no ties to Tiffany at all – it’s still 100% Instagrammable though.
My top photography tip: The dome sits above the Heinen’s food court on the first floor and its wine shop on the second floor. For the best vantage point, go down to the first floor. I recommend a really wide lens in order to get a lot of the rotunda dome in your shot – I actually used a GoPro for some of mine!
5. Guardians of Traffic
Found “guarding” each end of the Hope Memorial Bridge, which connects Ohio City to downtown Cleveland, the Guardians of Traffic are arguably on of the most recognizable symbols of the city.
These Art Deco sculptures were installed on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge back in 1932, the year that the bridge was completed. They’re carved from Berea sandstone and were created by civil engineer Wilbur J. Watson, architect Frank Walker, and sculptor Henry Hering.
The Guardians are iconic today, but were almost torn down in the 1970s. After 40+ years of wear and tear (and city pollution), the Guardians were looking tired and dirty, and the city wanted to widen the bridge. Thankfully the Guardians were saved (and cleaned up) so we can enjoy them today.
There are 8 different Guardians of Traffic on 4 different pylons. The ones near the Cleveland end of the bridge can be photographed with Progressive Field and Tower City in the background, while the ones at the Ohio City end of the bridge can be photographed with the skyline and The Flats in the background.
My top photography tip: I love this spot during golden hour, when the sun lights up the faces of the west-facing Guardians.
6. Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland has a lot of cool museums – including quite a few that are architecturally interesting. The Cleveland Museum of Art is one of my favorites after the Rock Hall, due to it’s 39,000-square-foot atrium with a soaring glass-paned roof.
The atrium connects the art museum’s different wings, and is a great place to stop for a break (this is also where you’ll find the museum’s store and food options). It’s not at all surprising to me that the atrium gets rented out frequently for events.
If you’re only going to visit one art museum in Cleveland, I would make it this one. It’s FREE to visit, and has been recognized as one of the very best art museums in the United States.
My top photography tip: Photos are allowed in most of the exhibits, too (though please turn off your flash!). Some particularly notable ones that make nice backdrops include “Marilyn x 100” by Andy Warhol, and a panel of Claude Monet’s famous “Water Lillies.”
7. James A. Garfield Memorial
Fun fact for you: 8 of the 45 Presidents of the United States have had roots in Ohio. One of those was James A. Garfield, the 20th US President who only served for a few months months before he was assassinated in 1881.
He and his wife are interred in Cleveland at the James A. Garfield Memorial in Lake View Cemetery. Lake View Cemetery is worth a visit in its own right (another fun fact: John D. Rockefeller is buried here!), but the Garfield Memorial is definitely a highlight.
The memorial was designed by George Keller, and features Ohio sandstone reliefs, terra cotta panels, stained glass windows, mosaics, red granite columns, and a 12-foot-tall white Carrara marble statue of President Garfield. It’s beautiful and impressive and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
My top photography tip: While I think you get the best photos looking up at the dome from the ground level inside the memorial, be sure to take the stairs up to the balcony, too!
And while you’re at Lake View Cemetery, be sure to stop in to see Wade Chapel, too; the interior was completely designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.
BONUS: Terminal Tower observation deck
I could have included Terminal Tower itself on this list (the 771-foot skyscraper on Public Square was the second-tallest building in the world when it opened in 1930), but decided instead to just mention its observation deck, which is usually open on weekends during the summer months.
After being refurbished from 2007-10, the observation deck on the 42nd floor is now one of the best places to get a view of downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie. It’s also just a cool spot historically, since Terminal Tower has been a staple in the Cleveland skyline for more than 80 years.
Other Cleveland spots that could be included here include the Cleveland Public Library, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), some of the bridges in The Flats, and the view of the skyline from the Superior Viaduct. There’s so much great architecture in Cleveland!
Instagrammable parks/outdoor spots in Cleveland
Cleveland isn’t generally known for its green spaces, but it’s actually an official “Tree City!” Meaning there are plenty of green spaces within city limits to enjoy. There are some parks/parklets downtown, and the Cleveland Metroparks encompass more than 20,000 acres of parkland in and around the city of Cleveland.
Here are some of my favorite outdoor spots:
1. Heritage Park
Speaking of the Cleveland Metroparks, the first green space I want to highlight is part of the Metroparks system. Heritage Park spans the Cuyahoga River near the Center Street Bridge in The Flats.
Not only is this a nice green space next to the river, but it also has historical significance to Cleveland – it’s where Moses Cleaveland and his surveying team from the Connecticut Land Company first landed in 1796 (at a spot that’s now known as Settler’s Landing).
I love this part of the city for photography because of its unique mixture of nature and industrial architecture. You get great views of the Cleveland skyline from here, and the Center Street Bridge (a bright red swing bridge) is my favorite in the city.
During the summer months, I also love the building near the bridge as a photo backdrop, as it’s completely covered in ivy.
2. Wade Lagoon
Over in University Circle, Wade Park anchors Cleveland’s museum campus, with some of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s sculptures spilling out into the Wade Park Fine Arts Garden.
The park in this part of Cleveland is more than 100 years old – the man the park is named after, Jeptha Wade, began to develop the land into a park in 1872, and 10 years later donated his 63-acre plot to the city. The city later expanded it into the park it is today.
In the center of the park is Wade Lagoon, which is one of my favorite spots in the city in the spring, when cherry blossom trees around the lagoon bloom.
3. Cleveland Cultural Gardens
The Cleveland Cultural Gardens are an absolute gem in the city that many people (visitors AND locals) don’t really know about. The Cultural Gardens are a collection of more than 30 small gardens in Rockefeller Park along Martin Luther King Boulevard that are designed and cared for by different cultural/ethnic groups in Cleveland.
The gardens were begun in 1916, and the unique concept showcases Cleveland’s multiculturalism beautifully.
Start at the Rockefeller Park Greenhouse (another Instagrammable spot!), and make your way to various gardens. Check out the bust of Shakespeare in the British Garden, a 10-foot-tall bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the India Garden, and the very photogenic iron trellis in the Hungarian Garden.
Just remember that there are more than 30 small gardens you can visit, so you might not make it to them all in one trip!
BONUS: Luvin Lavender Farms and Maria’s Field of Hope
These spots aren’t “in” Cleveland, but both are so unique that I think they’re worth mentioning here anyway!
The first is Luvin Lavender Farms in Madison, Ohio. This family-run farm has more than 3,500 lavender plants in all different varieties, and is an amazing spot to visit in July when the lavender is in full bloom.
The other spot is Maria’s Field of Hope, which is a sunflower field in Avon, Ohio, planted by the Prayers from Maria Foundation in order to draw attention to childhood cancer. The field is usually in bloom in September.
You can really only visit both of these spots a couple weekends every year, but I think it’s worth mentioning them anyway since they’re both beautiful!
Some other outdoor spaces in Cleveland that are great for photos include Lake View Cemetery (check out my guide here), Edgewater Park (home to Cleveland’s very own beach!), Lakewood Park (home to the Solstice Steps, which are a great place to watch the sunset), and all the other Cleveland Metroparks locations.
Instagrammable art in Cleveland
Street art and murals are absolutely exploding in Cleveland right now, but I’m going to save the majority of them for another post (this one, if you want to read it). For now, here are a few specific spots to go to snap your next Instagram profile pic with local Cleveland art.
1. Cleveland script sign(s)
The Cleveland script signs have been around for a couple years now, and have proven quite popular – so popular, in fact, that there are now 6 of them scattered throughout the city!
My favorite Cleveland script sign is the one at North Coast Harbor (shown earlier in this post), followed by the one at at The Foundry on the Flats West Bank, the one at Edgewater Beach, and the one on Abbey Avenue in Tremont.
Check out my guide to all the sign locations here.
Most of the script signs are lit up at night, meaning you can visit at any time of day for a photo.
(And yes, it’s okay to climb on these; they are sturdy enough, and you can find foot holds if you go around the back of each sign.)
2. Greetings from Cleveland mural
This postcard-style mural is one of the first Cleveland murals I photographed. It was installed in 2015 by NYC-based artist Victor Ving, who is responsible for similar murals all across the United States.
This one at the corner of W 25th and Chatham in Ohio City has become a quintessential Cleveland mural.
There are lots of other murals in Ohio City now, but this one is still my favorite, and still the first one I take out-of-town visitors to see.
3. Playhouse Square chandelier
Suspended over Euclid Ave. in Cleveland’s theater district, the Playhouse Square chandelier is said to be the largest outdoor chandelier in the world.
The chandelier is indeed massive: it’s 20 feet tall, and is covered in 4,200 crystals! It was installed in 2014, and has now become an iconic feature of the city.
My top photography tip: The chandelier looks great in both the daylight hours and after dark, but I think I actually like it best at night, when the rest of Playhouse Square is lit up, too.
4. Hingetown living wall
Hingetown, a smaller section within the Ohio City neighborhood, is home to some cool murals (like the pizza mural at the top of this post!), but I wanted to mention the “living wall” here instead.
Located on the side of the building at W 29th and Church (Cleveland Tea Revival), this living wall was designed by architect Marika Shiroi-Clark. The vertical garden has totally transformed the building, and is especially eye-catching in spring.
Some other artsy spots around Cleveland you might want to photograph include the world’s largest rubber stamp in Willard Park, the colorful Pop Life building in the Waterloo Arts District, or the Fountain Of Eternal Life in War Memorial Plaza.
Want to read more about Cleveland art? Check out my Cleveland mural guide!
Instagrammable restaurants/food in Cleveland
In case you haven’t heard, Cleveland has good food now (and good beer!). Like, really good food and lots of it. There are new restaurants opening all the time and a seemingly never-ending supply of photogenic brunches and desserts to try.
I don’t pretend to have eaten everywhere in Cleveland, but a handful of places with notably Instagrammable food and/or interiors came to mind when I was writing this post.
A few places with plates or desserts (let’s be honest, most of this list is dessert!) that I’ve personally photographed include:
- Happy Dog, for hot dogs loaded up with crazy toppings like Cheetos or Froot Loops
- Toast, for photogenic charcuterie boards and some of the best bread around
- Barrio, for tacos and interior murals
- Brewnuts, for massive donuts and a super funky bar
- Sweet Moses, for an old-fashioned soda fountain and sky-high sundaes
- Mason’s Creamery, for inventive ice cream flavors and colorful murals outside
- Brewellas, for pretty coffees in a vintage-inspired space
- Balance Pan-Asian Grille for the prettiest bubble teas
And you can follow me on Instagram for lots more suggestions!
So there you have it: my favorite photogenic spots in Cleveland.
Do you have any other Instagrammable spots to add to this list?
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Amanda was born and raised in northeast Ohio, and has always been a fangirl of the state. Now, she wants to share her love of Cleveland with the world, highlighting all the best things to do, see, and eat in the CLE. She’s been running Cleveland Traveler since January 2019.
This Post Has 18 Comments
I had no idea Cleveland had so many hidden gems! I went a few years back and focused on the big to-dos: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, for example. Next time, I’ll definitely have to check out some of Cleveland’s best-kept secrets.
Cleveland has a long history (as far as US cities go), which means there are all sorts of cool spots here that many people don’t know about!
A bit of trivia
The murals in the Cleveland Trust Building (now Heinen’s) were painted by Francis Davis Millet. He was last seen helping women and children onto lifeboats on the Titanic. He went down with the ship.
Super interesting bit of trivia! Cleveland has so many interesting historical ties.
Awesome spots and advice thanks for creating this! How safe are the parks (Bicentennial Park and Heritage Park) at night in April? I want to go take some night photos – the skylines and bridges look awesome.
Hey Joe! Good question! I haven’t personally been to Heritage Park at night, but I have been downtown in general at night, and it’s usually perfectly fine. Bicentennial Park is in the heart of the city, so I wouldn’t worry about being there after dark. Heritage Park will be quieter, but it should still be fine for night photos.
Awesome looking forward to my visit – Thanks Amanda!
Thanks for posting this article, Amanda! As a photographer trying to improve his skill set, I’m always looking for the perfect background to place my models in. I will definitely be checking out the Cleveland Museum Of Art & the James A. Garfield Memorial. Much success to you.
Glad I could introduce you to some new spots!
Great post! I’m visiting Cleveland for the first time and your post really helped me figure out what I want to see and do when I get there. Thank you! 🙂
Happy to be able to help, and I hope you enjoy Cleveland!
Hi there! Do you know if you need a photo permit for engagement photos at the arcade? I have yet to hear back from them. Thanks for sharing!!
Hey Nicole! I’ve heard (and been told) in the past that you do need a permit for any professional shoots with clients there, but I don’t do that kind of photography, so unfortunately I can’t offer any first-hand advice! If you haven’t heard back from the Arcade itself, perhaps you could reach out to the Hyatt? I believe they technically own all of it.
Most of these spots you do need a wedding permit out of necessity. That is so you have exclusive time for you and your wedding party without sightseers getting in the way. The photographer you hire will exactly know how to go about applying for a permit.
Lots of wonderful tips, but please correct: they are called the Guardians of TRANSPORTATION, not traffic. Original plans included the Guardians holding a plane and a ship; but were later revised to only ground transportation vehicles.
I think it’s a common point of discussion; I’ve seen plenty of articles that say their official name is the Guardians of Traffic! Here’s one that quotes a local history professor: https://www.ideastream.org/news/exploring-the-history-and-popularity-of-cleveland-s-guardians-of-traffic
Thank you so much for this wonderful article! 20 yrs ago I went to CWRU for 4 yrs and lived in a bubble so missed out a lot of what you mentioned here. I’m going back next month for a visit so this is very helpful. One thing: there’s a beach with gigantic, beautiful rocks and strong waves nearby the University Circle that I visited once but can’t remember the direction to go back. Do you by any chance know the name of that area? Thanks so much!
Hmm I’m not sure which beach that might be, or if it would look the same 20 years later. There aren’t *that* many accessible beaches, though. If it was close to University Circle, it could be what’s now the Lakefront Nature Preserve. You could also try looking at beaches on Google Maps to see if any look familiar to you.