You may not immediately think “Instagram gold” when you think of Cleveland, Ohio, 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 more than a year now, I have to say that photographers don’t give this city enough credit.
I mean, you’ve got a little bit of everything here: downtown architecture; the river and lakefront; industrial areas; cool street art; and some very pretty parks and green spaces.
And now I’m finally ready to share with you some of my favorite finds.
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!
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.
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!
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 is done in a Tiffany style (though historians don’t think it’s genuine Tiffany glass), and is 100% Instagrammable.
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. 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 “100 Marilyn Monroes” by Andy Warhol, and a panel of Claude Monet’s famous “Water Lillies.”
6. 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!
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 currently 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) Cleveland, and the Art Deco “Guardians of Traffic” on the Hope Memorial Bridge. There’s so much great architecture in Cleveland!
Instagrammable parks/outdoor spots
Cleveland isn’t known for its green spaces, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The Cleveland Metroparks encompass more than 20,000 acres of parkland in and around the city of Cleveland.
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.
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.
BONUS: Maria’s Field of Hope
Back in 2014, the the Prayers from Maria Foundation first planted a sunflower field in Avon, Ohio, in order to draw attention to childhood cancer. The field has since become a favorite when the sunflowers bloom (usually) in September.
You can really only visit this spot a couple weekends every year, but I think it’s worth mentioning anyway since it’s beautiful and brings awareness to a great cause.
Some other outdoor spaces in Cleveland that are great for photos include Lake View Cemetery (look up the the Haserot Angel), Edgewater Park (home to Cleveland’s very own beach!), and all the other Cleveland Metroparks locations!
Street art and murals are absolutely exploding in Cleveland right now, but I’m going to save the majority of them for another post. 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 Edgewater Beach, the one on Abbey Avenue in Tremont, and the one at The Foundry on the Flats West Bank.
Check out 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.
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. 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.
In case you haven’t heard, Cleveland has good food now. 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 salads 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 a colorful mural outside
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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