Girls Get Ready to Sport It Up In Cleveland At Gay Games 9
If you are anything like Super G, who has been getting her handicap down in golf for months, you are preparing for Gay Games 9, which is hitting Cleveland, Ohio (hearing the famed Drew Carey echo) August 9 – 16.
Much is in store for sporty dykes and others who visit the city this August. An estimated 11,000 athletes from 65 countries are expected to compete against each other in more than 35 sporting events during the games taking place in Cleveland and nearby Akron. Another 20,000 visitors are expected as part of the festivities.
Clevelanders, who are proud of their once working class steal city turn-one of the top five medical cities in the U.S., have been on a high since the Federation of Gay Games selected Cleveland to host this summer’s games.
They’ve been preparing for the sporting festivities for more than two years.
Local LGBTs hope that the city’s guests will have time to get to know the Cleveland, take in what it has to offer and get to know locals while they are in town.
Alexia, a 32-year-old chef, who moved to Cleveland in 2007, is competing in long jump and the 10k run. Emma, a 24-year-old Cleveland native, is toying with the idea of competing in the martial arts categories, but, “I don’t want to get my butt kicked,” she says.
“I am excited to have a whole new group of people in here to see the city,” says Kathy Brown, proprietor of Latitude 41n (5712 Detroit Avenue; 216-961-0000; ; EatAtLatitude41n.com). “Cleveland has a ton of stuff to offer. We’ve got a lot of new vibrant stuff going on in the city.”
Kathy, 59, who has friends coming in from Maine and Chicago, is excited that the Gay Games is happening in Cleveland next month. She won’t participate in the games, but she will be cheering people on and serving up healthy doses of good food at her restaurant, which is known for its brunch and casual lunch.
“It’s just wonderful for the city. It’s wonderful for the people coming,” she says, believing that people will be surprised by Cleveland and how well the city has come together to host the Gay Games 9. “It’s going to be an exciting time for everybody. I really think that this city has come together really well to put on a great show. I can’t wait for the world to see what we are doing here.”
“It’s amazing. I just think that when people when they get here they just love it. So, I can’t wait for them to get here and to see the city,” continues Kathy, pointing out decades later people haven’t forgotten when the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969 which has tarnished the city’s image. “Cleveland keeps evolving and reinventing itself.”
I had the pleasure of getting an advanced peek at the city on Lake Erie and was instantly charmed by Cleveland. People will be surprised by this endearing and modern Midwestern city that at the same time celebrates its history.
I was delighted by the neighborhoods that each has a distinct character. The weather was perfect, warm with some humidity, but not uncomfortable as a breeze came off the water in the late afternoon into the evening, naturally cooling off the city.
Cleveland has been working hard to rise from the shadow of its working class iron and steel mill days during the past five to 10 years. The Cuyahoga River has long been clean after it became the poster child raising awareness of environmental pollution that led to the creation and passage of the Clean Water Act.
Billions of dollars and hard work have gone into turning Cleveland into a world-class mid-size city of about 390,000 people. It boasts that its medical facilities rank fourth in the nation. Its theater and arts districts are bustling. Celebrity chefs, such as Iron Chef and TV host Michael Symon, who owns a variety of restaurants throughout the city, and cupcake star Courtney Bonning, proprietor and pastry chef of Bon Bon Pastry and Cafe (2549 Lorain Avenue; 216-458-9225; BonBonCleveland.com), have boosted the city’s culinary scene. Other gastronomical creators are joining them infusing flavor and style into the city.
Not to mention that Cleveland has attracted stellar architects, such as Farshid Moussavi, a London-based Iranian-born woman who designed the new Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (11400 Euclid Avenue; 216-421-8671; MOCACleveland.org), which opened October 2012, and Frank O. Gehry, who designed the Weatherhead School of Management.
Cleveland has also maintained its cultural institutions, such as the Cleveland Play House (Allen Theater Complex; 1407 Euclid Avenue;216-241-6000; ClevelandPlayHouse.com), the Cleveland Museum of Art (11150 East Boulevard; 216-421-7350; ClevelandArt.org) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, simply called the Rock Hall by locals (1100 East 9th Street; 216-781-7625; RockHall.com), keeping up its reputation as a world-class cultural center.
“It’s not a plain vanilla city,” says David Gilbert, executive director of Positively Cleveland and a straight ally. “There’s a real sort of grittiness and a little bit of a quirkiness about Cleveland that makes it really a special place to visit.”
David invites queer women travelers coming for the games to stop by Positively Cleveland’s Visitors Center (334 Euclid Avenue;800-321-1001 or 216-875-6680; ; ThisIsCleveland.com) and check out Positively Cleveland’s LGBT Travel Guide.
Information about local events will also be available at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland (6600 Detroit Avenue; 216-651-5428; ; LGBTCleveland.org), says Phyllis Harris, the center’s executive director.
“This is my town. I’m proud of Cleveland,” says Phyllis, who was born and raised in Cleveland. “It’s come a long way.”
In recent years, the grittiness has given way to a sort of polished rebelliousness that reveals a clean, but vibrant city.
“Its neighborhoods are lively, welcoming, and diverse,” agrees Tom Nobbe, executive director of GG9.
An interesting factoid, Cleveland Heights, where Tom, 62, lives with his partner, was the first municipality in the U.S. where the voters themselves, not the city council, passed a domestic partnership registry.
“It actually is really exciting the transformation that is happening in Cleveland … a real renaissance just over the last couple of years,” says David, who is ready along with Gay Games organizers to place the city on LGBT travelers’ radar.
“The LGBT community and broader community are passionate about making the 2014 Gay Games the best ever,” says Tom. “We have had tremendous collaboration throughout the region, whether it’s been with the hotels, sports and culture venues, corporate sponsors, or community groups.”
Tom listed several lesbian leaders who have signed onto the GG9 Leadership Council, including former Human Rights Campaign executive director Elizabeth Birch and Judy Dlugacz, founder and president of Olivia Travel, to name a couple.
United Airlines signed on as GG9’s official airline.
“It is catalyzing the entire greater Cleveland community to come together to give the world a new perspective on what an LGBT-welcoming city offers,” says Tom.
“I will tell you that the LGBT community is very active and the whole community will be rolling out the red carpet,” adds David.
Where to Sleep
To accommodate the athletes and their fans, Cleveland has been adding new hostels and hotels and sprucing up its sporting venues.
I was a guest of the InterContinental Hotels Cleveland (9801 Carnegie Avenue; 216-707-4100; Cleveland.InterContinental.com), which welcomed my group by raising the rainbow flag, when we visited Cleveland.
Centered in the heart of Cleveland’s medical district, the InterContinental is the perfect spot to get to historic Ohio City, where the Historic West Side Market, which is more than a 100 years old, University Circle, where many of the city’s museums and the Cleveland Botanical Garden and Glasshouse (11030 East Boulevard; 216-721-1600; CBGarden.org) are located, downtown to Play House Square and a plethora of restaurants await culinary adventures. It is also perfectly situated to quickly get to many of Cleveland’s quaint neighborhoods, such as Cleveland Heights, Detroit-Shoreway, Lakewood, Ohio City, and Tremont to name a few.
I also checked out the Ritz-Carlton Cleveland (1515 West 3rd Street; 216-623-1300; RitzCarlton.com), which has been a huge supporter of the GG9. Located in downtown Cleveland well you can’t get more luxurious than the Ritz. It’s worth checking out even just for a drink or dinner.
Cleveland offers more than simple luxury. Within the past two years there has been a surge of new hotels from Aloft, Courtyard by Marriott in University Circle and the Westin are among the few new hotels that have sprung up around the city.
Where to Eat
Cleveland is home to an emerging creative dining scene. The group I was with and I were dazzled by the variety of hip local restaurants and microbreweries we were introduced to during our trip. We were amazed by the variety of excellent dining options such as well-established family-owned local brunch favorites like Tommy’s (1824 Coventry Road; 216-321-7757; TommysCoventryCleveland.com) and Grumpy’s Café (2621 West 14th Street; 216-241-5025; Grumpys-Cafe.com) and lesbian-owned Latitude 41n, as well as innovative startups, such as Hodge’s (668 Euclid Avenue; 216-771-4000; HodgesCleveland.com).
Looking for an afternoon treat? Stop by the historic West Side Market (1979 West 25th Street, Ohio City; 216-664-3387; WestSideMarket.org) for a snack or lunch. Hang out above the market for people watching while you eat.
Girls visiting Cleveland searching for meat and potatoes should check out The Greenhouse Tavern (2038 East 4th Street; 216-443-0511; TheGreenhousetavern.com), which also has a rooftop dinging and bar. The tavern not only serves up plenty of meat – forget the greens as the only green is in the name – but it’s also located in a trendy restaurant alley offering a variety of options to satisfy any guest’s taste buds. Looking for dinner options, also check out the Grovewood Tavern and Wine Bar (17105 Grovewood Avenue; 216-531-4900; GrovewoodTavern.com).
Where to Play
I’m not the sporty type, at least not competitively. Cleveland has plenty to offer beyond the athletic fields and greens after cheering on our girlfriends, wives and friends. Aside from the games, Cleveland has an active LGBT community, in spite of not having a gay-specific district, and plenty of cool and interesting things to see and do.
OK. Before you hang up the medal and wash off the sweat, just indulge your sport fanatic partner or friend just a little bit more by stopping by Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival ends August 4, which means new inductees and things to experience will be fresh.
If you don’t join your partner and her friends at the Football Hall of Fame and are looking for a different type of culture, the arts come alive in Cleveland with Arts in August. This free art extravaganza in the Tremont neighborhood at Tremont Lincoln Park is filled with art, music, dance and much more. If it’s raining the entertainment moves inside to Pilgrim Church (2592 West 14th Street). Cleveland is also home to many museums, many of which are located at University Circle (see above) and throughout the city as well as art galleries at Gordon Square. If you are really into theater, a backstage tour of the Cleveland Playhouse is a real treat.
You can’t go to Cleveland without rocking out at the Rock Hall of Fame. Just because it’s summer, the Rock Hall is putting on a festival, “Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience,” explores music festivals, not just for their music, but also as a community experience. Beatles fans will delight in the new exhibit featuring 70 artifacts, several that haven’t been seen before. The “Right Here, Right Now” exhibit reflects on the evolution of rock and roll through artists such as Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Katy Perry to name a few. These are only some of the exhibits currently happening on the seven floors and four theaters of the Rock Hall.
If revisiting a childhood classics is your thing, check out A Christmas Story House + Museum (3159 W 11th Street; 216-298-4919; AChristmasStoryHouse.com) and the Merry-Go-Round Museum (301 Jackson Street; 419-626-6111; MerryGoRoundMuseum.org).
Cleveland is bustling with queer nightlife options for the boys, but girls can have fun too.
The Dinah is producing GG9’s official women’s party “The Victory Party” at 8 p.m. August 13 at Cleveland’s number one nightclub The Velvet Dog (1280 W 6th Street; 216-664-1116; VelvetDogCleveland.com). The party features a live performance by Robin S. and three floors and a rooftop patio overlooking Cleveland while the ladies dance to the hottest DJs spinning the music. If Cleveland’s skyline with the Terminal Tower glowing rainbow colors isn’t enough to impress get your eye candy with Dinah’s go-go dancers. General entrance is $25 and VIP entrance with bottle service is $50.
On August 14 head to the Flair Fest at 12 p.m. on Main Street in Downtown Akron. This event is free and open to the public where attendees experience local entertainment with performers, a juried art show and food vendors throughout the day.
Top off the day with a performance by the Indio Girls with Hannah Thomas and Anne E. DeChants at Lock 3 (200 South Main Street, Akron; 330-375-2877; Lock3Live.com) at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available online or at the Akron Civic Theatre box office.
The party won’t be over for women after the Dinah and Indigo Girls hit town. There will be one last time to get “Hot in Cleveland” August 15. Women will have a “Hot Time in Clevelalnd” Womyn’s Dance Party produced by Oven Productions. This dance party is truly a womyn-only scene as its being hosted by Cleveland’s 40-year-old lesbian-feminist event company at the Trinity Cathedral (2230 Euclid Avenue) starting at 8 p.m. and ending at midnight. Tickets are $25.
Get together with the Cleveland girls at WH2 Cleveland (; TheWH2.com), a local social and networking group that meets weekly at the city’s different bars and restaurants.
Throughout the week hang out at Bounce Cafe, Bar and Nightclub (2814 Detroit Avenue; 216-357-2997; Facebook.com/BounceNightclub). The nightclub features themed nights, including drag shows and dance parties, and offers dining options that attract a young mixed crowd.
Happy Dog (5801 Detroit Avenue; 216-651-9474; HappyDogCleveland.com) is also a popular place for people – gay and straight – seeking live music and a fun night out on the town, say locals.
Outside of the bars and nightclubs there are a variety of options for Cleveland’s LGBT community to mix and mingle that are fun and welcoming to visitors. The city’s LGBT community center offers ongoing social events with its TaDa! Event Series.
Where to Shop
Cleveland Heights, Ohio City and Tremont neighborhoods offer unique shopping experiences. Filled with boutiques, family-owned shops, bars and restaurants you will definitely find a treasure worth bringing home or at least a treat to delight you.
If you need to get your groove on with your main squeeze or that girl you just met, stop by Ambiance (17820 Englewood Drive, Suite 12; 440-234-6996 or 866-739-8477; ; Ambiance.com).
Looking for that designer dress for the Victory Party or a night out on the town, stop by Evie Lou (2153 Professor Avenue; 216-696-6675; ; EvieLou.com).
Get your sweet tooth fix at Lilly: Handmade Chocolates (761 Starkweather Avenue; 216-771-3333; ; LillyTremont.com) or Cambell’s Popcorn Shop (1979 West 25th Street; 216-574-2899; CampbellsSweets.com). Lilly’s also has a selection of unique beers and wines.
Gay Games organizers are planning on having shuttles to help athletes not only get to their sporting events during the games, but also to give them and their guests a taste of Cleveland, they said.
Beyond the special shuttles, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority provides easily accessible public transportation options. The downtown trolley is free while bus fares are $2.25 a ride or a seven-day pass for $22.50.
Akron is about 39 miles from Cleveland and the cities are geographically spread out so renting a car might be an option for those who want to do some serious exploring when not competing in the games.
Updated 7/11/2014: Girls That Roam updated the official women’s events with the Indigo Girls and the “Hot Time in Cleveland” womyn’s dance party.
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