Before anything else is said, we realize that Cleveland is not Chicago. This smaller metropolitan does not offer the same scale that larger cities do, but it certainly has heart. Despite its attractive qualities and overall slower pace, moving to Cleveland is often met with cynicism and remarks like “why move here?” and “you shouldn’t move there!” Perhaps it’s the decades of economic depression or the long, gloomy winters that incite this inferiority complex. Some longtime residents have simply lost their morale for their city. Maybe the hip city-dwellers from places like Los Angeles are to blame for turning up their noses to Cleveland without having ever visited.
Negativity aside, Cleveland is not just a place to live for many of its residents, it’s home. People are born and raised here, and many of them never leave. Family-focused and friendly, this area of the country is a warm comfort blanket for those that choose to stay. But it’s also a place that can provide an immense opportunity for growth, that is if you take the time to balance the pros and cons before you pass judgment.
Is moving to Cleveland the right choice for you? First, decide if it’s the right size. The city of Cleveland is part of Cuyahoga County and is home to approximately 380,000 people. Greater Cleveland which includes the surrounding suburbs has close to 2.1 million residents and is the 32nd largest metro area in the country. Moving here won’t be anything like moving to New York City, but the move could enrich your day-to-day living in other ways. Here are ten reasons why a move to Cleveland might impact your life for the better.
1. There’s a side of town best suited for you.
Cleveland and its surrounding areas are divided in half by the Cuyahoga River. These two halves are known as the East Side and the West Side. To the north of the city is Lake Erie, and there are a few neighborhoods in the south, but for the most part, you’ll be picking from East or West. If you’re born in Cleveland or have lived here a long time, you’ll likely have an allegiance to one side or the other.
Each side has particular features to consider. If you like old, historic homes, the East Side might be for you. If you prefer new builds that are closer to freeways, the West Side is ideal. And if you like to be right in the action, opt for a condo or apartment downtown.
Find out why these areas are rated as some of the best neighborhoods in Greater Cleveland:
East Side Neighborhoods & Suburbs
- Larchmere — The Larchmere district is an old-world section of Cleveland’s East Side that features an artistic flare that many city residents crave. Magnificent murals accompany an array of unique antique shops and restaurants. According to the people of Larchmere, living here offers offbeat vitality and charm.
- Cleveland Heights — This inner-ring suburb of Cleveland is home to prominent medical facilities Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals. The area is filled with gorgeous historic homes and new-build condos. It’s the perfect location for artists, musicians and other creative minds who enjoy a wide variety of cultural experiences.
- Solon — Looking for an East Side area that is family friendly? This Cleveland suburb is ranked as one of the safest neighborhoods in Ohio, and the Solon City School district has also been ranked in the top 10 best school districts in Ohio. Buying into Solon isn’t cheap, but it is an ideal area for established families.
West Side Neighborhoods & Suburbs
- Tremont — This neighborhood is located within the city of Cleveland’s West Side. Despite most historic homes being located on the East Side, Tremont is one of the oldest sections of Cleveland. There are plenty of prized restaurants, boutiques and charming historic landmarks to make this area an ideal stomping ground for any history lover. If you’re in the area, food blogger Crystal Angersola of Eat Drink Cleveland recommends visiting Dante. The restaurant is prized for its tasting size pasta portions and Chef’s tasting menu.
- Lakewood — Lakewood is part of the Greater Cleveland area and is another inner-ring suburb that borders Cleveland. This densely populated suburb is prized for its scenic parks, diverse housing options, and its proximity to downtown.
- Olmsted Falls — For a more rural experience, consider an area like Olmsted Falls. This city is located on the southwest side of Cuyahoga County and is ranked the 3rd safest city in Ohio. With just under 9,000 residents, you’re sure to get a small town feel in this suburb.
2. The cost of living in Cleveland is below the national average.
The overall cost of living in Cleveland, Ohio is nearly 10% below the national average. For millennials that work from home, this is great news. Cheap housing costs balance out higher property taxes and make it a significantly more affordable place to live than other popular millennial destinations like New York or LA.
“Cleveland has some of the most affordable housing in the US,” says Realtor© Daniela Maragos of Keller Williams Realty. “The average housing cost in Cleveland is roughly 259% less than in NYC, 225% less than in Washington DC, and 65% less than Chicago.”
But those looking to move to Cleveland might want to get a move on. According to Maragos, the housing market in Cleveland is on the rise. Home values have increased 13.3% over the past year and are predicted to increase another 3.6% within the next year.
It’s important to note that your cost of living will vary depending on where you choose to live. If you opt to settle in a surrounding suburb, you might have to pay more in income taxes. Many of the suburban townships have higher local wage taxes than within the city.
A peek at the Cleveland job market:
For the many families that don’t have their own business or work from home, finding jobs in Cleveland might be tricky, even with the job market on the upswing. If creating a business from scratch or freelancing doesn’t work for you, your best bet is to look for jobs in the healthcare, finance or auto industries.
The city is working hard to catch up with the recent urban renaissance, but the job market caters best to college graduates. “Due to the increase in those with college degrees moving to Cleveland, our per capita income has grown from $33,359 in 2003 to $50,772 in 2016, a gain of 52%,” Maragos adds.
3. Your kids will be able to get a quality education.
In Ohio, each area is associated with a different school district, and there are a lot of them. But picking a school doesn’t have to be difficult. The Ohio Department of Education has a comprehensive list of district performance based on proficiency tests and report cards. Also, each district has different programs that will be more appealing to individual families depending on their needs.
If you’re a family with school-age children, check out each school district well before you begin your house hunt. What will work for one family may not necessarily work for another. But there are enough options to ensure your child will get a quality education no matter where you decide to settle down.
Moving to Cleveland Tip: If you have young children in need of daycare or preschool, be sure to enroll at least three months in advance. Many of the programs have long waiting lists, so put the application process high on your priority list before you move.
4. The Rapid is arguably the best mass transit system in North America.
Moving to Cleveland can offer a much more relaxed way of life depending on where you’re from originally. Consider this: the average morning commute in Cleveland is 20 minutes or less. That same commute in Los Angeles would take you well over 35 minutes. If you’re used to sitting in traffic or having a long commute to work, moving to Cleveland will free up a lot of wasted time.
Cleveland even has an excellent and inexpensive public transportation system that is impressive for the city’s size. Though some still think getting around by car is the faster bet, Cleveland public transit offerings are world class. The RTA’s rail system also known as “the Rapid” makes getting around safely in Cleveland effortless.
If your friends are coming to town for a visit, you won’t even need to pick them up from the airport. A trip from the airport to the downtown center costs less than $3 using the Red Line Rapid train. Also, if you park downtown and want to get around without your car, you can hop on one of the free downtown trolleys.
5. Cleveland is a culinary explorer’s dream.
Cleveland might be famous for its polish boy and pierogis, but this is barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to eating here. You’ll find a plethora of dining options in Cleveland without the grandiose attitudes. Not only is there incredible corned beef and a wide assortment of locally brewed beer, but there are also numerous ethnic restaurants serving some award-winning entrees.
“Cleveland is indeed a hidden gem for those who bother to take a glance under its rusty roots,” says Tricia McCune of Cleveland’s Goto Foodie. “We’re an affordable city with a rich variety of food, art, nature and cultural experiences.”
Hungry? Here are a few expert recommendations from McCune to get you started:
- Bratenahl Kitchen — Grab an authentic Jamaican pattie just east of the city. This curried hand pie filled with finely minced meat and exotic spices is some of the finest pastry in the town at only $2.50.
- Cleveland’s Asiatown — This gem sits in the city’s midtown and is one of the largest around, drawing people in from the entire tri-state area to visit. Grab some squid on a stick and take in a dragon dance at the Cleveland Night Market. This monthly event runs through the summer months and showcases hundreds of vendors selling a wide variety of food, handmade goods, and art as well as showcasing local performers.
- Sokolowski’s — If you truly want to taste what Cleveland is all about, head just south of Cleveland. This is the oldest family-owned restaurant in Cleveland, and the parking lot has one of the most breathtaking views of the city. This cafeteria-style Polish restaurant puts the dessert first because once you see the portion sizes of the meals, you’ll make the terrible mistake of missing out on the French silk pie. But don’t worry about over indulging; there are carry out container stations in every corner of the dining room.
- Trentina — If you think Cleveland isn’t pushing the culinary envelope, you’d be wrong. James Beard Award Winning Chef Jonathon Sawyer heads this restaurant in the heart of University Circle. The menu is inspired by the cuisine of Northern Italy combined with plants forged in Cleveland. The experimental cooking techniques will impress even the toughest critiques.
6. No sports team in Cleveland is without its dedicated fans.
Sports fans in Cleveland can mostly agree that unwavering dedication to a sports team is only truly tested when the team has undergone decades of poor performance. For 52 years, Cleveland’s professional sports teams failed to win a championship of any kind. This dry spell has only enhanced the love and devotion many fans have for Cleveland sports, making going to a game and watching the fans a spectacle in itself.
The teams that have failed time and time again include the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, the MLB’s Cleveland Indians and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. But like we said, fans will without a doubt still tell you that Cleveland is one of the best sports cities in the country.
And it could be that these diehard fans are in for more wins in the future, that is if Lebron James decides to stick around. In 2016, the infamous Cleveland sports curse was broken when James helped the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
Also, you don’t just have to sit on the sidelines in Cleveland. There are a ton of ways you can stay fit and activate your competitive edge.
Some ways you can get involved and stay in shape include:
- Buckeye Trail 50K — Cleveland knows a thing or two about running. But before you register for this trail race, note that it’s recommended for advanced trail runners only. If you need something a little more amateur, check out the Inside the Park Home Run for a fun way to incorporate baseball into your run.
- Neocycle — Cleveland is home to the largest urban cycling festival in the country that encourages people of all ages to get on their bike and start pedaling. There are races for every speed and even a leisurely night ride to enjoy.
7. Lake Effect snow will make you more resilient and grateful.
Snow is one of the first things people talk about when you mention a winter in Cleveland. If you’re lucky, you might get a mild winter like the ones you’d find in San Antonio. But, most of the time, moving to Cleveland means getting acquainted with Lake Effect snow. This particular type of snow comes down in buckets and can cover the city in a few short hours.
After living in Cleveland for a while, you’ll learn to joke about it, you’ll have your own snow stories to share, and you’ll realize how kind your neighbors are when they help you shovel out your car at 5 a.m., so you’re not late for work. Living through months of snow every year will teach you how to appreciate each season. It will make you a little tougher, friendlier and more patient in the process.
Snow isn’t all bad.
Here are a couple of ways to make the most of the snowy season in Cleveland:
- Boston Mills & Brandy Wine Skiing — BMBW ski areas are packed with slopes for all skill levels. If you’ve never skied before, start out with some lessons before you head out.
- Mill Stream Run Reservation — You can find activities to enjoy all year round at this beautiful Metropark. But one thing you’ll want to do in the winter is Tobogganing. Here you’ll find the tallest and fastest hills in Ohio.
When the seasons change, there’s more to love about living in Cleveland. From the crisp fall air and colored leaves to the fresh lake breezes in the height of the summer, every season has a distinct feel.
As the weather warms up, keep these local destinations on your radar:
- Lake Erie Beaches — Not all of Ohio’s coast line is gobbled up with cranes and industry, and Lake Erie isn’t nearly as polluted as it once was. In fact, there are dozens of beaches on the coast, including some of the finest freshwater beaches in the country.
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park — Escape city and suburban life with a trip to this national park. There are over 125 miles of trails and a river that spans over 100 miles!
- Emerald Necklace Trail — Some of the most rewarding activities take place within the 21,000 acres of designated park space in the Greater Cleveland area. One of those gems is the Emerald Necklace Trail that is perfect for bikers and hikers and spans about 70 miles.
8. There are plenty of things to do in Cleveland.
We’ve covered sports, winter activities and even outdoor places to visit in the summer months. But beyond that are the everyday attractions that keep both single people and families occupied. If you look in the right places, you can find tons of things to do to get you out of the house.
Some areas to consider visiting include:
- Cleveland Metroparks Zoo — Experience animals and habitats from all over the world right in your city’s backyard. What makes this zoo special? It’s home to one of the largest collection of primates.
- The Cleveland Orchestra — Did you know that the Cleveland Orchestra puts on a free show every year complete with fireworks? You can find out if you like or even love the Orchestra without having to spend on tickets.
- Cleveland Museum of Art — This city staple has recently undergone a $320 million renovation project and what sets it apart from most art museums is that it’s still always free to the public. Of course, some special exhibits may require tickets, but for the most part, your access to this cultural gem won’t cost you a penny.
9. There’s always a reason to celebrate.
Festivals and celebrations bring communities together in a way that is enlivening and uplifting. When you move to a new city, taking part in these events will instantly connect you with the area’s cultural heritage. Cleveland has no shortage of festivals and celebrations, some of which you may have never even heard about until moving there.
- St. Patrick’s Day — The people of Cleveland have been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day since 1842! The parade highlights Irish history with some green beer, fancy clover hats and an all around good time.
- Dyngus Day — Join the nearly 30,000 Cleveland residents that get together to celebrate Easter Monday. What began as a Polish tradition has expanded into an all-encompassing one day a year street party. 2018 will mark the 8th year of this festival that celebrates Polka and Eastern European heritage.
- Scottish Games — Just under an hour drive from Cleveland, Wellington OH is home to this Scottish inspired festival. The event is dedicated to the preservation of Scottish heritage and includes some fun family-friendly activities.
- Cleveland Pride — Although Cleveland is not known to be the most diverse city in America, it embraces acceptance and equality through events like the Cleveland Pride festival. The event gets bigger every year as thousands of fellow residents, vendors and musical acts come together to celebrate tolerance.
Want to know what other festivals are happening in the Cleveland area? Check out this Cleveland Festival guide.
If you’re looking for more ways to explore all Cleveland has to offer, don’t forget about these local attractions:
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — Who knew Rock & Roll could be educational? This famous museum explores the roots of rock music and how it has influenced society. It’s is a great place to bring the family because kids under 5 are always free.
- GlamJam — This event was once known as Fashion Week Cleveland. Before 2017, the fashion-focused week aimed to put Cleveland on the map as a place where fashion mattered. Now, the evening celebrates fashion and music and has been self-proclaimed as Cleveland’s first ever music festival.
10. Your health is in good hands.
Living in Cleveland might be taxing in ways you can’t avoid. Long winters and uncertain economic times can bring on a slew of health-related issues. However, you can rest easy knowing you’ll be close to some of the best medical facilities in the country. Both the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals are renowned for their emphasis on quality and world-class innovative healthcare services.
Keep these tips in mind before you move to Cleveland:
Moving anywhere is stressful, but moving to Cleveland doesn’t have to be riddled with anxiety. Here are some important moving tips to remember:
- Ohio laws protect landlords more than they do tenants. If you must rent, make sure you know your rights.
- Crime is an inevitable part of any city’s makeup. Become familiar with areas that have high crime rates and plan your activities and living situation accordingly.
- If you need a place to put your belongings while you’re in limbo, consider renting a storage unit in Cleveland while you continue your house hunt.
- Continually explore ways that you can save money while moving. Take the money you’ve saved and plan a weekend trip to de-stress after the move.
- Always prioritize where you want to live based on your lifestyle and needs. Cleveland is affordable enough to give families the flexibility to take risks in their career that can lead to fulfillment. But taking risks doesn’t mean you should compromise on the things that matter to you.
We hope you enjoyed our list of ways Cleveland can enhance your life. Did we miss any points about Cleveland you love or hate? Share them in the comments below!