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Road Trip! Destination: Cleveland in winter

| Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, 6:27 p.m.

Perhaps the only way Pittsburgh doesn't mind being beaten by Cleveland is in annual snowfall. Located on Lake Erie, Cleveland always wins that contest because of lake-effect precipitation.

Taking challenge as opportunity, Cleveland Metroparks offers many winter activities, including tobogganing. In addition, there's a free skating rink in University Circle and the local Boston Mills/Brandywine ski resort just south of the city.

But Cleveland has a lot to offer visitors at any time of year. Its civic leaders have made hard decisions to maintain the quality of its top attractions. Cleveland's opera and ballet companies are gone, but support for the Cleveland Orchestra has even extended to more than $15 million just for audience development.

The city's cultural and education hub is University Circle, located four miles east of downtown and home to the Cleveland Museum of Art, botanical gardens and other museums, the Cleveland Orchestra's home Severance Hall, Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Institute of Music and University Hospitals.

Downtown Cleveland is the center of business, but also features the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Playhouse Square — the second-largest performing arts complex in the nation (after Lincoln Center in New York City) — attracts more than 1 million visitors each year to its 1,000 events, including many theater and dance shows.

In the past two decades, Cleveland has found its foodie soul. It has celebrity chefs, such as Michael Symon, who operates three restaurants. There are many excellent restaurants specializing in Italian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Indian cuisine. And there are even two excellent delis — Corky and Lenny's, and Jacks. Little Italy is on the edge of University Circle; Chinatown is Downtown.

Mark Kanny is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or

Chalet Toboggan Chutes

The Chalet at Mill Stream Run Reservation is one of 10 Cleveland Metroparks' Nature Visitor Centers. It offers year-round recreation, including old-fashioned hayrides and square dancing in October.

The long, flat sleds without runners are carried to the top of the hill by a lift operated by chalet staff. Visitors walk up stairs to launch point before the swift trip downhill.

The Toboggan Chutes are open Nov. 29 through March 9, starting at 6 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and at noon Saturdays and Sundays. All-day tickets are $10, $4 for children — who must be accompanied by an adult.

Details: 440-572-9990 or

Rink at Wade Oval

One of Cleveland's few outdoor skating rinks, the Rink at Wade Oval is in University Circle. It offers an ongoing snowman-making competition, which will be judged from posted photos.

The rink is open Fridays starting at 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at noon from Nov. 29 to March 9. Skate rental is only $3. The website lists the shoe sizes available. Free skating lessons are offered starting at noon Saturdays.

Details: 216-707-5033 or

Boston Mills/Brandywine Ski Resort

The upside for Cleveland in getting hit with lake-effect snow is that its ski resort is just south of the city.

There are 18 skiing trails of varying difficulty, as well as snow tubing. Skiing lessons are available. The base lodge offers food, lockers and a ski school. Equipment rentals include skis, snowboards, boots, helmets and poles.

Skiing starts at 10 a.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. weekends.

Details: 330-657-2334 or

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Designed by internationally renowned architect I.M. Pei, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is a 150,000-square-foot building that has four theaters and seven floors of exhibits. A year before it opened in 1995, Yoko Ono donated a large collection of John Lennon artifacts to the museum.

The museum's exhibits use film, video, interactive kiosks and music. In addition to big exhibits on the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, sections are devoted to other great acts and rock's roots in blues, gospel, country, folk and rhythm and blues.

The spring benefit concert on May 10 will feature Daryl Hall and John Oates.

Details: 216-781-7625 or

Severance Hall

The home of the Cleveland Orchestra, Severance Hall was built in 1931. Its most recent renovation, completed in 2000, made great acoustics even better.

The orchestra gives concerts at Severance from September through May, and at the Bloom Music Festival between Cleveland and Akron in July and August. The music director is Franz Welser-Most, who also is general music director of the Vienna State Opera in Austria, and the roster of guest conductors includes many equally appealing musicians.

The Cleveland Orchestra has cultivated long-term relationships with major artists who have rarely or never come to Pittsburgh, such as composer and conductor Pierre Boulez. An all-Mozart program, April 3 to 5, will feature pianist Mitsuko Uchida playing and conducting.

Details: 216-231-7300 or

Cleveland Museum of Art

With a collection of more than 30,000 pieces of art spanning 5,000 years, the Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the nation's major museums. It has substantial holdings of paintings and sculptures from ancient Egypt, Greece and the Near East, Europe from Medieval to modern eras, the Americas, Africa, Japan and Korea.

The collection of Impressionism, post-Impressionism and Avante-garde art (such as Pablo Picasso's blue period “La Vie”) is particularly impressive.

The museum opened a new West Wing in January, which features art from China, India and Southeast Asia.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays.

Details: 216-421-7350 or

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