Queer Girl City Guide: Cleveland, Ohio



0. 2/20/2012 – Here/Queer Call for Submissions, by Riese
1. 3/02/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Montreal, Canada, by Sid
2. 3/05/2012 – Playlist: Here/Queer, by Riese
3. 3/05/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Portland, Oregon, by Lesbians in PDX
4. 3/07/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Brighton, United Kingdom, by Sarah Magdalena
5. 3/07/2012 – Oh But To Be A Queer in Sicily, by Jenn
6. 3/08/2012 – City Guide: Seattle, by Marley
7. 3/11/2012 – City Guide: Washington DC, by Keena
8. 3/13/2012 – Here/Queer: Sydney Mardi Gras Is On Your To-Do List, by Crystal
9. 3/14/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Spokane, Washington, by Ana
10. 3/15/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Cleveland, Ohio, by Lora

Have you seen the 30 Rock episode “Flee to the Cleve,” in which Liz Lemon almost moves to Cleveland because everyone is so friendly? Well, it’s pretty much like that. Clevelanders are genuine, working-class, down-to-earth people. You probably won’t get Portlandia-like waves on the sidewalk, but you’ll definitely get some hardcore Midwestern hospitality. Clevelanders that live in the city and inner-ring suburbs are fiercely loyal to (and sometimes a little defensive of) this rust-belt city that has seen its fair share of ups and downs. Visitors or recent transplants can expect people they encounter to be psyched to share their favorite spots around town and general love for the city.

I’ve lived in the Cleveland area for nearly all of my 25 years. This may not be known as a gay mecca, but we recently surprised everyone when we were chosen to be the host of the 2014 Gay Games, so things are about to get real gay, real quick.


Drinking and Dancing


Bounce (2814 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland) is the go-to gay dance club in Cleveland. It’s your best bet for a diverse taste of the Cleveland gay scene: shirtless gay boys, sporty dykes, and everyone in between. They have drag shows every weekend and dancing afterwards. Go to the bathroom before you leave your house.
Church Bar (13751 Madison Ave, Lakewood) just opened last year and is a great add to Cleveland’s queer bar scene. It’s really just a great neighborhood bar with a splash of gay: cozy and laid-back with friendly bartenders.
Women’s Happy Hour (WH2) takes over a different bar once a month and brings out a multi-generational crowd to their events.

If you have the time and the means to take the 45-minute drive to Akron, definitely check out Square and Thursdays (306 East Exchange Street, Akron).

Cleveland Botanical Garden


Snack Time


Happy Dog (5801 Detroit Avenue, Detroit-Shoreway) — Hot dogs, not-dogs, 50 gourmet toppings, and tater tots. BOOM.
Tommy’s (1824 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights) — A Cleveland vegetarian institution. Make sure you try their milkshakes!
Latitude 41 (5712 Detroit Avenue, Detroit-Shoreway) — Lesbian-owned cafe/diner
Melt (Cleveland Heights and Lakewood locations) — Not your mama’s grilled cheese. Unless you get The Kindergartner.
West Side Market (1979 W 25th St., Ohio City) — Indoor market that’s celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. They have every food-thing you can imagine.
Nate’s Deli (4116 Lorain Avenue, Ohio City) — Adorable family-owned middle eastern eatery
Lilly’s Handmade Chocolates (761 Starkweather Ave, Tremont)

West Side Market


Caffeine + Cute Baristas

You need coffee and you definitely need a nice place to be. All of these places could be your place:

Phoenix Coffee (Downtown, Cleveland Heights, and South Euclid locations)
The Root Cafe (15118 Detroit Ave, Lakewood)
Gypsy Bean (6425 Detroit Avenue, Detroit-Shoreway)
BonBon (2549 Lorain Avenue, Ohio City)
Lucky’s Cafe (777 Starkweather Avenue, Tremont) — Great brunch, too!


For The Love Of The Game


Oof, Cleveland sports. A story of heartbreak, barely mended hearts, followed by more heartbreak. If you’re into that kind of thing, check out the Browns (football), Indians (baseball), Cavs (basketball), and Monsters (hockey). Otherwise…

Burning River Roller Girls — Roller Derby!
Cleveland Out and About — LGBT Outdoor Recreation Group
Front Runners NEO — LGBT Running Group
North Coast Softball — LGBT Softball League


Your Friendly Neighborhood Colleges


Case Western Reserve University’s LGBT Center — The adorably awkward pictures on their website do not do justice to the adorable awkwardness of Case students.
Cleveland State University’s GSA

Nearby Oberlin College is a queer oasis and is definitely worth a visit if you have an hour to spare to drive through some cornfields. Drag ball, women’s rugby, etc. etc.




The LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland (6600 Detroit Ave., Detroit-Shoreway) — Lots of great youth programs and support groups
TransFamily — Transgender support groups
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Cleveland
Planned Parenthood
MetroHealth LGBT Pride Clinic
Free Clinic
Cleveland Stonewall Democrats
Equality Ohio
HRC Cleveland
Colors of Cleveland Pride — Providing outreach services to all communities of color in an effort to bridge the racial divisiveness locally and nationally within these communities.




I’ll be frank here: Gay Pride in Cleveland could use a bit of a face-lift. Still, it’s awesome and heart-warming and endearing to see so many queers doing their queer thing in Downtown Cleveland. The take-home is that you should volunteer to make Pride awesomer if you have some time on your hands.


Les Artistes


Playhouse Square (1519 Euclid Avenue) — touring Broadway shows, comedians, and musicians
Cleveland Public Theater (6415 Detroit Avenue, Detroit-Shoreway) — locally produced, avant-garde goodness, often with LGBT themes
Cleveland Playhouse (1407 Euclid Avenue, Downtown)
Dance Cleveland
Verb Ballet
Big Dog Theater (2781 Euclid Heights Blvd, Cleveland Heights) — comedy theater
SPACES (2220 Superior Viaduct)
The Cleveland Cinematheque — Classic, independent, and foreign films


We Built This City On Rock and Roll


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1100 Rock and Roll Boulevard, Downtown)
Beachland Ballroom and Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd.)
Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Boulevard, Cleveland Heights)
Bela Dubby (13321 Madison Avenue, Lakewood)

“These Knees” at Bela Dubby


Big Gigs


Cleveland International Film Festival — not an LGBT event in itself, but it definitely brings out the gays every March and features a bunch of queer films
Annual Womyn’s Variety Show — Every February
Dancin in the Streets — Block party and fundraiser for AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland
Cleveland LGBT Events Calendar


Chapin Forest



Crazy Mullets East and west side locations: Cleveland Heights (1830 Coventry Road) and Lakewood (14807 Detroit Avenue).


Mo Money


Here is the thing: Cleveland is so so affordable. PBR Tall Boys cost $2.50. You will take your lady friend out to a fancy schmancy dinner at your favorite organic, locavore restaurant and (almost) feel bad for paying so little. Super-nice apartments rent for $700/month.


The Law and You


Cleveland is a progressive town stuck in a swing-state. While gay marriage isn’t legal in Ohio (in fact, there’s a constitutional amendment against it), the City of Cleveland and Cleveland Heights have domestic partner registries and the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County offer domestic partner benefits. Work with what you got, right?


Parks and Recreation


One of Cleveland’s nicknames is “The Forest City,” largely because of the networked park system that surrounds the city referred to as the Emerald Necklace, maintained by the Cleveland Metroparks. You won’t have to travel far to find yourself in a green oasis.

There are also a lot of amazing urban parks, especially along the shores of Lake Erie.

Edgewater Park (1200 West 76th St.) — It’s a beach! It’s a park! It’s nestled between two gayborhoods and Lake Erie, you can see downtown, bring your dog and have a cookout! Summersummerfuntime!
Lakeview Cemetery (12316 Euclid Avenue, Little Italy) — Presidents are buried here!
Wade Oval (Wade Oval and East Boulevard, University Circle) — Nice big greenspace in the middle of a bunch of Cleveland’s museums that hosts the amazing Wade Oval Wednesdays every week from June to August
Wendy Park (2800 Whiskey Island Drive) — A hidden gem with great views of Downtown and very popular volleyball leagues.
Mentor Headlands State Park — This is a 40-minute car ride from the city, but the expansive beaches make it totally worth it.

Wendy Park




Gay People’s Chronicle
Glorious Gay Ladies Local Food Cooking Club — Do you like gay ladies? Local food? Cooking? Come hang out! Monthly-ish gathering organized by Elyse, Jess, and a bunch of other amazing ladies you should probably be friends with. Email ggllfcc [at] gmail [dot] com

This is just a taste of what Cleveland has to offer. If you’re looking to leave no rock unturned, definitely check out New to Cleveland by Justin Glanville.

Part of an ongoing series of Queer Girl City Guides.

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Lora has written 3 articles for us.


  1. This is SO AWESOME, thank you.

    I’m a senior at Oberlin, and am desperate to leave this tiny town as much as possible this year (partly because of being a senior who’s kind of outgrown it, and partly because despite Oberlin’s gay mecca status, I’ve been VERY frustrated as a queer woman here). Having a better idea of what’s in Cleveland is super, super helpful. My ventures thus far have mostly been to Bounce (TOTALLY FUN, though there never seem to be any lady homos at alllllll my type there, and a lot of straight girls), Melt, and theater/food/&c in the Gordon Square Arts District. Having a larger list is awesome!

    • Hello fellow senior at Oberlin Autostraddle reader!

      I very much agree, and have really been enjoying venturing into Cleveland more.

    • Junior here! We should definitely do an Oberlin Autostraddle meetup. It’d be awesome. Probably.

        • Whoo Oberlin represent! I’m only a first year, so I will have so much time to fall in love with Cleveland.

      • I vote yes! I have approximately no time ever (since I’m in rehearsal mode for my show), but still! I have no idea how we’d best go about planning such a venture, but I’m in favor.

    • Yes! This was my plan all along– get more Obies to fall in love with Cleveland and then move here when they graduate and join our cooking club.

      OC ’08


    I’m the stage manager and dramaturg for an awesome production that’s going up in April at Cleveland Public Theater (CPT), called IPHIGENIA 2.0 (by Charles Mee).

    It’s a collaboration between CPT and Oberlin College, which is great in and of itself, and the play is fascinating and exciting and genuinely worth your time. There’s phenomenal acting, some hilarious moments, dancing (including a boy band throwback you don’t want to miss), a breathtaking Clytemnestra (seriously, she’s stunning in every way), and some queers to boot!

    I’d love it if Autostraddle folks could come! Here’s information from CPT: http://www.cptonline.org/theater-show.php?id=172

    And if you end up coming, you should totally drop me a line, maybe we can get a drink! (And regardless, if you want more info, or want to hear all my thoughts and feelings about the text, the process, and the importance of this show and this kind of work… hit me up!)

  3. Tommy’s is the shit!! My grandparents live in Cleveland and whenever my cousins and I visit we make sure to go at least once. Now I’m craving a milkshake and a veggie burger!

  4. So excited to see a Cleveland guide here! I grew up in the city, but moved away for college and am always lost in terms of going out when I visit these days so thank you! And Tommy’s milkshakes..oh my. The best.

  5. Progressive field for baseball is nice and affordable. I went to a bunch of games for super cheap when I was at school up there. $1 hotdogs! MELT is awesome.

  6. Never thought I’d see the day when Cleveland would be on Autostaddle. That 30 Rock episode makes it seem like a wholesome utopia. Out-of-staters do say that Clevelanders is a lot friendlier than they’re used to. Oh Cleveland, you try so hard…

    You have a pretty good list here. Can’t believe I’ve never been to Bela Dubby (I need to make it over to the west burbs more often). And yes, volunteering at Pride is awesome and fun – free Vitamin Water, t-shirts and people watching.

    I’ve met quite a few lesbians who’ve gone to Case Western. Oberlin is a beautiful artsy college town. But Kent State and Baldwin Wallace have some gayness to them as well.

  7. I went to Cleveland for the first time last year (which is pathetic for a born and raised buckeye), and I loved it. I’m so glad you mentioned Tommys, The Root Cafe, and West Side Market. And all of the metro parks. What an awesome town.

  8. So excited to see CLEVELAND on here.

    1. Drive the 45 minutes to go to Square in Akron. It is the cleanest bar I’ve ever been to. Everything is spotless and it’s packed on Saturday nights. Don’t bother with Thursdays if you can’t park right in front of the place, and don’t go alone. I used to live down the road from it and I would never voluntarily re-visit that neighborhood again. Square or Bounce is a much better place.

    2. I don’t know what category it fits in, but I want to add my favorite toy store Big Fun in Coventry (near Case) to this list http://bigfunbigfun.com/ They have lots of goofy stuff and great 80s and 90s toys.

  9. just so everybody knows the feature image for this post of the monkey with the “I Love Ohio” shirt hanging in front of a window on a snowy day was taken by me in Cleveland (well, in Solon, but close enough) in 2009.

    thank you

  10. I heard the song Bloodbuzz Ohio and now I want to go to Ohio. And I read this article Queer Girl City Guide: Cleveland Ohio and now I want to go to Cleveland, Ohio.

  11. I. Glad there is a guide for Cleveland! I grew up near there, and I couldn’t wait to get out because of my lack of knowledge about queer stuff there. I left the day after I graduated… First to Pittsburgh then to Columbus for college. Now, I want to go back and check out some of the queer stuff! And I’m glad you listed The Grog Shop. Aside from the Newport in Columbus, The Grg Shop is one of my favorite places for alternative music.

  12. Cleveland dyke represent! My girlfriend is from here,so we relocated from SF to raise our kid.It is super progressive-But these laws in Ohio need to change! Other than that,I love that I can make art here and experience the amazing rust belt atmosphere of the city.

  13. <3 LOVE LOVE LOVE!

    I'm one of those Clevelanders who is aggressively defensive about the hometown I love. I'm currently in Houston, but love this list and will be sure to check out a few places when I head back!

  14. people always look at me all weird when I say that I wanna live in Cleveland, but it sounds AWESOME. I lived in Cincinnati and loved it, I unexpectedly feel for Ohio :)

  15. Hey! You’re forgetting about another nearby college with tons of friendly dyke girls. The College of Wooster! We’re just a bit farther than Oberlin, and have a few fewer alternative lifestyle haircuts, but we’re a queer oasis in the middle of the conservative heartland!

  16. Great article!

    the one thing I’d like to see though is where to stay. I’m headed there next week and want to stay at a queer friendly place. Suggestions?

    I’m open to subleting a room from friendly queers, if that’s helpful.

  17. ahhh yes. cleveland born and raised! the root, church bar & tommy’s are all fantastic. currently stuck in southern ohio at ohio u. will anyone be in cle for the summer?

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  19. This guide is great! As a CWRU student, here is another link for LGBT activities on our campus:


    Spectrum is our GSA, and the website is not always updated, but we do a charity Drag ball every year, a formal dance, and Lavender Graduation for seniors. Also, the LGBT center is great! And the awkward photos are the norm at Case, we are a pretty nerdy, awkward bunch.

  20. I LOVE this. Right on! From our die-hard love of the city, to all the right queer spots and food (love the mention of Felice, my favorite) and queercuts (go to Cameron at Crazy Mullets), I couldn’t have done this guide better!

    PS If anyone visits or lives in Cleveland, let’s meet up!

  21. Cleveland Institute of Art in University Circle has some lovely gallery shows and such during the school year! And if you’re feeling fancy, there’s this swanky little bar hidden in the west side off of Abbey Road, The Velvet Tango Room. Super expensive cocktails, but they pack a wallop and the atmosphere is so laid back and classic. Definitely a diamond in the rough for a special, fancy night out!

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