10 things to see or do in Cleveland other than the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

NUMBER 1: DEVOtional. In late July, I attended the DEVOtional event in Cleveland, Ohio. The DEVOtional is a 3-day event celebrating the band DEVO, with performances by DEVO cover bands, DEVO karaoke, vendors of DEVO merch, guest speakers (2018’s event featured Jerry Casale of DEVO), and mini-events like a 5K run. If you love DEVO, you owe it to yourself to attend this yearly extravaganza at least once.

Devo fans in Cleveland at the Devotional

Check their website for future locations.

NUMBER 2: The GIANT silver hand. The giant silver hand is currently over by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), last time I checked. I might have crawled to a new location.

Giant metal hand outside MOCA in Cleveland

Approximate address: Address: 11400 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44106.

NUMBER 3: Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA). Look at the shape of that building. There are exhibits inside as well. Check their website for current exhibits and events. Rub your hands on it. It’s smooth.

MOCA

Address: 11400 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44106.

NUMBER 4: The Peter B Lewis Building. Look at this building. Just look at it. Twisting metal and curving brick. It’s something else.

Peter B Lewis Building in Cleveland

Address: 11119 Bellflower Rd, Cleveland, OH 44106.

NUMBER 5: the world-famous Etruscan Boar Vessel. I was literally shaking when I saw it. Epic.

World famous Etruscan Boar Vessel

The rest of the museum is genuinely amazing as well. Top 10 museums I’ve ever been to. During the summer fo 2018, they had a massive Yayoi Kusama exhibit.

Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the Cleveland museum

Address: inside the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106.

NUMBER 6: the Blue Morpho butterflies at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. The Cleveland Botanical Garden itself is pretty awesome, but its huge butterfly pavilion is super amazing.

Morpho butterfly at rest (don't be shy, show your colors)

Address: 11030 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106.

NUMBER 7: the sculptures around Wade Lagoon. Wade Lagoon is a lake in Cleveland that is surrounded by many exceptional sculptures. My favorite are the mermaids.

Wade Lagoon Mermaids contemplate moving into the apartments across the street

Coordinates: 41.51°N 81.61°W. (Hint: it’s in front of the place the Etruscan Boar Vessel is in.)

NUMBER 8: Blue Arrow Records. This record store is located in the Waterloo section of Cleveland. They have a cat, t-shirts with the cat’s face on it (I bought one), and an awesome selection of used (and probably new) records. I’ve been to the Princeton Record Exchange, the Groovy Graveyard, Revilla Grooves & Gear and Curmudgeon Records, so I know what I’m talking about — it’s a great record store.

Blue Arrow Records in Cleveland

Address: 16001 Waterloo Rd, Cleveland, OH 44110.

NUMBER 9: the Axolotl in the basement of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. It’s there, just chilling out. Trust me. Don’t hassle it though. Give it the peace and quiet it craves.

Axolotl

The rest of the museum is top notch. There’s an eagle named Spaghetti, a friendly raven, and a massive wildlife of Ohio exhibit in the basement (close to the Axolotl).

Address: 1 Wade Oval Dr, Cleveland, OH 44106.

NUMBER 10: B.A. Sweetie’s candy warehouse. I already wrote an entire article about that place.

at b.a. Sweetie in Cleveland

Address: 6770 Brookpark Road, Cleveland OH 44129.

B.A. Sweeties Candy Company in Cleveland, Ohio

I’m a sucker for candy and novelty as much as any American, and that’s why I stopped by B.A. Sweeties Candy Company (6770 Brookpark Road, Cleveland OH 44129) this past summer.

B.A. Sweeties is a massive warehouse of candy and soda. It’s about the size of a large supermarket or Best Buy, but not quite as big as a Target or Walmart. It is entirely filled to the ceiling with candy, gum, and soda. One of their slogans is “$3,000,000.00 worth of inventory available at any time!”, and I know I spend almost $200. If memory serves, I bought Charleston Chews, Cherry Mash, candy necklaces, Sour Patch Kids, DOTS, candy cigarettes, sour-candy-flavored breath spray, Chowards gum and candy, Goldberg’s peanut chews, Good n’ Plenty, and many more. Some of this I could get at the local 7-11, but a lot I cannot. I live in New Jersey, which is pretty much a “candy desert” in terms of good candy selection, so when I’m in Ohio, I stock up.

Receipt!

b.a. Sweetie in Cleveland

With sympathy to those amongst us with Type-2 diabetes, or those like myself, who have struggled with obesity most of their life, here’s a selection of photos from B.A. Sweeties.

Here’s some “old timey” Chowards gum and candy. Their violet scented gum always fascinated me. Who came up with that idea? Mrs. Chowards?
Chowards are an acquired taste.  at b.a. Sweetie in Cleveland

Look at all these chocolates! Have you tried a Cherry Mash before? If you like candied cherries and chocolate, you simply must eat an entire box full (in a single afternoon).
So much chocolate  at b.a. Sweetie in Cleveland

Necco Wafers! The legendy candies that no one admits to liking, but everyone in New Jersey used to use as Jersey Turnpike toll tokens (according to legends).
Neco wafers at b.a. Sweetie in Cleveland

I love Dots candies. Their fruity flavors are delicious, and never too weird. I love the sensation of biting into a Dots, and the sweet resistance they offer as my molars compress and slice into their candy gel.
Dots  at b.a. Sweetie in Cleveland

Candy buttons! A classic! A little paper with your candy nevery hurt anyone!
Candy Buttons at b.a. Sweetie in Cleveland

I lost 45 pounds this year simply by cutting out sweets, and for the first time in my life, I could see my abdominal muscles. Since visiting Sweeties, I’ve gained back 10 pounds (not the full 45). I’ve found that the key to a happy life is to limit your treats and sweets for approximately 360 days a year, and then for the remaining five days, just do crazy and go on a candy vacation.

Monorail

Jungle Jim’s International Market

Whenever I’m traveling through the mid-west I try to stop at Jungle Jim’s. In the past, I’ve said Jungle Jim’s was the greatest supermarket in America, but up until this spring I had only visited the Eastgate location. This year I visited the original Fairfield location… and I was not disappointed. Jungle Jim’s — no matter which location you choose — is the greatest supermarket in America.

James O. Bonaminio (Jungle Jim) started his business as a humble produce stand in 1971 in Hamilton, OH. Jim opened the Fairfield location in 1975, expanded to 19K sq. ft. in 1982, and added the trademark Zoo animal pond in ’83. By 2001 a monorail was added and the store expanded to over 284,000 sq. ft. — that’s roughly 5 football fields of food, beverages, and fun (source).

Nascar - Jungle Jim's

The big difference between the original Fairfield and newer Eastgate location (est. 2012) is their layouts — the Fairfield location feels like it evolved over time, which it did, and Eastgate feels like it was planned out ahead of time, which it was. Fairfield has more twists, turns, and bottlenecks, and the Eastgate location is more rectangular. The amazing selection of food and beverages are the same. Both have plenty of safari-themed fiberglass animal attractions, and pop-culture themed displays — Fairfield has a NASCAR hanging over the Foodie entrance, an animatronic singing bear named Elvis, and a small yacht featuring the cast of Gilligan’s Island, to name a few.

IMG_0055

While Jungle Jim’s has plenty of vehicles and animals to amuse kids and adults alike, it’s the rare foods and beverages that keeps me coming back. Isles and isles of food from around the world — particularly candy, maybe the best candy selection in the world. Hundreds of types of hot sauce. Hundreds of types of soda-pop. Hundreds of types of beer. All these crazy brands you’ve never heard of before. Yes, they have normal food too. They even have rows of health food! Imagine the selection of a Whole Foods, plus the most popular brands, plus an unbelievable selection of novelty food & drinks that would otherwise take a lifetime to find — all in one convenient location.

It’s Disneyland for your mouth!

Jim the Wizard of low prices and finer foods:
Wizard of Food

How many supermarkets have a tribute to Gillian’s Island?
Jungle Jim's Gilligan's Island Boat

The Massive Hot Sauce display:
Jungle Jim's Firetruck Hotsauce display

Jungle Jim’s has a massive selection of candy from all around the world. These Gummi Snails from Germany and sour lemon candies from Japan were amongst my favorites.

Gummi escargot #schneck #lecker #candy #escargot

Sour Lemon Candy from Jungle Jim's

Elvis

IMG_6764

Info: Jungle Jim’s website.
Location: 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, OH 45014

Middle Aged Man Hikes Above Ground Cave

fall My Hocking Hills story beings as many of my travel stories do: mapping periodical cicadas. I had heard that Hocking Hills park in Ohio was a hotspot for the rarest of the three 17 year cicada species (Magicicada septendecula), so I traveled there to check it out. The reports were true… the cicadas were there in abundance… but no one had told me about the cave.

I’m a sucker for a good cave. I see a sign for a cave and I’ll drive 100, no, make that 200 miles to see that cave. Case in point: Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky. Back in 2014 I was in Cincinnati, started heading home (east) for New Jersey, but the next thing you know I’m 208 miles south at a cave! Sure, I stopped at the Jim Beam distillery along the way, but I ended up at a cave.

While wandering through the Hocking Hills state park — clutching my video camera, listening for septendecula, trying not to stand out amongst the dozens of tourists milling about — I saw the sign: “Old Man Cave”. Suddenly the sounds of cicadas dissolved from my mind and all I could think was “cave”.

That’s the third paragraph that ends in cave. Get the point?

Surprisingly Old Man Cave is not a “traditional” below ground cave. It is an above ground cave, because it has no ceiling. Perhaps it had a ceiling at one time; perhaps it collapsed. Had you asked me, I would have guessed that it was actually a canyon. As you’ll see from my photos and video, it still looks like a cave — limestone rock sculpted by the erosion of water — but it also looks like a canyon.

To get to the cave you have to enter a tunnel (the most “traditional” cave-like part of the journey). At the mouth of the tunnel were two healthy-looking young men; before I could enter, one stopped me. “Are you sure you want to go into the cave? It’s a hard walk even for me.” He advised me to go through the tunnel, enjoy the view, and then turn around and go home. He wasn’t an employee of the park — just another tourist.

I had to pause, if just for a moment, and ask myself: “how decrepit is my appearance?” Yes, I know I look like Lucious Malfoy: clearly middle-aged, with bone-white hair. And certainly, I could stand to lose a few pounds (more like 20). “How feeble and near death do I appear?”

I thanked the young man for his advice and concern and entered the tunnel. Upon exiting, the view was amazing. It’s hard to capture the magnificence with a photograph. To the right there’s a massive limestone overhang, slick with moisture and stained with streaks of green algae; straight ahead the cave/canyon drops maybe a hundred feet to the cave floor. It’s spectacular. At that moment I thought, “I have to do this; I have to experience this, even if the young man is right and I will die trying.”

Old Man Cave, Hocking Hills

Old Man Cave, Hocking Hills

The Old Man Cave trail passes under the massive rock overhang, and then winds and twists along the side of the cave until you reach the bottom, at that point you can enjoy the view of the waterfall, and then you hike back up the other side and continue around until you reach the start.

Old Man Cave, Hocking Hills

The hike down is long, and the hardest part is maintaining your balance and not falling to your death while taking a photo. Core strength is important. The hike up requires leg strength and stamina, but it isn’t all that bad. There were a few septuagenarians and little kids hacking it — it was fine. No worries.

Video from my hike:

After the Old Man Cave, I took a break… grabbed some water… made a video of some bugs…

And then walked across this funky looking bridge…

Hocking Hills

And then hiked up a hill into the woods and recorded some cicada song.

Along the path back to my car there were a group of young dudes debating on whether they should hop a fence and go swimming in the stream below. They were having a serious debate — you might think they were getting up the nerve to talk to some young women — no, just going for an illegal swim.

Crossing back across the bridge I could hear them splash into the river below. I thought “good, they’re living life, and taking chances as they should”.

More info:

Jungle Jim's

Jungle Jim’s: the Greatest Supermarket in America

Jungle Jim’s (4450 Eastgate South Drive, Cincinnati, OH) is the greatest supermarket in America.

Jungle Jim in Wizard Mode.

Imagine waking up one day and thinking: “you know what, I’m not satisfied with the boring local supermarket.” “I want a market that has the most diverse selection of foods & beverages imaginable, including exotic foods from faraway lands, and I want the experience to be fun for the entire family.” I imagine that is what Jungle Jim thought when he got the idea for the Jungle Jim’s supermarkets in Fairfield and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Now imagine a food store as huge as a Walmart, featuring every type of food you can imagine (and some you cannot), decorated with gorillas, rhinos, real airplanes, 50′ dragons and 1960’s cultural icons. Imagine a Whole Foods + a Wegmans + a Trader Joe’s + a liquor store + a cigar store + Disney Land, and that is Jungle Jim’s.

Don’t believe me? Check these stats:

  • Five isles of hot sauce, with a real fire engine parked amongst it to get your attention.
  • Two or three long aisles of soda pop (they call it pop in Ohio).
  • A candy section as big as a house.
  • Isles and isles of craft, international, and big-brand beers, and wines.
  • Five or six isles of International foods.
  • Need candy shaped like a toilet from Japan? They got it.
  • Need Jelly Babies from England? They got it.
  • Need Licorice Cats from Holland because that is the old thing that cures your gout? They got it.
  • Need some “century eggs” or bird nest soup from China? They got it.
  • Need some lollipops with crickets or ants inside them? They got those.
  • Need a hookah pipe? They got those too.

Whenever I’m in the Cincinnati area I fill my entire car trunk with unusual foods, snacks, and pop from Jungle Jim’s. It makes the 10-hour trip all the more worthwhile.

Foodie Entrance:
Foodie Entrance. Jungle Jim's, Ohio

Restrooms:
Jungle Johns. Jungle Jim's, Ohio

Why, yes, they do have 5 isles of hot sauce:
Hot sauce. Jungle Jim's, Ohio

A random display devoted to 1960’s musicians? Sure, why not:
1970s themed trailer. Jungle Jim's, Ohio

Coke R2-D2:
Coke R2D2 in Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati OH

The World’s Largest Horseshoe Crab

The world’s largest Horseshoe Crab is in Blanchester, Ohio. I know what you are thinking: 1) what is a Horseshoe Crab, and 2) why is there a crab in Ohio, which is no where near an ocean?? Horseshoe crabs are not true crabs, but they do live in the sea, and they are arthropods, and they have blue blood, and they look amazing… and the world’s largest one is a giant sculpture.

You’ll find it at the Freedom Worship Baptist Church in Blanchester, Ohio. Read more about it on Roadside America.

World's largest horseshoe crab in Blanchester, OH

World's largest horseshoe crab in Blanchester, OH

Last time visited: 2008.