The convention, set for July 18-21 at Quicken Loans Arena, will be held in the city of LeBron James — no longer the "Mistake on the Lake" — as various events around town welcome Caitlyn Jenner, Kid Rock and Martina McBride.
Cleveland couldn't be riding higher as it welcomes the Republican National Convention from July 18 to 21. Its NBA championship by the Cavaliers is the city's first major sports coup in more than 50 years. Heightening local spirits, the state of Ohio just doubled its annual production incentive (to $40 million), so the once-derided "Mistake on the Lake," beautified by city-center investment and now better known as "Believeland," is more than ready for its close-up.
The convention, during which Donald Trump is expected to be anointed — if still not fully embraced — as his party's nominee, reportedly will feature such speakers as former Trump rival Sen. Ted Cruz, actor Antonio Sabato Jr., tech billionaire Peter Thiel and former astronaut Eileen Collins. The festivities also will attract about 50,000 visitors to the downtown Quicken Loans Arena ("The Q") and to ancillary events filling venues in the hipster neighborhoods of Tremont and Ohio City to the west and the Flats to the east.
The Hilton Cleveland Downtown, with stunning views of downtown and Lake Erie, opened its 600 rooms in June, just in time for the big event (rooms ordinarily start at $149, but rates at most downtown hotels have been hiked for the convention). Westin Cleveland Downtown ($329) will be buzzing, especially at its noted Urban Farmer restaurant. Aloft, part of the Starwood fleet, courts young travelers with loft-inspired rooms ("We have no set rate," says its rep) and a tech-focused environment. Metropolitan at the 9 ($249), one of Marriott's upscale independent boutiques, allows animal companions to roam in its indoor dog park. Both Drury Plaza ($180; opened in April) and the Hyatt Regency at the Arcade ($159) are retrofitted inside historic buildings.
Iron Chef Michael Symon has announced he won't serve Trump, but his hotspots such as Mabel's BBQ (a fave of LeBron James and his teammates) and Lola (enjoyed by chefs Wolfgang Puck and Mario Batali) will be packed with other GOP-ers. Red, the Steakhouse is the top place to slice into a rib eye. For French cuisine, award-winning L'Albatros will be the calm in the storm. Market Garden Brewery, HQ for the craft beer revolution, will bubble with Young Republicans and press, and Angelo's Pizza, in Lakewood, is where hometown realness can be found: Native Tom Hanks took his family there in June.
Last call in Cleveland will be extended to 4 a.m. downtown during the convention; delegates can hit Warehouse District club Liquid, whose dance floor has been trod by Madonna and Chris Brown, to cut loose. Velvet Tango Room is a swanky art deco lounge for the power set, while Porco Lounge & Tiki Room, dubbed "Disneyland for drunks" by Moon Cleveland guide writer Douglas Trattner, features decor from the city's long-gone meccas of mai tais. Hofbrauhaus, sister to its namesake beer garden in Munich, features an authentic polka band that gets even the most reluctant people dancing. The contentious convention may not be much of a pleasure cruise, but that's exactly what's on offer on the Goodtime III, a quadruple-deck cruise ship hosting lunches and dinners for state delegations; native Clevelanders Halle Berry and Drew Carey have been passengers.
GOP stalwarts Lynyrd Skynyrd play July 17, kicking off this series of concerts hosted by Ohio's Republican Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger (but unaffiliated with the convention). Kid Rock closes the event July 21.
'Make America Rage Again'
Prophets of Rage, a new supergroup with members of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill, bring their tour to the Agora Ballroom on July 19.
Big Tent Brunch
Caitlyn Jenner and Montel Williams appear July 20 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a brunch hosted by American Unity Fund, a conservative nonprofit that advocates for LGBT Americans.
Creative Coalition Benefit Gala
Martina McBride headlines this fundraiser July 20. Also expected is Tim Daly, head of the nonpartisan nonprofit that brings together business and entertainment heavyweights.
'Slurricane Trump Is Touching Down in Cleveland'
Toplining the July 21 show, a benefit for NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, are Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show; Alonzo Bodden, a winner on Last Comic Standing; and Mystery Science Theater 3000 star-writer Frank Conniff.