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Cleveland Playhouse Square Theater

Our Cities and the Romance Factor

As my 25th wedding anniversary draws closer I’m getting a lot of pressure from online and offline friends to ensure that I consider “all” my top favorite cities before I finalize plans for our anniversary trip.

At least that’s their polite way of saying “you can’t be serious about choosing a rust-belt city like Cleveland as the destination for your  25th anniversary getaway!”

My good friend, author Beverly Mahone even posted a “help” post on Facebook. The gist of her help post?

“Help Sharon choose a romantic vacation destination other than Cleveland.”   I am without doubt getting some wonderful suggestions that are all so very tempting. But I think I may still hold my ground.

Why? Now I don’t want to get all political when discussing a topic that really should be anything but, however I think a stand has to be taken for our cities when it comes to unfair perceptions. Goodness knows Cleveland has been the brunt of jokes for far too long and I know other cities are not perfect.

Of course cities like Seattle, New York and San Francisco are beautiful locations that for most people fit nicely under the label “romantic destination.”  But let’s be honest there are problems in all three of these *dreamy* destinations.

New York is a bustling town that isn’t known for being the most friendly of places to visit. San Francisco has poor transportation and is outrageously expensive. Seattle has breathtaking views but cold, wet weather.

I could go on and on, but the fact remains that those faults hardly take away from the overall popularity of these top notch cities.  So why is that?

I think how we become impressed with certain cities is shaped by real facts and successes like good transit, natural landscape, world-class cultural amenities etc., but it is also heavily influenced by romantic notions of a place seasoned by history and polished to a sheen by good PR, ongoing advertising and that holy grail of all promotion today…”word of mouth”.

Through word of mouth and good PR we successfully romanticize destinations like New York and San Francisco, again and again. To help our cities thrive, we need to start adding the “romance factor” to the ways in which we promote cities that are embracing new urbanism.

Let’s take one characteristic of a successful city and compare the offering in Cleveland.

New York is known for it’s  amazing theater district – Broadway.  Did you know that Cleveland has a theater district that dates back to the 1920’s and is one of the most important theater districts in the country? That was big news to me.

Playhouse Square - State TheaterThe historic place for theater in Cleveland is known as Playhouse Square. Included in Playhouse Square are eight theaters that were built close to the beginning of the 20th century starting with the Ohio and State theaters which opened in 1921.

These theaters were as glamorous and popular as any to be found on the east coast and were considered the mecca for fine entertainment in the midwest for decades.

Unfortunately the downturn in the steel industry during the 1960’s and ’70’s decimated the economy of rust-belt cities like Cleveland. Attendance at the theaters plummeted and the theaters themselves were plagued by fire and vandalism.

Fast forward a few decades and I’m sure most of you know the resurgence of our cities has helped to restore great treasures like Cleveland’s theater district. So what was thought impossible in the dark days of the 70’s is now a reality.  Cleveland’s theater district is as stunning and exciting as many other thriving theater districts across the country.

Of course this kind of urban re-birth only works if the vibrancy spreads, and that is the case in Cleveland.  Redevelopment of the theater district was not limited to the theaters themselves. In recent years, additions to the area have included office buildings, hotels, city parks, and Times Square-like video monitors on the street with news tickers and local advertisements.

So while I envision dinner and a Broadway show as definitely romantic ideas for a milestone wedding anniversary outing, I see no reason not to give other cities a chance to sweep me off my feet.





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