It'd be wise to avoid the near east & west side areas of downtown Cleveland. Although there's history in many of those neighborhoods, you'd be best to simply drive through, instead of walking around. The west side is safer, but I'd never leave your car while in the east side, especially at night.
If you are tooling around downtown Cleveland on game day, beware. There is no driving etiquette...whether you are walking or driving BE CAUTIOUS!! If you are using the rapid to get downtown, they become VERY crowded on gameday. If you are going to the Great Lakes Science Center or Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when there is a Browns game, parking will be a nightmare as the football stadium is right next to both of these places....the crowds will probably be a bigger nightmare.
Baseball Games are played at Jacob's Field, more toward the center of town. The ball park is surrounded by nightlife....so if you are going out around the Jake, don't do it on gameday!!!!
Snow in the north can be a beautiful thing. Now that I am without it, I really do miss it. That being said, the areas around the great lakes has this interesting phenomenon called Lake effect snow which leads to mountains of snow forming in literally hours. And while most of the people up here know how to drive in it, there are those who don't and that causes a problem.
A quick primer on lake effect snow. Very cold Artic winds flow down from the north. The lake, being warmer than the wind, adds mositure to it, and destabalizes the pressure zone for the wind. Thus the extra mositure and the unstable pressure zone cause it to snow, and snow hard! It is not uncommon to see more snow than what is pictured here.
Driving. I can't say this enough, if you don't know how to drive in the snow, don't do it! If you are in town with a rental car, many of them will come and pick it up if you call and say how worried you are about driving in the snow. Occasonally Enterprise or some of the other companies will drop you off at an airport on the way. If you have your own car, and more importantly if you have the time, Lake Effect snow doesn't last for days and days. Typically there is a break in the weather and the roads get cleaned up and salted. If you wait, you don't put anyone's life in danger, especially yours.
If you do go out, remember 10 mph on a highway in the snow can be just as dangerous as 100 mph. People will expect slow cars, but not that slow. If you are nervous and want to take your time on the roads, take main city streets that are likely to be cleared first, and keep the lights and the hazards on.
Seriously stay out of the water at Edgewater park and other beaches within close proximity to downtown! The water has often had an unsafe microbe count and peolpe have/could become very ill. To go swimming, you should go further east or west: for example, there's a good beach in Mentor out East, Huntington Beach out West, etc.
The Flats, a nightclub area at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River downtown tends to get a bit raucous, so be careful. Just about all the crimes are alcohol related. Bar fights are not uncommon, or drownings of drunken boys trying to swim across the river to the West Bank and the meanest bouncers you ever did meet. The police however, keep the place in pretty good check and the crime rate has diminished significantly. A couple of summers ago, a sports journalist from ESPN decided to take a whiz from the 2nd story window of a Flats bar called Have A Nice Day Cafe. Fate would have it that he pissed right on a cop standing on the sidewalk down below. Needless to say, the police officer was not amused. The talking head was so busted !!!!
So if you are in the flats and do something foolish in the heat of the moment and find yourself perp walking to a cell at police headquarters, call my friend Phil. He will tidy up your life for you.
Okay, Cleveland has a problem with air pollution. Is it like going to LA? Not quite, but it's certainly some dirty air.
No matter where I go, urban, suburban, downtown; there's exhaust in my face. That's the biggest offender for a visitor to Cleveland.
There's generally a lot of pollution coming from factoires & industry, robbing us further or cleaner air. We're the at the top of the list for 'fine pollutants'; 1st in the nation for sulfer dioxide emissions, 1st in the nation for nitrogen oxide emissions (turns into nitrous oxide -aka- the ugly colored cloud of pollution over cities like LA, etc), 2nd for carbon dioxide emissions and 2rd for mercury emissions.
Will the air here make you immediately ill? No, long term adeverse health effects happen over time. Does the air have a noticable stink? No. Only when you're around traffic or out in a neighborhood where everyone's mowing their lawns.
Actually I have another complaint about Cleveland and that is the poor road quality in many areas. Sometimes driving home from work is a constant obstacle coarse of pot-holes and dislodged pavement which forms unintended speed bumps that span the whole lane. As much as Clevelanders are taxed you would think we would have nicer roads.
While I believe the downtown areas have become more safe over the years and now offer more security, you must be wary of a few places including accidentally winding up in East Cleveland. Steer clear of East 55th and Scoval. You may accidentally wind up in East Cleveland if you are headed north east from areas such as Little Italy. Additionally be careful with leaving anything in your car when you park either downtown, in areas such as university circle/little italy ,or trendy spots like ohio city and especially Tremont. While these neighborhoods have drastically improved in safety, police officers are much more concerned about human safety than property safety. As such, many thugs from other areas know that they can take advantage by breaking into cars of unsuspecting citizens if it suits them. I have had such problem in Tremont, and I am a Cleveland citizen of 20 some years. I have never had a problem with anyone confronting me in these areas but I believe property safety is the main problem (unless you are personally involved in unsavory activities such as drugs).
The pandhandlers are persistent and not shy. There are no ordinances (if there are, they're not enforced one bit) against homeless approaching you for money. You will be accosted frequently (and sometimes followed) and persistently. I have had no seriously dangerous encounters, but one tried to lure me, another shouted something unpleasant at me for continuing on my way, and some have followed me and someone I was with. Someone once explained the reason for their aggressiveness was that there are not many people downtown after the workday ends, so that may be the cause of them approaching anyone they see approaching. It can be problematic, especially and frequently on Public Sqaure.
Cleveland is safe. It doesn't fare too well in some statistical ratings (not all though), but this is largely due to the fact that city limits do not include some of the safe, highly-populated, affluent and safe "inner-ring" residential suburbs. If these immediate suburbs were included as they really should (many are practically land-locked by the city of Cleveland) then statistics would be far better and more accurate. There isn’t more crime or poverty than other big cities, and it probably fares much better.
Downtown during the day is completely safe. No matter where you stay, you can walk around and between districts like Gateway, Public Square, the Mall and Northcoast Harbor. Downtown Cleveland is one of the top ten highest concentrations of employment in the country, and the sidewalks and parking lots are filled with highly professional people going to work. At night there is a significant decrease in overall activity downtown. W.6th Street in the Warehouse District, and E.4th in Gateway, however, are vibrant nightlife districts and still very safe at night. While valet parking isn't necessary, it is an option at many places here to maximize your comfort. There are some panhandlers downtown, but in my experience they aren't hostile. The Flats is still a fine place to go, but be careful not to drink too much.
Midtown is the neighborhood where most crime in Cleveland takes place, so be sure to avoid this area. There isn’t even a reason to go here anyway. Some people decide to travel through Midtown from Downtown to University Circle. Instead of taking Carnegie, Chester, or Euclid through Midtown, take I-90 East from Downtown to Martin Luther King Boulevard where you will head south into University Circle. Outside of Midtown, the residential neighborhoods are still pretty much safe. Even if some spots look rundown, there is no reason to fear them. Ohio City, Tremont, University Circle, Little Italy, and Shaker Square are all great neighborhoods to visit outside of downtown.
I have one complaint about Cleveland, and that is the limited access to Lake Erie. Much of the view of Lake Erie is blocked by residential homes. There are a few beaches (Edgewater, Huntington, and Mentor Headlands) but they pale in comparison to the endless miles of beach and bike path you have in Chicago or San Diego. Edgewater and Huntington Beach both tend to be littered with garbage at times :-(
If you rent a car be aware that the local cops are famous for setting up speed traps and being merciless. Speed limits are set rediculously low on purpose, - some major streets have 25 mph limit! So, you have been warned. Be especially careful in those small independent municipalities that surround Cleveland.
Cleveland is a 9-5 city,don't be fooled by the horseshoe casino ads!
If you're not a part of the herd the peels out of downtown Cleveland between 2-5 you will be left in a ghost town!
The bums also come out at night! My advice, stay near CLeveland state or casewestern.
Other advice: stay away from tower city after 7, the free trollys stop running and you may have to hoof it and will get harrassed by bums
Cops rarely help: you're better off asking the college students, you might get a citation if you talk to a cop too long.
Weather woes: the summers are extremely hot and the winters extremely snow and cold, no definate seasons! Haha
best kept secrets: Lakewood, Coventry, little Italy and china town!!!
Well, Cleveland is a relativly safe place. Take the same precautions you would anywhere. Drivers here are not the best, but it is better than many oher places I have been. Do beware of the slick winter driving conditions. Also, beware of the many panhandlers downtown. They are mostly harmless, but very aggressive in their tactics at times.
Although I never felt like I was in danger, Cleveland does not seem to be the most friendly town. People are allowed to carry concealed guns, and the banks that were not falling apart demand there be no guns brought in. I am not sure about the clubs, but it's better to avoid any trouble.