Welcome to Cleveland, Republican candidates! Here’s your personalized guide to where to go and what to see in the ‘Metropolis of the Western Reserve.’
Today, all 17 Republican presidential hopefuls are in Cleveland, Ohio for the first GOP primary debate. The bottom seven candidates will take the stage at the Quicken Loans Arena at 5 p.m. EST, while the top 10 candidates go head to head at 9 p.m. for a much-anticipated televised debate on Fox News. The day will surely be filled with lots of policy talk, rabblerousing, and red ties. Still, it’s not hard to imagine the parade of former governors, senators, CEOs, and reality TV stars as a great tour bus full of, well, tourists.
Luckily for them, Cleveland holds rank on T+L's list of the best places to travel this year, and is fast becoming a Midwestern hotspot with a dynamic food and cultural scene.
We’ve devised the perfect itinerary for each candidate, catering to his or her whims (and childhood dreams) and cautiously avoiding their dislikes (allergies and phobias included). Let the debate begin!
Donald Trump / @realDonaldTrump
During his presidential announcement speech, the real estate mogul and businessman reminded the audience of his $8 billion net worth. “I’m really rich,” he said. There’s perhaps no better place for Trump to spend a few stacks than Trentina, the Northern Italian restaurant helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Jonathan Sawyer. The city’s fanciest restaurant has its own in-house fermenter, charcuterie maker, and forager—all of which contribute to the extensive 12-course tasting menu.
Jeb Bush / @JebBush
If former Florida governor Jeb Bush and his wife, Columba, are craving their favorite eats from Taqueria El Mexicano (the Miami eatery Bush remembers fondly), they can head to La Plaza Supermarket. In the back of this Mexican grocery, made-to-order tacos are sold in paper baskets. If you have any doubt that Bush loves Mexican food, just have a look at the new (and somewhat hilariously named) Guaca Bowle, released to help support his campaign.
Scott Walker / @ScottWalker
Tucked inside the Historic West Side Market is The Cheese Shop, where an aromatic collection of more than 175 classic and unusual cheeses from around the world tempts Walker’s Wisconsin cheese sensibilities. After all, he’s the head of the state “where [the] cheeseheads are from,” and he’s been known to mention the topic as many as 17 times at a single public event. Fortunately, The Cheese Shop has more than a dozen Wisconsin selects, including Moody Blue, made from four-months-aged cow’s milk.
Ben Carson / @RealBenCarson
Carson documented his rise from inner-city poverty to accomplished neurosurgeon in his autobiography, Gifted Hands, which was later turned into an Academy Award-winning film. He’s since written five other books, including a New York Times bestseller, and gone on to co-found the Carson Scholars Fund with his wife. We think the scholar in him would enjoy spending his free time in Cleveland at the independent bookstore Loganberry Books (home to more than 100,000 texts) or admiring the Frank Gehry-designed Peter B. Lewis building at Case Western University.
Mike Huckabee / @GovMikeHuckabee
“Some people really like classical music and ballet and opera: it’s not my cup of tea,” Huckabee told CNN. The former Arkansas governor prefers running marathons and lounging on the powdery white sands of his $3 million vacation villa in Florida. We suggest Huckabee bed down at the recently renovated Westin Cleveland Downtown, home to the city’s largest hotel fitness center (a whopping 3,000 square feet) or check out Edge Water Park, which fronts Lake Erie. Later, the burgeoning Waterloo arts district is the perfect spot for ol' Huck to soak in a little culture.
Marco Rubio / @MarcoRubio
Cleveland locals love the Johnny Mango World Café & Bar in the historic Ohio City neighborhood, and we think Marco Rubio will, too. If the debate leaves Rubio feeling a little parched, he can head to the juice bar for a tropical sip like the Kale Aid, with kale, apple, lemon, ginger, and cucumber. The cantina-style café also serves traditional island flavors, which might conjure feelings about his Cuban heritage or Florida home.
Rand Paul / @RandPaul
When the debate comes to a close, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul can unwind with a glass of traditional Bluegrass State bourbon at Lizardville Beer Store and Whiskey Bar. The shelves here glimmer with more than 6,000 drafts and bottles—and upwards of 200 whiskeys, ryes, and bourbons.
Ted Cruz / @TedCruz
Although Ted Cruz was born in Canada, he’s a confirmed natural-born U.S. citizen. Just for good measure, he's even renounced his Canadian citizenship. Still, he may crave a taste of home. The Greenhouse Tavern has great poutine, a sinful Quebecois dish of gravy-slathered French fries topped with cheese. Those willing to indulge gather for the Animal Style order, with mozzarella curds, fried eggs, bacon lardons, and whole-grain mustard.
John Kasich / @JohnKasich
The former Fox News host has a very relaxed approach to his bid for the presidency. “If they like it, great. If they don’t like it, I’ll play more golf.” Kasich asks, Cleveland delivers; that is, with its well-manicured Donald Ross-designed Manakki Golf Course, 17 miles east of downtown. Trump will ask to tag along, of course, though he will comment that the 15 courses he owns are far superior.
Chris Christie / @GovChristie
Last month, the New Jersey Governor called for a major reform of the country’s “broken criminal justice system.” To firm up that policy, perhaps he should book a table at EDWINS restaurant, where ex-convicts work in the kitchen making classical dishes like Burgundy snails.
Rick Perry / @GovernorPerry
Texas’ former governor and canine lover can take his many dogs, including his dachshund/black Lab mutt and his new griffon, to the indoor dog park at the Metropolitan at the 9, the year-old Marriott hotel. The enclosed rooftop space, appropriately named Bark, is perched on the 29th floor.
Bobby Jindal / @BobbyJindal
Long before Jindal announced his play for the Oval Office, he had boyhood dreams of being a quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. Now, Jindal gets his kicks by working out and eating sweets. “I love [chocolate chip cookies] and other kinds of junk,” Jindal told The Des Moines Register. Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream, which opened last year and features seasonal flavors, is the perfect stop for this dessert aficionado. He can burn off the calories later—and indulge his unrealized dreams of NFL stardom—on the trails at Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve.
Rick Santorum / @RickSantorum
The permanent exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a great place for the former senator to get in touch with his inner country star. After all, Santorum made his love of the genre known with “Take Back America, UNLEASH OUR PRIDE,” the outrageous country song he used to announce his bid for president. It’s now his official campaign theme song. We’ve got our fingers crossed for a T-Swift mash-up.
Carly Fiorina / @CarlyFiorina
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company, is a proud breast cancer survivor, and an all-around super woman. After finishing up at the 5 p.m. debate, Fiorina (the only female Republican candidate) can stay motivated at the new Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, which was designed by Zaha Hadid, the most powerful woman in architecture right now.
George Pataki / @GovernorPataki
One thing’s certain about the former New York governor: he’s a jack-of-all-trades. In June, Pataki began selling artisanal steaks and burgers at a Manhattan greenmarket. The goods come straight from his personal estate, South Farm, in Essex, N.Y. No doubt he can appreciate the farm-to-table fare at The Flying Fig. What do you say, Pataki? Does the beef tartare or the grass-fed hangar steak with chanterelles hold up to your expectations?
James “Jim” Gilmore / @Gov_Gilmore
This NASCAR-watching, beer-slurping Pizza Hut enthusiast can satisfy his blue-collar cravings at any one of the city’s great sports bars, including Winking Lizard Tavern (unfortunately, they no longer serve his fave brew, Miller Genuine Draft). Rumor has it Gilmore is also a clarinetist, and will most certainly enjoy a musical performance at theCleveland Opera Theater. This summer, free Opera al Fresco concerts will take place across the city.
Lindsey Graham / @LindseyGrahamSC
As a lifelong resident of the Palmetto State, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham certainly knows lowcountry cuisine, so he’d probably be keen to check out the competition up north. Locals swear by Wilbert’s, where the drinks flow as mightily as the sauce and sentences such as “We’ll Get You All Liquor Up!” appear on the official website. If the good Senator Graham ever desires to make a return visit to Cleveland, he should look out for Iron Chef Michael Symon’s hotly anticipated Mabel’s BBQ, expected to open later this year.
Melanie Lieberman is the Assistant Digital Editor atTravel + Leisure.Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @melanietaryn.