In 1880, the final fasteners and sleepers on the Valley Railway were tightened into place. It wouldn’t be long before a billowing cloud of steam announced the arrival of the first train running through the Cuyahoga Valley, a territory that had served as a passageway for foot traffic for thousands of years. Over the next century, the railway contributed to the growth of commerce between Akron and Cleveland, changing ownership multiple times, and transforming from a freight train, into a passenger train, back to a freight train, and finally into a UFO.
Now celebrating its 41st year of passenger-rail service, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad transports sightseers over the historic rails through 33,000 acres of land owned by the National Park Service. With a year-round roster of trips, including wine- and beer-tasting excursions, passengers can set forth on morning, afternoon, and evening journeys that sweep past meadowlands, pinery, and rivers and give glimpses of native wildlife, such as fox, deer, bobcat mascots, and owls.
When instructors lead classes for toddlers and preschool children at Tots University, the colorful 10,000-square-foot space comes to life. Throughout the day, these energetic teachers keep students busy singing songs, working on craft projects, or using macaroni to solve high-level calculus problems. For fun, kids can don costumes and perform in the drama program or hone their coordination and motor skills in gymnastics classes.
Kids' sponge-like brains can't help but absorb their surroundings, which unfortunately may be becoming increasingly stressful. "Never before in human history have we been flooded with [so much] information and technology," founder Kelli Slavin says. "Parents don’t know how to deal with it. Kids don't know how to deal with it." But she helps combat overburdened minds with The Light Academy's combination of Kundalini yoga and art classes for kids. Kundalini yoga focuses on breathing as the gateway to inner peace and health. It "stimulates the glandular system [and helps] engage the brain … and promote general wellness." She leads kids through Kundalini exercises, helping them to soothe their minds and teaching them to cope with anxiety and stress, ultimately pushing them to connect to their inner "greatness."
With that inner greatness, kids can interpret the world through art. "Giving kids a creative outlet is very important," Slavin says. "They're downloading whatever is in their head and making something beautiful." Classes delve into exciting projects, such as creating original comic books and making kites, or arming homemade piñatas with popsicle-stick swords or giant, weeping doe eyes.:m]]
Behind a real bar, the instructors at Cleveland Bartending School mix cocktails with finesse and expertise, running through barroom staples and trendy cocktails as students look on in bewildered anticipation. After the lectures and demonstrations, the metaphorical table turns, and students man the bar to practice the skills necessary to serve drinks professionally. This is the regular scene during the school's 40-hour mixology program, a professional-caliber class series that covers everything potential mixologists will need to know to sling drinks in the wild.
The courses break down the ingredients of as many as 125 specialty drinks and cocktails?including manhattans and martinis?as well as beer and wine information, customer-service techniques, and responsible alcohol service. The school also adheres to the Anheuser-Busch Beertender and Guinness Perfect Pour training programs. Upon completion of the 40-hour training program, students can take advantage of Cleveland Bartending School's local and nationwide job-placement assistance, which has landed students employment at venues such as Ritz Carlton hotels and resorts, McCormick & Schmick's, and Embassy Suites.
Grape guru and oenophile Marianne Frantz, who holds a diploma from London's Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and who earned an Advanced Sommelier qualification from the Court of Master Sommeliers, founded American Wine School in 2002. She and her school have gone on to shepherd more than 10,000 sippers through classes, tastings, and grape-lookalike contests. Marianne, along with her knowledgeable staff, impart their vino wisdom in classes that range from the basic Wine 101 to the more extensive WSET certification courses. The school's classes and special events have even spilled into seven different states, teaching tongues across the nation to swirl, sniff, and taste the adult beverages and analyze why drinking wine while doing taxes is a bad idea.
Spread across three stories and 110,000 square feet, the Cleveland State University Recreation Center enables students, faculty, and members of the community to tailor custom workouts and play a variety of sports. Weight rooms and cardio equipment help members form balanced workout regimens. Alternatively, athletes can hit the basketball, volleyball, or racquetball courts or take a dip in one of the Busbey Natatorium's two lap pools. Above the facilities, a 7,000-square-foot rooftop patio allows guests to cool off amid light foliage and a view of the campus.