To some, they are one and the same, but for Akronites there’s a distinction. There’s so much to see and to experience in Northeast Ohio, it’s hard to belong to it all.
There’s pride in Akron, Ohio. You see it on Main Street and in the Portage Lakes. You see it when the Black Keys, who were 2013’s biggest Grammy winners, thank our city in an awards speech. And you can find that same sense of community just 40 miles north in Cleveland.
The Portage Lakes, a chain of lakes in southern Summit County, was my backyard as a kid. The water was a summer racetrack for a jet ski, and in the winter, an ice skating rink. It was a place to fish, to learn to sail, and the perfect spot to watch the sun go down. I spent many afternoons while school was out jumping off a pontoon boat on Rex Lake. And at the height of any of the four seasons, my family loved a dinner out at Dietz’s or the Olde Harbor Inn.
Seeing water out your window can spoil you. Growing up near Lake Erie, or one of our regions’ hundreds of smaller lakes, can make you forget how great those lakes really are. Across Northeast Ohio, the water unites us. The lakes, rivers, and locks connect one community to the next. And you can’t beat the view.
Northeast Ohio was a hard place to leave, even when Ohio University was calling me. Ten years later, life and work brought me back, this time to Cleveland. I’d been downtown before, but this city looked different. There’s a new energy that is attracting families, young professionals, and companies to our region.
While I’ve found my new home in Cuyahoga County, I’ll forever be from the south side. Instead of a quick drive down 77, I can bike the Ohio & Erie Towpath Trail between the two cities and take the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad train home for just $3. I still return to my hometown to meet friends on the deck at new spots, like On Tap at the Harbor Inn.
There’s a whole new world for me to explore to the north: neighborhood shops and restaurants on the east and west side. I’m practicing my weekly trivia skills in Lakewood at Jammy Buggars, occasionally (okay, maybe regularly) enjoying Bananas Foster ice cream handmade at Sweet Moses along the Detroit Shoreway and an indie movie with popcorn at Cleveland Heights’ Cedar Lee Theater.
One thing that’s constant: Northeast Ohio is always underappreciated. It’s a gem in the rough; the staples still around, the rest new enough to revisit. For towns as old as these, they are reinventing themselves.
If you haven’t been to downtown Cleveland in a while, or Akron, or the Portage Lakes for that matter, follow my lead and take a second look.
Sara Shookman is a Channel 3 News anchor trying to enjoy life, tell great stories and keep people honest. You can find her on TV alongside Russ Mitchell at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. on WKYC, and always on Facebook, twitter and instagram @SaraShookman.