Places to escape Winter without leaving Cleveland

We get it, the recent blanket of snow giving way to the blankets of gray slush can make even Winter lovers cry out for a little sunshine.
Need to get away from the weather, but can't get on the next flight to Miami? These local destinations can help take away some of the cabin fever and escape Winter.

Empress Taytu

Empress Taytu Ethiopian Restaurant

Empress Taytu Ethiopian Restaurant (6125 St Clair Ave) doesn’t just give you the flavors of North Africa, it transports you with its decor and music.  Tables sitting inside grass huts are draped with colorful fabric, and strung with Christmas lights.

The majority of the entrees consist of saucy and savory slow-cooked meats and vegetables, served atop the light, spongy injera bread. There are plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans, and while the menu may look intimidating to those unfamiliar with the food, the friendly staff is happy to help.

You can even order a “coffee ceremony” service for the meals end, with coffee beans roasted tableside, and brewed fresh into special cups.

OPEN Tues-Thu – 5:00-9:00 pm / Fri-Sat – 5:00-10:00 pm  Closed – Sunday and Monday

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The RainForest - Metroparks Zoo

So much of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (3900 Wildlife Way) is outdoor, you can forget there’s still plenty going on in the Winter months.

The RainForest’s enclosure houses more than 10,000 plants, and 600 animals from Asia, Africa and the Americas, where they can thrive in a tropical climate. Birds fly overhead, apes climb massive trees, and even bats enjoy their darkened cavern. Complete with a 25-foot waterfall and simulated rainstorm area, the RainForest will take you far away from the chilly outdoors.

The Rainforest is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Cleveland Botanical Gardens

Much like the zoo, the Cleveland Botanical Gardens can be overlooked in the cold weather. In the heart of University Circle, the impressive Glasshouse is a temperature-controlled environment  houses 50 species of exotic plants, and  50 different types of butterflies, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

You can see “upside down” bobabs, a massive strangler vine, and watch as ants parade up and down their natural bridges of branches and roots. The Glasshouse even holds a daily butterfly release daily at 2pm, where the newly-hatched pupas give flight for the first time. The environment is truly beautiful, and the humidity control will really clear those sinuses!

Tuesday – Saturday: 10am – 5pm
Sunday:  Noon – 5pm
Monday: Closed

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Porco Lounge & Tiki Room

We’ve visited Porco Lounge & Tiki Room (2527 W. 25th) before, and the over-the-top tropical decor of throwback island cheesiness can warm the frost right off you. The drinks help too.

With a menu of tiki classics like the Mai Tai, Navy Grog and the very potent Zombie, as well as plenty of modern selections, these rum-forward drinks are not for the faint of heart. For those looking to brave the stormy seas of whatever the skies may bring, it’s a warm port.

Monday-Thursday 5:00 PM-Midnight / Friday-Saturday 4:00 PM-1:30 AM / Closed Sunday

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Johnny M

Johnny Mango

Offering what they describe as a meeting of Mexican, Asian & Caribbean flavors, Johnny Mango’s (3120 Bridge Ave) colorful walls and starry ceiling brings you back to a Summer state of mind.

Healthy and fresh food comes in a variety of burritos, rice bowls, salads, “big plates” of sharable options, and their famous Pad Thai. There’s also a wide selection of milkshakes and margaritas, just so you don’t think it’s all health food.

Tuesday are “Taco Tuesdays”, featuring $2 tacos (dine-in only) from 4pm-10pm, if you needed a further push to visit.

Mon thru Thurs: 11 am – 10 pm / Friday: 11 am – 11 pm / Saturday: 9 am – 11 pm / Sunday: 9 am – 10 pm / Bar open ‘till  1 am

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Ray's Indoor Bike Park

Ray’s Indoor Bike Park (9801 Walford Ave) lets you tear it up on your mountain bike without ever worrying about hitting an icy patch.

Bring your own bike, or rent one from Ray’s, and hit one of their indoor courses. The ranges vary in skills levels, from beginning to expert, with jumps, hills and ramps all available. You can see some of the courses for yourself in our video profile. 

Monday – Friday: 12 noon – 10pm
Saturday and Sunday: 9am – 10pm

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Well, we couldn’t NOT list it, right? Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville (1150 Front Ave) has proven to be a destination restaurant, and an important part of the revitalization of the Flats.

The size of an airplane hanger, the Parrotheaded diner can chow down on Floridian-inspired menu items like shrimp, quesadillas, crab cakes, and of course, Cheeseburgers In Paradise. As it’s always 5 O’clock somewhere, you can down a pint of their exclusive Landshark Lager. And yes, there are plenty of margaritas.

Sunday to Thursday 11am – 10pm / Friday to Saturday 11am – 12am

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