Getting to Know Cleveland Plus as a Summer Intern

It’s hard for me to believe these days, but just a few years ago I was a junior at Kent with plans to head out-of-state after graduation. That summer, I landed a phenomenal internship in Downtown Cleveland, reconnected with the region I grew up in, and found my plans quickly changed. As the region is once again filled with college and graduate students working hard to gain practical experience in their selected fields, I wanted to share some of the opportunities available to visiting and local students hoping to get a better feel for life in NEO before the summer is over. I continue to take advantage of these opportunities each summer, which have only made me more certain I’ve found just the right spot to kick off my career.

Learning on Lunch  

Willard Park at the corner of East 9th Street and Lakeside Avenue in Downtown Cleveland is a fantastic lunch spot any day of the week and is also home to Food Truck Fridays.


My first summer in Downtown Cleveland, I hardly knew my way around Euclid Avenue. I packed my lunch and used lunchtimes to scope out some of the phenomenal green spaces and park seating scattered around downtown, which have only gotten better since my first summer in the city. A few of my favorites include the Veteran’s Memorial Plaza, Mall B, which sits atop the Cleveland Convention Center, and the front lawn of the Cleveland State University Monte Ahuja College of Business. Of course, NEO is one of the best places to be to find something delicious to eat, so your lunch hour can also be the perfect time to scope out some of the areas great lunch spots. If the weather doesn’t allow for an outdoor lunch break, grab something from the Fifth Street Arcades—the food court features Indian, Mediterranean, and vegan cuisines, among others, at great prices. You can’t go wrong with a local food truck lunch, either. Walnut Wednesdays, Lunch by the Lake on Thursdays, and Food Truck Fridays at Willard Park are all great options for quick, fun lunches.

Taking a New Route

Downtown Cleveland is home to a number of gorgeous public parks and green spaces, particularly with the recent renovation to the Malls. I got to know several of them when I changed up my daily walks from the bus stop to work.  


Stepping into a new summer routine is the perfect time to try out a different commute. Take the bus, the train, ride your bike, or pass through new neighborhoods on your way to and from work. For me, getting to know the variety of services RTA provides across NEO during my first summer downtown was extremely important. After I had mastered taking the Redline train from my home in the west side suburbs into Downtown Cleveland, I graduated to the bus and trolley system, and found it was easy to get from home to work, and to my after-work plans quickly. By the time I moved to Cleveland for law school, I was comfortable navigating the system, particularly with the RTA’s real-time schedule, NextConnect.

Sticking Around

Take a Hike Tours are a fun and free way to get to know a number of different Downtown Cleveland neighborhoods.   


After some particularly long workdays, my first instinct is to head home to relax, but some of my best experiences getting to know the region as a summer intern happened after work. I attribute almost all of my knowledge of the history and architecture of downtown Cleveland to the Take a Hike Tours, provided free each and every week during the summer months through a variety of downtown neighborhoods. It can also be great to get to know other areas of the region, and the amazing individuals doing new and exciting things in it, with events like PechaKucha Night Cleveland, which hosts fast-moving presentations on a variety of topics in a new spot around Cleveland each session. Last summer, I got to check out the Flats East Bank development and the AHA! light installation from LAND Studio at two of PechaKucha’s events. After-work shopping can also be a great way to get to know new areas—consider stopping by the Gordon Square Market Wednesday evenings, the Night Market in Asia Town on the last Friday evening of each month, or making an after-work trip to the gorgeous downtown Heinen’s in the historic Ameritrust Building. The new Heinen’s patio is perfect for grabbing a snack while taking in all of the new construction in the area.

Ellen Kirtner
Ellen Kirtner

Ellen Kirtner is a second-year law student at Case Western Reserve University and a Kent State University PRKent alumna. When she’s not studying, you can spot Ellen browsing local markets and shops, adventuring around town on the RTA, and eating as much vegan junk food as possible.