More than nine million people a year visit this plucky city perched along the Lake Erie shoreline in northeastern Ohio. What's the draw? Professional sports, cutting-edge medical care, and world-class cultural institutions are part of the appeal. Perhaps less well known to outsiders are the array of charming neighborhoods -- Coventry Village, Little Italy, Tremont, and Shaker Heights -- filled with boutiques, galleries, and coffee shops. This underrated city's abundance of locally owned restaurants is also helping Cleveland burnish its reputation as the "epicenter of the Midwest food scene," in the words of the Chicago Tribune.

Cleveland has a rich history. George Washington once said that a great city would stand in the blessed spot where the Cuyahoga River met Lake Erie. Industrial success infused the city with money early on, as steel and oil barons built a monumental downtown and a cultural legacy that includes the world-renowned Cleveland Museum of Art, Case Western Reserve University, and the Cleveland Orchestra. These institutions provided a solid foundation for postindustrial urban development, which took a giant step forward in 1994 with the opening of Jacobs (now Progressive) Field, the first of the nation's new wave of retro-modern Major League ballparks. A year later came I. M. Pei's splendid Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which mirrors Pei's own Louvre expansion with its playful pyramid-shaped design.

Although Cleveland's industrial foundation is very much in evidence, downtown's steel warehouses and tool-and-die factories now house clubs and restaurants, and its many bridges lead to gentrified neighborhoods. The city still has some rough edges and bleak areas of poverty, but these days is striving for global recognition and focusing on spreading the word to attract both American and international visitors.