Plenty is cookin’ in Cleveland for Badger fans

My friends, we have a dilemma: There are too many things to do in Cleveland during Labor Day weekend.

That is the way my e-mail to two dozen people began this month, in response to questions about what we’ll do to pass the time during a group outing.

We are heading to Ohio to watch Wisconsin play Bowling Green, at Cleveland Browns Stadium, but college football isn’t the only lure. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is worth the trip, too, and we consider this a fun excuse to travel by train, which will take about six hours from Chicago.

Gas prices have soared, but having Amtrak tickets means we won’t be howling about the expense of our typical mode of transportation: RV rental and/or vans. Everybody can relax because nobody has to worry about being the driver. The train stops downtown, and a hotel shuttle should be waiting. We’ll also have a light rail system, buses, cabs, trolleys and our feet to get us around.

Although trip planning began last December (that is when we locked into a group rate for hotel rooms downtown, and a group rate for Amtrak tickets), it wouldn’t be hard for you to duplicate our efforts quickly.

A roundtrip Amtrak ticket to Cleveland recently was $183 from Milwaukee and $124 from Chicago. See www.amtrak.com or call 800-872-7245. (By booking months ahead and as a group, we’re paying about $80 per person.)

We’ll get to Amtrak by riding a Chicago Metra train, about $10 roundtrip. Departure points include Kenosha and a swath of Illinois cities, including Waukegan, Harvard, Crystal Lake and Elgin. It’s $1 per day to park (allow extra time to get a multiple-day parking pass). See www.metrarail.com or call 312-322-6777.

A ticket to the Sept. 2 Badger football game is $30. Club level seating (which includes a better view, cushioned seat and access to alcohol sales) is $50. Order tickets from the Wisconsin Athletic Ticket Office at 800-462-2343 (until Aug. 15) or the Bowling Green Ticket Office at 877-247-8842.

What else about Cleveland has caught our eye? Several events and attractions, all accessible by foot or public transportation, including:

UW Alumni Association Badger Huddle/Blast, 4 p.m. Sept. 2 at The Velvet Dog, 1280 W. Sixth St. (two blocks from stadium). Cost is $35, which includes food, beer, Bucky, UW Band music. For more: 
www.uwalumni.com, 608-262-2551.
Cleveland National Air Show, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 2-4, at Burke Lakefront Airport. Tickets at the gate are $19-27 (higher cost is for reserved seating). For more: www.clevelandairshow.com, 216-781-0747.

Special exhibits about Bob Dylan and Rob Orbison at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is $20. For more: www.rockhall.com, 216-781-7625.

Taste of Cleveland, a sampling of local restaurant specialties, at Tower City Amphitheater during the afternoon and evening on Sept. 1-4. Admission is $6. There is music as well as food. For more: www.cleveland.com/tasteofcleveland, 440-247-4386.

Special exhibit about chimps and the research/life of Jane Goodall in Africa, closes Sept. 3, at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Admission is $7.50. For more: www.cmnh.org, 800-317-9155.

“Respect: A Musical Journey for Women” (Top 40 music about “the journey of women”) at the Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square. Tickets are $40.50. For more: www.playhousesquare.org, 800-766-6048.

R&B/soul concert by Maze, Frankie Beverly and Will Downing, 8 p.m. Sept. 1 at State Theatre, also at Playhouse Square. Tickets are $59-69. For more: www.playhousesquare.org, 800-766-6048.

Specialty shops and restaurants in Little Italy can be accessed by light rail. For more: www.littleitalycleveland.com, 216-795-1870.

Nautica Entertainment Complex (www.nauticaflats.com, 216-861-4080) venues include a brew-pub, other bars/restaurants and a comedy club. A Charity Poker Festival — with Texas Hold’em — is here Sept. 1-3. For more: www.nauticacharitypoker.org.

Restaurants and entertainment in the Gateway and Warehouse Districts, both downtown, also come highly recommended. (The Badger pre-game tailgate is in the Warehouse District; House of Blues and Pickwick & Frolic comedy/cabaret club are in Gateway.) For more about these areas, and lodging options, consult www.travelcleveland.com, 800-321-1001.

One- and two-hour trolley tours of the area cost $10/$15. For more: www.lollytrolley.com. Lunch and sunset dinner cruises (buffet meal, music) leave from the Nautica/Flats area, too, and cost $23.95 to $44.95. Booze and soft drinks are extra. For more: www.nauticaqueen.com.

A free trolley operates 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays downtown. We’re likely to buy the Individual All Day Pass for $3.50, for unlimited rides on the city’s buses and/or light rail for one day. For more about Cleveland’s Rapid Transit System, see www.rideRTA.com, 216-566-5100.