15 Cleveland Nicknames That Will Surprise You

7 min read

Destguides may receive commissions from purchases made through affiliate links in this article.

Ami Parikh/Shutterstock.com
A boardwalk with a "Cleveland" sign and the city skyline in the background
Cleveland monikers have interesting origins, from local sports and music to history

Situated along the shores of Lake Erie is the Ohio city of Cleveland. This friendly city is known for its famous landmarks, like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, much-loved sports teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Browns, and picturesque lake views.

You may also be interested to learn that Cleveland has many alternate names. While many of these Cleveland nicknames are connected to the city's past, others are more modern, relating to recent events and cultural trends. To discover more, keep reading for 15 Cleveland monikers and the stories behind them.

15 Nicknames for Cleveland, Ohio

A white sailboat on a body of water under a clear blue sky
Cleveland is called America's North Coast because it sits on Lake Erie

America's North Coast

You will have heard of the West Coast and East Coast of America. But did you know that there's a North Coast? This area is generally said to relate to the "coast" around the Great Lakes, specifically Lake Erie. As Cleveland sits right on this famous Ohio landmark, it gained the moniker America's North Coast.


The Believeland nickname is most associated with the 2016 NBA finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. However, some suggest that mentions of the name first started in 2007 during another NBA final featuring the Cavaliers. Others say it comes from the 1990s.

Whenever the name was first used, it relates to Cavaliers' fans believing that their team can win the NBA Championship, even when setbacks occur. In 2016, that was the case as Cleveland went on to win after finally beating Golden State 4-3 in game seven of the series. A movie about the story behind the nickname, also called Believeland, was even released in 2016.

A city skyline on a bright day with its reflection on a nearby lake
Cleveland nicknames are often shortened versions of the city name, like C-Town


Quite a few cities have a nickname that comprises the first letter of the city name and "town," and Cleveland is no different. While it's not certain when people started using this Cleveland name, C-Town is still used frequently by locals. Visitors and performing artists that visit the area often use it as well. A variation on the name, C-Land, is also sometimes used.

Metropolis of the Western Reserve

Metropolis of the Western Reserve is another historical Cleveland nickname. This moniker relates to the Connecticut Western Reserve. This was an area of land owned by the Colony of Connecticut. The land was located in what is present-day northeastern Ohio, which includes Cleveland. As Cleveland became the metropolis that it is, this moniker was created.

Prodigy of the Western Reserve is another version of Metropolis of the Western Reserve name that you may hear in a historical context. It was created by George E. Condon, a local journalist.

City skyscrapers and structures lit at night next to a river
Cleveland was the first in the US to install electric lights in public spaces

City of Light

While not used very frequently (even residents will probably think of Paris, France, when hearing this nickname before Cleveland), City of Light relates to a historical Ohio fact. In 1897, Cleveland was the first city to be electrically lit in the United States.

The city illuminated 12 electric lights in Downtown Cleveland around Public Square. While other cities quickly followed suit, Cleveland was briefly a one-of-a-kind place known nationally as the City of Light.


Almost every major US city has a nickname based on its airport code, including Cleveland. CLE is the IATA code for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. It is used as a shortened way to refer to the airport and is occasionally used in conversation by locals as a synonym for Cleveland.

The 216

Another of the Cleveland, Ohio, nicknames that is similar to other cities is the 216. There's a trend among North American cities to use their area code as a nickname.

As you may have guessed by now, 216 is the area code for Cleveland. The code was established in 1947. While it also covers other cities and towns in Cuyahoga County, if you ask Ohio residents where the 206 is, they'll definitely say Cleveland!

Aerial shot of a city with houses and trees near bridges and rivers
The Best Location in the Nation was Cleveland's tourism slogan in the mid-1900s

The Best Location in the Nation

This moniker dates to the mid-1900s and was used in tourism campaigns and other marketing campaigns for the city. It highlighted the city's excellent geographical location (on Lake Erie with easy access to many other cities and states). In addition, Cleveland was thought to be an excellent place to do business, with access to a range of markets.

The name may also have referred to the many amenities and landmarks in Cleveland, suggesting it was one of the best locations to visit in the country. However, the Best Location in the Nation nickname didn't really catch on past the 1960s (when manufacturing saw a decline), and not many people these days will have heard of it.

The Big Plum

The Big Plum is a play on New York City's "Big Apple" moniker. It relates to an advertising campaign for the city in the 1980s that attempted to improve Cleveland's image. The slogan of the campaign was "New York's the Big Apple, but Cleveland's a Plum."

There was even a week-long event related to this saying, and a variety of merchandise with the phrase was produced and distributed. While the campaign did draw attention and results at first, it slowly became somewhat of a joke, and the term fell out of favor.

Tall city buildings with lots of greenery in the foreground
Cleveland was called the Forest City due to its rich canopy cover

The Forest City

A more well-known nickname for Cleveland, and one of the city's oldest, is the Forest City. This nickname was created because Cleveland used to have a lot of trees, making it appear as though it was a city built in a forest.

However, the name isn't that factually true anymore. This is due to canopy cover being drastically reduced over the last 70 years or so. Local governmental and non-profit organizations are trying to increase the number of trees in the city, though. These projects hope to make Cleveland the Forest City once again.

The Green City on a Blue Lake

The Green City on a Blue Lake is quite a literal moniker, referencing the green tree-filled city of Cleveland sitting next to the blue Lake Erie. As mentioned when discussing the Forest City nickname, the amount of greenery in Cleveland has decreased quite a bit over the last decades, making this name a little less relevant.

It also has a second meaning, with "green" being a synonym for eco-friendly. Representatives for the Mayor's Office of Sustainability for the City of Cleveland referred to the area as "a thriving green city on a blue lake" when discussing plans to change Cleveland from a large polluter to a hub of sustainability.

This moniker is also a play on the less favorable Mistake on the Lake nickname that the city has been trying to shake.

The Land is one of the colloquial Cleveland nicknames
The Land was first used in the hip-hop industry in the 1990s

The Land

The Land is one of the popular and frequently used nicknames for Cleveland. It's simply a shorter and more colloquial way to refer to the city. It was first used in the 1990s, mainly in the hip-hop music industry.

By the 2000s, the term had become widespread and was used by locals, visitors, and the media. The Land even featured on the alternate jersey for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2022-2023 NBA season.

The New American City

Around the 1970s, Cleveland saw a decline in its status across the United States, with industry and the city's economy suffering. However, the area went on to re-invent itself as a city unique to others in the country, gaining the moniker of the New American City.

This name was also the title of a book published in 1999 called The New American City Faces Its Regional Future: A Cleveland Perspective. The publication covered Cleveland's changing social and economic landscape and what the city needed to do to revitalize itself.

A facade of a modern structure shaped like a pyramid near a replica of speakers
Cleveland is also known as the Rock and Roll Capital of the World

The Rock and Roll Capital of the World

The Rock and Roll Capital of the World is one of the Cleveland names that is known quite well nationally and even internationally if you're a fan of rock and roll music. Cleveland is one of the cities in which the genre was first developed, and many successful musicians came from the area.

Notably, Cleveland is now home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which additionally cements the idea of being the world's rock and roll capital. Rock City is also sometimes used as a nickname for Cleveland for the same reasons.

Sixth City

This nickname dates to the 1900s. It was created because Cleveland was approximately the sixth-largest city in the country for much of the first half of the 20th century. Cleveland had the sixth-largest population in 1910, 1930, and 1940. Its largest population during those periods was around 900,430 residents.

The city was additionally the fifth largest in 1920 and the seventh largest in 1900 and 1950. After the 50s, Cleveland began to be outranked by other cities, falling out of the top 10 for population in 1980. Today, Cleveland is the 54th most populous US city.

In Conclusion

Having read this article, you should now have a sense of just how many alternate names exist for the city of Cleveland. Many of these names relate to the area's past and its re-invention over the last few decades. Others connect to Cleveland's sporting successes and its scenic location on Lake Erie.

No matter how many of these nicknames you already knew, you're sure to have learned some new things about their origins and importance to the city.

Give us feedback about this article

Written by Alli Sewell

allisewell FORMER WRITER Currently based in Canada, Alli has also lived and worked in the UK and Brazil and traveled in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. She loves finding the best photo-ops and food and drink locations wherever she goes.

Want to keep exploring?

Subscribe for discounts on tickets and hotels and our latest guides.

Thank you for subscribing

We will be in touch soon with discounts on tickets and hotels and our latest guides.

Want to keep exploring?

Subscribe for discounts on tickets and hotels and our latest guides.

Thank you for subscribing

We will be in touch soon with discounts on tickets and hotels and our latest guides.

Want to keep exploring?

Subscribe for discounts on tickets and hotels and our latest guides.

By entering your email address you agree to our terms and conditions, Privacy policy, and consent to receive emails.