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Several day trip adventures are possible from Cleveland, ranging from Lake Erie islands, beaches and the world's largest Amish community, to Cedar Point, the roller coaster capital of the world. Additional leading nearby attractions include the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton and Mormon history attractions, Holden Arboretum, and Lake Metroparks Farmpark, all in Kirtland.
For those seeking an escape to nature, a good hike, winter sports activities (including snow boarding and downhill skiing), excellent biking, canoeing and kayaking, and more, look no further than the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which begins about a half hour south of downtown. The CVNP is one of the ten most visited national parks and has no admission charge.
The Mohican region near Mansfield offers outdoor adventures and a mid-20th century Hollywood escape frozen in time. Mansfield features the Ohio Reformatory, where the "Shawshank Redemption" was filmed, and the Richland Carousel, a favorite of children.
Great art museums
outside of Cleveland include the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, the
Toledo Museum of Art. The latter features the Glass Pavilion, one of
the great American buildings of the 21st century, and with arguably the
best collection of ancient glass artifacts in the world. The Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, considered among the best of any college or university in the U.S., also is highly regarded.
The State of Ohio and virtually every Ohio county and major city has a visitors bureau which will provide additional information.
Ohio Amish Country, one of Ohio's major tourist attractions, features the largest Amish community in the world, most of it located in the rolling Allegheny foothills across seven Ohio counties. While the closest part is located in Geauga County, around 40 minutes from downtown, the most popular destination is two hours south of Cleveland around Walnut Creek in eastern Holmes County. Eastern Holmes County is much more pervasively Amish than the well-known Lancaster County of Pennsylvania.
Cedar Point and Sandusky are about one hour west of downtown. Cedar Point is America's largest roller coaster park and often labeled the Roller Coaster Capital of the World. It is consistently ranked as the world's best amusement park by trade magazine "Amusement Today." Cedar Point is an absolute must for the roller coaster afficionado, but has plenty to offer to the non-thrill-seeking type, including a water park, shows, arcades, a beach, non-thrill rides, and kiddie attractions. Cedar Point is open daily from early May through Labor Day weekend, and weekends in September and October. It features Halloweekends beginning in September during Halloween season. Allow at least a full day for just Cedar Point's amusement park and consider fast passes during peak days. Check out the Sandusky destination forum for more information.Kalahari Resort in Sandusky is one of the largest indoor waterparks in the U.S. Sandusky also is a ferry port for the Lake Erie islands (see discussion below). Or if you just want to have some indoor family fun, stop at Ghostly Manor Thrill Center www.ghostlymanor.com with a haunt attraction once rated among "The Best Places I've Ever Been" by the Travel Channel.
Canton, just over an hour from Cleveland, is the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Other attractions in Canton include the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum and the National First Ladies' Library.
Kirtland, about 30 minutes east of downtown, is the home of the Kirtland Temple, Historic Kirtland, Holden Arboretum, Lake Metroparks Farmpark, and Gildersleeve Mountain, collectively affording visitors some of the best historical perspectives and hiking in northern Ohio.
Kirtland is where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) saw the establishment of church organization and basic doctrines. The Kirtland Temple was the first Mormon temple and is a National Historic Landmark. It is open to the public, unlike Mormon temples of the Salt Lake City-based LDS. That's because it is owned by the Community of Christ, a separate Mormon sect headquartered in Independence, Missouri, whose temples are open to the public. Opened in 1836, the Kirtland Temple is one of the oldest surviving buildings in northern Ohio and an example of pre-Civil War carpentry skills.
Historic Kirtland is an historic site restored and maintained by the Salt Lake City-based LDS church to witness the pioneering spirit of this period of the church's history. The painstaking restoration reportedly features the only functional ashery in the U.S. Visitors to Historic Kirtland learn not only about the economic foundations of an early 19th century American community, but also about the spiritual foundation of the LDS movement.
The Holden Arboretum is one of the largest and best in the U.S. Its 3,600 acres contain over 17,000 accessioned plants and mass plantings, emphasizing plants that will prosper in northern Ohio, including plants collected in similar climates along the 40th parallel from China and Korea. Holden Natural Areas comprising 1491 acres are one of the 591 National Natural Landmarks. Of Holden's two National Natural Landmarks, Bole Woods is open to the public, but Stebbins Gulch can be visited only as part of a guided tour.
Lake Metroparks Farmpark was named by USA Today as one of North America's 10 best farmparks. It's a family-oriented science and cultural center devoted to agriculture, farming and country life. Among its 50 breeds of livestock are over a dozen endangered species, such as Jacob sheep, which often have four to six horns. Visitors can engage in such activities as hand-milking a caged cow in the dairy parlor, an activity typically engaged in by children to the great delight of camera-toting parents. From corn mazes to dog-herding demonstrations, from an antique tractor collection to alternative energy demonstrations, this farmpark attempts to cover a wide gamut of farm and country activities. It offers one of the best maple sugar bushes in Greater Cleveland in February and March.
Gildersleeve Mountain, accessed by the trails of the Lake Metroparks Chapin Forest Reservation, offers a panoramic view which includes the Cleveland skyline and Lake Erie. It contains a cross country ski center for winter activities.
Mentor, about 30 minutes east of Cleveland, has the largest natural sand beach in Ohio at Headlands Beach State Park. The James A. Garfield National Historic Site there celebrates the life of America's last president born in a log cabin. The site, administered by the National Park Service, features Lawnfield, the beautifully restored Garfield family home, and a small, but very good museum. Garfield and his wife are interred in the magnificent James A. Garfield Monument in Cleveland's superb Lake View Cemetery. Mentor also features two great nature preserves. Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve contains some of the best trails on Lake Erie with bluff forests and 1 1/2 miles of wild beach. The Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve, a National Natural Landmark, is accessed by boardwalk trails. A few miles down Mentor Ave. (Rt. 20) from Mentor is the Rider's Inn in Painesville. Established in 1812, it's the best surviving stagecoach inn in northeastern Ohio.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park begins just over 30 minutes south of downtown. The CVNP offers very good hiking and biking opportunities, and is especially spectacular during autumn's fall colors. It is one of the 10 most visited national parks.
Key features include Brandywine Falls, an impressive waterfall located very near an adjacent parking lot (8176 Brandywine Road, Sagamore Hills), Tinker's Creek Gorge (a National Natural Landmark within the CVNP boundaries but actually part of the Cleveland Metroparks Bedford Reservation), and the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. The latter is used both by bikers and hikers.
The park also showcases human culture, including Blossom Music Center (see section in this travel article), and Hale Farm and Village, a living history museum. Admission to CVNP is free, although some attractions, such as Hale Farm, do charge for admission.
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, www.cvsr.com -
The CVSR offers both morning and afternoon railroad trips through the
Cuyahoga Valley National Park with destinations as far as Akron and
Canton. Trains depart from Independence; just south of Cleveland.
You'll need a car to get to the station. After that, you can have a lot
of fun riding a train like in the good old days. Special theme trains
are available, often appealing to children. The railroad carries well over 100,000 passengers annually.
Blossom Music Center is located in Cuyahoga Falls, less than an hour south of downtown. It's perhaps the best summer music venue in the U.S. for a top-notch classical music experience. Its Pavilion comfortably seats 5,700 and its lawns can hold another 13,500 concert-goers. For popular rock concerts or other near capacity events, parking ingress and egress can take 1-2 hours. Blossom is located inside the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in a natural parabolic bowl. Given its setting in the woods, bringing insect repellant is a good idea, especially for lawn seats. Blossom is the summer home of the world-renown Cleveland Orchestra, and also features other ensembles comprised of orchestra musicians, all part of the annual Blossom Music Festival. In addition, other genres of music are presented by livenation.com.
Lake Erie's islands are another day trip possibility, although many visitors, especially those who want to party in Put-in-Bay, stay for at least one night. Both adult entertainment venues and family activities are available. The islands typically are reached by ferries operating from several Lake Erie ports, including Sandusky and Port Clinton. Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island bills itself as the Key West of the North Coast, while Kelleys Island features a cozy beach and the best known example of glacier grooves. Put-in-Bay also is the site of Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, one of the nation's 29 national memorials administered by the National Park Service. It celebrates the American naval victory in the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813, fought just off South Bass Island, and the subsequent peace between the U.S., U.K., and Canada. The American victory, one of the most important naval victories in U.S. history, helped secure Ohio, Michigan and much of the Midwest for the nascent American republic. It also reportedly is the only time in British history that an entire fleet, albeit a small one, was surrendered to an enemy. The memorial features a 31-story observation deck atop the world's most massive Doric column. The memorial, the only peace memorial in the National Park Service, stands 47 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The open-air, upper observation deck platform is 12 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty’s torch. On a clear day, visitors can see the Ohio mainland, Michigan, and Ontario.
Akron, about 40 minutes southeast of downtown Cleveland, features Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, a magnificent estate. Stan Hywet reportedly is the twelth largest historic residence in the U.S. and is the largest historic residence destination in Ohio. At 64,500 square feet, it is almost 4,000 square feet larger than the more famous Hearst Castle in California. Stan Hywet is famed for its furnishings, gardens and its Christmas decorations and holiday season "Deck the Hall" themes. It was built by F. A. Seiberling, the founder of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.
National Natural Landmarks located nearest Cleveland include Arthur B. Williams Memorial Woods (located in Willoughby Hills in the North Chagrin Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks' famed "Emerald Necklace"), the Mentor Marsh (see Mentor, Ohio), Tinker's Creek Gorge (see Cuyahoga Valley National Park), and Holden Natural Areas (see the Holden Arboreturm in the Kirtland discussion). White Pine Bog Forest, Mantua Swamp, Crall Woods, Brown's Lake Bog, and the Clear Fork Gorge (see discussion of Mohican State Park in the Mohican Region section), all are day trip possibilities. Of the 596 National Natural Landmarks, 23 are located in Ohio, with the above nine within day trip range of Cleveland.
Mansfield, about 90 minutes south of Cleveland, offers attractions such as the Ohio State Reformatory, used in the filming of the Shawshank Redemption. Tours of the reformatory, including ghost walks and events, generally are available from May 1 to September 1, with some Halloween season programs also offered.
Fans of the "Shawshank Redemption" also enjoy Mansfield's "Shawshank Trail," which features locations used in the movie, including the Ohio State Reformatory and Malabar Farm State Park.
Mohican Region is located two hours southwest of Cleveland and directly southeast of Mansfield. It features the unique Malabar Farm State Park, a preserved mid-20th century Hollywood escape and a working farm, complete with barn dances and other activities. With nearby Mohican State Park, a state forest, and a large artificial lake, this region is a favorite escape for many Greater Clevelanders. Loudonville is a popular tourist destination there, and the most popular family canoeing location in northern Ohio.
Mohican State Park offers a state lodge, managed by Xanterra, the same firm that manages several famed national park lodges, as well as cottages, and camping sites, including primitive areas. The lodge has an indoor Olympic-sized pool, and an outdoor Olympic-sized pool is additionally available for campers. The park has a mountain biking trail. Mohican State Park and its lodge border Pleasant Hill Lake, formed by the Pleasant Hill Dam, a favorite place for children to visit and viewable also from Mohican State Park trails. Pleasant Hill Lake Park near Perrysville also offers camping, a beach and a marina with boat rentals. Clear Fork Gorge, a National Natural Landmark, is located inside the park.
Malabar Farm State Park near Lucas uniquely features a mid-20th century Hollywood escape, featuring the 32-room "Big House" preserved as it existed at the time including almost all furnishings. Malabar Farm was the home of perhaps the greatest American Renaissance man of the 20th century -- Louis Bromfield. Bromfield was a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, accomplished screenwriter, prominent political commentator, and one of the fathers of American sustainable agriculture. Malabar Farm was conveniently located for cross-country passenger train travelers between Los Angeles and New York City. Bromfield's good friend Humphrey Bogart married Lauren Bacall at Malabar Farm. The park also offers a working farm, a hostel, campground, beautiful trails, winter sports activities, tractor tours, a maple sugar bush, and an occasional barn dance. The park also was a shooting location for the film "The Shawshank Redemption." The Malabar Farm Restaurant is housed in one of the oldest stagecoach inns in Ohio and features a locavore menu.
Tree Frog Canopy Tours near Loudonville reportedly offers an excellent hardwood zipline adventure.
Lake Erie Beaches are an excellent summer attraction. Pack a picnic. The most popular beaches near Cleveland are Huntington Reservation in Bay Village, Edgewater Park in Cleveland (near W 25th), Mentor Headlands in Mentor, and Lake Metroparks Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park Beach. Mentor headlands has about a mile of natural sand beach, the largest in Ohio, and tends to be the least crowded of Greater Cleveland beaches. Fairport Harbor Beach is protected by a breakwall which mutes the wave action for smaller children; it also has a dog beach. Huntington Reservation has an ice cream stand and good views of the Cleveland skyline, but can get quite crowded in the summer time.
Geneva State Park has a 300-foot Lake Erie beach about an hour east of downtown Cleveland. It uniquely offers campsites and cabins in addition to a lodge. It's also adjacent to the popular resort strip at Geneva-on-the-Lake and in a popular winery district.
Swimmers must be cautious after any local rain events, as bacterial levels can be raised by storm water run-off. Bacterial monitoring often lags by 24 hours.
Cleveland and surrounding suburbs are implementing a robust storm water capture program, which should improve water quality for beaches in those areas and immediately east in coming years.
Lake Erie Wineries are located both east and west of Cleveland.
The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake, part of the Geneva State Park, offers van tours of the many local wineries.world's largest open-air geodesic dome in Materials Park.
Youngstown, about 80 minutes from Cleveland, is the location of the Butler Institute of American Art, the first museum dedicated exclusively to American art. There is no admission charge, although donations are welcome. The Beecher Center, housed in the south wing of the Butler's Youngstown location, is the first museum addition dedicated solely to new media and electronic art.
Mill Creek Park was Ohio's first park district and features Lanterman's Mill, built in 1845-46 and restored in the early 1980s. This water-powered mill produces stone-ground grains. Visitors can call ahead to check hours of operation, which may be halted for low water or mechanical problems. This area of park also features an observation deck overlooking Lanterman's Falls, a covered bridge, and an award-winning boardwalk Gorge Trail. Fellows Riverside Gardens, especially its rose gardens, are another popular feature in the almost 2,882-acre park. The park also includes three lakes, boathouses, a lily pond, and a nature center. Recreational activities offered also include biking, boating, fishing, golf, tennis, volleyball, picnicking, cross country skiing and sledding.
Presque Isle State Park is located about 90 minutes northeast of Cleveland. Presque Isle, a National Natural Landmark, features some of the best beaches on Lake Erie on a sandy peninsula that arches into the lake. In late July and through August, the surface water temperature of Lake Erie can top 75 degrees F. At the entrance to the state park is Waldameer Park, an old-fashioned trolley amusement park. There is no admission charge to Waldameer; visitors pay for the rides separately. Waldameer features the Ravine Flyer II roller coaster, which crosses a freeway and is rated as one of the best wooden coasters in the world.Connecticut Western Reserve. Pioneers from New England poured into the region and built many small towns reminiscent of the towns they left behind in New England . These towns remain existence today, and make excellent day trips from the city of Cleveland .
Kent, about 50 minutes southeast of downtown Cleveland, is the home of Kent State University. Kent's Historic Main Street is known for its live music venues, art galleries, one-of-a-kind shops, and dozens of restaurants. In 2009-2013, Downtown Kent has been undergone a 100 million dollar revitalization, making it a great place to spend the day. Stroll along the river paths and enjoy the historic architecture, brick alleys, and public art. Stop for some fresh made carmel corn, chocolates or ice cream, have a few laughs in the toy and gag shop and eat at one of the award winning restaurants. Stay the night at the new KSU hotel and enjoy the nightlife and the riverfront activities such as biking, tubing and kayaking. Favorite historic sites include the Pufferbelly's, an 1875 train depot converted to a restaurant and Acorn Alley and Acorn Corner, a restored old hotel built circa 1920's now hosts BW3's restaurant.
Regional performing arts -- Lakewood is adjacent to Cleveland and its Beck Center offers a robust theater schedule to complement the many offerings in Cleveland proper. The E. J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall in Akron is an excellent performance space that often hosts events not available elsewhere in the region. One of the more unique musical theater opportunities in the region is The Ohio Light Opera. Its summer schedule takes place when Cleveland's PlayhouseSquare is relatively dark. Gilbert & Sullivan fans particularly make the summer trek to Wooster.
Columbus and Pittsburgh are both within 3 hours drive of Cleveland and both are worth a visit if time permits. It's probably too far to drive there and back in one day, but either would make a great weekend trip. Some Clevelanders do visit the Columbus Zoo, sometimes rated as one of the nation's best, as a day trip.