Cleveland is a summer city.
Sure, there are things to do in Cleveland year-round, but everyone who calls northeast Ohio home knows that it’s really the summer months that everyone looks forward to. With long days, shady patios, sunny beaches, and Lake Erie sunsets, summer really is one of the best times to be in Cleveland.
If you’re looking for some summer-specific things to do in The Land, read on to learn about our favorites.
12 Things to Do in Cleveland in Summer
1. Have a beach day
Yes, Cleveland has beaches! The city sits right on Lake Erie, after all, which has beaches and even waves on windy days. Many of the city’s beaches are managed by Cleveland Metroparks as part of the Lakeside Reservation, meaning you can look forward to well-maintained spaces.
We’ve written about our favorite Cleveland beaches in more detail in another post, but here are a few of our local favorites:
- Edgewater Beach – Probably the most popular and most well-known beach in Cleveland, this large beach within sight of downtown is the place to be in the summer months. Also in Edgewater Park you can find a fishing pier, volleyball courts, one of the Cleveland Script signs, and sometimes food trucks.
- Huntington Beach – Found in Bay Village west of Cleveland, this beach is one of the nicest in the Cleveland area. The sandy beach lies within Huntington Reservation, which has three miles of nature trails you can also enjoy if you get tired of the water.
- Euclid Beach – Located on the East Side of the city, Euclid Beach Park used to be an amusement park! Today it has a sandy beach area, a brand new pier, spaces for grilling and picnicking, and another Cleveland script sign.
2. Go to an Indians game
Summer and baseball go hand-in-hand, especially in a sports-centric city like Cleveland. Going to an Indians game at Progressive Field is a summertime rite of passage for most Clevelanders.
Going to an Indians game doesn’t look like it’s going to be in the cards for 2020, but in normal years there are 81 home games per season to choose from.
Another baseball-related thing you can do in the summer is to visit the Baseball Heritage Museum at League Park, the original home of Cleveland baseball.
3. Eat on a patio
My assertion that Cleveland is a summer city is only supported by the sheer number of restaurants in the city with outdoor patios. Patio season is a season all unto itself in Cleveland, and locals count down the days until their favorite brewery, bar, or restaurant patio opens each year.
We rounded up 30 great patios in Cleveland in another post, and even that post only scratches the surface!
Some of our favorite patios include:
- Platform Brewing Co. (Ohio City)
- The Harp (Ohio City)
- Collision Bend Brewing (The Flats)
- Lindey’s Lake House (The Flats)
- Toast (Detroit-Shoreway)
- Barocco (Larchmere)
- Felice Urban Cafe (Larchmere)
- The Fairmont (Cleveland Heights)
There’s also lots of outdoor dining downtown along East 4th St., as well as a handful of rooftop bars in the city (my favorite is Azure Rooftop Lounge, on top of the Metropolitan at the 9 hotel).
4. Enjoy live music outdoors
In the summer, all the best things in Cleveland take place outdoors. And this includes live music. Along with plenty of restaurants and bars that have live music on their patios throughout the summer months, there are also a handful of other places you can catch music outdoors on the regular in Cleveland.
The Cleveland Metroparks runs a summer concert series at Edgewater Beach and Euclid Beach Park, with live concerts at each park one night per week from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The series has been canceled for 2020, but will hopefully return in 2021.
And then there are concerts at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, too, an open-air concert venue in The Flats that hosts big-name musical acts.
Another summer music staple is the Cleveland Orchestra moving some of its summer performances to Blossom Music Center, where you can reserve seats in the pavilion, or simply show up with blankets and chairs and set up your own space on the lawn. These concerts aren’t happening in 2020, either, but keep an eye out for the 2021 schedule.
5. Go kayaking on the Cuyahoga
Cleveland sits at the point where the Cuyahoga River empties out into Lake Erie. Being on both a river and a lake, there are of course plenty of opportunities to get out on the water in Cleveland.
My favorite way to do this is to rent a kayak (or paddleboard, but I personally prefer a kayak), and paddle the Cuyahoga – you can even go all the way into Lake Erie. You can rent a kayak at Great Lakes Watersports in The Flats, which rents out single and double kayaks for $25-$30 per hour.
You can also rent kayaks at 41 North Kayak Adventures in Lakewood in order to kayak the Rocky River (which also empties out into Lake Erie).
Other ways to get out on the water in Cleveland including renting boats, booking a sightseeing or dinner cruise on the Goodtime III, or going on a sail and sip adventure with either BrewBoats (a floating cycle bar) or the new Cleveland Tiki Barge.
6. Watch a Lake Erie sunset
Speaking of Lake Erie, watching a summer sunset on the lake absolutely has to go on your Cleveland summer bucket list.
There are plenty of great vantage points for sunset seekers. Downtown, our picks would be the E. 9th Street Pier/Voinovich Park, Wendy Park on Whiskey Island, and Edgewater Beach.
Outside of Cleveland, other favorite sunset spots include the Solstice Steps at Lakewood Park (west of the city), and Headlands Beach State Park in Mentor (east of the city).
7. Discover your favorite ice cream
Looking for a way to cool off in Cleveland when the temperatures soar? Treat yourself so some locally-made ice cream!
We have a guide to the best ice cream in Cleveland – and yes, it’s totally acceptable if you need to try them all to decide which one you like best!
Some of our local favorites include:
- Mason’s Creamery – This Ohio City shop is known for its unique flavors like ube and black sesame, along with its colorful patio area.
- Mitchell’s Ice Cream – Their Ohio City shop is the flagship one, but they have several locations now. In summer, try a seasonal flavor like Campfire S’mores.
- Sweet Moses – Kids and adults alike love this old-timey soda fountain shop in Gordon Square that serves up delicious sundaes and root beer floats.
- Cathy’s Gourmet Ice Cream Sandwiches – Located downtown in the iconic Arcade, this Black female-owned business is a must-visit!
8. Visit the Terminal Tower Observation Deck
A unique thing you can do during the summer months in Cleveland is visit the Terminal Tower Observation Deck, found on the 42nd floor of Terminal Tower.
You can visit the tower on weekends, and tickets (which must be purchased online) are only $5. Views from the observation deck include unique perspectives on Public Square, The Flats, Progressive Field, and more.
Note: No word yet on whether the Observation Deck will be opening in summer 2020 or not.
9. Enjoy the Asian Lantern Festival at the Zoo
The Asian Lantern Festival at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has become a summer tradition. Usually beginning in July and running at least through August, this festival sees dozens of intricate lanterns installed throughout the Zoo’s grounds and exhibits.
The lanterns – many in the shape of various animals and mythical creatures – are lit up after dark, creating a very unique Zoo experience for visitors.
The Asian Lantern Festival is a special event, ticketed separately from regular Zoo admission. In 2020, they will be limiting the number of tickets sold each day in attempts to promote social distancing. This year, the Asian Lantern Festival is set to run Wednesday through Sunday evenings (6:30-10:30 p.m.) from July 8 through August 23. More info here.
10. Go for a bike ride
You can do this any time of year, but summer is one of the best seasons to hit the bike trails in and around Cleveland. You might not know this, but Cleveland (and northeast Ohio in general) has an extensive system of bike/hike trails.
Some favorite bike paths in Cleveland (and these are dedicated bike trails, not just bike lanes on roads) include:
- Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway – This 17-mile-long paved trail runs along the Lake Erie shoreline, connecting Euclid and Lakewood via Cleveland.
- Emerald Necklace Trail – All of the Cleveland Metroparks are now connected by trails, meaning you can ride through them all in an arc (a “necklace”) around the city.
- Cleveland Foundation Centennial Lake Link Trail – This trail is still in the works, but will eventually connect Tremont and The Flats with the lake shore. Currently, it’s a great place for a short urban ride.
- Ohio to Erie Trail – This trail will eventually run the length of Ohio, connecting Cleveland and Cincinnati. Right now, it connects Cleveland to Akron via the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, which takes you through the beautiful Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
11. Enjoy a summer festival
We’ve already covered music and food, but there are also festivals that celebrate all of these things each summer. While most of these festivals won’t be happening in 2020, file this info away for next year, when I have no doubt that festivals will be back better than ever.
Some cool summer festivals (and these are just a few!) include:
- WonderStruck in Cleveland – A summer music festival (formerly LaureLive).
- Burning River Fest – A music, beer, and food fest.
- Larchmere PorchFest – A music fest that takes places on front porches along Larchmere Blvd. on the East Side of Cleveland.
- Tri-C JazzFest – One of the most diverse jazz festivals in the world.
- Cleveland Summer Beerfest – Pretty self-explanatory, that one.
- Taste of Tremont – An annual food festival in Tremont.
Learn more about Cleveland music festivals here.
We’ll hopefully be able to update this list with more options in 2021!
12. Be awed at the Air Show
Labor Day is usually the unofficial “end” of summer in northeast Ohio, and in Cleveland the weekend is punctuated each year by the Cleveland National Air Show.
Stretching over 3 days, the Air Show is a family-friendly event with chances to see aircraft up close, and watch various aerial shows. The event is canceled for 2020, but the 2021 dates have already been announced (Sept. 4-6), and the show will feature the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.
So there you have it! 12 awesome things you can enjoy in and around Cleveland in the summer.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Cleveland in summer?
Amanda was born and raised in northeast Ohio, and has always been a fangirl of the state. Now, she wants to share her love of Cleveland with the world, highlighting all the best things to do, see, and eat in the CLE. She’s been running Cleveland Traveler since January 2019.