10 of the Best Day Trips from Cleveland

10 of the Best Day Trips from Cleveland

We all know that Cleveland is awesome. But sometimes we all need a little change of scenery – which is when taking a day trip might be just what you need.

Cleveland is well-situated within easy driving distance of everything from major cities to tranquil parks. If you’re looking for a short escape, consider these great day trip options.

10 great Cleveland day trips

*Note: We’re defining a “day trip” as somewhere you can visit in one full day without needing to stay overnight. We’re not suggesting any destinations that are more than 1.5 hours one-way from Cleveland.

1. Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Distance: 30 minutes one-way

Virginia Kendall Ledges
Hiking at Virginia Kendall Ledges
Brandywine Falls at CVNP
Brandywine Falls

Ohio’s only national park is right in our backyard, and only takes about half an hour to get to from Cleveland. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is free to visit, has more than 125 miles of hiking trails, and can be enjoyed year-round.

3 must-dos in CVNP:

  1. Visit the iconic Brandywine Falls, a 65-foot waterfall that can be viewed from a nice boardwalk.
  2. Hike around the Virginia Kendall Ledges. The Ledges Trail is just about 2 miles long, and takes you around sandstone ledges and up to an overlook that’s great for sunset.
  3. Ride a bike on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Start and end in Peninsula, where you can grab a meal at the Winking Lizard after your ride.

Other things to do in/around CVNP include taking a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, shopping at Szalay’s Farm & Market during the summer and fall, hitting the trails on snowshoes in the winter, and visiting nearby Hale Farm & Village.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

Even though Cuyahoga Valley National Park is so close to home, you can easily fill a full day and make it feel like an adventure.

2. Akron

Distance: 45 minutes one-way

A lot of people write off Akron as just a university city; but there’s plenty to do in Akron to fill up a day!

3 must-dos in Akron:

  1. Spend a few hours at the Akron Museum of Art; I especially love the gallery dedicated to Ohio artists.
  2. Explore downtown Akron. There are some great restaurants (I love Crave, Akronym Brewing, and Chill Artisan Ice Cream), and you can also check if there’s anything fun happening at Lock 3.
  3. Take a tour of Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, a beautiful Tudor Revival manor house with landscaped gardens.
Akron Museum of Art
At the Akron Museum of Art

If your trip to Akron takes place during baseball season, there’s also the chance of catch an Akron RubberDucks game. The Minor League team is the Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.

3. Canton

Distance: 1 hour one-way

A little further south, Canton also makes for a fun day trip from Cleveland. You can even drive through part of Cuyahoga Valley National Park on the way if you want.

3 must-dos in Canton:

  1. Visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the main draw for many people in Canton.
  2. Check out the McKinley Museum and Presidential Library, which is a family-friendly history and science museum
  3. Visit the beautiful Gervasi Vineyard for dinner.

You can also see some old cars at the Canton Classic Car Museum, or some old planes at the MAPS Air Museum, if those are of interest to you. Canton is also home to the First Ladies National Historic Site and the the National First Ladies’ Library, both located in historic buildings that you can visit.

4. Geneva-on-the-Lake

Distance: 1 hour one-way

Lake Erie at sunset
The beautiful Lake Erie

Located on the shore of Lake Erie in Ashtabula County, Geneva-on-the-Lake bills itself as “Ohio’s first summer resort,” and makes for a great getaway either just for the day, or for a weekend.

3 must-dos in Geneva-on-the-Lake:

  1. Go wine tasting. Geneva-on-the-Lake is right in the heart of Ohio’s wine country. The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake even has a Wine Shuttle that does tours.
  2. Enjoy Geneva State Park, which has a sandy beach and hiking trails.
  3. Stop at Eddie’s Grill for a burger or hot dog; it’s a Geneva-on-the-Lake Strip tradition!

Ashtabula County is also home to the largest concentration of covered bridges in Ohio, so you might want to detour to see a couple of them on your way home.

5. Cedar Point / Sandusky

Distance: 1 hour 10 minutes one-way

Sandusky mural

If you grew up in northeast Ohio, then you probably have memories of family summer vacations at Cedar Point. If you didn’t grow up here, then chances are that you’ve still heard of Cedar Point, consistently ranked as the best amusement park in the world.

A day at Cedar Point is totally do-able from Cleveland. Get there early, and go home late to fit in as many thrill rides as possible.

BUT, if amusement parks aren’t your thing, or if you’ve visited Cedar Point enough times by now, don’t forget about Sandusky itself! Cedar Point is technically located in Sandusky, Ohio, but most visitors completely bypass this cute lakeside town. Don’t be one of those people.

Sunset over Lake Erie in Sandusky
Sandusky sunset

3 must-dos in Sandusky:

  1. Visit the Merry-Go-Round Museum, which also has an old-fashioned merry-go-round you can ride.
  2. Get out on the water; you can rent stand-up paddleboards and kayaks from Paddle & Climb.
  3. Wine and dine around the city. I love ZINC Brasserie for dinner, the Volstead for craft cocktails, and Moseley’s Public House for its rooftop bar.

If Sandusky is your main destination for the day, consider stopping in nearby Huron, too, for a walk through the wetlands at the Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve.

6. Marblehead/Port Clinton

Distance: 1 hour 20 minutes one-way

Marblehead Lighthouse
Marblehead Lighthouse

Not far at all from Sandusky lie Lakeside Marblehead, Port Clinton, and Catawba Island. Most people associate this part of Ohio with the ferries that take you over to some of the Lake Erie Islands, but you can totally visit the area on its own, too.

3 must-dos in Marblehead/Port Clinton:

  1. Visit the Marblehead Lighthouse for great views and a little history.
  2. Travel the “Cheers Trail,” which celebrates the local wineries, breweries, and even distilleries in the area. My favorites include Rocky Point Winery in Marblehead and Twin Oast Brewing on Catawba Island.
  3. Go on a “game drive” in your own vehicle at the African Safari Wildlife Park – great for kids!
Twin Oast Brewing
Twin Oast Brewing

RELATED: A Guide to the Cheers Trail in Northern Ohio

7. Lake Erie Islands

Distance: 1 hour 20 minutes* one-way

Yes, Lake Erie has islands! And several of them are popular summer getaway spots for many Ohioans. The most popular islands to visit are South Bass Island (home to Put-in-Bay) and Kelleys Island, both of which can be visited on a day trip from Cleveland.

Which island you visit depends on what you’re looking for. Put-in-Bay is often referred to as the “Key West of the North,” and is known most for its bar scene. Kelleys Island is known more for its parks, but also has a lively bar/restaurant scene.

View from Perry's Victory & International Peace Memorial
View from Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial

3 must-dos on South Bass Island:

  1. Go up the Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial for amazing views out over the island and Lake Erie.
  2. Get your drink on in Put-in-Bay; there are so many bars to choose from, as well as a couple wineries if wine tasting is more your speed.
  3. Head down into a cave; both Perry’s Cave and Crystal Cave are worth visiting.

3 must-dos on Kelleys Island:

  1. Drive a golf cart around the whole island; it’s the best way to get around!
  2. Visit the Glacial Grooves in Kelleys Island State Park, which were carved out by (you guessed it) glaciers.
  3. Go wine tasting at Kelley’s Island Wine Co., or get a beer tasting flight at Kelleys Island Brewery.
Glacial Grooves on Kelleys Island
Glacial Grooves on Kelleys Island
Beer flight at Kelleys Island Brewery
Beer flight at Kelleys Island Brewery

While there IS an option to take your own car over to both of the islands, I highly recommend leaving your car on the mainland and either renting a golf cart once you get to the islands, or taking a bike to get around.

*Note: Time estimate doesn’t include time needed to take a ferry. South Bass can be accessed by a 20-minute ferry ride on the Miller Ferry from Catawba Island, or by using the JetExpress from Port Clinton (25 minutes) or Sandusky (45 minutes). You can get to Kelleys Island using the JetExpress from Sandusky. The JetExpress also operates a service between the two islands.

8. Youngstown

Distance: 1 hour 20 minutes one-way

Lanterman's Mill in Mill Creek Park
Lanterman’s Mill in Mill Creek Park

While Youngstown might seem like an odd choice, I grew up near this city and have watched it transform in recent years. These days, there’s quite a lot to do downtown!

3 must-dos in Youngstown:

  1. Go for a walk in Mill Creek Park. My favorite spots include Lanterman’s Mill and the beautiful Fellows Riverside Gardens.
  2. Admire art at the Butler Institute of American Art. This free art museum is small but mighty, and is still one of my favorite places in Youngstown.
  3. Eat and drink downtown. Youngstown is a college town, and the downtown area is going through a bit of a renaissance right now. Check out The Kitchen Post or Bistro 1907, and try a seemingly endless variety of craft beers at Whistle and Keg.
Amanda at Fellows Riverside Gardens
That time when my hair matched the flowers at Amanda at Fellows Riverside Gardens

Another favorite of mine in the area is stopping to shop for local produce and goodies at White House Fruit Farm in Canfield. I grew up going to this farm, and still maintain that they make some of the best pies and donuts in Ohio!

9. Mansfield

Distance: 1 hour 20 minutes one-way

Situated between Cleveland and Columbus, Mansfield often gets skipped over for the bigger cities. But it’s totally worth a day trip of its own!

3 must-dos in Mansfield:

  1. Tour the Ohio State Reformatory, the famous former prison that was the main filming location for The Shawshank Redemption. There’s an entire “Shawshank Trail” you can follow around Mansfield.
  2. Visit Kingwood Center Gardens, where beautiful formal gardens cover 47 acres. You can also tour Kingwood Hall, a French Provincial-style mansion.
  3. Explore Malabar Farm State Park, the country estate of Pulitzer Prize winning author Louis Bromfield. There’s a lot to do here, including a farm tour, a house tour, and family-friendly events throughout the year.

On your way home up I-71, don’t skip stopping off at Grandpa’s Cheesebarn in Ashland. This is seriously one of my favorite places along I-71; I always end up coming home with some delicious Ohio cheeses, and a bag full of candy from Sweeties.

10. Amish Country

Distance: 1 hour 30 minutes one-way

Ohio’s Amish Country is a popular spot for people from all over the world to visit, due to the fact that we have the world’s largest Amish and Mennonite community. Lucky for us, the heart of Amish Country in Holmes County is a short drive from Cleveland.

3 must-dos in Amish Country:

  1. Visit the Amish & Mennonite Heritage/Behalt Center and/or Yoder’s Amish Home to learn more about this unique community.
  2. Explore the small towns of Millersburg, Berlin, and Charm (yes, it’s name really is Charm!).
  3. Take it slow and enjoy shopping and eating, along with the scenic drives. Almost every road in Holmes County is designated as a National Scenic Byway.

You can also pair up a visit to Ohio Amish Country with a visit to Mohican State Park, which has a river great for canoeing, hiking trails, and a popular mountain biking trail.

Honorable mentions

Chagrin Falls waterfall
Chagrin Falls

These small towns not far from Cleveland are also fun to visit for some shopping, a meal, and just soaking in the small-town charm:

  • Hudson – It has a cute town square, and a lot of small shops and restaurants.
  • Chagrin Falls – An urban waterfall, adorable town square, and local shops and restaurants make this spot worth visiting.
  • Medina – It’s Victorian-style downtown is worth seeing.

This of course isn’t an exhaustive list, but it should nevertheless keep you busy for at least a couple of months if you decide to visit all these places on a day trip from Cleveland!


Which Cleveland day trip is your favorite one to take?

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