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10 Best Small Towns to Visit Near Cleveland

Are you looking for the best small towns to visit near Cleveland, Ohio?

The location of Cleveland makes it perfect for many day trips and weekend getaways around the state.

If you want to get out of the city and explore some of the best small towns nearby, there are plenty of options. You’ll find small towns with quaint main streets, great shopping and dining, and easy access to some of the best nature and picturesque scenery in northeast Ohio.

Here are some of the best small towns near Cleveland that are worth a visit.

The best small towns near Cleveland to visit

1. Willoughby

Willoughby is just a 25 minute drive from Cleveland, making it the perfect day trip. This small town is located near Lake Erie, and Osborne Park offers tranquil views over the lake.

Another great park in Willoughby is Chagrin River Park, which is a calming natural escape not too far from the city. This park is known for its pedestrian bridge over the river, and a network of walking and hiking trails.

Along Erie Street, you’ll find most of the town’s best restaurants, pubs, and shopping, including some great secondhand and antique stores.

When it comes to restaurants, Sol is known for its great brunch (voted best in the Cleveland area!) while The Wild Goose is a casual local spot for wood-fired pizzas and beer. We also love the brand new Yard on 3rd, which is a food truck and pizza concept with a fun outdoor space.

Yard on 3rd in Willoughby
The Yard on 3rd

2. Avon Lake

Another one of the best small towns near Cleveland is Avon Lake. Just a 30 minute drive from Cleveland, this is another picturesque lakefront town.

Miller Road Park is situated on the shores of Lake Erie and has a pier you can walk out to for stunning views of the lake.

Another popular thing to do in Avon Lake is visit the local wineries. Two of the best ones are Klingshirn Winery and John Christ Winery.

And when you’re ready to stop for dinner, Jake’s on the Lake is a great spot with waterfront views, a casual atmosphere, and delicious American food.

3. Vermilion

Vermilion is only a 45 minute drive from Cleveland, but it feels a world away. This quaint small town is the perfect place to slow down away from city life.

Main Street Beach is the highlight of this town’s Lake Erie waterfront, with a sandy beach perfect for relaxing on a sunny day and a picturesque red-and-white lighthouse. Further inland, the Vermilion River Reservation is a great nature preserve with hiking trails.

For being such a small town, Vermilion has a lot of history. It was an important town for Great Lakes maritime trade, and the downtown district contains many historic lake captain homes. Vermilion History Museum is a small but interesting museum to check out while you’re downtown as well.

For restaurants in Vermilion, Chez Francois Restaurant is renowned for its French cuisine and elegant atmosphere, while Woodstock is a casual, family-friendly cafe.

4. Chagrin Falls

Chagrin Falls waterfall
Chagrin Falls waterfall

Just 35 minutes from Cleveland by car, Chagrin Falls makes a great day trip. The highlight of this village is, as the name implies, Chagrin Falls, a scenic waterfall in the middle of town.

Main Street is the heart of the town, where cute, trendy restaurants and shops abound. Some of the best places to eat are M Italian, 17 River Grill (with fabulous waterfall views), and the new JoJo’s Backyard.

You can also grab coffee at Heartwood Coffee Roasters, and a sweet treat from the classic Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop or the new Kelsey Elizabeth Cakes.

After you’ve eaten, you can spend some time wandering among the historic homes and beautiful gardens of this tiny town, and visit the Chagrin Falls Historical Society.

Chagrin Falls also wins our award for cutest Christmas town near Cleveland – around the holidays, it looks like something straight out of a Hallmark film!

Chagrin Falls at Christmas
Chagrin Falls at Christmas

5. Hudson

Hudson is located about 40 minutes from Cleveland, and has a great small town feel to it. The Hudson Historic District is filled with cool stores, coffee shops, and restaurants.

One Red Door is a hip, upscale American restaurant, while Tomato Grill offers Italian fare in a cozy setting. Main Street is home to countless other restaurants that will suit any taste. On Saturday mornings in the summer, there’s a weekly farmer’s market near the town’s clock tower.

Downtown Hudson, Ohio
Downtown Hudson

Another popular spot in Hudson is Hudson Springs Park. This family-friendly park has a big lake and walking loop at its center.

6. Cuyahoga Falls

One of the best things about Cleveland is its proximity to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the only national park in the state of Ohio! And the town of Cuyahoga Falls, just 45 minutes away from Cleveland, is the perfect gateway to the park.

Obviously, one of the top attractions in Cuyahoga Falls is Cuyahoga Valley National Park, but you can also enjoy other outdoor activities like tubing and kayaking on the Cuyahoga River.

For other activities, Blossom Music Center is an outdoor amphitheater where you can catch some great concerts, including summer performances from the Cleveland Orchestra.

And the downtown area of Cuyahoga Falls has lots of great restaurants, pubs, and even breweries to check out like Butcher & Sprout, HiHO Brewing Co., Flury’s Cafe (for brunch), Blue Door Café & Bakery (also for brunch), and Beau’s on the River (fine dining). There’s also a Swenson’s Drive-In nearby, which is a staple in this part of Ohio!

7. Peninsula

Peninsula is a tiny hamlet that is located within Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and it’s only a 35-minute drive from Cleveland.

The top thing to do in Peninsula that you cannot miss is taking a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. This scenic train runs from spring through fall, and takes you on a picturesque journey through the national park.

Nickel Plate Road 765 steam engine in CVNP
CVSR being pulled by the Nickel Plate Road 765 steam engine

The Everett Covered Bridge is another unique point of interest in town, and makes the perfect photo spot. You can also hop on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in Peninsula, which is great for walking or cycling.

For dining, Winking Lizard and Fishers are two casual local favorites.

RELATED: Ultimate 1 Day Cuyahoga Valley National Park Itinerary

8. Medina

Another great small town to visit near Cleveland is Medina. Located 45 minutes from Cleveland by car, Medina is full of small town charm.

This coolest thing to do in Medina is visit Castle Noel, which is a year-round Christmas attraction near Cleveland that you will not want to miss. (They also have a black light mini golf course called Alien Vacation Mini Golf that is totally unique and worth it!)

Alien Vacation Mini Golf
Alien Vacation Mini Golf

The Medina Public Square Historic District is the heart of town where you can stroll around and do some shopping, or stop into one of Medina’s many restaurants, cafes, or coffeeshops. At Christmas time, this square gives Star’s Hollow from Gilmore Girls vibes.

Some of the best places to eat are Corkscrew Saloon, an American eatery in a cool historic house, Thyme2, and P.J. Marley’s, a tavern in a historic former bank.

You can also grab donuts from Circles on the Square, and shop for all sorts of candy and novelty snacks at Sweets and Geeks.

9. Oberlin

Just a 40 minute drive away from Cleveland is the vibrant town of Oberlin. The prestigious Oberlin College gives a lively, energetic feel to the town and makes it a thriving hub for arts and culture.

Some of the best things to do in Oberlin include visiting the Allen Memorial Art Museum, catching a film at the Apollo Theatre, and admiring the architecture at the Frank Lloyd Wright House.

Oberlin has a great dining scene as well, with The Feve being a local favorite.

10. Geneva-on-the-Lake

Wine Tasting Outside of Cleveland

Finally, another of the best small towns near Cleveland is Geneva-on-the-Lake. As you can probably guess by the name, this resort village one hour from Cleveland is located on the shores of Lake Erie, and is a popular summer getaway.

The town itself gives nostalgic boardwalk vibes, but it’s surrounded by parks and some of Ohio’s best wineries.

Geneva State Park has a large public beach along the lake, along with campgrounds, picnic tables, barbecues, and other facilities.

Another spot to check out is Old Firehouse Winery, which is located on the lakefront and even has a giant Ferris Wheel overlooking the lake.

As for where to eat, Mary’s Kitchen is a longtime favorite serving American cuisine in a casual atmosphere, while Eddie’s Grill is an institution serving up burgers, hot dogs, and root beer.

These are our favorite small towns close to Cleveland, but we’d love to hear about your favorites, too!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Kate

    With a population of 50,000, Cuyahoga Falls isn’t exactly a small town — & CVNP is mostly in Peninsula & Akron, not CF. Otherwise… great list! We’re so lucky to have so many great spots within easy driving distance.

  2. Leon

    Great blog! If we ever come to Cleveland I’ll check these good tips again.

  3. Fran Belkin

    Thanks! Fun to read, we will have to check out Vermillion, always wanted to go to Chez Francois!

  4. Peg

    A true small town near Cleveland is Mesopotamia/Middlefield Ohio. Interesting Amish community and End of the Commons, Navoo Road Market, “Amish Walmart”, two cheese making stores and many more interesting businesses.

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