Planning on spending some time in Cleveland? Set on the shores of Lake Erie, the second largest city in Ohio is a great base for exploring some of the Buckeye State’s top attractions and travel destinations. From beautiful state parks to quaint lakeside towns, there are so many incredible places to explore on day trips from Cleveland, Ohio.
Venture into the wilderness at fantastic parks like the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Mohican State Park. Head out to South Bass Island and Kelleys Island for a day of fun in the sun or visit charming lakeside towns like Sandusky and soak up some maritime history. Meander inland to discover the tranquil beauty of Amish Country.
Not sure where to start planning your itinerary? Add some of these top-rated Cleveland side trips to your adventure!
Top-rated Cleveland side trips
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and head out to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Situated on the banks of the Cuyahoga River between Cleveland and Akron, just a 30-minute drive from the city, the park is a perfect spot to have some fun in the sun.
Open year-round, Cuyahoga Valley National Park has over 125 miles of biking and hiking trails like the Ohio & Eric Canal Towpath Trail. Visit the Canal Exploration Center to learn the rich history of the 19th-century waterway. Take a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for some breathtaking views of the wilderness.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is home to over 100 waterfalls, but don’t miss spectacular 65-foot Brandywine Falls, an iconic cascade that can be admired from a boardwalk. Another lovely hike is around the Virginia Kendall Ledges, crawling up to a lookout that’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset and snag a few photos.
Discover the beauty of Ohio’s Amish Country with a short 1.5-hour drive from Cleveland to the bucolic town of Millersburg. Set about halfway between Cleveland and Columbus, the town is the seat of Holmes County, famous for having one of the largest Amish populations in the world.
Dating back to 1815, Millersburg is a true escape from the city. Surrounded by rolling green hills and agrarian landscapes, the town oozes charm.
Beautifully restored Victorian buildings house quaint antique shops and cozy cafés. Hitching posts tether horses along the street while the local artisan shops sell handmade goodies.
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Admire the magnificent Queen Anne-style architecture of the Victorian House Museum. Take a guided tour of the 28-room mansion to see the exquisite collection of antiques and local artifacts. Discover the rich culture of history of the Amish with a visit to Yoder’s Amish Home.
South Bass Island, OH
Visiting the Erie Islands is a must when in Ohio, and South Bass Island should be your first stop. One of over a dozen Lake Erie Islands, South Bass Island is one of the popular vacation spots in the Midwest, just two hours from Cleveland by car and ferry.
Hop on the South Bass Island Ferry from northern Catawba and make the three-mile journey to the small island. Despite its size — it measures just 3.7 miles long and 1.5 miles wide — you’ll find loads to do on the island.
Put-in-Bay is the beating heart of the island. Described as the Key West of the Midwest, it is vibrant and lively, with quaint shops and boutique stores to buzzing bars and bustling restaurants. Sophisticated cocktails at one of the swim-up or Tiki bars are the order of the day.
If you prefer something quieter, head into the South Bass Island State Park to enjoy beautifully secluded beaches and shady woodlands. Or visit the award-winning Heineman Winery and whet your whistle with some of the region’s finest wines in a lovely setting.
Kelleys Island, OH
Another beautiful island in the Lake Erie archipelago to visit is Kelleys Island. Located in the western basin of Lake Erie, two hours from Cleveland, Kelleys Island is the largest of the isles in the lake. Home to beautiful beaches, green parks, and a laid-back lifestyle, the island, fondly known as Lake Erie’s Emerald Isle, is a go-to spot for vacationers.
You can reach the island by ferry or small plane. Once there, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy. Make your way to the northern shores of the island to the Kelleys Island State Park. The 677-acre park has some spectacular archaeological, ecological, and geological features worth seeing.
Rent a bike to explore the island. Visit the Kelleys Island History Museum to learn the island’s story, and don’t miss the Glacial Grooves, a famous National Natural Landmark. Stroll the beautiful Lilac Trail and enjoy the beautiful blooms or rent a kayak and venture around the island.
Mohican State Park, OH
Back on the mainland of Ohio, drive one hour and 25 minutes south of Cleveland to the Mohican State Park for a day in spectacular surroundings. Nestled in the heart of the vast Mohican Memorial State Forest, Mohican State Park is a wonderland of outdoor activities, historic sites, and scenic landscapes.
Head out on one of the many hiking trails in Mohican State Park and make your way to picturesque spots like Clear Fork Gorge and Lyon Falls. If you’re looking for a real challenge, take on the 25-mile trail that loops around the gorge, passing through the adjacent state forest.
Climb the 80-foot-tall Mohican State Park Fire Tower for breathtaking views across the park in every direction. If you prefer water-based fun, hightail it to the 40-mile Mohican River that runs through the park. Here, you can canoe, kayak, and tube down the river or cast a line for brown trout. Pick up some fresh goodies at the Mohican County Market and enjoy a picnic lunch in the forest.
Geneva State Park, OH
Love being in or on the water? Set on the shores of Lake Erie, less than an hour from Cleveland, Geneva State Park is the place to be to enjoy a wealth of enjoy water recreation activities. A pristine 300-foot sandy swimming beach lies at the heart of the 700-acre park. The beach is an ideal spot for sunbathing, swimming, and launching watercraft.
Lake Erie offers year-round fun, from boating, canoeing, fishing, and swimming in the summer to ice skating and ice fishing in the winter. Hailed as the ‘Walleye Capital of the World,’ Lake Erie is an angler’s paradise. Rent some fishing gear or charter a boat and test your angling skills.
If you prefer being on terra firma, there are six miles of multi-use trails around the lake and the park to enjoy, with plenty of secluded picnic spots around. An archery range offers a variety of target ranges for all skill levels. You can zip through the trees on a zipline course at the Lake Erie Canopy Tours Aerial Adventure Park.
The fun doesn’t stop in winter with a 4.5-mile snowmobiling trail, superb cross-country skiing, and ice fishing in the lake. You can rent skis and snowshoes at the nearby Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake.
Just over an hour by car or public transport from Cleveland, Sandusky is a charming lakeside town on the Sandusky Bay shoreline that’s best known for its family-friendly attractions. While the small coastal town is a gem in its own right, its world-class amusement park, Cedar Point, is the town’s main drawcard.
Hailed as the ‘roller coaster capital of the world,’ Cedar Point is packed with not only heart-stopping rollercoasters but a myriad of fun rides, slides, and summer events. Once you’ve had your fair share of exhilarating thrills, head into town to visit the Merry-Go-Round Museum for a calmer ride on a vintage carousel.
Dive into the maritime history of the town at the Maritime Museum of Sandusky, where you’ll learn about boatbuilding and ice harvesting. Catch a show at the historic Sandusky State Theatre or stroll around downtown’s quirky art galleries, quaint shops, and laid-back eateries.
Nestled on the shore of Lake Erie in Ashtabula County, Geneva-on-the-Lake is about an hour’s drive east of Cleveland and a great getaway for a day. The relaxed lakeside resort town is a haven for outdoor activities and hosts lively events loved by both locals and visitors alike.
Geneva-on-the-Lake’s location in the heart of Ohio’s wine country makes it a wine lover’s destination and there are plenty of excellent wineries to explore.
If you prefer beer, relax at the GOTL Brewing Company and taste some of their locally made craft brews against a backdrop of gorgeous lake views.
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Spend a few hours enjoying the beautiful scenery and a wealth of activities in the 698-acre Geneva State Park. Sunbathe and swim at Breakwater Beach or explore freshwater marshes like Cowles Creek on a canoe. Hike, bike, or snowmobile your way to the park on six miles of multi-use trails that boast spectacular views of Lake Erie.
Can’t get enough of the big city? Swap the busy streets of Cleveland for the even busier streets of Columbus. Named after Christopher Columbus, the famous Italian explorer, Ohio’s state capital is a vibrant hub for history buffs, nature lovers, sports fans, and foodies alike. And with a quick two-hour drive, it’s one of the easier urban side trips from Cleveland.
Home to over 400 recreational parks and green spaces, Columbus is an outdoor haven. The lush 175-acre Scioto Mile is lined with urban parks, tree-lined boulevards, and paved pathways.
One of the most popular places to visit in Columbus, OH, the Scioto Mile is home to interactive fountains for cooling off on hot days and a 35-foot climbing wall. With 230 miles of nature trails, nature preserves, golf courses, and outdoor swimming pools, you’ll find plenty of fun in the sun to keep you busy.
If you prefer culture and history, head downtown to the Columbus Museum of Art. Stroll around the quaint German Village and admire the beautifully restored brick houses built by the settlers in the 1800s. See over 600 species of wildlife at the world-renowned Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
While the ‘Steel City’ may once have conjured images of smoky trails and industrial soot, the now gentrified city of Pittsburgh is packed with fantastic attractions and activities. Located at the junction of three rivers in western Pennsylvania, just two hours and change from Cleveland, Pittsburgh boasts a vibrant arts and culture scene and some spectacular bridges.
Take in beautiful Gilded Age buildings like the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Fast forward in time to the age of modernism at the Andy Warhol Museum and eclecticism at the psychedelic Randyland.
For sports fans, one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh is to take a journey back in time to the Super Steelers’ first world championship in Super Bowl IX at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum or catch them live in action at the Heinz Field football stadium.
Before heading back to Cleveland, zip up Mount Washington in the historic Duquesne Incline and take in the spectacular vistas of the surrounding region.
An underrated city with a tumultuous past, Detroit may not be high on the list of places to visit in the Midwest. But the Motor City is turning itself around and is bursting with arts, culture, and a vibrant music scene. The largest city in Michigan is progressive and energetic—and there’s no shortage of things to see & do in Detroit.
After the two-hour and 40-minute drive, make the neoclassical Detroit Institute of Arts your first stop. Marvel at the fascinating works by famed Mexican artist Diego Rivera, including his famous Detroit Industry Murals.
Go back to the roots of the city with a tour of a working Ford factory and discover how Detroit became known as the Motor City. Step back in time and learn how Motown got its start at the Motown Museum.
Don’t miss some of the most beautiful examples of Art Deco architecture in the Fisher Building and Guardian Building, and the Fox Theater. If you have time, hop across to Belle Isle Park and relax on one of the lovely little beaches.