Cleveland is a captivating city that has a classic, American feel. It’s located on the shores of Lake Erie, making it a prime spot to call home base while you explore Ohio.
Once you’ve traversed your way through Cleveland, you can leave the hustle and bustle of the big city behind and explore seaside villages, theme parks, and lots of natural scenery – all within driving distance of the city.
Whether you’re a visitor discovering the city for the first time or a lifelong resident, you shouldn’t miss out on these day trips from Cleveland.
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1. Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Leave the busy city behind and soak in some nature at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It’s Ohio’s only national park, and at less than 30 minutes away, it’s the perfect day trip from Cleveland.
It’s a great spot to visit, no matter what time of year with over 125 miles of hiking trails and over 100 waterfalls. Don’t miss the beloved Brandywine Falls, the tallest and most popular waterfall in the park.
There’s also plenty of wildlife to be seen in the park, especially for birdwatchers. The park is on a migratory path, you’ll see many rare breeds flying overhead in summer and fall months.
Established in 1869, Geneva-on-the-Lake is the first resort town in Ohio. To this day, it remains a charming vacation destination with wineries, breweries, and an iconic downtown – making it one of the best day trips from Cleveland.
It’s only an hour away from the city, and once you arrive you can spend the day on the beach, explore the heritage walking trail, or check out the nearby Geneva State Park.
Don’t miss the old-fashioned boardwalk where you can grab a bite to eat, ride the antique Ferris wheel, or play a round of mini-golf.
Known for its world-famous amusement park, the city of Sandusky is just over an hour west of Cleveland.
Families flock here in the summer to spend the day at Cedar Point, which is consistently ranked as one of the best amusement parks in the whole world. Sprawling out over 365 acres, the park features roller coasters, water rides, and incredible views of Lake Erie.
Even if amusement parks aren’t really your thing, the city itself is still worth the trip. Paddle around the lake with a rented paddle board or kayak, visit the merry-go-round museum, or simply enjoy some good food and craft cocktails at various joints around town.
The city of Toledo often gets overlooked when visiting Cleveland. You’ll have to make an almost two-hour trek to get here, but with all of the activities available the long drive is well worth it. This river town is full of art, culture, and history, and people of all ages will find something they’ll love.
Art lovers won’t want to miss the city’s Glass Pavilion and the Toledo Art Museum, and history buffs can explore Fort Meigs and the National Museum of the Great Lakes.
Families can spend a fun-filled day at the Imagination Station, an interactive science museum for children of all ages.
It’s a beautiful, engaging city to spend the day in – rain or shine.
5. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Head across state lines and explore one of the country’s most beloved cities – Pittsburgh. It’s around a two-hour drive from Cleveland, but definitely worth the trip when you’re already in this neck of the woods.
Spend the day strolling through the botanical gardens, check out a museum or two, or ride up the Duquesne Incline to enjoy sweeping views of the city from above.
The best way to see any city is with the help of a local, and there’s plenty of guided tours available – from segway and bike tours, to trolleys and food crawls. Of course, you can always just use your own two feet!
6. Amish Country
No trip to Cleveland would be complete without venturing out into Amish Country. It’s the largest community in the world, and there’s plenty to experience and learn about on a day trip.
The drive is part of the journey; travel on National Scenic Byway for much of your trip. As you roam around the area, you’ll have plenty of chances to stop at family-run wineries, cheese shops, and local restaurants.
You can also stop by various artisan shops, take a farm tour, or stick around for a show at the Amish County Theatre and watch the locals perform.
If you’re not sure where to start, head into Holmes County and check out the towns of Berlin, Charm, and Millersburg.
7. Hocking Hills State Park
A peaceful day in nature awaits you at Hocking Hills State Park. Although it’s a bit of a drive from Cleveland (around 3 hours), you’ll be able to fully unwind once you enter the park. You could even pack a tent and spend a night or two if you’re really looking to connect with nature.
Check out its breathtaking cave systems, look for wildlife, or stroll along some of the picturesque trails. This is one of the least visited parks in the state, so it’ll feel like you have the place all to yourself.
8. Lake Erie Islands
Who knew that you can have an island vacation just a few hours from Cleveland? Enjoy a truly unique day trip to one of Ohio’s best kept “secret” paces – Lake Erie’s seriously spectacular islands.
South Bass Island is the most popular, and Put-in-Bay has been dubbed “the Key West of the North”. Here you’ll find a fun bar scene, plenty of restaurants, and lots of souvenir shops.
Kelley Island is another popular island to visit. It’s more centered around nature (and even has its own state park!), but there’s also a brewery and winery on the island.
A ferry from the mainland will get you to both of these islands, and you can hitch a ride in Port Clinton or Sandusky. You can bring your car with you, or you can rent a golf-cart to drive around the island (which might just be more fun!).
If you’ve got the time, head inland about two hours and spend the day in Ohio’s capital. The more time you spend here the better, because there’s lots to see, do, and eat.
Stroll around the various neighborhoods, grab lunch at a farm-to-table restaurant, or check out one of the many museums.
The German Villiage is a favorite neighborhood in Columbus, and from the moment you enter you’ll feel like you left the city and traveled back in time. You could easily spend the whole day here shopping and munching on German fare.
10. Ohio and Erie Towpath Trail
Make your day trip easy by stepping foot onto the Ohio and Erie Towpath Trail. The path can be accessed from the city center, or you can drive out a bit and start from the Cuyahoga National Park.
The trail is 85 miles in length, and allows pedestrians, bikers, and horseback riders on the path.
Although you probably won’t conquer the whole trail, most people can tackle ten miles or so in a day. Even if you only make it a short trip, it’s a nice break from the hustle and bustle of busy Cleveland.
11. Conneaut Lake Park, Pennsylvania
Head into neighboring Pennsylvania and spend the day at the Conneaut Lake Park. This vintage theme park will take you back in time – around 100 years ago to be exact.
Some rides date back to the early 1900s, and can still be ridden in their original form (don’t worry, they’re all completely safe). Entrance to the park is free, so if you don’t feel like taking a spin on the old school rides, you can at least take a peak at the park.
On warm summer days you can hang out by the public beach, take a stroll along the boardwalk, or enjoy a round or two of mini-golf.
Established in the early 1800s by English settlers, Granville is a quaint and cozy town in central Ohio and about two and half hours from Cleveland.
This city is a great destination for a relaxing day trip, with tree-lined streets and a charming downtown. Spend your day perusing boutique shops, popping in and out of cozy coffee houses, or head to the historic Bryn Du Mansion – an old estate located on the outskirts of town.
You can also cool off in Lake Hudson or work on taking a few strokes at the local golf club during the warm summer months.
13. Headlands Beach State Park
Those looking for a cozy spot to spend a warm summer day should take a trip to Headlands Beach State Park. It’s located just 30 minutes from Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie.
The park boasts the largest natural sand beach in the entire state (one mile long), making it perfect for swimming and sunbathing. There’s also a nice picnicking area with grills, tables, and public restrooms.
Headlands Beach is also a great spot to try your luck at reeling in bass, perch, walleye, and more. During the winter months, when conditions are right, you can enjoy a day cross-country skiing at the park.
The lovely town of Marblehead is situated on the Marblehead Peninsula, just an hour and a half from Cleveland. Originally a fishing village, it’s now a summer getaway with a charming downtown area, yacht clubs, and lots of good seafood.
The town itself is worth a visit to see its old colonial architecture, and the lighthouse is a must-see to learn the history about the town and for some great lake and harbor views.
Check out the Cheers Trail for all the local wineries, breweries, and distilleries – but you may want to make sure you have a sober driver for this one!
A nice, close day trip just 22 miles from Cleveland is the quaint town of Avon.
Plan your trip around the end of June so you can be in town for the city-wide yard sale – aptly named the “Aunt Tique and Uncle Junque garage sale“.
Even if you miss the yard sale, you can still dig for treasure at various antique stores located in the nearby area. The town also boasts an array of bars and restaurants for when you get hungry after a long day of shopping.
Don’t miss the massive sunflower field that blooms in September to help raise awareness for childhood cancer.