Oberlin College isn't the only reason for trekking out to Oberlin, Ohio, anymore. Nor is ziplining only a tourist attraction in Costa Rica (or a necessity among the high-altitude insectologists of the Amazon). Common Ground Canopy Tours is pleased to now offer a thrilling zipline excursion set on 30 acres of scenic valley on the Vermilion River. The 2.5-hour outdoor adventure consists of seven individual zip lines, 13 tree platforms, three sky bridges and the only operational floating stairway in the entire country. At $87 a pop, it's not exactly a cheap date (nor is it an optimal outing for the very young or the very overweight), but the exhilaration is one of a kind. You suit up in cave-spelunking gear, take a mini-safety course — the terms are all named for Mexican food items — and set out among the trees, trolleying along cables at speeds of 40 to 50 mph. Common Ground doubles as a corporate retreat center and summer camp, so feel free to inquire about their team building activities and outdoor fun. The staff is a warm, approachable and eminently knowledgeable bunch. (Sam Allard)
14240 Baird Rd., Oberlin, 440-707-2044, commongroundcenter.org.
Climbing cliffs may sound like something you'd have to travel far away for, but the Cleveland Rock Gym offers this fun activity right in our backyard. If you're new to the activity, you'll want to call seven days ahead to make sure someone is available to show you the ropes, or you can take their introductory class. More experienced climbers can walk in during regular business hours (3 to 10 p.m. weekdays, noon to 6 p.m. weekends). You get harnessed up and work your way to the top while navigating footholds and ropes. At $14 a pass plus modest equipment fees, this makes a great date activity for the more adventurous. They even offer birthday packages for a unique party. (Liz Trenholme)
21200 St. Clair Ave., Building B3, Euclid, 216-692-3300 clevelandrockgym.com.
When exotic cuisine and old-fashioned American pastimes no longer excite your relatives and college pals, why not try a European craze that's sweeping into Northeast Ohio, courtesy of Solon's Cleveland Bounce? It's body zorbing, folks, the safe, comfortable alternative to Sumo Suits. They're transparent, inflatable orbs in which you cocoon yourself and then run, jump, tumble, dive and, of course, mercilessly attack your spouses and/or children in the comfort of their presumed safety. If you're already buying a party package with Cleveland Bounce — complete with things like those enormous bounce houses, laser tags, and dunk tanks — you can get two body zorb spheres for $150. If you're age 7+, and just have a jones for some safe, destructive behavior, this'll work for that too. (Allard)
27100 Richmond Rd. #4, Solon, 440-822-3960, clevelandbounce.com.
Whether it's in a river in the Metroparks or on a chartered boat in Lake Erie, there are plenty of options to get out on the water and into some fish within a short drive from downtown Cleveland. The Rocky River is known for its tremendous steelhead fishing in the fall and spring, but this summer you'll find a great opportunity to hook some smallmouth bass, which can be really fun to catch. Much of the river is maintained by the Cleveland Metroparks, which provides easy access to some great fishing spots (clevelandmetroparks.com/main/rocky-river-reservation6.aspx). Heading out onto Lake Erie in a chartered boat will be more of a financial and time commitment, but you'll have the chance to bring in some large walleye. Check out Wildwood Marina (discoverydive.com), Fish Crazy Charters (fishcrazycharters.com) and Fin-Ominal Charters (fin-ominalcharters.com) for details. (Doug Brown)
The Metroparks continues to experiment with innovative sports and recreation at their various parks and facilities in the region — you never know what Brian Zimmerman and his marketing team will cook up next! Last year, they introduced Footgolf at Mastick Woods and Shawnee Hills in Bedford to rave reviews. Footgolf is just exactly what it sounds like: a hybrid of soccer and golf. It's a hell of a lot cheaper than a traditional round of 18 holes — $10 at Mastick / $9 at Shawnee — and works out a completely different muscle group. Plus, a regulation #5 soccer ball is way easier to track down in the rough than your standard Titleist golf ball. As a sport, Footgolf is regulated by the Federation for International Footgolf (FIFG!) so it's legit, you guys. If you're not in a summer soccer league, this might be the finest way to pay tribute to the World Cup in Northeast Ohio. (Allard)
19900 Puritas Rd., 216-267-5626, clevelandmetroparks.com.
Catching waves on Lake Erie seems like an urban legend, but trust us, it does happen! While winter is the best (and most insane) time of year to get some big surf action, there's still plenty of water to ride around on in warmer months. Since all of our local waves are caused by wind, you'll have to wait for the proverbial perfect storm to get some serious action. Edgewater Beach is likely the most popular surf spot around town, and we know the water gets pretty "interesting" there when it rains, so surfing here is still a bit of a fringe activity. Expect to see a handful of dedicated Cleveland surfers braving the elements and welcoming you to share their waves. In terms of gear, you may be hard-pressed for any rentals; the closest surf shop is in Michigan. Check out the forums at wagnersurfclub.com for tips on surfing our lovely lake. (Eric Gonzalez)
5K runs and marathons are for babies. What, you could only run 26.2 miles? Ultramarathons challenge the most extreme runners and push them to the limit during races that span 30 to 100 miles. Several of these events take place in Northeast Ohio every year. The Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run traverses many trails in the Metroparks area and only awards those who finish in less than 30 hours. The Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic 50K has runners circling Glacier Lake multiple times. Other ultramarathons around Ohio are held in Mohican State Park, Hocking Hills, Great Seal State Park and more. Check out the 2013-2014 Ohio Ultramarathon Calendar at marathons.ahotu.com to get the best runner's high in Ohio. (Gonzalez)
STAND UP PADDLING
It's just like surfing. Kind of. If you want the feeling of catching a wave without worrying too much about swallowing mouthfuls of Lake Erie water or coming into contact with whatever creatures lurk beneath its surface, stand up paddling may be more up your alley. Stand on something that closely resembles a surfboard and glide calmly through the water as you push off with a paddle: a sort of surfing and kayaking hybrid. You can start off with a 90-minute beginners' lesson for $30 at Huntington Beach, or head down to Edgewater Park every Thursday evening, catch the sunset and get a guided, one-hour paddle board rental for $20. There are even yoga classes on the boards, for you earthy souls. If you want more info, check out alohasupohio.com and head to the Cleveland section. (Cortni Dietz)
The classic outdoor activity of skateboarding lives on strong in Cleveland. There is a bounty of skate shops and parks to satiate your inner skater, whether you're longboarding to pass the time, grinding rails or working on your varial heel-flip. Westside Skates has all the gear and apparel you need to start carving pavement. Both Tri-Star Skateboards and Chenga will get you on a deck and rolling around their indoor skate park. If you feel like "thrashing your tits off," head over to the ramp at Now That's Class, or if you prefer outdoors there's always Lakewood Park that's perfect for skaters of all levels. Get your tricks down now so you're ready for the Cleveland Skate Park opening in the Flats next year; construction on this project resumes imminently. (Gonzalez)
If you've driven through Slavic Village at all during the past few years, you've probably noticed that wooden stadium-thing on Broadway. What is it? It's a Velodrome, constructed for outdoor Olympic-style competitive cycling, and it's really freaking cool, one of only a handful in the United States. Day passes to the track are $15 (bike rentals are an additional $10) and though it's scary at first, you'll pick it up in no time. Having opened in August 2012, the Velodrome is now amid a jam-packed summer season with weekly races on Friday nights, classes on the weekend, and ongoing instruction every day. Hell, the Ohio State Championships are going down at the Velodrome this weekend (June 20 and 21). Even if you're not up for trying competitive cycling, go check out some of their events. The non-profit Fast Track Cycling has been working tirelessly to promote and advocate bike safety awareness and fun. If you're into it, season passes are only $200. (Allard)
5033 Broadway Ave., 216-256-4285, clevelandvelodrome.org.
Kayaking the River
There are few better ways to enjoy the sights of Cleveland than traveling through its main waterway in a kayak. The mighty Cuyahoga winds through Northeast Ohio carrying gigantic ore ships and weekend travelers, but it also affords you, the novice outdoorsman, the chance to kayak alongside them. Whether you're looking for a quick two-mile jaunt or a five-mile marathon down the river (which is very much clean these days, thank you very much), there's an option for you. And this adventure isn't limited to downtown Cleveland; plenty of routes begin and end down south where the Cuyahoga runs its way through the suburbs and toward Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Check out River Cruiser Kayaking (rivercruiserkayaking.com), Great Lakes Watersports (glwatersports.com) or 41 Degrees North (kayak41north.com) for routes and rates.
Playing golf without actually golfing has become a serious trend in outdoor recreation of late. Maybe because golf seems like a stuffy, expensive preoccupation of older white guys? Who knows. Maybe you're into this whole golf thing, but footgolf, for instance, (mentioned above) strikes you as lame or inadequately challenging. Why not try Disc Golf, the original golf hybrid! With courses all over Northeast Ohio, and most of them free of charge, it's a fun outdoor activity for dates or buddies or (with no promises of success) children. You throw specialty discs — you'll have to buy them or locate a cousin who's weirdly into it already — at "holes:" metal posts with chandelier-esque chains attached. It's that simple, and it's less time-consuming than a full round of 18 holes. Find courses in Hudson, at the Cuyahoga County Airport in Richmond Heights, at Tri-C's Parma campus (actually on campus), and the region's premiere course at Euclid's Sims Park. First-timers are welcome!
CRITICAL MASS CYCLING
Remember in Honey We Shrunk Ourselves, when Rick Moranis' brother or whatever goes, "We have critical mass!" referring to the machine that would eventually shrink all the parents? It was in, like, every single trailer. There's no way to verify this, of course, but that line may have inspired what has become a nationwide monthly bike ride — Critical Mass! — with a devoted, lately somewhat controversial, chapter here in Cleveland. The last Friday of every month, grease up the old chains and pump up the old tires and convene on Public Square for a meandering, extemporized route (often through downtown and surrounding neighborhoods). Generally, there's brews and good fellowship at the ride's conclusion. It's a great way to build awareness of cycling and safety issues, and to connect with an impassioned group of regular riders who are eager to share the road. (Allard)
If you're really looking to get some adrenaline pumping through those veins, maybe this summer's the one to finally grow a pair and sky dive. AerOhio in Rittman offers two choices for beginners: a tandem dive, in which you dive with an instructor attached to you, or an advanced free fall, in which you dive alone with instructors by your side — the latter requires a longer class time and has a higher price tag than the former, but maybe the feeling of independence it yields is worth it (you'll look way more badass in the pictures). The price tag is hefty, though: $199 for a tandem jump and $299 for an advanced free fall, as well as an additional $109 if you want pictures or video of the affair. But aren't the rush and bragging rights worth it? (Dietz)
11679 Blough Rd., Rittman, 330-925-3483, aerohio.com.
If you and five friends or colleagues feel that deep-Australian competitive beach volleyball urge, you are encouraged to sign up for the Cleveland Plays summer volleyball league at Whiskey Island. Registration ends on July 10 for the July 14 start date and cost is $250 per team. Volleyball matches, though certainly physically demanding, tend to be less violent than soccer or football or basketball. And you're encouraged to drink beers between your 21-point battles, so things feel more social. These games are self-refereed and a blast for everyone. Grab a summertime ale and bump, set, spike your way to victory. If leagues aren't your thing, the sandy courts at Whiskey Island, Battery Park, Lakewood Park, and Mulberry's in the Flats are always a good bet for some impromptu v-ballin'. If you're a far eastsider, Deeker's Side Tracks bar and grill has quite a few nets set up as well. Don't get sand in your shoes! (Allard)
In the spirit of childhood, overwhelm yourself with nostalgia and fly a kite. This is a great one for those looking to avoid breaking the bank and who love the feeling of a nice breeze tickling one's face. You can find kites anywhere: Wal-Mart, Toys"R"Us or even Amazon. Kite flying works for a cutesy and cheap date as well; bring food and picnic while you're at it. If you find yourself needing others to share your newfound kite flying enthusiasm, the Ohio Society for the Elevation of Kites (or OSEK) has a schedule of events on its website. Get crafty and learn how to build your own kite at one of their workshops, then show off your masterful creation at their annual Cleveland International Kite Festival, on Sept. 6 and 7. (Dietz)
Who doesn't like shooting at things once in a while? Cleveland has lots of options for archery and gun ranges. Although these two activities are something you'll need your own equipment for (being that most are technically weapons for which you need the valid permits), they aren't hard to obtain if you've got a clean background and an interest. The Cleveland Archery Club provides a target range during the summer months in the Metroparks, located in Strongsville at the Albion Woods/Mill Stream Run Reservation. The public is welcome to practice as long as there isn't a Club event going on, but nonmembers are welcome to compete in events as well. If you want to step it up a notch, you can try the gun ranges around town. Generally, you need to be 21 or over (young ones must be with an adult) and shooting stalls rent for about $8 to 15 per hour. Two ranges that you don't have to drive too far for are B&T Shooting Supplies and Stonewall Gun Shop and Range. (Trenholme)
clevelandmetroparks.com; B&T Shooting Supplies, 3030 Grove Ave., Lorain, 440-277-5252, btshooting.com; Stonewall Gun Shop & Pistol Range, 100 Ken Mar Industrial Pkwy., Broadview Hts., 440-526-0029, stonewallrange.com.
So maybe you did know that you can go camping in Northeast Ohio, but maybe you need a reminder that whether you're in the back of an RV, roughing it with nothing but a tent, or looking for a cabin to rent in the remote wilderness, the Buckeye State is blessed with more Mother Nature than you could cover in a lifetime. Pack up a cooler with the requisite supplies, and enjoy a weekend (or week) outdoors doing whatever people do. Hike, sleep, build a fire, grill, fish, sleep some more — just forget about civilization for a bit.
Some of you have probably heard of geocaching, the GPS-based "real word treasure hunt" happening all around us. With more than two million total caches, there are endless hunts available in the Cleveland area. To play, log in to a free basic membership online, enter your postal code and select a "cache," or container, that you'd like to hunt. You'll get a set of GPS coordinates, then travel to that location and try to find the booty at the site. You sign a commemorative logbook, return the cache to where you found it, and then share your adventures on the web. The cool part is, you're welcome to take items if you replace them with items of equal or greater value. It's free, totally outdoorsy, original and big-time fun for anyone who did "orienteering" in the Science Olympiad back in grade school. Good luck not getting addicted to this interactive form of urban/suburban/rural exploration. (Allard)