You, as a reader of a fine Northeast Ohio publication, are gifted with calling the world's finest port of call home. But that doesn't mean you don't need a break from the bucolic life you've built here every now and again.
But who would want to go to Florida, what with its bugs and rich supply of old people? Or New England, with its loathsome locals who've not yet heard of hospitality?
Or anywhere, really, that's gonna cost you more for gas than you spent on your last car?
This summer, it's time to get away — but no need to get too far away. Just an hour or two in any direction, there's a whole new world to be discovered. Whether you're due for some family downtime or a romantic rendezvous, your paradise is just around the corner.
The best part: They're easy to get to and easy to get back, so you can pull each trip off in a long (or not so long) weekend and not feel like you need to recover from your recovery.
The original Amazement Park may not be the most peaceful way to while away a summer day, but there's little wonder why millions of folks parade here every year as if it were their roller-coaster Mecca. In fact, it pretty much is: With 16 roller coasters and a zillion other attractions for visitors of all ages, Cedar Point is the first spot folks think of when they think of summer fun.
If Mother Nature holds up and your feet hold out, you'll want to spend a long day there. That means you'll get hot, you'll get thirsty, and you'll get hungry. That can get expensive fast, especially if you're packing a sizable brood. Best to come armed with enough food to last you till October; a shady break at the picnic pavilion is the best way to refuel for the action on the midway.
A Word of Caution: This one sounds obvious but is so obviously overlooked: Unless you picked monsoon season for your visit, 12-plus hours of Cedar Point sun will pound the cancer into you. Bring sunscreen and clothes that cover the sensitive spots. Plus shoes fit for walking 7,000 miles, because that's about what you're in for.
The Fringe Benefit: If you rode not one ride nor snorted one elephant ear, Cedar Point admission pays for itself in the pure joy of people watching here. Bonus round: Take heart that most of what you see will make you feel like an American Eagle model by comparison.
Booze Factor: Take note that suds cannot be brought into the park ... which is why God built the picnic pavilion technically just a hair outside the park. Be discreet about it, and you can keep a happy buzz churning from morning till moonlight. Just stay away from the Matterhorn.
What It'll Cost You: Tickets go from around $37 to $50, with some discounts available for keen eyes. There's lodging, a water park, and other great ways to spend even more money, and you can learn more about it all at cedarpoint.com.
Other Distractions Nearby: African Safari Wildlife Park, Ghostly Manor Thrill Center, and other area roadside attractions offer a hefty slice of Americana cheese circa 1950. Plus, there's a passel of fine waterparks; learn more at dotoledo.org.
CLAY'S PARK RESORT
Launched in 1948 as little more than a holeful of water and a dream to be a family fun center, this Stark County oasis has transformed over the years into a 10-acre wonderland centered around its Adventure Water Park, which is loaded with fun crap for kids and adults alike: zip lines, twin water slides, ring swings, rope ladders, kayaks, fishing, sand volleyball, mini golf, and way more. There's also a heated indoor pool, hot tub, and sauna, in case it's that time of month for Mother Nature.
What It'll Cost You: Day passes for the water park are available for $9 (weekday) to $12 (weekends) — and the price includes everything from kayaks to mini golf. Many visitors choose to camp, some of them for interminable periods of time.
If You Really Like It: Overnight camping — whether by tent, RV, or cabin — is often the best way to go. Rates start as low as $32 bucks a night for weekdays and $34 on weekends, and include all the park amenities for two people. (Additional campers pony up about 12 bucks extra each.)
The Catch: Camping requires a two-night minimum, and it's wise to book in advance. Things get crazier around the weekends, and the park's numerous summer festivals pile on bonus madness.
Word to the Wise: There is a restaurant and ice cream stand, but best to load up on your own provisions too. Booze is sold on-site but forbidden to be brought into the grounds, though you didn't hear that from us.
How to Find it: Just under an hour from downtown Cleveland, the Resort is found at 13190 Patterson Rd. NW in North Lawrence; call 800-860-4386 or visit clayspark.com.
Distractions Nearby: Charming Canal Fulton, with its quaint downtown, retro toy store, ice cream shop, canal boat rides, and great biking on the Towpath Trail. Also just up the road is the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, where you'll find ample reminders that the Browns once weren't a joke.
Naw, you don't wanna go to Detroit.
Loosely centered around the town of Walnut Creek, Amish country is more of a sprawling treasure trove of treats and attractions, from its roadside stands and craft shops, to its cheese houses and Dutch-style restaurants (read: lotsa delicious meat and fortifying white flour), and from its B&Bs to its hotels, motels, and cabins. Opportunities are plentiful to commingle with the Amish in charming towns like Sugarcreek and Trail, and a heartwarming tour of a genuine Amish homestead can be yours at the Yoder Farm in Millersburg.
Word to the Wise: Plan ahead using the great website visitamishcountry.com. Or come with an open schedule and plan your day around the plentiful brochures that salute you like paper soldiers at each business you'll pop into. And watch yourself on the roadways — there's buggies all over the place, and the many hills can make them difficult to see.
Hip Tip: The relatively new Berlin Grand Hotel sits within walking distance of the town's hotbed of tourist sites; it boasts the feel and amenities of a sexy boutique hotel for a price that's often south of 100 bucks.
How to Find It: Amish country starts less than an hour south of Cleveland, though most of the action is more like an hour and a half away. Learn more at visitamishcountry.com.
Nearby Distractions: The original "Low Tech Superstore," Lehman's Hardware in Kidron is where genuine Amish buy their coal-powered toasters and where you can too. Breitenbach Wine Cellars in Dover is a wonderful way to gape at nature while getting tipsy on 25-cent samples of Frost Fire. (High rollers can buy any of the 20-plus varieties by the bottle too.) The Lodi Station outlet mall is worth a stop for modern-day shopaholics.
THE ERIE ISLANDS
Put-in-Bay and Kelleys Island are the key attractions among some 20 mostly uninhabited islands, and each boasts a long list of merits. Put-in-Bay is the go-to spot for weekend Parrothead types looking to kick back at the island's many bars or on the deck of the many boats docked in the harbor. Apart from its feats of alcoholic joy, Put-in-Bay — or South Bass, as it is also called — is perhaps best known as the home port of Oliver Hazard Perry, who kicked British ass on the waters of Lake Erie back in the War of 1812 and who is memorialized by a monument that rises ever so phallically above the island landscape today.
A bit more family-oriented and a bit less rife with amenities, Kelleys Island is equally charming in its own ways — like a smaller-time version of Put-in-Bay that's more reluctant to let in any vestiges of modernity. Restaurants and bars are less numerous, but there is no shortage of turn-back-the-clock joy to be had on the island — and also one of North America's most significant geological sites: the glacial grooves on the north end of the island.
Best Reason to Go: It's the ultimate way to escape your miserable modern world without going all that far. Depending on your destination, the island ferries are no more than an hour to an hour and 20 minutes from downtown Cleveland.
Hip Tip: Golf carts and bicycles are available for hourly or daily rent, but they'll bleed you pretty quickly. Consider taking your car and/or your bicycle over; the islands' key attractions are easily — and more pleasantly — navigable on two wheels.
A Word of Caution: If you want a party, go on a summer weekend. The place settles considerably — and so do the prices — once Labor Day has passed.
How to Do It: Day trips are possible, but at least one night is preferable to help you take in all that each island offers. The Kelleys Island Venture Resort is a hidden gem, especially once the peak-season prices tail off.
Distractions Nearby: Did we mention Cedar Point? The Sandusky water parks at Kalahari, Great Wolf Lodge, and Castaway Bay are all good for a riotous day of affordable family fun. For a mainland dose of quietude, the historic gated community of Lakeside is like a wild trip back in time to a safer, gentler America.
GENEVA-ON-THE-LAKE & WINE COUNTRY
In the early 1900s, three Northeast Ohio men made a habit of taking regular trips to the wilds of the Erie shoreline east of Cleveland. There they would fish and camp and generally get away from it all. And they had plenty to get away from: The men in question were John D. Rockefeller, Harvey Firestone, and Henry Ford. Over the decades that followed, Geneva-on-the-Lake grew into the getaway destination of deep-pocketed types from Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Youngstown.
Through the years, visits by Tommy Dorsey, Cab Calloway, and other shooting stars of the big band era made the town's mile-long strip a mecca for more than just sun and fun. And over those years, the crowds that flocked to Geneva-on-the-Lake gradually shifted from high rollers to everyday American families in search of a good time at a price they could afford.
Those same passions keep the town thriving every summer to this day. Rightly billed as "Ohio's first summer resort," Geneva-on-the-Lake still features just what you would expect from such a locale: plentiful pubs and restaurants, old-time arcades, amusement park rides, lakefront concerts, flea markets, and more.
But just as enticing: Nestled throughout the Grand River Valley and radiating out from Geneva-on-the-Lake are some three dozen wineries, accounting for well over half of Ohio's wine grapes. Varieties range from pinot gris and rieslings to typically sweeter local fruit. And for every winery, it seems there are two or more fine lodging destinations, from a host of bed & breakfasts to hotels and cabins.
The Lake Erie Vines & Wines Trail (ohiowines.org) drops in on the wineries across Northeast Ohio, or you can build your own tour with as many stops as you'd like.
Be Forewarned: Wine & cheese meets straight-up cheesy on Geneva-on-the-Lake's central strip. There's a little of everything here, from oenophiles to families to Harley packs. Consider it a tasting flight of Northeast Ohio's diverse humanity.
Where to Stay: Options abound, but the gorgeous lakefront Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake, on the grounds of sprawling Geneva State Park, is an affordable (rooms as low as $99) and luxurious way to take in all the region has to offer — complete with a shuttle to the area wineries.
Nearby Distractions: Another hour east and you'll hit the many attractions of Erie, Pennsylvania: From Splash Lagoon to Presque Isle Downs Resort & Casino to the beaches and biking of scenic Presque Isle, site of decades' worth of nastiness between French and British settlers and the Indians they booted aside. Just beyond that is the Peek 'n' Peak Resort just a bit further up the road into New York, where golf is the new skiing come summertime.
The Scoop: Learn way more about the charms of Ashtabula County at visitgenevaonthelake.com.