Destinations / North America / Ohio

10 Wonderful Day Trips from Cleveland, Ohio

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As an Ohioan, I’m always amazed at how many fun day trip options we have in this state! From the outdoors to cities with cool attractions and abundant historic sites, there’s really no shortage of day trips – especially with Cleveland as your hub.

In this article you’ll find great Cleveland day trip options for all different interests. I’ve broken them down by drive time so that you can choose based on how much time you want to spend in the car this weekend.

Best Day Trips From Cleveland OH Within 1 Hour

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Distance from Cleveland to Cuyahoga Valley National Park: 20 miles/30 minutes

We’re lucky to have one of America’s 63 National Parks right here in Ohio! It’s preserved to showcase both the area’s natural beauty and the unique historical significance of the Ohio & Erie Canal. While there’s plenty to fill an entire weekend with things to do at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, you can get a taste on a day trip as well – depending on where you live in Cleveland, you can even just pop down for a half day visit. Even better, admission to the Park is free!

The crown jewel of the Park is Brandywine Falls. You can take the gorge trail if you want some good exercise, but the best view of the falls is down the stairs (many of them) from the parking lot in the lower viewing area; the upper viewing area isn’t quite as dramatic but thankfully it offers an accessible option.

Keep in mind that the parking lot at Brandywine Falls can get very crowded on beautiful days in the summer, but the falls are most impressive right after a big rain. We had no trouble parking here on an overcast day in April! Of course the best time to visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park is in autumn when stunning fall foliage is everywhere.

Be sure to spend some time hiking around The Ledges, which is a moderate 2 mile loop. The area’s geology is on full display and kids will love running up and down some of the massive boulders. I do recommend waterproof hiking shoes or boots with good tread for the trails in CVNP, as it’s a moist area so there are plenty of spots that are slick with either mud or moss – my kids both wore these boots, while I prefer these low-tops.

If you visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park in the summer, build time into your schedule to watch demonstrations of the canal’s lock system by historical reenactors, enjoy a free concert and take a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway.

For snacks to refuel during the day, you can snag some Mitchell’s ice cream cups at Boston Store (adjacent to the visitors center) or stop at The Crooked Kettle Popcorn Company in Peninsula.

If you’ve ended your day at the Canal Exploration Center, it’s easy to pop up to adorable Chagrin Falls for strolling and dinner. We had a great meal at Ponyboys just outside of town, or for fancy dinner with a view you can wipe the mud off and visit 17 River Grille overlooking the lovely Chagrin Falls waterfall.

The Holden Arboretum

Distance from Cleveland to Kirtland: 30 miles/40 minutes

You barely have to leave the East Side to feel like you’re a million miles from city life at The Holden Arboretum. At more than 3600 acres, this is one of the country’s largest botanical gardens!

There are plenty of walking trails, lovely gardens and always some sort of special exhibit – when we visited in summer 2023 there were massive LEGO sculptures all around the property, and summer 2024 brings the “Pollinator Express” train. Kids will also love the nature play area, 120 foot observation tower and the canopy walk. I had to drag my kids away!

Pro tip: The Holden Arboretum participates in the American Horticultural Society reciprocity program. If you’re a member of another garden, check to see if you can get free admission! For those local to Cleveland, consider joining Holden to cover your ticket and also grant you access to awesome places like Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus.

While you’re out that way, spend the afternoon playing at beautiful Headlands Beach State Park. Mentor Headlands is just another 25 minutes due north and offers plenty of sand and refreshing water for a perfect afternoon. There are often impressive sand sculptures as you enter the beach, and if you need some variety you can walk to the sand dunes or all the way out to the lighthouse! I do wish I’d brought these with me, as it can be pretty rocky when you get right to the water level.

Be sure to grab lunch at Scooter’s Dawg House on your way, and consider extending your visit to catch a postcard-worthy Lake Erie sunset! It’s one of the most iconic beaches near Cleveland so be sure to visit if you haven’t already. From Headlands back to Cleveland is a 35 minute straight shot.


Distance from Cleveland to Vermillion: 40 miles/50 minutes

Can’t make it all the way to the ocean or the Gulf of Mexico? One of the best summer day trips in Ohio is to the Lake Erie beach in Vermillion. Main Street Beach offers just the right amount of sand and water to get your fix. In just under and hours’ drive, you’ll have access to one of the best beaches near Cleveland Ohio and the adorable, walkable town it’s in! While it’s a little further than Headlands, I personally think it offers nicer sand.

Another great option that’s a few minutes closer is Lakeview Beach in Lorain. We haven’t visited it yet, but our native Ohioan neighbors shared that it’s a lovely beach with a can’t-miss rose garden!

Cleveland Ohio Day Trips Within 1.5 Hours

Cedar Point

Distance from Cleveland to Sandusky: 60 miles/1 hour 15 minutes

Midwesterners have been getting their thrills at Cedar Point for since the late 1800s – it’s America’s second-oldest amusement park! It’s routinely held the crown as the best amusement park in the world, and today boasts a whopping 17 roller coasters – 5 of them over 200 feet tall. If you love roller coasters, Cedar Point should probably be your very first Cleveland day trip when opening rolls around every May. Be sure to read these Cedar Point tips to make the most of your visit!

If you aren’t looking to get your adrenaline pumping, Cedar Point also offers both indoor and outdoor water parks as well as a nice strip of beach.

Pro Football Hall of Fame

Distance from Cleveland to Canton: 60 miles/1 hour 15 minutes

Football lovers need look no further than nearby Canton to get their fix of America’s favorite sport, even in the off-season. The NFL was founded in Canton, so it was no surprise that the city became home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame over sixty years ago.

Over the year, the Hall of Fame has grown to more than six times its original size after the latest (and largest) expansion was completed in 2013. You can opt for either a guided tour or to explore the museum yourself. The exhibits cover everything about football including the game’s history, Hall of Fame inductees, the Super Bowl and more. Kids will love the interactive area and visitors of all ages will be wowed by getting to “meet” holographic representations of some of the best players ever.

While you’re in the area, swing by the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum – it’s just 5 minutes down the road!

I want my free Ohio bingo card!


Distance from Cleveland to Canton: 60 miles/1 hour 15 minutes

I’m excited for Ashtabula County to be on our roster of Ohio summer day trips this year! Located in the far northeast corner of the state on the banks of Lake Erie, this is a great place to relax for the day and really disconnect from urban life.

Even native Ohioans may be surprised to learn that Ashtabula is the largest country in our state at just over 700 square miles. Within that area, you’ll find more than two dozen wineries to visit, 19 covered bridges (including the longest and shortest in the US), lovely hiking at Lake Erie Bluffs, charming towns like Geneva-on-the-Lake and plenty of sand at Walnut and Conneaut Beaches.

If you plan to hit the beach, I recommend that you bring a pair of these – like the other beaches east of Cleveland, it can be rocky right at the waters edge.


Distance from Cleveland to Mansfield: 80 miles/1 hour 30 minutes

There are so many things to do in Mansfield OH (located in Richland County) that we’ve visited several times – and we still have more to see. You can easily enjoy two of these sites in a single day if you get an early start, as they’re all fairly close together.

The Ohio State Reformatory aka “Shawshank Tour”

A trip to The Ohio State Reformatory should top the list of any movie lover. This defunct prison was the primary filming location for 1994’s “The Shawshank Redemption”, based on Stephen King’s novella “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” – I read it as part of his Different Seasons collection and recommend that you do as well.

Though both the story and movie are set in Maine (like most of King’s work), Mansfield and the surrounding area of Richland County are reasonable stand-ins. During our tour of The Ohio State Reformatory, our guide did an excellent job sharing the history of the Reformatory and and its eventual decline while also weaving in elements of the movie.

While there’s an option to visit the Reformatory on a self-guided tour, I strongly recommend reserving in advance for a guided tour of “the Shawshank prison”. We learned so much and our guide was very engaging!

Pro tip: Because of the understandable lack of climate control in the cell block, dress for temperature extremes if you visit in Winter or Summer.

Kingwood Center Gardens

Kingwood Center Gardens is a lovely place to visit if you enjoy the more refined things in life. This 47 acre estate has beautifully manicured ground that are perfect for a Spring visit. You can also tour the stunning mansion on the property, Kingwood Hall, which still has many of the original furnishings from a century ago. Keep your eyes peeled for the peacocks who live on-site!

Note for Franklin Park Conservatory and other local AHS members: Your membership is not value for reciprocal admission to Kingwood Center Gardens. I believe this restriction also applies to members of The Dawes Arboreturm and Hywet Hall.

Ohio Bird Sanctuary

If you’re looking for a great family day trip from Cleveland, OH be sure to put the Ohio Bird Sanctuary on your list. This rescue and rehabilitation facility does great work both with animals and with their educational programs

In my experience it’s a great place for budding naturalists thanks to the diverse species in residence. It started as a raptor rescue so you’ll see plenty of hawks, falcons and even bald eagles! There are also several species of owls as well as a free fly aviary with more docile birds that have been turned over. Our kids loved hand-feeding the blue jays.

The OBS is open year-round Sunday through Tuesday so it’s a nice Cleveland day trip option all year long, though you’ll find bigger crowds as the weather gets warm. But please learn from my mistake: stay off the Wood Duck Trail if it’s been rainy!

Downtown Mansfield

While Mansfield is a small town, it’s worth a stop whether you’re an adult or a kid.

For adults, there are several noteworthy on the “Shawshank trail” located in downtown. You’ll find them clearly advertised with signs, but some popular ones include the Bissman Building (the Brewer Hotel in the movie) and Mansfield Antiques Gallery (which played the role of the pawn shop). They’re fun photo ops for movie lovers!

Though it was closed due to damage, Richland Carrousel Park is back open to entertain young visitors. The carousel looks old but it was actually built in 1991 as the first new hand-carved carousel in the US in almost a century.

For a fun throwback, stop in Operation Fandom & Blackbird Records. It’s full of Gen X through Millennial favorites like Star Wars collectibles, rare Pokémon packs, Garbage Pail Kids… and of course vinyl.

Downtown Mansfield even offers two delicious bakeries: Blackbird Bakery and Buckeye Bakery. I’ll let you sample both and decide which one you like best!

Malabar Farm State Park

We haven’t made it yet but one of the most popular things to do near Mansfield Ohio is visit Malabar Farm State Park. The site offers plenty to explore for lovers of both nature and history.

In summer and fall you can tour the farm by wagon, golf cart or hay ride. There are also guided tours of the Big House for adults in April through December. If you’re more interested in exploring nature, there are plenty of hiking trails or you can drive up to the top of Mt. Jeez for great views of Pleasant Valley.

Day Trips from Cleveland Ohio Within ~2 Hours

How far you can go on a day trip is like asking the length of a piece of string. There’s no single answer.

Barring a special event, there’s not much that makes it sensible to take a road trip that requires driving 3+ hours each way in a single day – we’re sticking to one tank trips from Cleveland.

However, there are a few options that are about two hours from Cleveland and special enough to warrant visiting even if you can’t stay overnight. Prepare for a long day, but know that it’ll be worthwhile and you’ll have a great time on these fun day trips in Ohio (and beyond)!


Distance from Cleveland to Pittsburgh: 135 miles/2 hours

Pittsburgh is such a neat city with so many things to do that I hesitate to recommend it as a day trip, but if that’s all you can spare you won’t be disappointed. While the city has had its share of ups and downs since its founding in 1758, in recent years it’s been attracting young people with its vibrant downtown scene.

If you get an early enough start, you can see the best of the city and learn about its fascinating landscape and history on this excellent bike tour. After lunch at one of the new downtown hot spots, check out a Pittsburgh museum on the other side of the river – perhaps Andy Warhol if you’re visiting kid-free or the Carnegie Science Center with kids (the latter participates in the ASTC Passport Program, giving you free admission with your membership card from a participating institution). Alternatively, if you aren’t a museum person head over to the Phipps Conservatory in Schenley Park (they serve a great lunch in the cafe too).

Wrap your day trip to Pittsburgh with a ride up the Duquesne Incline for an amazing view of the city. Just make sure you come back for more!


Distance from Cleveland to Columbus: 150 miles/2 hours 30 minutes

Want a a change of scenery without crossing state lines? Head south to Columbus for the day!

With kids in tow, make your first stop the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium. It’s one of the most highly regarded zoos in the region – there are animals from all over the world, from manatees to polar bears and beyond. Now that it’s back in the good graces of the AZA, you can use your membership card from a participating zoo or aquarium to get half off admission. If it’s too hot or cold for the zoo, COSI is the perfect spot – it’s routinely rated as the best science museum in the country and free to enter if you’re a member of another ASTC museum.

Get the scoop on the best things to do in Columbus with kids

For an iconic experience, pay a visit to the Franklin Park Conservatory. There’s always something new and unique to see here, from an incredible array of tulips in the spring to thousands of pumpkins in the fall and a permanent collection of over 3,000 pieces of glass by famed artist Dale Chihuly. You can spend hours wandering the Palm House, originally constructed in the 19th century, or play in the giant birds nest and stream of. thechildren’s garden. The Conservatory participates in the American Horticultural Society’s reciprocal admission program.

Of course nothing says “Columbus” more than seeing the OSU Buckeyes play at the Shoe! That’s probably the best reason of all to make the day trip from Cleveland to Columbus.

The Wilds

Distance from Cleveland to The Wilds: 140 miles/2 hours 30 minutes

Want to travel overseas and see exotic animals? Me too, but sometimes that isn’t in the cards.

Thankfully right here in Ohio you can see several dozen endangered and threatened species at The Wilds, one of the world’s largest conservation parks at almost 10,000 acres. Witness everything from these southern white rhinos to cheetahs to batengs and more.

This is a wonderful Ohio day trip for the whole family, as the general tour is conducted in an open-air school bus. It feels like an adventure but requires minimal walking so it’s fine for babies through seniors.

We loved our visit to The Wilds so much that we became members – the Family Plus membership covered all six of who visited and parking for less than the cost of a single visit. We look forward to visiting again for one of the specialty tours, like the horseback sunset safari.

The season for The Wilds open-air safari is somewhat limited, running from early May into October. The beginning and end are ideal to avoid the hottest times, but I don’t recommend visiting on a day when rain is in the forecast. We all had fun on our first trip to The Wilds but wound up soaked and muddy even though we were covered on the bus. Our second visit on a picture-perfect June day was much more fun!

Wrapping Up

I hope this guide to some of central Ohio’s best day trips has give you inspiration to explore more! If you’re stilling looking for more ideas check out these articles as well:

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