Sampling Northeast Ohio

Activities, Magazine Features

Branch out from Cleveland and discover what Ohio has to offer

Some of the nation’s best kept secrets can be found in Northeast Ohio. Did you know Shawshank Redemption was filmed there? It’s also home to the one and only Smucker’s headquarters, museum and café—score points with your group and give them the chance to take home something sweet. Since the region is situated on the edge of Lake Erie, there are countless water activities for your group to enjoy as well.

Cleveland is Northeast Ohio’s largest and best-known city, so of course it’d be easy for you to plan a group trip there. Though the rest of Northeast Ohio may seem off the beaten path, I’m willing to bet your group will have a more memorable experience just outside Cleveland, but it’d be more fun to put your money down at the track and casino in Northfield Park.

South of Cleveland, Ohio

Northfield Park, about a half-hour drive south of Cleveland, features year-round live harness racing and the Hard Rock Rocksino. Your group will love being treated like rock stars with the casino’s “Backstage Bus Bays,” where they will step off the motorcoach and then continue inside to play the games, see the show and dine in the Hard Rock Cafe.

Travel just seven miles south to enjoy the great outdoors at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio’s only national park. Brandywine Falls is one of the park’s most popular attractions, with 65-foot cascades and rocks more than 350 million years old. Also located in the Cuyahoga Valley, near Bath, is Hale Farm & Village, an outdoor living history museum depicting 19th century life.

Kent State University, a half-hour southeast of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, is the site of the Kent State shootings where National Guardsmen shot and killed unarmed student protesters in 1970. Learn more about this turning point in history at the May 4 Visitors Center and see memorial sites and statues with original bullet holes from that day.

Another half-hour southwest leads to the Akron Art Museum, which showcases art dating back to 1850 and visiting shows featuring national and international collections. Akron is also home to National Historic Landmark Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, the nation’s sixth largest home open to the public. The estate was built between 1912 and 1915 for F. A. Seiberling, founder of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.

Chippewa Lake Water Ski Show Team, located in Norton 13 miles southwest of Akron, is the state’s only competitive water ski show team and puts on free shows all summer. At the JM Smucker Company in Orrville, 15 miles south of Norton, taste products, walk through the heritage museum, shop and enjoy ice cream with any of Smucker’s toppings on an outdoor patio.

Just eight miles south of Orrville is Lehman’s Hardware, a brilliantly unorthodox hardware store serving the agricultural community. Originally specializing in Amish products, it is a famous source for non-electronic goods. The museum-like quality of this huge store beckons tourists to shop for and see demonstrations of these products. Lehman’s also features a bookstore that shows films on Amish culture, complete with a cafe. Get in touch with Amish life while you’re in the area; Wayne County is one of the three counties that makes up the “Gateway to Amish Country,” home to the world’s largest Amish community.

Take a short drive eastbound to shop for fine chocolates and take a guided tour of Fannie May & Harry London Chocolates in North Canton. While you’re in the area, check out Canton Classic Car Museum’s memorabilia, gift shop and more than 40 vehicles including a 1901 Oldsmobile. National First Ladies’ Library/First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton offers guided group tours and covers every First Lady in the U.S., from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama. Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame offers self-guided tours of the interactive exhibits that tell the story of pro football and its players.

East of Cleveland

A half-hour east of bustling Cleveland lies one of Mother Nature’s sanctuaries, the Holden Arboretum. Covering 3,600 acres in Kirtland, it is the largest arboretum in the nation. Continue your nature adventure by traveling 10 miles northeast to Grand River, where your group will find their sea legs on a fishing charter trip on Lake Erie with Rampageous Fishing Charters.

A trip to Northeast Ohio wouldn’t be complete without exploring Amish Country. An Amish tour through Middlefield will have you traveling back roads to learn about this culture by visiting shops, enjoying lunch in an Amish home and appreciating the simple way of life.

Visit “America’s Museum” in Youngstown; the Butler Institute of American Art, dedicated in 1919 as the first American art museum, shows more than 20,000 individual works created by American citizens. Finish a day in Northeast Ohio by stargazing and watching a laser show at the Ward Beecher Planetarium at Youngstown State University.

West of Cleveland

Some of the country’s best wineries are in Northeast Ohio. Drive a half-hour west from Cleveland to taste and tour at Klingshirn Winery in Avon Lake, then stroll along Lake Erie just minutes away.

Feel the heat 14 miles southwest of Avon Lake at Lorain CountySpeedway to watch races and fireworks. While in Lorain, pay homage to the abolitionists who helped slaves escape to Canada at the Lorain Underground Railroad Station 100 Monument and Reflective Garden.

Drive farther southwest to find yourself in Mansfield at the prison where Shawshank Redemption was filmed. The Shawshank Trail takes your group on a self-guided drive through 14 filming sites in the area. Your group can shop for Shawshank souvenirs and learn fun facts about the movie.

Take some time to discover what else there is to do throughout Northeast Ohio. If you like the idea of spending time outdoors, there are more than 70 golf courses across the region and plenty of places to fish. Of course there are department stores and factory outlets, but true Ohio-style shopping calls for flea and farmers markets, collectibles and antique stores, and arts and crafts made for sale right before your eyes. The foodies in your group will be interested in a Northeast Ohio (NEO) Food Tour or any of the dozens of wineries in the region.

The nice thing about Northeast Ohio is that it’s not your typical tourist spot—you will avoid long lines, obnoxious crowds and congested traffic, allowing your group to have a more intimate, fun-filled and relaxing trip.

For help in planning your next trip, contact Adventures in Northeast Ohio,

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