With summer right around the corner, it is time to put together a plan to squeeze every last second out of those warm, never-ending days.
There are many family-friendly destinations in Northeast Ohio like the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the Akron Zoo, Canal Park or Progressive Field, but what about something a little more off the radar? Here are a few suggestions:.
1) SUP CLE and Cleveland's Edgewater Park
Edgewater Park, the westernmost property in the Cleveland Metroparks Lakefront Reservation, is emerging as the place to be during the summer. The 147-acre park, accessible off of I-90, includes 9,000 feet of shoreline along Lake Erie. On Thursday nights, bring some lawn chairs and sit back as live music rocks the beach from June 8-Aug. 10. Food trucks line the access road.
For the more adventurous, rent a paddleboard from SUP CLE (Standup Paddleboarding CLE) and watch the sun set from on top of the water. Enjoy a lesson, SUP Yoga, an excursion or rent a board. Call ahead, though, because they go fast.
This year marks the Cleveland Metroparks' centennia. The metroparks have partnered with KeyBank for a celebration at Edgewater with a custom fireworks show. More details are available at clevelandmetroparks.com.
2. Rockefeller Park Greenhouse
For something a little more sedate, visit the Rockefeller Park Greenhouse right off of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. near University Circle in Cleveland. Owned by Cleveland, the botanical garden and greenhouse was created in 1905 on land donated by John D. Rockefeller. Initially, plants grown at the greenhouse were planted in city gardens. Popular spots are the formal Japanese Garden, a tropical garden and the outdoor Peace Garden. And while it is beautiful in the summer, it is also worth a trip to Cleveland for the poinsettias in December. The greenhouse is open daily 10 a.m.-4 p.m. with free admission and off-street parking on East 88th Street.
3. Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Housed in a historic powerhouse on the west bank of the Cuyahoga River, the aquarium building alone is worth a visit. Built in 1892, the power plant originally provided electricity to streetcars in Cleveland. Some of the original brick walls, coal tunnels, smoke stacks and steel girders have been incorporated into the design of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. With more than 50 exhibits, special attention is paid to Ohio's lakes and rivers. Visitors will journey to Australia, South America, Africa and the Indo Pacific. There are summer camps, interactive programs, overnight adventures and even a shark dive where certified Scuba divers can dive with the sharks in the 230,000-gallon shark exhibit. For the adults in the family, programs like "Adult swim" mix wine-tastings with a one-of-a-kind learning experience.
4. Akron History Hike
Summit County Historical Society
The Akron area has its share of exciting summer events. For the history buffs in the family, sign up for an Akron History Hike where leaders from Summit Metro Parks and the Summit County Historical Society will investigate several historical sites throughout the city. Hike along Mausoleum Row at the Glendale Cemetery and visit the graves of notable veterans or head to Wingfoot Lake Park to learn about Goodyear's groundbreaking technology for WWI. The Summit County Historical Society's calendar is packed full of activities. Don't miss a thing. Visit their website to plan some memorable outings.
5. Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens
Built between 1912 and 1915, Stan Hywet Hall was the home of F.A. and Gertrude Seiberling. (F.A. Seiberling, and his brother C.W., co-founded the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.) Stan Hywet is Old English for stone quarry.
Take a tour through the 64,500-square-foot Tudor revival Manor House and get a glimpse of what life was like for the Seiberlings. For those interested in a more intense, behind-the-scenes tour, make sure to sign up for the "nooks and crannies" tour. The expansive 70-acre property offers plenty of room to explore. Make sure to visit the Japanese Garden, the English Garden, the West Terrace and the Overlook, and follow the famous London Plane Tree Allee to the lagoons.
Especially exciting is the 5,000-square-foot, handicapped accessible children's playgarden added to the estate a few years ago. With a Tudor Revival Playhouse, modeled after Stan Hywet's carriage house, a restored 1929 Model A Ford Truck, a splash foundation and more, the visit to Stan Hywet promises to please everyone in the family. And as fun as it is to visit Stan Hywet during the summer, a return visit at the holidays is a must. With each room decorated and thousands of lights, the entire estate takes on a magical quality.
No summer is complete without a visit to the Midway Twin Drive-In in Ravenna. With two screens, four movies are shown each night. Admission is $20 for a carload.
With a concession stand on the property, outside food and beverages are only allowed with the purchase of an $8 food permit per car.
7. Canal Exploration Center
While hiking or biking in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, make sure to stop in at the Canal Exploration Center in Valley View. Open daily 10 a.m.-4 p.m. through August, the center highlights Ohio's canal era. Canal boats opened up a new world for both the people working along the canals and the shoppers eager to get new goods.
8. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
One way to enjoy the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, without hiking through its 33,000 acres, is to hop aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. With three boarding stations -- Rockside, Peninsula Depot and Akron Northside -- there are a variety of train trips. The traditional tour involves a three-hour, round-trip tour of the National Park. There are also theme trips like "Day out with Thomas," based on the popular children's story of Thomas the Tank Engine, plus "The Polar Express" during the holiday season. Beer and wine tastings, plus murder mysteries are some of the special offerings for adults. The Bike Aboard program allows bicyclists to ride their bikes one way along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, and then take the train back for a small fee. With private car rentals and party offerings, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad clearly has something for everyone in the family.
9. Terminal Tower Observation Deck
Looking to see a different side of Cleveland? Check out the city from the 42nd floor of the Terminal Tower. With breathtaking views of downtown, the observation deck is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 4 p.m. from April through November. Tickets can be purchased for $5 from www.eventbrite.com. The Terminal Tower itself has a rich history. Dedicated in 1930, the Cleveland Union Terminal was the hub for the city's passenger rail service. The crowning glory? The 52-story, 708-foot-tall Terminal Tower which was the brainchild of brothers Oris and Mantis Van Sweringen. Today the tower stands sentry over the recently renovated Public Square.
10. Festivals in Kent
In the mood for a festival? Head to downtown Kent for the Heritage Festival on July 1. This festival celebrates July 4 a little early. With fireworks in the evening, there are plenty of activities all day long -- crafts, artwork, jewelry and plenty of food. A special section is even dedicated to activities and games for the kids. The entire festival is filled with live music all day. The Heritage Festival is not the only event in Kent this summer. Make sure to check out the Kent Blues Fest on July 15 and the Harry Potter Festival on July 29. The fun even continues well into the fall with the Kent Creativity Festival on Sept. 30 and Halloween. The Kent Area Chamber of Commerce has a full listing of events all year long. With the recently renovated Acorn Alley, it is even fun to visit Kent during non-festival days. Stroll through the alley, grab a bite to eat and enjoy the breezes along the Cuyahoga River.