- Thursday – Fly to Cleveland, Ohio
- Friday – Cedar Point
- Saturday – Impromptu pub crawl
- Sunday – Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- Monday – Fly out
Dates: August 31 – September 4, 2017
What do Polish heritage, America’s densest concentration of roller coasters, Drew Carey, and a casino + Taco Bell + bachelorette party bar crawl all have in common?
Yeah, you guessed it – Cleveland, Ohio!
This unlikely vacation destination was my home base for 4 nights over Labor Day weekend with Tim and my best guy friend Jon. The idea came to me back in February when I was driving late at night from Madison, WI to Richmond, VA and passing through Ohio to sleep midway through the journey. I saw signs for Cedar Point, an amusement park famous for its roller coasters, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and Sandusky (which I only knew of from the movie Tommy Boy). It was those first two, though, that got me thinking – this would be a fun, and easy, place to come for a weekend getaway to enjoy the coasters and the national park. Since Jon and I went to Kings Dominion in Virginia at least once a week during summer breaks in high school, it seemed obvious he needed to come too.
We all arrived on Thursday to our Airbnb apartment in the Tremont neighborhood. Tremont is an up-and-coming area with a lot of shops, bars and restaurants, and a great view of downtown across the river. We got a delicious dinner at a taco and margarita bar a few blocks away and then retired for the evening. The next morning we would be up early to venture to Cedar Point!
As it was Labor Day weekend, I didn’t really pack any cool weather clothing – something I realized was a mistake after we stepped out of our car on the little strip of land upon which Cedar Point sits on Lake Erie. It was windy and cold, but not enough to be a real problem. Plus with all the walking around, I knew I’d warm up soon enough.
On our way into the park, a car drove by with their windows down yelling out, “Does anyone want free tickets?”. Even though we had bought ours online, Tim jumped at the opportunity for the tickets. With them in hand, he told me and Jon his plan – to sell them for less than the cost of admission by the ticket counter. Within 15 minutes he’d made $180, which we all agreed went to our food and drink fund for the trip!
We ended up having an awesome day at the park. Since it was chilly and a weekday, lines were pretty short. We were able to ride everything there that we wanted to (except for the 2 roller coasters that were closed due to wind).
That night, after talks of rallying and going out, we ended up ordering a pizza and crashing hard. Turns out a day full of walking and adrenaline totally wipes out 3 adults.
The next day, we ventured out to explore Cuyahoga Valley National Park, despite some chilly and rainy weather. When we got to the visitor center one of the rangers gave us some recommendations on hikes, but as we were driving out to get gas before making our way to the trail head, we decided, given the weather, that this might be a better activity for the next day…so back to Tremont we went, where we embarked on a mini-pub crawl through the neighborhood.
As it turns out, there is a large Polish influence in the area (as evidenced by the Polish Legion, the Polish festival going on that weekend, and the pierogis on offer at the bars), so after enjoying some potato-based food and drink we made our way downtown to the casino. We tried to teach Jon how to play craps, to no avail. We played for about an hour with no winnings to show for it and then headed to the Taco Bell Cantina around the corner. We had more luck there – at the bottom of each of the beers we ordered were little magnetic coins. When you collect all 4 designs, you win a free beer – which we did!
We ended the night at a pub where we met a bachelorette party. Things are foggy after that…
The next morning Tim and I made our way back to the national park. It was a beautiful sunny day and we loved hiking along a trail called The Ledges, which is lined with sandstone cliffs, a forest of green trees, and mossy terrain. We also visited the marshlands of Beaver Marsh. We didn’t see any beavers, though they allegedly do live there. We did see some mud puppies, turtles and birds in the water, however. To be a national park in the middle of Ohio (which is a little surprising in and of itself), it was very beautiful, and the park is obviously well-loved by the many people we saw hiking and biking around that day. One of the most unique aspects about this park is that it is spread out among and divided by various small towns, so you’ll be driving in the national park one moment and then out of it the next.
That evening, our last in Cleveland, we all headed out together for dinner in Tremont. While I knew we would have fun going to Cedar Point and hiking, I honestly didn’t think Cleveland would be as fun as it really was. The city has a great vibe going for it, amazing restaurants and bars, and is close enough to Chicago and Detroit to be easily accessible from its larger neighbors. As unlikely as it may sound – Cleveland, Ohio makes one hell of a weekend getaway town!