Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. CONNIE POST/STAFF
Photo: Connie Post
Photo: Connie Post

10 ideas for family fun this summer in Northeast Ohio

NORTHEAST OHIO: Breathtaking views, fun in the sun and sand, animal encounters and more close to Cleveland.

You can feed a giraffe, build a sand castle or take a train ride through a national park — and that’s just for starters.

Northeast Ohio is filled with family-friendly fun, from spacesuits and dinosaurs to a pro-football shrine and even a Costa Rican rainforest.

Here’s a list of favorites. 

>> OHIO SUMMER TRAVEL: 50 ideas for family fun this summer

CLEVELAND METROPARKS ZOO

3900 Wildlife Way, Cleveland (Cuyahoga County)

Young and old enjoy this attraction, with several thousand animals spread across 183 acres.

It’s best to set aside a full day to see everything here: Australian Adventure, African Elephant Crossing, the Rainforest and much more. At African Savanna, visitors can hand-feed lettuce to one of four Masai giraffes.

Admission: $10.25 to $14.25, free for children younger than 2; parking: free.

Information: 216-661-6500, clevelandmetroparks.com/zoo

>> MORE: 6 foods to try when you’re in Cleveland

Cleveland is all about delicious grub (Video by Amelia Robinson)

AKRON ZOO

505 Euclid Ave., Akron (Summit County)

Unlike the much larger Columbus and Cleveland zoos, this 35-acre site is just the right size for younger visitors — the perfect space to explore in a couple of hours.

Don’t-miss exhibits include Penguin Point, home to a dozen Humboldt penguins; Grizzly Ridge, with grizzly bears, coyotes, red wolves and river otters; and Farmland, where kids can pet and feed goats and ride a train. And don’t leave before taking a spin on the Conservation Carousel, featuring 33 animal figures to ride.

Admission: $9 to $12; parking: free.

Information: 330-375-2550, akronzoo.org 

>> MORE: Dayton Summer Bucket List: 50 things to do this summer

>> FREE EVENTS: 20 things to do with the kids this summer

Water Color Orchids at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. KAREN SCHIELY/AKRON BEACON JOURNAL
Photo: The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND BOTANICAL GARDEN

11030 East Blvd., Cleveland (Cuyahoga County)

The Hershey Children’s Garden is a magical place for younger children, with a treehouse, vegetable garden, stocked pond and more.

When you’re finished outside, head indoors to the Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse, which has Madagascar desert and Costa Rican rainforest biomes.

On exhibit through Aug. 27: “Nature Connects: Art With Lego Bricks,” featuring 13 Lego sculptures of natural scenes, plus build-your-own sculptures and other activities.

Admission: $8 to $12, free for children 2 or younger; parking: $8.

Information: 216-721-1600, cbgarden.org

>> RELATED: 12 roadside attractions in Ohio for your next road trip adventure

A young visitor to the Great Lakes Science Center takes a photo of the colorful snails that were part of a public art display. MIKE CARDEW/AKRON BEACON JOURNAL
Photo: The Plain Dealer

GREAT LAKES SCIENCE CENTER, CLEVELAND

601 Erieside Ave., Cleveland (Cuyahoga County)

There’s plenty here to keep children of all ages entertained and learning for hours, including the Polymer Funhouse, dozens of hands-on science exhibits and shows, plus the NASA Glenn Visitor Center, where visitors can peek inside the 1973 Skylab 3 Command Module and try on a spacesuit.

Also here: the William S. Mather Steamship (a restored 618-foot historic ship) and Cleveland Clinic Dome Theater.

Admission: $12 to $15, additional fee for theater and steamship; parking: rates vary.

Information: 216-694-2000, greatscience.com

>> RELATED: 7 must-see sights in driving distance of Dayton

Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. CONNIE POST/STAFF
Photo: The Plain Dealer

CUYAHOGA VALLEY NATIONAL PARK

1550 Boston Mills Road, Peninsula (Summit County)

There’s no shortage of great hiking here, with children often showing a special fondness for the giant rock formations along the park’s Ledges trail.

When you tire of walking, try pedaling instead — on some of the 20 miles of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, which cuts through the park. And when you tire of pedaling, hop aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which has stops throughout the park.

A fitting end to your park day: the Yum Yum Sweet Shop, 1593 Main St., in downtown Peninsula.

Admission and parking: free.

Information: 330-657-2752; nps.gov/cuva

>> MORE: 9 things to see or do in Ohio’s only national park

Children ride the tire swing at Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park Beach on Lake Erie before going swimming to cool off. THE PLAIN DEALER
Photo: Staff Writer

FAIRPORT HARBOR LAKEFRONT BEACH

301 Huntington Beach Drive, Fairport Harbor (Lake County)

Among the many enticing stretches of sand along northeastern Ohio’s Lake Erie coast, Fairport Harbor stands out.

The 21-acre beachfront park, managed by the Lake Metroparks, has a playground, kayak and paddleboard rentals, concession stands and more.

It also has lifeguards as well as a designated dog-swim area, which makes it perfect for four-legged family members.

Admission: free; parking: $3.

Information: 440-639-9972, tinyurl.com/fairportharborpark

>> COOL OFF: 7 waterpark adventures a short drive away

The lighthouse at the entrance to Fairport Harbor is used by kids as a diving board into Lake Erie. The channel at that point is said to be about 40 feet deep. STAFF PHOTO BY BILL REINKE.
Photo: Bill Reinke/Dayton Daily News

THE FARM AT WALNUT CREEK

4147 County Road 114, Sugarcreek (Holmes County)

This is no ordinary Amish farm, what with camels, kangaroos and giraffes roaming about.

Visitors can take a wagon ride or drive their car through the farmland, which houses 500-plus animals, including porcupines, pigs, ostriches and zebras. If you buy a bucket of food, you’ll likely entice the animals to come closer.

Also on-site: two Amish-style farmhouses (that is, without electricity) where visitors can watch quilting and other demonstrations and buy baked goods.

Admission: $8.75 to $11.75; parking: free.

Information: 330-893-4200, thefarmatwalnutcreek.com

>> MORE: 5 great ideas for quick summer escapes

A covered bridge crosses the Clear Fork branch of the Mohican River within Mohican State Park in Ashland County, Ohio. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: The Plain Dealer

MOHICAN STATE PARK

3116 Ohio Route 3, Loudonville (Ashland County)

One of the state’s most popular parks, Mohican offers terrific hiking and more.

You can rent a canoe and paddle down the Clear Fork, Black Fork and Mohican rivers. The park also has mountain-bike and biking and horseback-riding trails. Another draw: zip-lining at nearby Tree Frog Canopy Tours.

You can spend the night at the Mohican State Park Lodge, where children 10 or younger eat free. Other overnight options: Rent a cabin or pitch a tent.

Admission: free; parking: free.

Information: 419-994-4290, parks.ohiodnr.gov/Mohican

>> RELATED: 10 camping getaways close to Dayton

NFL free agent Trent Richardson tours the Football Hall of Fame in Canton. LONNIE TIMMONS III / THE PLAIN DEALER
Photo: The Plain Dealer

PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME

2121 George Halas Drive N.W., Canton (Stark County)

Sports fans won’t want to miss this shrine to football, filled with entertaining, interactive exhibits.

Among the highlights: the Pro Football Today gallery, with uniforms and other memorabilia from the sport’s most recent stars; the Super Bowl Gallery and “Road to the Super Bowl” film; and an interactive space with video, trivia and call-the-play games.

New in 2016: “A Game for Life,” a high-tech, locker-room pep talk, narrated by a holographic Joe Namath, and featuring the inspiring stories of a half-dozen NFL greats.

Upcoming events: 2017 Enshrinement Week kicks off Aug. 3 with the Hall of Fame Game (Arizona Cardinals vs. Dallas Cowboys), the Grand Parade (Aug. 5), Enshrinement Ceremony (Aug. 5), and Concert for Legends featuring Toby Keith (Aug. 6).

Admission: $18 to $25, free for children younger than 6; parking: $10.

Information: 330-456-8207, profootballhof.com

>> MORE: Go see actual Star Wars costumes this summer

>> RELATED: This Hunger Games exhibit is so worth the drive to Kentucky

CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART

11150 East Blvd., Cleveland (Cuyahoga County)

A lot of art museums might bore kids — but not this one.

The museum’s Gallery One, which made its debut in 2013 as part of a $350 million renovation and expansion, has been a huge hit with children of all ages.

Exhibits here combine real works of art with tech-heavy interaction centered on themes such as Composition, Symbols, Purpose and Gestures and Emotion. (Note: Part of Gallery One was closed in March for a renovation; it will reopen in June with new exhibits and a new name, ArtLens Gallery.)

Other kid favorites in the museum include the Armor Court and the outdoor Fine Arts Garden with adjacent lagoon.

Adults might want to catch the upcoming special exhibit “Rodin: Master of Modern Sculpture” (beginning Sept. 1).

Admission: free; parking: $10 first two hours, $2 each hour thereafter to $16.

Information: 216-421-7350, 1-888-262-0033, clevelandart.org

>> MUSEUM GUIDE: 12 museums close to home you must visit

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