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Ohio summer travel guide, coronavirus edition: Glamping, camping, beaching and biking trips near Cleveland


CLEVELAND, Ohio — This year’s summer travel season may be different and delayed, but it won’t be canceled. Our need to explore can be put on hold, altered and adjusted, but not eliminated.

Heading into this Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial kickoff to the summer travel season, so much is still up in the air. Many attractions aren’t yet open, some travel restrictions remain in place, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend against non-essential travel.

But that doesn’t mean we’ll sit at home. Ohio attractions have been gradually reopening this month, and Gov. Mike DeWine canceled Ohio’s stay-at-home order this week.

Yet, uncertainty remains. For the first time in 20 years, AAA didn’t issue a Memorial Day travel forecast because so much is so unclear. The organization did say, however, that online bookings for the summer are increasing, albeit modestly, as Americans plan for the future.

Among the expected trends this summer: We will travel closer to home. We’ll visit family and friends. We’re more likely to drive than fly. And we’ll focus on the outdoors.

But travel we will. Where to? Glad you asked. We have some ideas:

Camping, glamping, tiny cabin and treehouse living

With a focus on outdoor adventures, public parks and camping are expected to be popular destinations this summer. Fortunately, Ohio has a terrific state park system, with many day-trip and overnight options.

Ohio campgrounds were allowed to open this week, and many of them did. There are hundreds of campgrounds in Ohio, including dozens within easy reach of Cleveland. Consider East Harbor, Mohican, West Branch and more. For a guide to campgrounds within easy reach of Cleveland: tinyurl.com/campnearCLE

If you’re not a stake-the-tent kind of family, consider glamping (short for glamourous camping), with numerous options in Ohio.

the wilds, animal refuge, wilderness park, endangered, conservation

Luxury yurts are part of the Nomad Ridge development at the Wilds, an animal conservation park in Southeast Ohio. (John Kuntz / The Plain Dealer)The Plain Dealer

Among them: Nomad Ridge, a collection of 12 luxury yurts within the Wilds, a terrific conservation zoo in southeast Ohio. The adults-only yurts are immediately adjacent to park areas for roaming animals, many of which are endangered. Overnight rates are pricey, starting at $325 on weekends, but include breakfast, dinner and a tour of the park. (Note: Tours are currently unavailable, so guests this spring will be given a voucher for a future trip.)

Other glamping choices include the yurts at the Inn at Cedar Falls, which also offers other lodging options on property that is surrounded by Hocking Hills State Park.

Other options for unique overnights in the Ohio outdoors:

* The Mohicans Treehouse Resort offers nine treehouse accommodations in the woods south of Mohican State Park, between Cleveland and Columbus. These elevated cabins offer well-appointed remote getaways, with easy access to hiking, canoeing, rock climbing and more.

* More Ohio treehouses will be available later this summer, part of Metroparks Toledo’s new Cannaley Treehouse Village at Oak Openings Preserve in Swanton. The village will feature five treehouses, four of which can be rented for overnight stays.

* Or head east and check out the Getaway Beaver Creek cabins, a collection of 36 tiny, well-appointed abodes across 56 wooded acres near Beaver Creek State Park in East Liverpool. These tiny houses, which opened last summer, are part of a growing chain of get-away-from-it-all developments across the United States.

Finally, look for state park lodges to reopen sometime next month.

Getaway cabin

A tiny Getaway cabin near Beaver Creek State Park in eastern Ohio.

National parks

The National Park Service in the process of gradually reopening parks, depending on regulations in the states where they’re located. Northeast Ohio’s national park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, never closed, and remains a terrific option for easy day trips from Cleveland.

There are numerous national parks that are within a relatively easy drive from Cleveland. The new Indiana Dunes National Park, on Lake Michigan’s southern shore in Indiana, offers terrific variety for hikers and explorers. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the nation’s most visited national park, is about nine hours from Cleveland on the North Carolina-Tennessee border. Other options include Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and New River Gorge National River in West Virginia.

Or consider a great family road trip to some of the nation’s flagship parks in Wyoming, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. RV rentals are available at Neff Brothers RV in Lorain and other outlets. For information on the reopening of national parks: nps.gov/findapark/index.htm

National parks

Indiana Dunes National Park in northern Indiana.Susan Glaser, The Plain Dealer

Beaching it

Mid-Atlantic beaches and beach towns are gradually reopening across the Eastern U.S., some with restrictions (capacity limits, no sand sports allowed, no large gatherings, etc.) Rental companies are reporting a larger than normal number of vacancies, so you may be able to score a last-minute deal on a condo or house. But plan ahead and pack necessities, including toilet paper, which may be hard to find at smaller destinations. Options include Virginia Beach, North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Or stay closer to home and consider vacationing on the Lake Erie shore, at Lakeside Chautauqua, the Victorian-era lakefront community near Marblehead, or Geneva-on-the-Lake in Ashtabula County.

Offshore eateries serve meals with a view  Put-In-Bay  Kelleys Island  ISLANDS  Sampling the dining on Put-in-Bay and Kelleys  from K1

Put-in-Bay offers plenty of outdoor dining at the Boardwalk and other venues. (Susan Glaser, The Plain Dealer)The Plain Dealer

Lake Erie islands

Ohio’s Lake Erie islands are another option for summertime fun, with lots of opportunities for outdoor activities. Both Put-in-Bay and Kelleys Island feature popular state parks, lightly trafficked roadways that are great for bicycling or golf-cart exploring, and plenty of outdoor dining.

The visitors center at Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial on Put-in-Bay is scheduled to reopen June 13 (the observation deck is closed indefinitely). On Kelleys Island, consider a trip through the outdoor Charles Herndon Sculpture Garden. For ferry information and overnight accommodations: visitputinbay.com and kelleysislandchamber.com.

While you’re in the area, don’t miss African Safari Wildlife Park near Port Clinton, which reopened this spring after a devastating fire last fall. The drive-through portion of this park includes llamas, bison and other animals that stick their heads in your car for food (and if you’re lucky, slobbering on you in the process). There’s also a walk-through area, scheduled to open this month.

Cleveland staycation

If you’d prefer a more urban adventure, consider an overnight in downtown Cleveland. The Hilton Cleveland Downtown, Drury Plaza Hotel Cleveland Downtown and the Hyatt Regency Cleveland are all open for overnight guests, and numerous downtown restaurants are offering outdoor dining.

Available downtown activities include the West Side Market, Edgewater Park and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is hoping to reopen in mid-June. East of downtown, tour the Cleveland Cultural Gardens and the Cleveland Museum of Art, which is scheduled to reopen at the end of June. See thisiscleveland.com for more options.

Biking, golfing and fishing

Other options for summer 2020 travel:

* Plan a bike tour with an overnight stay. Possibilities include the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, which travels 87 miles from Cleveland to Tuscarawas County, with overnight options in Peninsula, Canal Fulton and Zoar (see ohioanderiecanalway.com); and the Holmes County Trail, from Fredericksburg to Killbuck (and a separate section from Glenmont to Gann), with numerous overnight and dining options near Millersburg.

Summer travel 2020

On the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in Cleveland. (Tim Warsinskey/The Plain Dealer)The Plain Dealer

* Golfing is another activity that’s relatively easy to adapt to new norms. The Penn Ohio Golf Trail offers packages that include play on any of 50-plus courses, many of them private, in western Pennsylvania and Northeast Ohio, combined with some unique overnight options. Golf-overnight packages are also available at Peek’n Peak Resort in western New York and Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in southwestern Pennsylvania. Golf courses at Ohio state parks are open, including those at Punderson, Maumee Bay and Salt Fork, which should start offering golf overnights when the lodges reopen next month.

* Finally, charter-boat fishing is another outdoor option that can be done relatively safely. Lake Erie walleye fishing is already offer to a tremendous start. To find a captain in the Port Clinton area: shoresandislands.com.

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