11 Perfect Summer Days in Cleveland

Summer Guide 2019

click to enlarge 11 Perfect Summer Days in Cleveland
Photo courtesy Cleveland Metroparks

Let's not get totally ahead of ourselves here, but indications are strong that summer is in fact arriving soon. With that comes the hope that this year, finally, you will actually tackle and conquer your ever-growing list of things that you want to do. Or that you'll finally even think of something to do besides sit on the porch. Rest easy, dear Clevelander, for we are here to help.

Through extensive research and first-hand experience, we've built 11 perfect days in Cleveland. From outdoor activities to seasonal offerings, from the perfect patios to the region's finest wineries, these pre-packaged itineraries are guaranteed to give you a taste of just about every essential aspect of summer in and around the city. Tackle even just a few of them and you'll have felt like you finally did summer right in Cleveland.


Awake to sunshine — a miracle. Throw on the flip-flops, grab your beach gear and head (via foot, bike, carpool or public transit — #26 Bus / Red Line Rapid) to Detroit-Shoreway, Cleveland's westside neighborhood with frontage on the Lake. Have your crew meet you at Frank's Falafel House (1823 West 65th St.) to enjoy the best diner food on the west side. Establish a caloric base for the festivities ahead. (You can't go wrong with the breakfast classic with gyro meat). If early morning frosty brews and sugar are more your breakfast speed, head to Brewnuts (6501 Detroit Ave.; brewnutscleveland.com).

Enjoy the lake, for heaven's sake, either at Edgewater Beach or Whiskey Island. Kick back on the romantic porch swings near the new-ish Edgewater Beach House or throw down a blanket. If you're athletically inclined, play some volleyball. Bring a bluetooth speaker, a towel or quilt, a good book and plenty of water.

Once the afternoon sun hits, you'll no doubt be salivating again, and there are plenty of options right around the corner to address that need. If backyard BBQ is the idea, head to Ohio City Provisions (3208 Lorain Ave.; ohiocityprovisions.com) to procure some grill-able meats, Banter Beer and Wine (7320 Detroit Ave.; bantercleveland.com) to select some six-packs for what's beginning to look like an afternoon barbecue, and Astoria (5417 Detroit Ave.; astoriacafemarket.com) for some gourmet Mediterranean fixins. Dining in the call? Astoria's recently opened patio can't be beat for summer noshing. Other options that won't disappoint: Good Company (1200 West 76th St.; goodcompanycle.com) for a griddle burger or bologna cheesesteak and a High Life, or Terrestrial Brewing (7524 Father Frascati Dr.) for some La Plaza tacos and a pint.

It's likely that by now you'll be looking for a couple hours of sustained air conditioning, so catch a flick at the Capitol Theatre (1390 West 65th St.; clevelandcinemas.com), or try your hand at some old-school arcade fare at Superelectric Pinball Parlor (6500 Detroit Ave.; superelectric.tv). — Sam Allard

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An Excursion to Akron It's time to get Ak-rowdy.

You can reach the Rubber City by boarding the Cuyahoga Scenic Railroad in Independence (7900 Old Rockside Rd.; cvsr.org) and riding the rails to the Akron Northside Station. You can bring your bike on the train if you like, and that'll make it easier to tool around Akron once you get there. In May, the train only operates on weekends, but from June through August it runs from Wednesday through Sunday, with the first train departing Rockside at 9 a.m.

When you arrive at Northside Station, you're steps away from Akron's Northside Marketplace (21 Furnace St.; northsidemarketplace.com), an urban market with a focus on "social interaction, local businesses and grassroots artisans." Northside Marketplace vendors sell everything from bicycles to alpaca hats/gloves/scarves and Akron-centric T-shirts. It might be a little early to imbibe, but there's craft beer on tap and several food vendors selling everything from vegan pastries and waffles to specialty hotdogs. And, although the marketplace is more Ohio City Galley than Westside Market, you can find produce at its Countryside Public Market, which opens at 10 a.m. on Sundays.

From the Northside Marketplace, it's a 10-minute walk to downtown Akron. The main attraction downtown is the Akron Art Museum (1 South High; akronartmuseum.org). It houses a great collection of modern art (including pieces by Andy Warhol, Chuck Close and the like) and rotating special exhibitions that pack a punch. The current exhibit by Chicago-based Nick Cave features the artist's visually impressive sound suits. Starting June 27, local musical acts will perform on Thursday evenings as part of the museum's Downtown@Dusk series.

Directly across the street from the museum, Akronym Brewing (58 East Market St.; akronymbrewing.com) offers a wide selection of craft beers and an expansive, dog-friendly patio. It's bring-your-own-food, however, so if you wanna get lunch, you'd have to hit up one of the local eateries that has a to-go menu or stop by the Lockview (207 South Main St.; the lockview.com) to pick up a gourmet grilled cheese with a basket of tots or sweet potato fries.

If you happen to be visiting on a Sunday, you can catch a Rubber Ducks game at Canal Park (300 South Main St., 330-253-5151; mlb.com/akron). The team is the Double A affiliate for the Cleveland Indians. On Sundays, first pitch is at 2:05 p.m., and the baseball stadium is smack in the middle of downtown, walking distance from the Art Museum and Akronym. Tickets start at just $5, and concessions are just as reasonably priced.

A trip to Akron wouldn't be complete without a stop at the 18,000-square-foot Bomb Shelter (923 Bank St.; thebombshelterstore.com). Located in a residential area that's about two miles from downtown Akron, it would require a little pedaling or an Uber/Lyft ride to get there, but it'd be worth it. The place offers a unique mixture of vintage goods — everything from vinyl records to black- and-white TVs and mid-century modern furniture.

Don't miss your ride back north. In May, the last train leaves Akron's Northside Station at 3 p.m., but from June to August, the last train leaves at 6:35 p.m. — Jeff Niesel

click to enlarge 11 Perfect Summer Days in Cleveland
Photo by Roger Mastroianni, courtesy of the Cleveland Orchestra

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Blossoming at Blossom

Today, as you've told anyone who would listen, you're going to see the Cleveland Orchestra play at Blossom Music Center. May as well make a day of exploring the surrounding Cuyahoga Valley National Park area, complete with a footwear change.

Once peeled out of bed, begin stuffing your car with the essentials: bug spray, blankets, utensils and an empty picnic basket, short lawn chairs, shoes for hiking, shoes for looking pretty, a mid-price box of wine and water. The Blue Door Cafe and Bakery (1970 State Rd., Cuyahoga Falls; bluedoorcafebakery.com) is calling and you've told everyone to meet up there for a noon brunch. There's French-press coffee and sparkling mimosas. There is bread, and boy is it great. Croissants, English muffins, scones, crepes and jalapeno and cheddar waffles are all made in house and are well worth the calorie content — especially if you're heading out for a hike next.

Head to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park's Boston Store Visitor Center (1550 Boston Mills Rd., Peninsula; nps.gov/cuva/index.htm) to pick up some nature-themed knickknacks and talk to a real-life ranger. Then roll out to the Brandywine Falls area trails for a choose-your-own-adventure afternoon. The falls are just a short walk from a nearby parking lot, but maybe you'd like to push yourself and go on the moderate 1.4-mile Brandywine Gorge trail. Part of your crew can stay at the falls for an hour of rest and relaxation while others take the loop.

After the exercise, Szalay's Sweet Corn Farm & Market (563 Riverview Rd., Peninsula; szalaysfarm.com) is your next stop to battle the masses. A cup of fresh-squeezed lemonade comes first. While sipping, get to shopping. Fill your picnic basket with orchestra-listening goodies like roasted corn on the cob, pork loin sandwiches and fruit. Pick up a dozen ears of sweet corn while there for grilling later.

The moment you've been waiting for is finally here, and your posse heads to the Blossom Music Center (1145 West Steels Corners Rd., Cuyahoga Falls; clevelandorchestra.com), which opens as early as 5 p.m. The Cleveland Orchestra plays nearly every weekend of the summer starting June 29 through Labor Day weekend, rain or shine. Amphitheater lawn tickets (only $26) are for those hoping it won't rain too much, but it is the best bet and perfect for a big blanket spread with friends. This summer's lineup of concerts includes everything from Star Wars to Brahms to Brian Wilson and his Pet Sounds. No matter which show you attend, you can't go wrong. Parking isn't a hassle and you're allowed to bring in your Szalay's food and boxed wine. Once the perfectly played music begins, you bask in how beautiful this place can be. Is this heaven? No, it's Ohio. — Laura Morrison

click to enlarge 11 Perfect Summer Days in Cleveland
Photo by Erik Drost FlickrCC

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Arts and More In the Circle

One of the joys of University Circle, Cleveland's second-densest job hub and cultural mecca, is that it's easily accessible via public transit. From downtown, both the Red Line Rapid and the Health Line (the bus rapid transit line that traverses Euclid Ave.) take you to the heart of the district. And once you've arrived in University Circle, a shuttle loops the neighborhood every 10 minutes. It's a piece of cake to get around.

But if you're with family or friends and in a vehicle, be sure to approach University Circle from the north. From the Shoreway, exit on MLK and drive south through the serpentine Cleveland Cultural Gardens (10823 Magnolia Dr.; clevelandculturalgardens.org), comprising more than 30 individual natural areas designed and maintained by Cleveland's various nationality groups. And this time, don't just blow past them. Pick a spot, park the car, and actually walk through them to instead of casually checking them out at 25 mph.

However you choose to arrive, now's the time to head toward University Circle proper, where several marquee museum options await. If you're with art lovers and are looking for a deal, both the impressively stocked Cleveland Museum of Art (11150 East Blvd.; clevelandart.org) and the shiny Museum of Contemporary Art (11400 Euclid Ave.; mocacleveland.org) are free to the public. We'd be remiss, though, if we didn't recommend The Cleveland Museum of Natural History (1 Wade Oval Dr.; cmnh.org) — a Scene favorite — which not only features a planetarium that kids will love, but is also the final resting place of beloved sled dog Balto.

You should be getting hungry for lunch by now, so pop over to Cosmic Dave's Rock Club (11310 Juniper Rd.; davescosmicsubs.com) in the former home of the legendary Barking Spider tavern. Grab a sub and a cold brew on the patio.

Hopefully, you're not museumed out, because University Circle has plenty of others worth the price of admission. Make a point to check out the Western Reserve Historical Society (10825 East Blvd.; wrhs.org), where you can enjoy regionally flavored history exhibits, the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum (with more than 170 antique automobiles on display) and the refurbished Euclid Beach Carousel. If you're into ever weirder history, you can dash over to the Dittrick Museum of Medical History (11000 Euclid Ave.; artsci.case.edu/dittrick) on the campus of Case Western Reserve.

Hopefully it's Wednesday, because that means you and your companions can stroll down to Wade Oval for their weekly Wade Oval Wednesday concert series (universitycircle.org), a true family-friendly outing. If not, or following that jazz, head up Mayfield Road and amble through Little Italy, being sure to grab a cannoli from Corbo's Bakery (12210 Mayfield Rd.) and/or a relaxing dinner at one of the neighborhood's many fine Italian establishments. — Allard

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Tacos and Rays

You want to get some sun, and you want some tacos. While there are plenty of options for each, you'll want to combine the two with a trip out east.

Gather your essential beach gear first, and then make a beeline for Painesville to get some sustenance. Set your GPS for La Casita (484 North State St.; Painesville), a seasonal, alfresco joint serving some of the best tacos you'll ever have. Prices are $1.75 per taco, $3.50 per torta and $3.50 or $4 for a quesadilla depending on your choice of shell (flour or homemade corn). Slide over to the garnish table for a wide selection of crisp, bright and crunchy toppings like cucumber salad, diced onion, radish quarters, chopped fresh cilantro, lime and a variety of salsas. Grab a cold Jarritos soda or water and find a seat at one of the communal picnic tables. 

Next head over to Headlands Beach State Park where you can enjoy a pristine expanse of sand with a delightful lighthouse view. Do whatever it is you do while you're at the beach.

After reaching peak bronze, or red, pack up your gear and set about rectifying that urge for air conditioning and grub with a trip to The Pompadour (320 High St., Fairport Harbor; thepompadourbar.com), which is just a short drive away, where you should and will enjoy a tapas-style menu with about 20 items that cover every appetite and come in between just $10 and $13. Pair your small plates with some Spanish wine or a housemade cocktail and you'll be recovered in no time. — Vince Grzegorek

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A Float Through Paradise

There is nothing more perfect that floating down a lazy river in the sunshine, a can of something American in your hand while surrounded by the people you love most. It screams summer. It is summer. For total relaxation, however, there must be a plan — and that starts with beverages, applying SPF 30 and designating the driving. Stock up at your friendly local convenience or grocery store.

You are hitting a river today, and there are options aplenty. Check out a new business out of Cuyahoga Falls called Float the River (Waterworks Park, 2025 Munroe Falls Ave.; floattheriver.net), open weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Make sure to sign up in advance ($20 per tube) for an 11 a.m. time-slot, which is far more doable than the first available at 10 a.m. Note that no alcohol is allowed on the Cuyahoga River, but tubers are allowed to bring reusable drink containers. Also tubes are available for your cooler ($10). Meet at the blue parking garage in downtown Cuyahoga Falls (2035 Old Town Loop) in your bikini and sexiest aqua socks. Expect about a two-hour float full of greenery and laughter, which ends at River Front park. (For those looking for more: Catch special events throughout the summer, like celebrating the 50th anniversary of the river fire and also yoga classes.) The Float the River folks will then shuttle your crew back to where you started.

A second option: Head to Boliver with your crew, about a 30-minute drive down I-77. This time, with the help of the good folks at NTR Canoe Livery (11358 OH-212; canoe-ohio.com), you can float the Tuscarawas River. A tube is still an option here, but might we suggest taking a canoe this time. Add in that cooler of yours and you've got "cabrewing," which shouldn't need any explanation. A 6-mile trip, which takes a scenic two hours, runs $26 per person. We recommend calling (330-874-2002) ahead to reserve an afternoon slot. Lazy paddling skills are required. Watch out for rocks and low branches.   

Next up, stop at BK Rootbeer (737 Munroe Falls Ave.; facebook.com/bkrootbeer.cfo/) for a little throwback and a root beer float. Marvel at the miraculousness of the root beer and wonder why it is that actual beer can't taste like this. Go in knowing that root beer can be ordered here by the gallon for $5.49. Leave with the appropriate amount of root beer.

At this point it may feel like you'll float away without sustenance. Bolivar's Lockport Brewery (10891 OH 212; lockportbeer.com), with its big deck, is happily nearby. Go ahead with a flight of their local craft beer and order up one of those soft pub pretzels with house-made beer cheese sauce ($8) or a panini. — Morrison

click to enlarge 11 Perfect Summer Days in Cleveland
Photo by ronnie44052 FlickrCC

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Head Out West to Sip and Shop

No, you haven't been out to the western flungs of Northeast Ohio for regional wine, but yes, you are finally going to see why you've been missing out.

Savvy shoppers know there are some amazing secondhand treasures to be found in South Amherst. Jamie's Flea Market (46388 Telegraph Rd./Rte 113; jamiesfleamarket.com) has two large buildings filled with vendors dealing everything from old beer signs (classic breweriana) to childhood collectibles, but it's the eclectic, ever-changing mix of outdoor exhibitors that gives Jamie's its city-wide garage sale vibe. Get there early (they're open Wednesdays and Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) to get the best stuff. Before you head out, stop by Kiedrowski's Bakery's stand and indulge in their "world famous" snoogle.

After a morning sifting through jewelry boxes and record bins, check out Paper Moon Vineyards (2008 State Rd., Vermilion; papermoonvineyards.com). Tucked back in a rather large green space right off Route 2, the winery takes its name from the Nat King Cole song "It's Only a Paper Moon." Paper Moon offers a variety of red and white wines. Closed on Mondays and Sundays, it opens at noon the other days of the week, and live bands perform on Friday and Saturday nights. There's a spacious tasting room and a nice outdoor patio. The menu mostly consists of cheese plates and paninis, and while neither the tasting room nor the porch are pet-friendly, you can chow down with your chow or sip wine with your spaniel as long as you stick to the outdoor picnic tables.

From Paper Moon, it's a 20-minute drive or Uber/Lyft ride to Matus Winery (15674 Gore Orphanage Rd., Wakeman; matuswinery.us). Located on a 75-acre farm, the place offers views of the vineyard and countryside. It produces a wide variety of white, red, blush and fruit wines, including sangria. There's live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Hours are 4 to 10 p.m. on Thursday and 1 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

If you're heading back to Cleveland from Matus, it would make sense to stop at two notable wineries in the Avon area. Klingshirn Winery (33050 Webber Rd., Avon Lake; klingshirnwine.com) dates back to 1940 when Albert and Theresa Klingshirn built the original winery just west of their home and operated with a mere 20 wooden barrels. The place has expanded since then but remains a family-run operation. You'll find a mix of wines, including a Sweet Concord made with grapes from a vineyard the family first cultivated in 1920. The winery is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday to Saturday.

Like Klingshirn Winery, John Christ Winery (32421 Walker Rd., Avon Lake; johnchristwine.com) dates back decades. The 27-acre winery produces a healthy 13,500 to 15,000 gallons of wine annually, and it's open from Tuesday through Sunday. Check the website for hours, which vary for the tasting room and the wine bar. In the summer, hula hoop classes take place on Friday nights and live music on Saturday nights. — Niesel

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Kayaking the Cuyahoga, and Other Stuff

You've heard a thing or two about the revitalized Cuyahoga River and it's time to get up close and personal with the curvy beast.

Ideally by bike, but certainly easily accomplished in a vehicle, make your way downtown for a soul-satisfying jolt of caffeine at Pour Cleveland (530 Euclid Ave.; pourcleveland.com), because you're going to need your energy. Of course, you can also avail yourself of the myriad diner options (Addy's, also at 530 Euclid Ave. in the arcade, is a great choice) if carbs and proteins are on the docket.

Next, make your way down to the west bank of the Flats and Great Lakes Watersports (1148 Main Ave.; glwatersports.com) and get yourself a kayak, either a single or tandem. Singles run $25 per hour, doubles go for $30 an hour. It includes a life vest and paddle. You'll shove off into the Cuyahoga and from there you have a couple of options. You can explore downriver, which is a bit more leisurely, or you can head up the mouth of the river and onto the lake, which is a bit more strenuous at times but you'll be rewarded with dynamite skyline views.

Once you've exhausted yourself — because, be honest, you haven't been paying enough attention to your core and you've skipped arm day more times than you'd like to admit — head back and return your kayak. From there, pop around the corner below the Main Avenue Bridge and board the Metroparks Water Taxi, which is free. Enjoy your brief shuttle across the river to the east bank.

Take your pick from any of the fabulous restaurants and bars once you arrive, with plenty of patio options if you're still in the mood for some sun, and abundant air-conditioned havens if you need to cool it for a bit. Thirsty Dog, Collision Bend and Lindey's Lake House all offer affordable grub and magnificent river views, because you've had your fill of being on the water and just want to take a good look at it now from a safe distance.

Top it all off with a Tribe game, with first pitches for June Saturdays at 4 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m., or July Saturday games at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m., and you'll have had just about the most perfect summer day in Cleveland ever. — Grzegorek

click to enlarge 11 Perfect Summer Days in Cleveland
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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Island Hopping

The Lake Erie Islands are where Northeast Ohioans go to get obliterated. During the summer months, the islands turn into a free-for-all, and debauchery becomes the norm. And yet, they also offer such a nice change of scenery (to the point that you might even feel like you've gone to the Florida Keys) that they still merit a visit.

During the summer months, the Jet Express (101 West Shoreline Dr., Sandusky; jetexpress.com) leaves at 9:30 a.m. from Sandusky, where there's free daily parking at the Jackson Street Pier. An "island hopping" ticket will allow you to ride to Kelleys Island and then hop aboard another shuttle to Put-in-Bay before returning to Sandusky on a shuttle from Put-in-Bay.

When you arrive at Kelleys Island, you'll want to first rent a golf cart or bicycle so you can get around the place. Stop at Caddy Shack Golf Cart and Bike Rentals (115 Division St.; caddyshacksquare.com). From there, it's a short uphill ride to the glacial grooves, a natural wonder created by the slow movement of the same glacier that also created the Great Lakes and Lake Erie Islands.

At Kelleys Island State Park, Kelleys Island Kayak Rentals (920 Division St.; kelleysisland.info) offers single or tandem use kayak rentals as well as standup paddle boards. The place accepts cash only and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week from Memorial Day through Labor Day. You'd need the entire day and some serious upper body strength to paddle around the entire island, so don't get too ambitious if you still want to leave some time to get to Put-in-Bay. Stop by the Village Pump (103 West Lakeshore Dr.; villagepumpkioh.com), a terrific no-frills restaurant known for its fish fry and Brandy Alexanders.

Kelleys Island Brewery (504 West Lakeshore Dr.; kelleysislandbrewpub.com) offers some good possibilities for lunch too. You can grab a cold one and a burger or sandwich and sit outside at a picnic table that offers great views of the lake.

A Jet Express shuttle will take you from Kelleys to Put-in-Bay. Be prepared for culture shock. While Kelleys tends to be low-key and even family friendly, Put-in-Bay offers a different experience. Even in the middle of the day, you'll often see people stumbling around drunk, something that makes for good people watching, we must admit. The downtown district that's walking distance from the dock offers a variety of bars and restaurants, most of which have an island theme to them. Perhaps the most famous of these, downtown's Roundhouse (228 Delaware Ave.; theroundhousebar.com), a giant red, white and blue building, has "served up hot music and cold beer" for 140 years. Live bands perform there twice a day during the summer months.

While on Put-in-Bay, we recommend seeing the Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial (93 Delaware Ave.; npa.gov/pevi). The 352-foot column honors those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. It's free to enter the visitor center, where you'll find info about the monument's history, but it'll cost you 10 bucks to travel to the top of the column.

The last Jet Express shuttle leaves Put-in-Bay at 12:15 a.m. so be at the dock and ready to roll or be prepared to spend the night at one of the island's many hotels or cottages that essentially function as after-hours party centers during the summer. — Niesel

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High Flying and Wine in Geneva

There are now two dozen wineries scattered around the Grand River Valley, an American Viticultural Area (AVA) blessed with ideal grape-growing conditions. We'll get to that in a second, but first let's start with some high-flying activities.

Head to Lake Erie Canopy Tours (4888 North Broadway), which recently opened at The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake. Participants work their way along a network of ziplines, slicing through the treetops at speeds of up to 30 mph while enjoying lake views. Two challenge courses — one for adults, another for kids — offer a series of suspended wood and rope obstacles that test one's endurance, balance and bravery.

With all that out of the way, it's on to the wine. Head just 20 minutes south and visit Kosicek Vineyards (636 OH-534, Geneva; kosicekvineyards.com), where you'll find award-winning sparkling wines made from a blend of estate-grown pinot noir and riesling. Enjoy a wine slushie on the back patio while enjoying views of the vineyard or tossing a little cornhole. 

Your second stop, just five minutes away, is Laurello Vineyards (4573 OH-307, Geneva; laurellovineyards.com) where Kim Laurello and her family have been making wine in the region since 2002, when they transformed a farmer's market into a winery. On an average year they'll bottle around 15,000 gallons of wine, almost all of which is made from locally grown fruit. The winery's spacious patio overlooking a 100-year-old barn is a fantastic place to sample them.

Nothing says summer like a burger, and by this point you need something besides wine, so set course for Eddie's Grill (5377 Lake Rd. E, Geneva; eddiesgrill.com), a rightly famous hamburger stand that opens for weekends only in May, then daily through June and July, and then weekends only again until it rolls down the shutters come Labor Day.

Finish it all off with a visit to Bridge Street in Ashtabula Harbor. After decades of decline and decay, the area recently earned national recognition as a winner in the America's Main Streets contest. Today, there are almost no vacancies in the regal brick buildings that line the blocks leading up to the water, where a mesmerizing bascule bridge rises to let marine traffic flow through. Grab a seat with a harbor view for a fitting cap to the day or simply stroll around. — Douglas Trattner

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The Actually Perfect Day

Ignore or cancel all plans. Don't let anyone cajole or guilt you into joining them. Stay inside. Do nothing but eat garbage and watch garbage.

The End.