More to Cleveland Than Its Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Our pick of the best outdoor recreation activities in and around the city

Diana Gerstacker

Wind chimes made from old bike gears dangle in the Ohio City Bicycle Co-op

When you’re cycling past 187-year-old canals in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, kayaking on Lake Erie at the base of the city skyline or simply wandering around the West Side Market—one of the best and oldest food markets in the country—it’s hard to imagine that most people only know Cleveland for one thing.

Seeking recommendations, one spot comes up repeatedly—at the expense of all others. That spot would be the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an attraction so infamous that it earned Cleveland the nickname “the Rock and Roll Capital of the World.” With more than 50 exhibits featuring relics that belonged to some of the greatest artists in history, the hype is well-deserved, but there’s far more to the city than one building, regardless of what’s inside.

Head outdoors and you won’t even have to leave downtown for public access to the 110-mile Cuyahoga River that pours out into Lake Erie. During the summer, rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard by the hour or relax on the beach at Edgewater Park. Edgewater is just one of 18 free public Metro Parks in the Cleveland area. The park system, aptly nicknamed the Emerald Necklace, surrounds the city with wilderness and greenery.

Those looking for a more remote experience in nature can take a quick half hour drive to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The 33,000 acres of preserved space is teeming with historic sites, recreation opportunities and wildlife like bald eagles and beavers. Head to the Towpath Trail for a long run or bike ride—it’s one of the best scenic paths in Ohio, spanning the length of the park as it traces the historic tracks of the mules that towed boats through the Ohio & Erie Canal system. 

Get to the heart of the trail by taking the park’s scenic railroad. For just $3, cyclists and their bikes can ride the train deep into the park through the Bike Aboard program. Beer and wine connoisseurs can enjoy special tasting tours aboard the railroad as well.

Century Cycles in Peninsula is a shop near the park that rents bikes. If you’re looking to rent a bike in the city of Cleveland, though, a privately-owned bike share program has very recently sprung up. For $3 an hour, you can ride one of 34 cruisers from one of six stations around the city; the number of bikes in the program is expected to rise to around 200 in the spring.

For a longer-term rental, or practically any other bike related service, Ohio City Bicycle Co-op is a must-visit. The Co-op is a non-profit that offers everything from refurbished bikes you can rent (or buy) to repair classes that guarantee hands-on learning.

Photo courtesy of

This past weekend, the Co-op rented bikes to riders who participated in the first ever Cleveland NEOCycle. The inaugural urban cycling festival was a massive success. The night ride alone was expected to draw 500 riders; registration was eventually closed after around 1,500 people signed up. The 7.5 mile night ride loop brought cyclists past the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, through city streets and onto a major highway, which was closed except to cyclists in the event. Both the scale of the event and the city’s cooperation are clear signs that Cleveland’s cycling culture is exploding.

Fitness events certainly aren’t a first for Cleveland, though, they’ve had success hosting annual marathons, an annual dragonboat festival and in August they hosted the International Gay Games. New York and Amsterdam have hosted the games in the past and the next city to host will be Paris.

Though Cleveland isn’t the largest city and despite the fact that many people only know it as the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it has a whole lot more to offer, just as soon as you step outside.

Unless otherwise stated, the above pictures were taken by Diana Gerstacker
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