From Cleveland to Toledo, the northern Ohio shoreline is lined with cities and towns that offer leading-edge urban amenities and infrastructure. Additionally, this part of the Great Lakes region boasts an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities thanks to its proximity to Lake Erie, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and a variety of city parks and gardens.

Cleveland

Cleveland was on the national stage this past summer as host for the 2016 Republican National Convention and the city was able to show off the more than $3.5 billion investment in visitor-related development over the past five years. This includes the new Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland, which opened in 2013, and the Hilton Cleveland Downtown, which opened last year.

“Cleveland is an unconventional destination that offers the best of big cities and the feel of a small town,” said Emily Lauer, senior director of PR/communications for Destination Cleveland. “Visitors have access to world-class attractions, but in a setting that is filled with Midwestern hospitality.”

Beyond many of these attractions, such as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland Museum of Art and popular sports entertainment, the city’s location between Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park provides a variety of activities for groups to get active.

Edgewater Park, just minutes from downtown, offers 6,000 square feet of shoreline, two beaches, pavilions that can be used for private events and a nearby pier with boat ramps offering access to Lake Erie. Also on the lake, groups can take stand-up paddleboarding lessons and kayaking tours with 41° North Kayak Adventures or groups of up to 330 can board the Nautica Queen for a private cruise.

Back on land, Bob’s Bike Tours and Cleveland Bike Tours can take groups on guided tours through downtown and historic neighborhoods such as Ohio City and Tremont.

From Cleveland through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park south to Akron, groups can board the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for a picturesque journey. Both group tickets and train car rentals are available and can include private bars and catering.

“Riders can take in the sights as the train winds through small towns, a working 19th century farm and a fascinating canal museum,” Lauer explained. “Visitors can ride along through wine country on the Grape Escape and the Ales on Rails excursions, or bike and take the train back through the Bike Aboard program from April through October.”

Akron

Akron is located on the southern border of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, about 40 miles south of Cleveland. The city is home to the John S. Knight Center. The greater Akron area has 14 full-service hotels and non-traditional meeting venues and attractions, including the Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, Akron Zoo, Hale Farm & Village, the Goodyear Theater and Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park.

“Within steps of our metropolitan amenities, Greater Akron offers breathtaking vistas of our sprawling natural landscape,” said Jim Mahon, the Akron/Summit CVB’s vice president of marketing and brand management. “Meeting delegates and groups have absolutely everything at their fingertips, while also enjoying Greater Akron’s accessibility and affordability.”

On the northwest side of downtown Akron is the gateway to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio’s only national park. The 33,000-acre park is a playground for hiking, mountain biking, birding, water sports and cross-country skiing, just to name a few activities. The popular Towpath Trail follows the route of the historic Ohio and Erie Canal and passes canal locks and structures once used to tow the canal boats through the river valley. In the park, the Happy Days Lodge and the Howe Meadow are available for private rentals and events.