Autumn is one of the most magical times of the year in Northeast Ohio, so let’s take a look at 27 of the best experiences/adventures/sights that Cleveland has to offer every fall season.
27 Things to Do in Cleveland During the Fall
1) Fall Colors: Is there truly any better place to start than a drive through any of the area Metropark parkways for a look at the truly gorgeous splashes of vibrant, brilliant colors of leaves? My personal favorite part of this experience is being to watch as breezes gently take them from the trees and send them into random colorful spirals of descent.
2) A Browns Tailgate: It’s all about the food! If you have ever experienced a Cleveland Browns tailgate, you will know exactly what we’re talking about. Starting most times before the sun is even up, a sea of colorfully decked out vehicles pop their trunks and hatches to offer up a wide array of food offerings, from the simplest such as hot dogs and hamburgers to the more exotic slow-roasted items such as pulled pork or ribs. And don’t forget to join in the random football toss or even challenge another team to a game of cornhole while you’re at it.
3) Haunted Hayrides: Obviously, there are a wide variety of haunted hayrides to experience but we have zeroed in on what seems to be the most exhilarating. Part of five attractions presented by the Rockin'-R-Ranch in Columbia Station, the “Famous Haunted Hayride” is 25 minutes of pulse-pounding Hollywood-level scenes, sets, frights, actors, and surprises. Something for everyone, except for those faint of heart, this hayride will get your heart pounding for sure from the moment you step out of your car.
4) Cleveland Pizza Week, November 7-13: If you are a fan of all things pizza, then we have the event for you - and it goes on for an entire week to boot. Restaurants all over Greater Cleveland will be offering up their signature pizzas as well as everyday favorites at great prices to bring folks in to enjoy the festivities. Visit clevelandpizzaweek.com to grab your “za” passport and indulge yourself all week long with the signature aromas of all the savory offerings you can handle!
5) USS Cod: In my mind, the USS Cod memorial docked at E. 9th Street might be the most underappreciated treasure Cleveland has to offer. This Gato-class submarine served the United States throughout the entirety of World War II and later by NATO for training purposes. It’s very hard to describe the thrill of being able to actually walk through, on and around this memorial and what it represents to our country’s history. Too many of these treasures around the country are disappearing due to indifference or lack of care, but the Cod is still reliably docked downtown, standing guard over the Cleveland skyline ready to tell her story.
6) Lake View Cemetery: Another one of Cleveland’s crown jewels, the cemetery’s cornerstone feature is of course President James A. Garfield’s memorial. The cemetery is obviously a wonderful sight to visit year-round, but it's especially magnificent during the fall season because of the wondrous colors. Also, from the second-story terrace of Garfield’s memorial, on a clear day you see arguably the best view of Cleveland’s skyline. To name just a few, Lake View is the final resting place for legendary DJ Alan Freed, Eliot Ness, and Ray Chapman, the only professional baseball player sadly killed by a pitched baseball. There are many more you can see for yourself, so plan your visit soon.
7) Ghost Tour at the Mansfield Reformatory: Most people think of the movie The Shawshank Redemption when they think of the Mansfield Reformatory, but one the most exciting offerings this majestically spooky facility has to offer is its ghost walks. A two-hour guided tour will take you through to all the spots of reported spooky activity within the prison. Having been on this walk myself, I can honestly say that while I didn’t actually see anything, I definitely felt some strange sensations through parts of the tour before our guide even explained the areas, so all I can say is you have to experience the walk for yourself to draw your own conclusions.
8) Squire's Castle: Modeled after European baronial castles from the late 1890s, this gem is quietly nestled in Willoughby and is part of our wonderful Metropark system. A popular destination for picnics, weddings, exploring or even a concert during the summer, its been a must-see spot for many years. Families, couples and hikers alike have enjoyed the serene setting that is Squire's Castle, so if you are one of the few that haven’t put it on your bucket list, do it pronto.
9) The Cleveland Cavaliers: I purposely put this one at a point where it might just catch you off-guard (pun intended). The reality here is that at the All-Star break last season, the Cavaliers were the talk of the NBA and considered a dark-horse candidate to make a long playoff run. Sadly, injuries hit them hard, but with their deep riches of talent in Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen, alongside the elder statesman Kevin Love, the young and exciting Cavaliers are again poised to become the NBA’s darlings for 2022-23.
10) West Side Market: Okay, I get it, you can make the trek to the West Side Market anytime of the year, but my personal favorite is the fall season. There is something a little more special about the sights and sounds of Cleveland’s oldest public indoor/outdoor market that is home to 100 or so vendors in the fall season. Maybe it’s the smell of the fresh-brewed coffee or the chattering of dozens of conversations at the tightly packed vendor stalls, but for me the crisp fall air just seems to add an additional sense of that "being out on the town doing something special" feeling to the visit; try out a fall visit and see for yourself.
11) Cedar Point HalloWeekends: Back for its 25th blood-curdling presentation, HalloWeekends are a must-see at Cedar Point. The fun isn’t limited to the evening, when the sights, sounds and animations come to life to provide bone-chilling frights; the daytime hours also provide somewhat tamer frights so as not to scare off the younger guests of the park. But when night falls, make sure to take part in fog-covered walks, haunted houses, and spooky trails to get the most out of the experience - that is, if you dare!!
12) Patterson Fruit Farm Family Fun Fest: A wonderful place to visit year-round is Patterson Fruit Farm, but it's especially magical during its Family Fun Fest season, which begins September 17th and runs through October 30th. All of the extra family-friendly activities during this special time are to show visitors what it's like growing up on a family farm. A corn maze, straw piles, tractor rides and much more will keep visitors young and old occupied for hours. Additionally, other activities include face- and pumpkin-painting. Check out the website for a complete list of activities and the days and hours they are offered.
13) Hale Farm: In 1810, Jonathan Hale arrived in Bath to begin a new life, and his settling here in that three-story red brick home surrounded by 140 acres of farmland has certainly become one of Northeast Ohio’s true crown jewels. The original home that was passed on to several generations of the Hale family now overlooks what has become very familiar to visitors as a true working historical village. The farm became part of the Western Reserve Historical Society in the 1930s after the great granddaughter of Hale, Clara Belle Ritchie, donated the land after personally overseeing initial restorations.
14) Great Patio Bars: Everyone has their favorite patio bar, and sometimes the patio is a totally different vibe from the bar or restaurant it is a part of, and our few choices are no exception. Again, these are just our opinion and maybe our choices are ones you’ve never experienced so they may be something new to look forward to. For the best view of the Downtown Cleveland skyline, check out the Winking Lizard in Independence. For a romantic meal and trip back in time via Cleveland’s oldest restaurant, Guarino’s patio in Little Italy is simply magical. And for the overall best outdoor ambiance, choose Tinkers Creek Tavern in Walton Hills. With the creek flowing literally right off the patio, you simply cannot have a more relaxing dining experience.
15) The 'Christmas Story' House: “You’ll shoot your eye out kid!” Who doesn’t think of that line from Cleveland’s very own Christmas classic movie when considering a visit to this treasure in the Tremont area of the city? Why visit in the fall? What better way to prepare yourself for the Christmas season than a visit to the house that takes us all back to simpler times. Purchased in 2004 by a private developer, and fully restored to appear inside and out as it did for its scenes in the movie, it is truly a source of pride and an easy recommendation to visitors of our great city.
16) Cleveland Oktoberfest: This Cleveland tradition, held at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds, is bigger than ever this year; not only is it on Labor Day weekend, but it'll also be held the following weekend days of September 9th and 10th. A wide variety of entertainment including music, VIP experiences, fireworks, wiener dog races, a 5k run, light shows and more to go along with delicious food and, of course, ice-cold beer make this one of Cleveland’s true calling cards year in and year out.
17) Cleveland Metroparks Zoo: What better time to visit our amazing zoo than when fall is in the air, and to meet the zoo’s newest addition, the baby Eastern Black Rhino, Dalia, who became available to public viewing the week of August 8th? But meeting Dalia is just the latest reason to visit. This 183-acre treasure truly has it all. Divided into several distinct areas, you can literally experience the wonders of the entire world when it comes to animals, both more common and those unique and rare. You will also get to see up close how animals are cared for, from their strict diets as well as their health care, including surgeries. The zoo’s knowledgeable staff is very accessible and pleasant and always willing discuss their passions for the animals.
18) Bloodview Haunted House: Around since 1908, this haunted house attraction sets the standard by which most are measured today. It is also the only Cuyahoga County haunted attraction that has solely existed to raise money for charity, over $3 million to date, since it began 42 years ago. I can remember going in the years right after high school with groups of friends just about every weekend during October to get the experience of the thrills and chills (as well as the hope that one of ladies in the group would need the protection of one of us, but that's a story for another day). Put on by the Broadview Heights Lions Club, with help from other Lions clubs in the area, it is a fully interactive, and thoroughly professional, interactive dark attraction. No salaries, all volunteer, and wonderfully staged for your amusement - as well as terror. If it has been a few years, maybe this is the year to revisit this Cleveland fall staple once again.
19) Cleveland Botanical Garden: Are you an aspiring gardener? Or perhaps someone seeking the calming presence that beautiful flowers and trees provide? Well, then you will definitely want to experience one of Cleveland’s urban treasures located in University Circle - the Botanical Garden. There are ten acres of wondrous floral landscapes as well as the 18,000-square foot Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse. Upon entering the glasshouse, you are taken on an amazing journey through a Costa Rican rainforest where all sorts of rarely glimpsed plants, animals, butterflies, and more are right there for exploration by teachers, students, researchers and everyday curious folks looking to experience what truly rare treasures that part of the world has to offer.
20) Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: No list about Northeast Ohio, Cleveland, or for that matter all of Ohio “must-sees," would be complete without a shout-out to the Rock Hall, located right downtown on the E. 9th Street pier. Dedicated September 1st, 1995, the Rock Hall arguably may be Cleveland’s crown jewel as it embodies Cleveland’s prominence as the birthplace of rock and roll. Not limited to rock artists only, the diversity of the talents enshrined has grown to become the Hall’s greatest strength. There truly is something for everyone to enjoy, from the everyday exhibits of clothes, costumes and instruments to the traveling exhibits from time to time, such as Johnny Cash’s tour bus. Whatever you do, don’t forget to visit year-one inductee Alan Freed’s space to pay homage to the legendary trendsetting voice of rock, who started his ascension right here in Cleveland at WJW radio.
21) Castle Noel: A bit south in Medina, Castle Noel is a magical attraction that will truly bring out the simpler childhood memories of holiday seasons past while watching younger children experience for the first time what made those memories so special for those of us just a bit older. Castle Noel, the creation of Mark Klaus (yes, that is his name and he really looks like Santa Claus), is America’s largest indoor collection of Christmas memories. These memories include games and gift from the '50s through the '80s, authentic New York, Toronto and Cleveland store window displays, and Christmas movie iconic props and costumes. You'll even get to slide down the slide that Ralphie desperately tried to climb back up to ask for his beloved Red Ryder BB gun. Don’t miss this special trip down memory lane.
22) Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad: Celebrating their 50th year, this wonderful experience is probably best known for its run during the holidays as the North Pole Adventure, but the Fall Flyer excursion is a truly splendid way to see some of the area's amazing fall transition. The two-hour trip between boarding stations in Independence and Akron will take you through a pretty good chunk of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s 33,000 acres of colors and sights in the comfort of a true railroad coach ride.
23) Farmers' Markets: It would be too difficult to pick just one of these community events as a favorite, so we will start by telling you to simply search for farmers' markets near you. Typically, these are community-sponsored events that showcase the pride of those that live there and their willingness to support their friends and neighbors as well. Even though these events typically run all summer long through the fall, there is something special about attending when that fall crispness is in the air. Strolling booth to booth, coffee in hand and grabbing a fresh-baked good to go with it just seems to be an extra special way to be thankful for the day. At pretty much every one of these outings you will find everything from fresh produce and baked goods to handmade clothing and handcrafted items that can become the perfect addition to your home, or a one-of-a-kind gift for someone else.
24) Little Italy: We mentioned Guarino’s, the oldest restaurant in the Cleveland area, a little earlier when we discussed great area patios, but Guarino’s is just one part of what makes Cleveland’s Little Italy so special and in so many ways truly a trip back in time. Great care continues to be taken to keep the area looking, sounding, and feeling like a trip to Italy itself. Restaurants, bars, boutiques, art galleries, bakeries and more make this area - established in the late 19th century by Italian immigrants - a Cleveland must-see. Surrounded by part of Cleveland’s impressive hospital system, brand-new housing, and wonderful museums, the area maintains its unique identify through a deep sense of commitment to preserving its culture. The signature event highlighting this community pride is of course the Feast of the Assumption, held in mid-August for each of the last 121 years except for 2020 due to COVID. A trip well worth taking any time of year, but included here for their Taste in Little Italy event, held in September.
25) Holden Arboretum: If you truly want to experience the area's breathtaking change of colors this fall, there is no better place to do so than to visit the Holden Arboretum, nestled just east of Cleveland on roughly 3,500 acres within both Lake and Geauga Counties. Of the 3,500 acres, 200 or so are dedicated solely to gardens and special floral displays and collections. The rest of the grounds are a combination of wondrous sights, a variety of easy-to-challenging trails, family activities and even a café with delicious grab-and-go foods. No visit to Holden would be complete without taking the Murch Canopy Walk that elevates you 65 feet above the forest floor, and the amazing views from the 120-foot-tall Kalberer Emergent Tower, which offers views all the way to Lake Erie.
26) Cleveland Metroparks Trails: Not often are you able to say that your tax dollars are well spent, but one shining example of just that are the amazing hiking trails available to everyone via the Cleveland Metroparks. Whether you are looking for challenge or leisure, the wide variety of trails offer something for everyone all over the county, from the east at Beachwood's Acacia (where the country club that once stood on the property has been converted to a series of rolling trails) to the west side in Bradley Woods Reservation, with trails tucked just between the bustle of Lorain and Center Ridge Roads. Obviously you’ll need to visit the website to see a complete list of all the other trails in between, but we promise it will be worth your time.
27) Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Every visit to this true treasure of the area feels like a gift. Positioned between Greater Cleveland and Akron, this national park affords visitors the opportunity to see protected wildlife and foliage, hike amazing trails, take a scenic train ride (#22 above), and, most importantly, spend time as a family away from the trappings of our electronic devices. You can visit the website to plan a visit, or you can be adventurous and make your first stop the Visitor Center at Boston Mills to let a ranger or park volunteer help you plan your stay. Guided tours are available, children can become Junior Rangers for the day, or you can even plan to have a family reunion or gathering at one of the many available picnic shelters throughout the park. Just remember to book the shelters far in advance, because lots of folks have the same idea and they fill up quickly.
We are certain we left someone’s personal or family favorite off this list of 27, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. If our list gets a dialogue going, it probably means that you and or your family will be heading out to enjoy something the area has to offer this fall, whether it’s from our list or a personal preference of your own. Whatever the case may be, the main thing is to get out, enjoy, experience and create memories - they truly last a lifetime.