Tag Archives: Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

Getting out and Exploring Northeast Ohio

Scott, his family and I enjoying our Memorial Day weekend (somehow our only group picture – taken Monday at Debonne Winery)

For the three-day Memorial weekend, Scott and I decided to change things up a bit. Instead of traveling out of town like most of our previous weekends, we hosted Scott’s parents and grandmother.

I love having out-of-town guests because it means I can put on my tourist shoes and explore places in Cleveland I may not get to as often as I’d like. Call me a nerd, but I relish having an excuse to scour the Cleveland Scene or Plain Dealer’s Friday! section and think about the different things my visiting family or friends would enjoy doing.

I’M FREE!!!! (Scott may have enjoyed a little too much wine and open air at South River Vineyard)

Although it was Scott’s family visiting this time, I couldn’t help myself and still butted in on the sightseeing research. Because it was Memorial Day weekend, we had plenty of options to choose from (almost too many!).

We started the weekend out slow – with a leisurely drive out to Sandusky.

Besides taking a scenic drive down Route 6, we had a second reason to head out there – picking up our season passes to Cedar Point. Unfortunately, by the time we got out there the line for pass pickup was too long to justify making Scott’s family wait, so we piled in the car and headed back.

However, it wasn’t a wasted trip at all because we stopped in downtown Vermilon on our way home for a stroll and a bite to eat.

The Old Prague Restaurant serves up traditional Czech fare – along with some great Yellow Perch according to other restaurant guests

Scott’s Serbian grandmother loved the Czechoslovakian fare at the Old Prague Restaurant. It was difficult not to love – I will hardly ever turn down Chicken Paprikash, dumplings and spaetzles.

I also enjoyed the Shishki appetizer. The tangy apple mustard was a great complement to the spicy meatloaf rolls; though I found the batter the rolls were fried in ended up a bit hard to bite into at times.

To pair with their schnitzel, Old Prague offers a fairly decent selection of Czech beers – both Scott and I were happy with our Golden Pheasant Pilsner and Zatec Dark Lager.

Scott’s grandmother downed this entire Zatec Dark (kidding!)

Even though the Old Prague Restaurant offers homemade strudel and other desserts, we decided to save room for ice cream at Big Ed’s Main Street Soda Grill.

Big Ed’s is a very quaint, vintage-styled soda hop. When we got there the staff seemed a bit harried because of the Memorial Day crowd; however, we were able to grab a few seats at the counter and enjoy our ice cream sundaes, root beer floats and milkshakes.

I ordered the Red River which was a vanilla milkshake mixed with cherry syrup and 7UP. That brought me back to summers in Philly and our frequent visits to Rita’s Water Ice.

Although small, downtown Vermilion seems to pack a lot of restaurants, shops, and galleries within just a couple of blocks. It also has plenty of sightseeing to offer for boat and train fans, as Lake Erie is located on one side and the railroad (with a very cute depot) runs along the other.

It was our first time visiting Vermilion, but considering it’s a short drive from our house and on the way home from Cedar Point, Scott and I will probably be making pit stops there throughout the summer.

Scott and his grandmother read about the history of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad while we enjoy a ride through the national park

After Saturday’s drive, we decided on a different mode of transportation for Sunday’s sightseeing: the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

Scott and I are HUGE train fanatics (thanks to both of our families) and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is one of our favorite things to do in Cleveland.

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s Canal Visitor Center features a museum and a chance to experience the park’s natural beauty up close

Through a partnership with the National Park Service, the CVSR operates excursion trains along this railway that once carried passengers and freight back and forth between Akron and Cleveland.

This was my third ride on the CVSR so I knew from previous experience that Scott’s family would enjoy it. On Saturday, we made the drive to the small town of Peninsula and got some lunch while we waited for the train to depart.

The train comes into the CVSR’s Peninsula Station, as Tow Path cyclists wait to “ride aboard”

The train runs from Rockside in Independence all the way to Akron and back – Peninsula is the stop in the middle and my favorite because it’s an easy walk to a couple of antique and gift shops.

Because of the heat, we decided to save most of our sightseeing for the train. During the trip, there’s plenty of nature and other points of interest to enjoy right through your window – from meadowland, woods, rivers and marsh.

As the train crossed one of the streams in Cuyhoga Valley National Park, we caught this glimpse of kayakers enjoying their Sunday

If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of some wildlife too (there’s an eagle’s roost in the marsh right before the Rockside stop). And cyclists can enjoy the train and the Towpath Trail through CVSR’s Bike Aboard! program.

However, the highlight for me of this weekend’s trip was sneaking a peek inside their St. Lucie Sound executive car to snap this photo:

The CVSR’s St. Lucie executive car is used for special events as well as their Ales and Wine excursions

Seats on this luxury car are reserved for special events, as well as their Ales on Rails and Grape Escape trips.

If you haven’t been, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s summer season starts this weekend on June 2 – making even more stops and giving you more reasons to go.

Scott – a former sousaphone player in his high school band – was happy we got to Avon Lake’s Memorial Day parade just in time to see the ALHS Marching Band

We decided to celebrate Memorial Day by sharing one of my new favorite daytrips with Scott’s family — Geneva, Ohio.

Before we headed out for a day of sipping wine, we went to Avon Lake’s Memorial Day Parade and paid our respects to everyone whose service allowed us the freedoms to enjoy this beautiful weekend.

We then packed up the car and headed for wine country.

Scott’s mom and I decked out in our reds and whites, while drinking reds and whites at South River Vineyard

Because it was a Monday, our winery options were somewhat limited (many of their kitchens and the wineries themselves are closed). Fortunately, two of our three favorites were open: South River and Debonne.

We enjoyed burgers and hot dogs at Debonne along with a couple of tasting trays and their Cellar Rats beer. Now that Summer is moreorless here, their calendar is filling with events including the 30th annual Hot Air Balloon rally on June 9th and the Model Airplane Club’s demonstration on June 16th.

Ever the ham, Scott stole a sip from my rootbeer float at Rees’ Corner

After a stop at Rees’ Corner in downtown Geneva for more rootbeer floats (because you can never have enough ice cream!), we headed to South River. Because Monday’s sweltering heat finally broke and a breeze picked up in the afternoon, we were able to take our glasses of wine and cheese & fruit plate out to the pavilion and just relax while looking over their vineyard.

Scott’s father, who loves a good glass of wine, enjoyed South River so much that he picked up a case to bring home and Scott and I snagged a few more bottles of their Riesling Reserve, Temptation and Chardonnay to add to our collection.

South River has started offering bourbon and beer flights for those looking for something different. Between this and our last visit, South River has proven to be a consistently great choice and has climbed to the top of our favorites thanks to the winning combination of both their wine and setting.

Oh to end every weekend with a view like this!

After three days enjoying Northeast Ohio’s small towns and scenic views, Scott’s parents and grandmother packed up and headed home yesterday morning with more than a few bottles of wine and memories of a wonderful Cleveland Memorial Day.

How did you spend your holiday? Share your favorite moments down in the Comments section.