Adventures East of Cleveland in Lake County, Ohio

East of Cleveland, you’ll find a gem of an area for outdoor adventure in Lake County, Ohio. Lake County is located on the southern shore of Lake Erie with four main cities including Willoughby, Mentor, Painesville, and Madison.

Our family experienced a variety of what the area has to offer, made lots of memories, and enjoyed quality time together.

Adventures East of Cleveland in Lake County, Ohio

This article is brought to you in partnership with Remarkable Lake County, OH, and Ohio. Find it Here.

Our younger son joined my husband and I for a two-day trip filled with lots of outdoor adventure on the water and on land.

You’re probably already familiar with the city of Cleveland but Lake County gives you an excuse to explore lesser-known hidden gems that are just 20 miles east of the city.

Holden- Arboretum- Ohio

Explore the Beauty of Holden Arboretum

9550 Sperry Road, Kirtland, OH

We started our introduction to the Lake County area with Holden Arboretum. This place knows how to make a great first impression!

couple on bench Holden Arboretum

Holden Arboretum is THE perfect setting for nature lovers and photographers as the largest arboreta in the world with 3500 acres to explore.

lily pad-Holden-Arboretum

I took A LOT of pictures during our visit because it was just too BEAUTIFUL!

butterfly garden at Holden Arboretum

The welcoming environment beckoned us to admire it from every angle and we experienced each step with a sense of wonder.

You can purchase timed entry tickets for Holden Arboretum up to two weeks in advance if you have a preferred time and date for a visit.

Adventure Mom at Holden Arboretum

How Much Time Should You Allow for a Visit to Holden Arboretum?

The average visit to Holden Arboretum is 2-3 hours. After walking the grounds, I totally understand why.

water lilies at Holden Arboretum

You could easily spend even more time there depending on your specific interest, whether that’s hiking or gardening.

Whimsical Woods at  Holden Arboretum

There are lots of hiking trails and scenic gardens with numerous photo opportunities at every turn.

pond at Holden Arboretum

If you want to sit and admire your picturesque surroundings, you’ll find plenty of benches throughout the arboretum.

Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty

Admire “Stickwork” by Patrick Dougherty

“Stickwork” is one of the special exhibits on display by artist, Patrick Dougherty. This natural art installation is made completely from willow sticks and branches twisted and formed into incredible works of art.

teenage boy at Holden Arboretum

One of the Stickwork installations is almost like a natural maze that invites you to explore from different angles and paths.

Stickworks at Holden Arboretum
Stickworks at Holden Arboretum
Stickworks at Holden Arboretum

Be on the lookout for unique views from the piece at every angle including up to the sky and through the “natural windows” within the piece.


Climb the 120′ Emergent Tower

Appreciate the surrounding area with a birds-eye view after you climb up 12 stories/ 202 stairs of the Emergent Tower.


The Emergent Tower provides guests with a unique perspective above the trees, 120 feet in the air.

bench on the Emergent Tower at Holden Arboretum

If you are concerned about the height, you can go up as high as you feel comfortable. There are several platform sections where you can catch your breath and rest on the way up or down the tower.

stairs on the Emergent Tower at Holden Arboretum

The signs at each platform stop also let you know how much closer you are getting to the top.

view from the top of the Emergent Tower at Holden Arboretum

The views at the top are totally worth it! On a clear day, you can see Lake Erie in the distance!

Murch-Canopy- Walk-Holden-Arboretum

Go on the Murch Canopy Walk

Walk 65 feet above the forest floor on the 500 foot long elevated Canopy Walk. You’ll want to allow about 30 minutes for walking on the canopy.

wheelchair accessible ramp on the Murch Canopy Walk

Murch Canopy Walk is also wheelchair-accessible with ramps to the first platform and suspension bridges wide enough for most wheelchairs to pass.

family walking on the Murch Canopy Walk

My brother had special needs and I LOVE that this experience is accessible for all guests.

Murch-Canopy- Walk-Holden-Arboretum

If you are concerned about heights you’ll find that this suspension bridge doesn’t sway too much while you are walking across it.

Holden Arboretum is definitely a place that you will want to allow plenty of time to visit!

La Casita Market Ohio

Lunch Stop at La Casita Market

452 Storrs Street, Painesville, OH

We worked up an appetite after our adventure at Holden Arboretum. For lunch, we enjoyed a great meal at an authentic Mexican restaurant about 25 minutes away.

fajitas at La Casita Market Ohio

My husband ordered the steak fajitas, I ordered the chicken chimichanga, and my son enjoyed a chicken quesadilla.

chimichanga at La Casita Market Ohio

We were definitely FULL after the chips and salsa and our generous entrees.

La Casita Market Ohio

After your meal, make sure that you stop inside the market next door. You’ll find a variety of foods that will pique your interest, including flavors of popular brands that you may have never seen before.

drinks from La Casita Market Ohio

We opted to purchase a few “new to us” flavors of drinks to take with us on the road.

kayaks in Mentor Lagoons

Kayak at Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve & Marina

8365 Harbor Drive, Mentor, OH

Mentor Lagoon Nature Preserve and Marina is another gem that I HIGHLY recommend!

boy-kayaking -Mentor-Lagoons- Nature -Preserve- and- Marina

A kayak paddle through Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve & Marina lets you choose your own adventure.

Mentor Lagoons in Ohio

You can explore by the marina, paddle through the marsh area with lots of active wildlife, or even paddle to a small waterfall.

water trail map at Mentor Lagoons

Before you set out on your adventure, I would recommend taking a picture of the water trail map so that you have a point of reference for your trail options along the way.

kayak-stand up -paddleboard-Mentor-Lagoons- Nature -Preserve- and- Marina

Kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are available to rent on-site from Memorial Day to Labor Day. If you’ve never been kayaking before, you’ll find these kayaks feel very sturdy and don’t tip easily.

The lagoon is a no-wake zone which gives you an opportunity to see SO MUCH wildlife along the way.

baby ducks Mentor Lagoons

My favorite discovery was the baby ducks hanging out with their mom along the marsh.

crane-Mentor-Lagoons- Nature -Preserve- and- Marina

We also saw many cranes in the preserve while we paddled around.

kayak to waterfall at Mentor Lagoons in Ohio

If you have time constraints, I would recommend prioritizing your time kayaking in the preserve area instead of the marina area for a more unique experience.

Lake County Captains Game at Classic Park

Watch a Lake County Captains Game at Classic Park

35300 Vine Street, Eastlake, OH

Summer is a great time to squeeze in an adventure watching America’s favorite pastime. While you are in the area, why not can watch a baseball game while you are in town?

The Lake County Captains are a Minor League Baseball team that is a High-A affiliate of the Cleveland Guardians, formerly known as the Cleveland Indians.

Adventure Mom and family at Lake County Captains Game

Minor League baseball games are very family-friendly and there tends to be more crowd interaction due to the close proximity in the stands. There are also lots of great promotions throughout the season to help make it even more affordable.

Skipper the mascot at Lake County Captains Game

Of course, Skipper the mascot is a crowd-pleaser for adults and kids alike in the stands. You can’t help but smile as you witness his charm interacting in the crowd and funny dance moves.

sausage at Lake County Captains Game at Classic Park

If you want to eat at the baseball game, you’ll find plenty of options at the ballpark. I’d personally recommend the cheddar jalapeno Italian sausage with peppers on top from the grill at the top of the stands located behind the home plate.

drink at Lake County Captains Game

You’ll find an assortment of adult drink options at the Corona Castaway’s Bar on the third-base side. There are also soft drinks, frozen lemonade, and ice cream too.

fireworks at Lake County Captains Game at Classic Park

Make sure that you check the team schedule for upcoming fireworks shows after the baseball game. There are 15+ firework shows at home during the summer season.

JT's Diner

Breakfast at JT’s Diner in Willoughby

38748 Lakeshore, Boulevard Willoughby, OH

JT’s Diner is known for a great affordable breakfast with some fun and sass.

sign at JT's Diner

The sarcastic signs on the wall and coffee cups with the phrase “Eat and Get Out” let you know it’s all in lighthearted fun.

breakfast at JT's Diner

My husband ordered the western omelet and I ordered the deluxe omelet with a side of gravy to share.

pancakes and bacon at JT's Diner

My son opted for the chocolate chips added to his pancakes and bacon on the side. You definitely won’t leave hungry after breakfast at JT’s Diner!

woman in front of Squire’s Castle in Ohio

Explore Around And Inside Squire’s Castle

2844 River Road, Willoughby Hills, OH

Walk around the shell of a castle that was built in the 1890s by oil pioneer, Feargus B. Squire.

Squire’s Castle

Squire’s Castle is part of Cleveland Metroparks and the structure that you see ironically was only intended to be the gatekeeper’s lodge.

The lodge was used as a weekend retreat for Squire in the early 1900s and the architectural style is modeled after English and German baronial castles.

view looking up from inside Squire's Castle
Squire’s Castle in Ohio

The shell of the building is still really interesting to wander around appreciating the details, like the curved door frames.

view inside Squire's Castle

The remaining fireplaces and empty space of each room invite you to imagine what the structure was like when it was originally built.

fireplace inside Squire's Castle

Just a heads up, you may notice an occasional bird flying above you as you pass from room to room. You can’t blame them for setting up nests inside a castle.

family on hiking trails near Squire's Castle

There are nice hiking trails on the property around Squire’s Castle. I would HIGHLY recommend taking a picture of the trail map before you start your hike.

hiking trails near Squire's Castle

During our hike, I also used the live GPS navigation from the Alltrails app.

hiking trails near Squire's Castle

We are directionally challenged and it helped us get back on the correct path when we made a wrong turn on the trail.

Buttermilk Falls

Squire’s Castle resides on North Chargin Reservation, home to several natural attractions in the area including Buttermilk Falls.

stand up paddleboard Lake Erie

Go Kayaking or Stand Up Paddleboarding on Lake Erie at Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park

301 Huntington Beach Dr, Fairport Harbor, OH 44077

While you are in Lake County you’ll want to enjoy some time on Lake Erie.

sand volleyball at Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park

At Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park there is a beach area, playground, sand volleyball court, concession, and restroom/changing area.

beach at Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park

The entry fee to the park is under $5 for out-of-county guests. There is a swimming area sectioned off by the beach to keep swimmers out of the path of kayakers and boaters.

kayakers on Lake Erie near  Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park

If you want to venture farther out on the water, you can rent a sit-on-top ocean kayak or a stand-up paddleboard.

beach at Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park

We brought our inflatable stand-up paddleboards with us. I appreciated that we didn’t have to walk far from the car to the beach area while carrying them. If you have a dog with you, there is a section of the beach designated for pets.


Stop for Ice Cream at Fairport Harbor Creamery

202 High Street, Fairport Harbor, OH

After a fun day at the park, treat yourself to a scoop or two of ice cream, a boozy milkshake, or a pastry at Fairport Harbor Creamery.

milkshake Fairport Harbor Creamery

There is a walk-up window and plenty of outdoor seating for you to enjoy your sweet treat of choice. The ice cream shop is located within close proximity of the park and the lighthouse downtown.

Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Marine Museum

Visit the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Marine Museum

129 2nd St, Fairport Harbor, OH

The Fairport Harbor Lighthouse was built in 1825 and in 1925 the light in the tower was decommissioned.

This is the first Great Lakes Lighthouse Marine Museum in the United States, as well as the state of Ohio. Inside the museum, you can learn about its history and view several artifacts throughout the course of its usage.

Check their schedule online for information on upcoming group tours and public hours of operation.

Scooter's World Famous Dawg House

Worth the Wait at Scooter’s World Famous Dawg House

9600 Blackbrook Rd., Mentor, OH

You know it’s gotta be good when you see a line out the door! I asked the couple in front of us if it REALLY was worth the wait… and they confirmed it was.

Scooter’s World Famous Dawg House is known for its fresh-cut fries and hot dawgs.

fries at Scooter's World Famous Dawg House

Warning: their fry portion sizes are HUGE! Only order the family size if you can fill up a 15 passenger van.

people in line at Scooter's World Famous Dawg House

Scooter’s World Famous Dawg House is only open in the summer which also creates an increased demand during a short window of time.

Pro tip- call in your order ahead of time.

mural at Scooter's World Famous Dawg House

Check out the detailed murals on the wall while you wait for your order to be prepared.

Scooter's- World -Famous- Dawg -House

We ordered the junior fry and there were plenty of fries for the three of us to share.

mac and cheese dawg at Scooter's World Famous Dawg House

My son ordered the Mac and Cheese dawg and I tried the Extreme Dawg because I’m drawn to anything that includes hot sauce and jalapenos.

bleu burger at Scooter's World Famous Dawg House

My husband mixed things up and ordered that Bleu burger with a side of onion rings.

There are a few tables inside and a long table with high-top bar stools along the wall. On a nice day, I would recommend sitting outside at one of the picnic tables with umbrellas.

 lighthouse at Headlands Beach State Park

Enjoy More Scenic Views of Lake Erie at Headlands Beach State Park

9601 Headlands Rd, Mentor, OH

Headlands Beach State Park has free entry and lots of parking. It’s a bit of a walk to the public beach in comparison to the short walk from the parking lot at Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park, but the views are worth it.

beach at Headlands Beach State Park

Just keep this in mind if you have younger kids or if you are carrying a bunch of gear to the beach.

beach at Headlands Beach State Park

You’ll find that the 35-acre beach on Lake Erie provides plenty of room for groups to spread out even on a more crowded day.

beach at Headlands Beach State Park

The park is also located next to Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve with 1 mile of hiking trails.

boardwalk to beach at Headlands Beach State Park

There is a boardwalk you can take straight to the beach in case you have a wagon or guest with a wheelchair.

If you enjoy fishing, the popular spot is at the breakwall located at the eastern end of the park near the Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Light.

Holiday Inn Cleveland Northeast-Mentor

Where We Stayed in Lake County, Ohio

During our visit, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Cleveland Northeast – Mentor located minutes from the stadium, where the Lake County Captains play.

Holden Arboretum

Are You Ready to Plan a Visit to Lake County?

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