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Cleveland Summer Bucket List: 20 must-do adventures, from farms to drive-thru fests, water fun and even a fish fry

Cleveland offers many safe and fun ways to enjoy the season. You just have to look harder this year!

CLEVELAND — It has been a long, strange summer. So many of the things that make the season great have been canceled: festivals and concerts and baseball games and movies.   But that doesn’t mean you have to stay inside —  or inside your yard.  The Cleveland area offers numerous fun, safe and socially-distanced summer activities.  You just have to look a little harder than usual to find them this year.  With schools starting soon, here are 20 suggestions we have for your must-do Summer Bucket List before the sun sets on the season:

1. Visit Majestic Meadows Alpacas farm, 4195 Abbeyville Road, Medina, 330-725-2977, https://majesticmeadowsalpacas.com:  Feed an alpaca - or 100 - or donkey or goat, pet a baby kangaroo and go “ooh and aah” at the adorable babydoll sheep and miniature horses at this delightful 20-acre farm that is a hit with all ages. $5 per person, reservations must be made in advance and masks required.

2. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Asian Lantern Festival, 216-661-6500, https://www.clevelandmetroparks.com: Light up your night at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s Asian Lantern Festival, more beautiful than ever this year.  Wednesdays - Sundays through September 20. Reservations and masks required. Prices vary. Click here for more.

Credit: Laura DeMarco

3. Have a beach day at Mentor Headlands, https://www.stateparks.com/headlands_beach_state_park_in_ohio.html: Who says there’s no surf in Cleveland. There’s surf and sun and sand. And nowhere is it better than at Mentor Headlands State Park — where there is also plenty of beachfront to socially distance as you take in the sun.

Credit: Laura DeMarco

4. Celebrate the Indians, League Park, 6601 Lexington Avenue, https://baseballheritagemuseum.org/: No in-person Indians games got you down? Me, too. So why not relive one of the best times in Cleveland baseball history, the 1920 World Series-winning season, at The Baseball Heritage Museum at League Park’s new exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary? Home run!

5. Stop and smell the flowers, Cleveland Botanical Garden, 11030 East Blvd, (216) 721-1600, https://cbgarden.org/: Spend a restorative day exploring the lovely Cleveland Botanical Gardens, including the charming Hershey Children's Garden (where you can even make a mud pie!). Reservations and masks required.

Credit: Laura DeMarco

6. Float the River, https://www.floattheriver.net:  Travel the Cuyahoga with almost no physical effort at all! This Cuyahoga Falls company offers tube rentals ($20) for a peaceful glide down the river. Must book in advance; masks must be worn until on the water; only household members may be tethered.

7. Hunt for fairies, Holden Arboretum, 440-946-4400, https://holdenarb.org/:  Go on a fairy scavenger hunt at the Arboretum, which has hidden seven fairy doors to woodland and garden homes throughout their grounds.  Open through Thursday, August 27. While there, be sure to take a canopy walk, climb the emergent tower and explore the stunning grounds. Reservations and masks required.

8. Pet a stingray, Greater Cleveland Aquarium, 2000 Sycamore Street, 216-862-8803, www.greaterclevelandaquarium.com: Missing the ocean this summer? The Aquarium is up and running with new COVID-19 safety protocols in place, including reduced capacity and  pre-purchase timed ticketing.  Even better news, the stingray touchpool and the shark seatube are open and ready to greet returning visitors.

9. Friday Fish Fry, Prosperity Social Club, 1109 Starkweather Avenue, 216-937-1938, https://prosperitysocialclub.com/: COVID-19 unceremoniously shut down Fish Fry Season, one of the best times of the year in Cleveland.  Prosperity Social Club, which has been featured on the Travel Channel as having one of the best fish frys in America, has re-opened and revived the Friday night tradition usually reserved for Lent. They are serving up their “Gotta Haddock” platter for dine-in or take-out every Friday. Reservations encouraged.

10. SUP at Hinckley Lake, https://www.clevelandmetroparks.com/parks/visit/parks/hinckley-reservation/hinckley-lake-boathouse-store: Spend an afternoon on the water. Stand-up-paddleboard, kayak and boat rentals are open at the Hinckley Metroparks Reservation. Never SUPed before? Neither had I until this year. The calm waters at Hinckley make it a great place to learn. And, if you look up, you might even see a Bald Eagle. Rentals $20/hour and must be done online in advance.

Credit: Laura DeMarco

11. Open your eyes at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7350, https://www.clevelandart.org/: Spend an artful day at the re-opened Cleveland Museum of Art. Limited capacity makes for great viewing.  Don’t miss the fantastic current show “A Graphic Revolution: Prints and Drawings in Latin America.” The exhibit explores national and cultural identity in works from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba and Mexico. Must reserve free tickets in advance.

12. Drive in at the Aut-O-Rama, 33395 Lorain Road, North Ridgeville, https://www.autoramadrivein.com: A favorite for generations has been rediscovered by those who had thought this slice of Americana dead. The Aut-O-Rama has been showing double features for 56 years. This year, they are busier than ever. Online ticket purchase only.

Credit: Laura DeMarco

13. Travel back in time to the retro beach town of Geneva-on-the-Lake: Grab a cone or a donut at Madsen’s, or glass of wine on the patio at the Old Firehouse Winery. Or just stop and watch the sunset.

14. Go on safari, in Port Clinton, African Safari Wildelife Park, 419- 732-3606, https://www.africansafariwildlifepark.com/: Roll down your windows ... the African Safari Wildlife Park is now open for drive-thru and walk-thru tours. Is that a water buffalo I see over there?

Credit: Laura DeMarco

15. Daytrip: Head to historic Marblehead and top off a stroll by the lighthouse with an orange and vanilla swirl at Brown’s Dairy Dock.

16. Shop local, for produce. The Cleveland area is lucky to have many locally-sourced markets and stands. My favorite is Willie's in Middleburg Heights, 7136 Pearl Road. The roadside market is now selling fresh local corn, berries, watermelons, tomatoes, zucchini and more. (They are also one of the best places in town for pumpkins in the fall.)

17.  Sweeten your day at Sugar Shack Creamery, 5793 Pearl Road, http://sugarshackcreamery.com/: Can’t go to Disney this summer? At least you can still get their iconic pineapple Dole Whip, at the new Sugar Shack Creamery, 5793 Pearl Road. They also have more than 50 shave ice flavors.

Credit: Laura DeMarco

18. Linger over lunch on a patio: Northeast Ohio offers hundreds of patios to enjoy a summer evening, or lunch.  But Creekside Restaurant & Bar,  8803 Brecksville Road, must be one of loveliest in town. Situated high over the the woods and creek, the covered patio is a great place to linger and soak in the last weeks of summer. Reservations suggested: https://www.creeksiderestaurant.com/

Credit: Laura DeMarco

19.  Explore Cleveland on foot: The Cleveland Metroparks prove time and time again to be the perfect place to take a break this summer. No trail is more interesting than the Centennial Trail. With its stunning urban and nature views, it’s a perfect Cleveland walking experience.

20. Drive-thru a festival: COVID-19 can’t stop Cleveland festival season. Two local churches are hosting drive-thru fests this weekend, with ethnic specialties packaged for take-out. The 2020 Greek Festival Drive-Thru will happen Thursday, Aug. 20 - Sunday, Aug. 23 at Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 3352 Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights, featuring a Gyro four pack, moussaka, baklava and more. Menu: http://stsconstantine.com/greek-festival/ On Friday, Aug. 21 and Saturday, Aug. 22, St. Mary Romanian  Orthodox Cathedral will host a Romanian Drive-Thru Food Festival, 3256 Warren Road. Menu: www.smroc.org

RELATED: COVID-19 can’t stop Cleveland festival season: Churches adapt with drive-thru fests selling ethnic specialties this week

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