In 1880, the final fasteners and sleepers on the Valley Railway were tightened into place. It wouldn’t be long before a billowing cloud of steam announced the arrival of the first train running through the Cuyahoga Valley, a territory that had served as a passageway for foot traffic for thousands of years. Over the next century, the railway contributed to the growth of commerce between Akron and Cleveland, changing ownership multiple times, and transforming from a freight train, into a passenger train, back to a freight train, and finally into a UFO.
Now celebrating its 41st year of passenger-rail service, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad transports sightseers over the historic rails through 33,000 acres of land owned by the National Park Service. With a year-round roster of trips, including wine- and beer-tasting excursions, passengers can set forth on morning, afternoon, and evening journeys that sweep past meadowlands, pinery, and rivers and give glimpses of native wildlife, such as fox, deer, bobcat mascots, and owls.
Old Firehouse Winery ferments more than 20 full-flavored vinos along the glistening shores of Lake Erie. Diners can admire the dining room with its shelves of glossy wine bottles to the gently lapping lake. Visitors can opt to purchase sweet and dry wine tastings ($1 for two tasting trays), which each include 10 samples of single-grape and blended varietals. After sampling the full range of sweet and juicy concords to dry and full-bodied chambourcins, duos can imagine how each exquisite vintage would look inside their souvenir wine glasses and how advantageous the imprinted corkscrews would be during a close-range jousting match. In the warmer months, patrons can swill, sniff, and sip from a romantic lakeside overlook on the outdoor tasting patio and supplement the winery outing with a ride on a historic ferris wheel.
Matt Meineke was at an impasse. After crafting many batches of wine in his own home, Matt was running low on ways to improve the product's quality, save for one: growing the fruit himself. He and his family eventually settled on a 12.6-acre lot that was already planted with Niagara grapes. But that was barely the end of his trials. The old vines would need to be removed, the land would need to be adjusted for pH and nutrients, and the entire plot would need to be left fallow for a whole year. It would be 2011 before the first batch of wine could be bottled.
But it was worth the wait. That lovingly nurtured wine now fills the racks inside M Cellars' rustic tasting room, waiting to sigh "about time" with each popped cork. Shoes clapping on the hardwood, visitors can swirl pours of Matt's pinot noir, cabernet, and riesling into their glasses, furthering their enjoyment by snapping up bottles to take home or by expanding their wine knowledge with friends in one of the shop's Wine 101 classes.
Tarsitano's Artisan Winery used to be a dairy farm. "But I would rather squeeze grapes than cows, so I started a winery," Ken Tarsitano says. This isn't the only reason Ken turned his 17 acres—which has been in his family for five generations—into a vineyard. His grandfather, Michael Tarsitano, "always had something bubbling away in his cellar," and it was Grandpa's ability to transform elderberries, apples, and even dandelions into wine that inspired Ken.
Today, Ken is the owner, vineyard manager, and winemaker at his eponymous winery and vineyard, whose 25 grape varieties have been organic since its 1998 inception. Wine isn't the only thing visitors dine on here: winery goers savor flatbreads and cheese plates. Tarsitano's Artisan Winery even hosts events, such as moon-viewing parties, where guests gather to launch sky lanterns in the light of a waxing moon.
Imagine winding through a state park atop a bicycle, coasting down tree-lined trails and past gentle Lake Erie waves as they lap against the shore. Now imagine that the bicycle holds 14 people and a professional driver. This is what Presque Isle Pedal Power Tours offers: a new way to explore the surroundings, get fresh air, and socialize. On the tours, groups power the contraption, which comes equipped with a stereo system and a backup motor for if the motors inside your legs break down. A tour guide narrates the leisurely jaunt, sharing the history of the 3,112-acre park and pointing out notable sites such as the lighthouse, the marina, and the 13 sandy beaches.
Sportations connects amateur adrenaline jockeys to certified professional adventurers, drawing from a nationwide network of aeronauts and speed demons to introduce habitual pedestrians to the wonders of skydiving, ballooning, hang gliding, and stock-car racing. Thrill seekers can zipline across a forest canopy, hollering like Tarzan or taunting nearby birds until they agree to race. Helicopter tours ferry patrons skyward over landmarks and cityscapes, whereas paragliding adventures get up close and personal with blue skies and clouds. For most sports, Sportations accommodates groups of any size, from physics classes empirically proving gravity's existence to solo ballooning supervillains declaring dominion over all they see.