Have both big-city and back-to-nature fall color experiences with a getaway to Cleveland and nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

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To understand Cuyahoga Valley National Park's appeal, pull out an area map. First, look for a squiggly green ring around Cleveland. That's the Emerald Necklace, a chain of regional parks. Now find a green curl hanging off the necklace like a huge pendant. That's Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a 33,000-acre preserve located just 20 minutes from downtown. Here in Cleveland, you can have your nature-and your city, too.

Brandywine Falls tumbles 60 feet in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
 Brandywine Falls tumbles 60 feet in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

About 4 million people live within a half-hour of Cuyahoga, but the park absorbs crowds well. Where mules once pulled barges, walkers and bicyclists now stream along the 20-mile Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. More ambitious hikers choose from an additional 100 miles of trails. Families tour a 19th-century living-history museum, and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad chugs past heron and bald eagle nests.

Cleveland, meanwhile, is the bustling yin to Cuyahoga's pastoral yang, the two worlds linked by the winding Cuyahoga River (and Interstate-77). Spend a day immersed in fall color, then zip back for big-city pleasures: an overnight at the historic J. Palen House, an orchestra performance in Severance Hall. Funky neighborhoods like Ohio City and Tremont feel a universe away from Cuyahoga's rocky gorges-but the dirt on your shoes proves they're not.

TRIP GUIDE

What to do

Cuyahoga Valley National Park In the autumn, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway offers ghost train rides. Free; admission charged for the train.  

Everett Road Covered Bridge is in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
 Everett Road Covered Bridge is in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. 

Cleveland Metroparks The Emerald Necklace is Cleveland's regional park system. Hike at Tinker's Creek Gorge or paddle the Rocky River. Free; admission for some activities.

Lake View Cemetery The landscaping alone warrants a visit, but history buffs shouldn't miss President Garfield's impressive tomb and monument. The cemetery is near University Circle, home to many of the city's museums. Free.

Where to eat

Great Lakes Brewing Company For nightlife, sample seasonal craft brews in the beer garden.

Melt Bar and Grilled The grilled cheese-centric menu (perfect for fall!) lists more than 20 options. We're partial to the Monte Cristo, with honey ham, turkey, two cheeses and berry preserves. In Lakewood.

West Side Market Cleveland's ethnic heritage comes to vivid life in hip Ohio City, with more than 100 vendors.

Cleveland's West Side Market is open year-round.
Cleveland's West Side Market is open year-round. 

Where to stay

J. Palen House This 150-plus-year-old Ohio City bed-and-breakfast blends Victorian style with modern amenities: flat-screen TVs, updated bathrooms and a gourmet breakfast. 

The Schofield Hotel Playful nods to the city's musical and manufacturing history—acoustic guitar loaners, sock-monkey-and-argyle-sweater carpet design—elevate the experience at this 122-room Kimpton lodging.

For more information: This Is Cleveland (thisiscleveland.com)