The drive from Cleveland to Detroit will only take up part of your day if you travel without any stops. If you have the time, however, you can plan a road trip itinerary from Cleveland to Detroit that includes some cool Midwest destinations. Toledo, Milan and Monroe are all cities along your drive, and they offer plenty of worthwhile sights. There are also many interesting national and state preserves and landmarks that will be near your route.
There are several NPS sites near the Ohio Valley and southern Michigan that are close enough to your Cleveland to Detroit road trip to make for great side excursions. Any time spent at one of these national treasures is time well spent.
Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
Located three hours southwest of Cleveland, Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park pays homage to Wilbur Wright, Orville Wright and Paul Laurence Dunbar, all natives of Dayton, Ohio. The Wright brothers are mainly remembered for their breakthrough inventions in the field of aviation in the early 1900s. However, they also had many other concerns and endeavors. Paul Laurence Dunbar, the son of former slaves, was a longtime friend of the Wright brothers since their school days together. Dunbar became a popular poet and author and is most regarded for his poems that were evocative of African American dialects of the time.
Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park contains five National Historic Landmarks and also a National Register Historic District. These are the 1905 Wright Flyer III, Hoover Block, the Wright Cycle Company Building, Hawthorn Hill, Huffman Prairie Flying Field and the Paul Laurence Dunbar State Memorial. The buildings commemorating the Wright brothers showcase their bicycle and printing businesses and also include the personal home of Orville Wright. The Huffman Prairie Flying Field displays the flight paths and plans of these aviation innovators as they worked on the first practical flying machine. The 1905 Wright Flyer III—the plane that was designed and built by Orville and Wilbur Wright in 1905—is a designated National Historic Landmark.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a natural jewel located in the urban areas of Cleveland and Akron. It includes part of the original towpath for the Ohio and Erie Canal. This waterway passage allowed for faster transportation to lucrative markets in the eastern states. The park is jointly administered by both the National Park Service and other entities as it consists of both public and private areas. Of notable interest is the fact that the Cuyahoga River was once one of the most polluted rivers in the U.S. and is now a beautiful and healthy river due to intensive restoration efforts over the years.
Inside the park, visitors can hike along several trails, including the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, which is a restored section of the towpath that pack animals used to pull the boats on the canal. Other sites in the park include the towering 65-foot Brandywine Falls, the Canal Exploration Center, the Cuyahoga River and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. There are around 100 waterfalls in this large park, and there are also several historical buildings and farms to explore. Visitors can enjoy this beautiful park in every season, including the winter months, which is when many people come to ski and sled. Stanford House is a restored 19th-century farmhouse that is now an in-park lodging facility where guests can stay while at the park.
Both Michigan and Ohio have many wonderful state parks that are all worthy of being added to your road trip from Cleveland to Detroit.
Mary Jane Thurston State Park
Mary Jane Thurston State Park is located on the Maumee River, a place of significance in the early days of Ohio history. Home to the Miami and Erie Canal, this park offers great hiking opportunities and fishing fun for anglers who enjoy catching channel catfish, white bass, pike, smallmouth bass, walleye, bullhead, crappie and sheepshead. This area was previously heavily populated with boggy areas and swamps, but land clearing and dykes transformed the land into what is today a mixture of dunes, prairies and smaller bogs. There are designated hunting grounds for game, and you can hunt for waterfowl along the river.
Findley State Park
Findley State Park possesses thick stands of forests that include pines and many types of hardwoods, such as maple, wild black cherry and beech. You can enjoy walking through these impressive woods while looking at the seasonal wildflowers of spring beauties, hepatica, marigold, asters, trillium and bloodroot. During your trek, you may even see some of the local wildlife. This park in Wellington, OH, is home to deer, red foxes, beavers, raccoons and other animals.
Maumee Bay State Park
Maumee Bay State Park in Oregon, OH, combines plenty of natural water and land environs with excellent lodging and recreational facilities. There are several cottages that all have access to the lodge's indoor and outdoor pools. Guests can hike nature trails inside the park, and there are 5 miles of paved biking/walking paths. Both Lake Erie and the park lake provide a multitude of boating, fishing and swimming activities. Inside the park, there are many opportunities to walk through woods, meadows, lakeshores and marshes. The Maumee Bay area has many species of wetland wildlife, including snakes, frogs, turtles, salamanders, muskrats, raccoons and various insects. There are more than 300 species of birds in this area, including a variety of songbirds, waterfowl and shorebirds. If you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a bald eagle.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
This zoo is a popular attraction in Cleveland. As one of the oldest zoos in the U.S., it has a wide range of animals, like the Western Lowland Gorilla, fishing cats and aquatic species. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has the largest group of primates in North America. For the non-squeamish, there is a highly interesting insectarium, and everyone will enjoy the beautiful and restful botanical garden.
Toledo Museum of Art
There are many surprises in and near the city of Toledo, one of which is the Toledo Museum of Art. This museum contains original works by Rubens and Rembrandt and an amazing collection of glassworks. The museum is housed along rows of beautiful Georgian and Edwardian mansions on the Old West End of Toledo.
If you want to understand the musical history of Detroit, you must stop at the Motown Museum. Visitors can learn about and personally experience the music and legends of the heyday of the Motown music label. While here, you will get to walk through the actual recording studios and also see informative displays.
Taking a Cleveland to Detroit RV road trip around the perimeters of the Great Lakes will lead you through both small and large urban areas. You should plan time to stop at one or more of these cities to sample the food and the culture. Both Ohio and Michigan are home to many dump stations that are convenient for RVers.
Milan is a small village located in the Erie and Huron counties of Ohio. It is best known for being the birthplace of Thomas Edison. It was also home to the Milan Canal in the 1800s, which connected the city to Lake Erie. For years, Milan was a busy port city; however, it's now a small town that possesses a large number of canal-era mansions and other historical buildings. The Milan Travel Park is a convenient RV park that will afford you plenty of amenities if you need to stay overnight.
Monroe is the county seat of Monroe County in Michigan. Located on the western shores of Lake Erie, it is just 14 miles north of Toledo. Monroe is known as the home of George Armstrong Custer, and it has several buildings named after him. There are also many other historical structures that are interesting to see. If you're looking for a campground in the area, try Sterling State Park, which offers plenty of natural activities and comfortable amenities.
The fourth-largest city in Ohio, Toledo is located on the Maumee River and on the shores of Lake Erie. While in Toledo, you can visit museums, parks, the symphony and sporting events and also venture to the beaches and lake areas for additional fun and relaxation. If you are interested in staying at a local campground, the Toledo East/Stony Ridge KOA Journey is a popular option.