Sometimes you just need to take a trip to the beach. While the Atlantic Ocean may be 10 or more hours away, it only takes a third of that to visit Lake Erie.
“It’s similar to being at a coast destination, without having all of the hassle and the travel,” says Jill Bauer, public relations coordinator for Lake Erie Shores & Islands. “You don’t really feel like you’re in Ohio.”
And once you’re on this northern shore, there is a veritable abundance of activities to enjoy and places to explore. Traveling the Ohio side of Lake Erie from one end to the other gives you and your family a never-ending supply of ways to be entertained. These are just a few of the areas the region has to offer.
Sandusky and the Lake Erie Islands
Those looking for an escape can easily find it on the shores and islands near Sandusky. Cedar Point, which has won best amusement park in the world for the 16th time in a row from Amusement Today, has attractions for everyone within the 364-acre park. While coasters like its Millennium Force are world famous, the park is updating its Gemini Midway with the new Pipe Scream and Lake Erie Eagles so that there will be more rides suitable for the whole family.
However, the real getaway of the area is visiting one of the area’s islands. “There are three islands that are very accessible to visitors and they have three unique personalities,” says Bauer.
Middle Bass Island is the most undeveloped of the islands. There are no hotels and only one restaurant, so visitors often rent a house there for some peace and tranquility. “For some people, vacation is just being unplugged and not having anything to do [or] anything to bother you—those kinds of things. I highly recommend Middle Bass for that,” says Bauer.
Kelleys Island is very nature-oriented. The area is ideal for hiking, biking and kayaking. The island also features the Glacial Grooves. Glaciers originally created this huge formation, and visitors can see all sorts of fossils in the ridges.
Put-In-Bay is for travelers that want lots to do. The island has several wineries, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, the Crystal Cave, helicopter tours, parasailing and charter fishing.
But Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center in Put-In-Bay may have the most attractions in one place. “You can tour the cave, but in addition … you can play miniature golf, they have a maze, a butterfly house, they have a rock climbing wall, they have laser tag, they have gem mining, they have almost anything and everything to keep kids occupied.”
For those looking for chances to bicycle or kayak, Lorain County offers plenty of opportunities. “We kind of pride ourselves in outdoor adventure here in Lorain,” says Heather Fraelich, marketing coordinator for Visit Lorain County. The county’s 66-mile-long Back Roads and Beaches route is great for cyclists, particularly if they don’t know the area that well. The county’s newest outdoor attraction is its Common Ground Canopy Tours opening June 2. The canopy tour and zipline covers 30 acres and is the first in Northern Ohio.
In addition to opportunities for outdoor recreation, the county also hosts several notable festivals. The International Festival, June 27-29, allows visitors to try food from cultures throughout the world. The Lorain County Fair in Wellington, Aug. 18-24, is the state’s second largest county fair. And the Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival, June 13-15, lets you revel in the creativity people can have with duct tape. “[It’s] literally just that—it’s all things duct tape,” says Fraelich.
“It’s a different kind of recreation,” says Bob Ulas, executive director of the Lake County Visitors Bureau, of visiting Lake County. “It’s more laid-back and peaceful.”
One way to have a relaxing vacation is to delve into the wine scene and visit one of Lake County’s many wineries. The county boasts having the largest winery region in Ohio, with 65 percent of the state’s grapes grown there.
“I know that there [are] other wineries, but our wine growers have … won many regional, state, national and international awards, and we often beat out California wines,” says Ulas. With four wineries in the county and eight more on the border in Geneva, the area has no shortage of variety.
For the ultimate sampling, attend the Vintage Ohio Wine Festival, Aug. 1-2, at the Lake Metroparks Farmpark. Ulas says, “It has over 20 wineries from Ohio and it’s the largest wine and food festival between the Appalachians and the Rockies.”
Lake County also has its own minor league baseball team, the Lake County Captains. Baseball fans can enjoy a game for $10/ticket inside the Captains’ state-of-the-art stadium.
“It’s not your typical minor league stadium,” says Ulas. “It’s a miniature version of a major league stadium. The youth really love it. They couldn’t tell the difference between that and a major league team, and they do a lot of entertainment for you between innings.”
Those seeking some time with nature, however, need look no further than the county’s scenic beaches, nature preserves and parks. The county’s 12 beaches, most of which are wild, include Headlands Beach State Park, the longest beach in Ohio. Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve is known for it bird-watching opportunities and trails. And the Holden Arboretum is one the largest arboretums in the country, covering 3,600 square acres.
And no trip to Lake Erie would be complete without a trip to a lighthouse, of which Lake County has two. “There’s one called the Fairport Marine Museum and Lighthouse,” says Ulas. “You can actually walk to the top of the lighthouse if you’re physically able … and get great vistas of the Lake Erie.”