*Pre-edit of the upcoming article to the Great 8 Traveler and Cincy Magazine
Venture to the Shores of Northern Ohio on Lake Erie
By Heather King
A hometown atmosphere welcomes visitors to the shores of Ohio’s Great Lakes region with rich history blended with outdoor adventures. Whether it’s the charm of Port Clinton, OH’s revitalized historic downtown, or Sandusky, OH’s mixing bowl of things to do; there is no short of memorable excursions for visitors of any age.
Historic Downtown Revitalization and Pristine Beaches
Port Clinton and the Put-In-Bay area of Northern Ohio boasts beautiful sand beaches, lakeside adventures and serene state parks. The historic downtown district of the lakeside town offers quaint shopping from art galleries to urban greenhouse suppliers, and with a short ferry ride, visitors can relax on South Bass Island in Put-In-Bay.
The Historic Port Clinton organization aims at revitalizing the downtown district of Port Clinton in the model of the Ohio Main Street Program. The program is designed to breath life into a central business district of communities all across Ohio.
Port Clinton’s shopping district is both eclectic and wonderfully quirky with a wide array of businesses. The Black Swamp Bird Observatory Visitor Center and Gift Shop, located at the entrance to the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, combines education and research to promote conservation. Touted as the “Warbler Capital of the World,” the observatory hosts the Biggest Week in American Birding each May, and it brings thousands of people to the area to see the bird migration. Cruisin’ Tunes on Madison Street is a truly unique store that houses fashionable footwear and other clever gift items. Packer Creek Pottery is dedicated to the craft of functional and stunning handmade pottery, and was once commissioned by the White House to create an angel for a Christmas tree in the Blue Room, according to its website.
Put-In-Bay is not all fishing charters and beaches, but there is also vibrant entertainment on The Boardwalk. This popular destination has it all, everything from parasailing to exciting nightlife. Delectable seafood such as Alaskan king crab and live Maine lobster are said to be the best eating in the area.
“Many establishments in Port Clinton have some sort of live entertainment,” says Mary Ann Snider, tourism partner coordinator with Lake Erie Shores and Islands in Port Clinton. “Visiting performers are from country, folk, acoustic, Americana and blues genres.”
Snider also says a unique venue in Port Clinton is the Listening Room located inside the OurGuest Inn & Suites. The location features nationally touring and up-and-coming singer/songwriters who showcase original tunes. “This is formatted just like the popular Bluebird Café in Nashville, TN.,” says Snider.
The Boardwalk is even a favorite stomping ground for local entertainers like Mike “Mad Dog” Adams, Bob Gatewood, Pat Dailey and West Side Steve. These performers make Port Clinton and Put-In-Bay an unforgettable spot on Lake Erie. Live music from reggae to Top 40 Hits and country to acoustic jams, there is something at The Boardwalk for every member of the family to enjoy.
“They each have their own unique, laidback style which fits the ‘island style,’” says Snider.
Visitors to Port Clinton can even experience a safari at the African Safari Wildlife Park. Complete with a drive-through safari where guests will see a beautiful assortment of animals including lemurs, giraffes, zebra, buffalo, alpaca, camel and several species of deer. “The walk-through safari includes white handed gibbons, wart hog, ocelot and white alligator,” says Snider. “There are also pig races and educational shows.”
The Island Adventure Family Fun Center is a great place for the kids to burn off some energy, groups to have a party in the pavilion, families can race in fast go-carts and there is even a beautifully landscaped 18-hole miniature golf course. Water squirting bumper boats and an air-conditioned arcade provide relief for those hot summer days. There is a more low-key option for those who want to relax in beautiful surroundings, and at the Mon Ami Winery and Historic Restaurant located in Port Clinton offers a sophisticated ambiance with live jazz on Sundays, wine tasting, live events Fridays and Saturdays, tours and a gift shop.
“Mon Ami Winery and Historic Restaurant is one of the oldest wineries in the Lake Erie Islands region,” says Snider.
Another spectacular winery is Heineman Winery and Crystal Cave located at Put-In-Bay on South Bass Island. The winery and cave is home to the world’s largest celestite geode, says Snider, giving the cave its name. Visitors can take advantage of tours through the winery and into the cave, 40 feet below the earth’s surface. Not to be forgotten is the Stonehenge Estate, also located at Put-In-Bay on South Bass Island, a seven-acre estate representing grape-growing farms and wineries that once prospered on the island, says Snider. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the grounds, Stone Farmhouse and the wine press cottage can be experienced with a self-guided audio tour.
Thrill and adventure in Sandusky
The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Sandusky, OH is the grand and mighty Cedar Point Amusement Park. It is the self-proclaimed roller coaster capital of the world with 17 different exhilarating coasters such as the Top Thrill Dragster that goes from zero to 120 miles per hour in less than four seconds, and the adrenaline-rushing Millennium Force that takes its riders down an 80 degree drop. For the non-thrill seekers there are many more rides and attractions at the amusement park such as family rides, kids’ rides and water rides.
Cedar Point even features a prehistoric-themed attraction called Dinosaurs Alive! With over 50 life-size animatronic dinosaurs “adults and kids of all ages will enjoy the interactive exhibit as they experience the sights and sounds of prehistoric dinosaurs,” according to the company’s website. Also at Cedar Point is the Soak City Waterpark, perfect for keeping cool on sizzling summer day. There is no shortage of water slides and water park amusement for all ages to enjoy. The little ones have their own safe space to frolic in the water in areas such as Choo Choo Lagoon, Tadpole Town, Toddler River and Adventure Cove Lily Pad Walk. The summer lineup of live entertainment at the park is revving up to bring visitors to the park a summers worth of enthralling concerts. As its website boasts, Cedar Point is the place to strengthen family bonds and stomachs.
Sandusky is home to other fascinating landmarks such as the Ghostly Manor Thrill Center. The family-friendly facility houses a myriad of activities for visitors to enjoy. Arcade games and black light interactive mini golf bring classic fun while the XD 3D Theater is a unique movie experience. The visitors’ very seats become a roller coaster-like ride as the audience goes on a wild cinematic journey, according to Ghostly Manor’s website. Skateworld Family Fun Center at Ghostly Manor gives families an unforgettable time listening to music that gets the crowd moving on roller blades, skates and scooters.
A more relaxed point of interest in Sandusky is its history, and there are several renowned landmarks visitors can see. The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center is operated by the non-profit Hayes Presidential Center, Inc., and is home to a wealth of history. The facility features the home, library, museum, tomb and 25-acre estate of 19th U.S. President Hayes. The center serves as a preservation of American History while aiding the public in learning about the president. “The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center exists to enrich lives through the historical preservation of Spiegel Grove and to provide a greater understanding of President Hayes and his contributions to the State of Ohio, the country, and his fellow Americans,” says the center’s mission statement on its website.