Top Ten Lake Erie Shores & Islands Attractions for Kids

It’s getting close to Spring Break time for schools and families across the Midwest, which has us thinking about family travel to Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands and the best attractions for kids of all ages. Parents and grandparents appreciate the variety of attractions to entertain the little ones. While not all of these activities are available this early in the year, they’re definitely worth a return visit this summer. When the youngsters wear out, you can relax in comfort at one of many hotels, resorts, vacation rentals, or campgrounds. In no particular order (Spring Break options are *):

1. African Safari Wildlife Park* – This drive-through safari allows you to get up-close-and-personal with a number of exotic animals from the comfort of your vehicle. After the drive-through, experience educational and entertaining animal shows as well as pig races. KID PERK: Kids under 100 lbs enjoy free camel rides.

African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton, Ohio.

African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton, Ohio.

2. Aquatic Visitors Center – Part of The Ohio State University’s Stone Lab campus summer program, the Aquatic Visitors Center offers the opportunity to experience Lake Erie science up close through hands-on ecosystem displays and live native fish as well as information on current research helping to protect our Great Lake. KID PERK: All kids under age 16 can fish for free from the fishing pier with poles and bait supplied.

3. Indoor Waterparks* – 85° temperatures year-round? Yes, please! Also, nothing saves a rainy day like waterslides and lazy rivers. There are options to suit all tastes and budgets including Castaway Bay, Great Wolf Lodge, Kalahari Resort, Maui Sands Resort, and Rain Waterpark. KID PERK: No water wings needed; zero-depth entry pools and special shallow pools for toddlers make it fun for all ages. Plus, complimentary life vests are offered at most parks for extra safety.

4. Ghostly Manor Thrill Center* – Don’t let the name fool you, there’s very little that’s scary about this family-fun place. Beyond the popular haunted house, families enjoy a roller-skating rink, indoor play area, black light miniature golf, XD-3D movies, and arcade games. KID PERK: Kids got a lot of pent up energy? Let them jump, slide, and bounce it out in one of Ghostly Manor’s giant inflatable obstacle courses and slides.

5. Island Tour Train/Fun Pack – A great way for families to experience Put-in-Bay. The tour train offers a narrated island tour with on/off privileges at the popular sites and attractions. The Island Fun Pack is a packaged-deal that includes the tour train along with tickets to Perry’s Cave, War of 18 Holes Miniature Golf, The Butterfly House, Heineman Winery & Crystal Cave, and the Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center. Fun packs can also include ferry transportation. KID PERK: All kids under six are free for the train and all Fun Pack attractions. Bonus perk: All tour-train riders get stickers to wear that show they are a paid passenger; what kid doesn’t love a sticker?

6. M3 Museum Pass* – Merry-Go-Round Museum, Maritime Museum of Sandusky, Milan Museum – Visit three great attractions for one, low family price. Sandusky’s Merry-Go-Round Museum offers trips to childhood no matter your age. Then, get your sea legs over to the Maritime Museum to learn about Lake Erie shipwrecks, pirates, and boats. The Milan Museum features a multi-building campus featuring a blacksmith shop, general store and carriage shed along with a toy house and glass collection. KID PERK: At the Merry-Go-Round Museum a carousel ride is included with admission; at the Maritime Museum kids can build a model boat; and at the Milan Museum kids can complete a scavenger hunt and play a game of chess with giant chess pieces in the courtyard.

7. Cedar Point Amusement Park – No Shores & Islands kid attractions list would be complete without one of the world’s greatest amusement parks. Known for amazing thrills Cedar Point wows the whole brood with three kids’ areas, including Planet Snoopy. The PEANUTS™ gang entertains, greeting their young fans with special appearances. There are also a number of rides, games, and shows throughout the park that kids and parents can enjoy together. KID PERK: There are many, including the handy Parent Swap and Kid Track programs along with stroller rentals, family care centers, and special kids’ meals. Learn more here.

8. Air1 Airboats – A one-of-a-kind adventure, Air1 Airboats takes your family on a 30-40 minute fast and thrilling ride that includes views of beautiful scenery, wildlife, and Cedar Point. Best suited for kids over the age of six due to the noise, an airboat ride is a great way to cool off on a hot day. KID PERK: Due to the proximity to the nature preserves along the shore, many riders have enjoyed bald eagle sightings on the trip.

9. Seneca Caverns – This Registered National Landmark delights explorers with a fascinating underground tour through seven levels as low as 110 feet below the surface. At the bottom voyagers can see the crystal clear stream dubbed “Ole Mist’ry River.” Preserved close to its original natural state, Seneca Caverns is a geological wonder. KID PERK: The child’s Caveman Package includes mining for gemstones in an authentic mining sluice – kids may discover gemstones, minerals, crystals, arrowheads, or fossils from around the world.

10. Lakeside Chautauqua – Lakeside’s historic community is an ideal getaway destination for families. Lakeside is a safe place where kids can ride bikes through neighborhoods, take sailing lessons, learn tennis and shuffleboard, see family-friendly shows and movies, and play at a splash park and beach with lifeguards. KID PERK: During the summer programming season, take advantage of organized games and activities as well as an enclosed, supervised playground where kids can play safely. Another perk is that all activities, classes, and shows are included with a gate pass.

If you vacation in Lake Erie Shores & Islands with kids, what are some of your favorite activities?

Get Fit 2015: Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands Run/Walk Events

FEBRUARY The Color Run - Cedar Point
28 – Tim Dorsey 5K Run/Walk
Margaretta High School, 209 Lowell St., Castalia

11 – Humane Society 5K Run/Walk
Shoreline Park, 411 E. Water St., Sandusky


2 – Draft Day 5K
DeRivera Park, Put-in-Bay

2 – Lighthouse 5K Run/Walk & Kalahari Kids Fun Run
Huron High School Stadium, 710 Cleveland Rd. W, Huron

9 – Marblehead Bank 5K Daisy Walk/Run
Marblehead VFW, 421 Main St. (SR 163), Marblehead

17 – Young Life Family 5K, 1 Mile & Ice Cream Social
Perkins High School Stadium, 3714 Campbell St., Sandusky

21 – Port Clinton Middle School 5K Run/Walk
PC Middle School to True Lay Stadium, Port Clinton
419.734.3931 or 419.734.4448

23 – Memorial 5K and 10K Open Run and Military Race
Bellevue Rec Center, 800 Monroe St., Bellevue

23 – Walleye Walk & 5K Run for Ruth Ann’s House
Downtown Port Clinton

30 – 2nd Annual Sandusky Lions Club 5K
Battery Park Marina, Downtown Sandusky

30 – Kaleidoscope Color Run/Walk
Lakeside Chautauqua

30 – Genoa Homecoming 5K & ½ Mile Kids Race
Veteran’s Memorial Park, Washington and 6th sts., Genoa

6 – 5K Run/Walk in the Park
East Harbor State Park, Marblehead
419.734.4424 ext. 2

6 – Team Mary 5K Run/Walk for Autism
Gem Beach Marina, 3000 N. Carolina St., Port Clinton

7 – Kelleys Island 5K & 10K Walk/Run
Memorial Park, corner of Division St. and Lakeshore Dr., Kelleys Island

13 – Run the Rock 5K Run/Walk
Castalia Quarry MetroPark, Castalia

13 – Run & Ride 5K & One-Mile
Cedar Point Amusement Park, 1 Cedar Point Dr., Sandusky

14 – Run & Ride Half Marathon & 10K
Cedar Point Amusement Park, 1 Cedar Point Dr., Sandusky

20 – Fish Festival 5K

20-21 Black Swamp Dash 5K Obstacle/Mud Run
Ottawa County Fairgrounds, 8180 W. SR 163, Oak Harbor

21 – Stein Hospice Pyrate 5K Run

27 – Stein Hospice Memorial 5K Run
Sandusky Bay Pavilion, 650 E. Water St., Sandusky

28 – Perry’s Victory Triathlon & Family Races
Peace Garden at Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial, Put-in-Bay

29 – The Cedar Point Half Marathon
Cedar Point Amusement Park, 1 Cedar Point Dr., Sandusky

JULY Santa Hustle
4 – Squirt Gun Star Spangled Banner 5K Run/Walk
Downtown Port Clinton

11 – Huron River Fest 5K
Williams St. & Cleveland Rd., Huron

11 – Bay Bridge 5K Run/Walk
Bodi N Balance, 3936 Harbor Light Landing Dr., Port Clinton

12 – Kelleys Island Triathlon & Family Races
Kelleys Island Seaway Marina

18 – Cold Creek 5K
Main & Water sts., Castalia

25 – Beulah Beach 5K
Beulah Beach, Vermilion

26 – J.F. Walleye’s 33rd Annual 5K Run/Walk
J.F. Walleye’s, 1810 Fox Rd., Middle Bass Island

26 – 5K Raccoon Run

8 – Basket Festival 5K
Berlin Heights

15 – Jail Break 5K
Erie County Jail, Sandusky

15-16 Vermilion Harbour Triathlon
Linwood Park, 4920 Liberty Ave., Vermilion

16 – Put-in-Bay Charity 5K/10K & Kids FUN Run
DeRivera Park, Downtown Put-in-Bay

22 – Panther “Fun to Run” XC Invitational
Mills Creek Golf Course, 1933 Mills St., Sandusky

22 – Moonlight Mud Run 5K Obstacle/Mud Run
Ottawa County Fairgrounds, 8180 W. SR 163, Oak Harbor


12-13 Challenge Cedar Point Triathlon
Cedar Point, 1 Cedar Point Dr., Sandusky

13 – Soar Like An Eagle 5K
Edison Woods MetroPark, SR 61, Berlin Heights

19 – Miller Boat Line 5K Race and 1 Mile Family Fun Walk
The Boathouse Restaurant, Put-in-Bay

26 – Boy With Das Boot 5K
Downtown Sandusky

26 – Lake Eerie Zombie Mud Run 5K
East Sandusky Bay MetroPark, 3401 Cleveland Rd., Sandusky

3 – 2nd Annual The Night of the Dead 5K Obstacle/Mud Run
Ottawa County Fairgrounds, 8180 W. SR 163, Oak Harbor

3 – The Color Run: SHINE!
Cedar Point, Sandusky

Bras for a Cause 5K Run/Walk
N. Jefferson St., Downtown Port Clinton

11 – Apple Festival 5K Run/Walk
Oak Harbor

11 – 2nd Annual Stein Hospice PK5K
Lakeside Chautauqua, 236 Walnut Ave., Lakeside

31 – Cops & Robbers Road Chase 5K Run/Walk
N. Jefferson St., Downtown Port Clinton

8 – Hike and Bike
Castalia Quarry, Castalia

26 – Turkey Trot 5K
Perkins High School Stadium, 3714 Campbell St., Sandusky

28 – Jessie Schenk Memorial Turkey Chase 5k Run/Walk
Catawba Island Club Fitness Center, 3026 N.W. Catawba Rd., Port Clinton

13 – Santa Hustle 5K & Half Marathon
Cedar Point, 1 Cedar Point Dr., Sandusky

Experience Valentine’s Day with the Five Senses

Valentine’s Day is approaching! Treat your sweetie to a sensational experience in Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands with these events that will please the five senses – taste, sight, smell, touch, and sound. National Tour: Jekyll & Hyde


The Culinary Vegetable Institute and Chef Jamie Simpson know the way to your heart. Enjoy a romantic evening complete with three hors d’oeuvres, seven courses, live music, and chocolate on February 14. This romantic, gourmet dinner is $115/ticket and begins at 6:30 pm. A more casual event is offered on February 13, which features hors d’oeuvres, wine tastings from Vintage Wine and Grand Cru Wine Company, and live music beside a cozy fire. The casual event is $30/ticket and begins at 6:30 pm. Please make reservations online or by phone at 419.499.7500.


Watch as blocks of ice are transformed into masterpieces right before your eyes at two ice festivals: An Ice-A-Fair to Remember in Vermilion and Sandusky’s Arctic Ice Fest.


The nose can sometimes beat the eyes in the race for setting up tasting expectations. Put your sense of smell to the test at the annual Chocolate and Wine Open House at Firelands Winery, February 7. Tickets are $20/person (includes souvenir glass). Please call 800.548.9463 for details.


Touch the paintbrush and learn to paint watercolors following step-by-step directions and demonstrations by instructor Clela Stelnicki. Register by calling Clela at 440.371.5637 or send an email to A supply list will be provided by the instructor. $15/session


The NATIONAL TOUR of the enthralling musical Jekyll & Hyde is coming to the Sandusky State Theatre on Valentine’s Day. This musical features a thrilling pop rock score including the unforgettable hit, “This Is the Moment” from multi Grammy and Tony nominated Frank Wildhom & double Oscar and Grammy winning Leslie Bricusse. Tickets are $25-40 and are available now! Order and print your tickets online, call the box office at 877.626.1950, or stop by the State Theatre Mon-Fri 10 am-5 pm.

Sweep your sweetie off their feet this Valentine’s Day and reserve the Valentine’s Day package at Sawmill Creek Resort! The package includes a buffet breakfast for two, romantic amenities (awaiting you in your room), two drink tickets, and a $10 gift voucher (good towards the Sawmill Shops and/or a wine tour). Package available February 13-15. Please call 800.729.6455 for details.

Winter at Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands: #LakeErieLove – Frozen Edition


Snowshoeing at Sawmill Creek Resort in Huron, Ohio.

Do you want to build a snowman? Good – because this time of year we embrace the frigid winter weather. After all, before you know it we’ll all be cruising to the islands, riding roller coasters, and splashing in the lake. For now, we are in the midst of winter and we have two choices. When the lake freezes and the chilly Ohio temperatures hit, you can stay at an indoor waterpark resort and pretend you’re on a tropical getaway, or immerse yourself in all things winter. Traditional winter activities include ice fishing, ice skating, and sledding. The area even honors the season with two ice festivals the first weekend in February.

One way to enjoy the frozen tundra is at Sawmill Creek Resort’s Snow Fest. The resort, located on frozen Lake Erie, offers daily ice skating, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing. Skating takes place on a frozen pond adjacent to Mulligan’s Pub, which is convenient for when you’re ready to warm up with a steamy hot chocolate. Skate and snowshoe rental is available, with trails throughout the expansive property and golf course. Cross country trails are available but you must provide your own skis. Follow Sawmill Creek on Facebook for info on daily activities, as they are weather permitting.

Fishing enthusiasts know that the best walleye catches come from a hole cut through several feet of ice on a frozen Lake Erie. Experienced fishing guides are available to teach you the ropes and assist with on-ice safety measures. Contact our office for a list of qualified guides.

And if you decide you’d rather escape to a tropical climate? Five indoor waterpark resorts boast 80° temperatures, making it feel like summer all year long. Castaway Bay, Great Wolf Lodge, Kalahari, Maui Sands Resort, and Rain offer amazing indoor water park fun along with welcoming accommodations, restaurants, shops, arcades and more.

January Event Highlights in Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands

Bride by the Bay
Check out a few upcoming Lake Erie Shores & Islands events and plan a visit soon.

Jan 6; Jan 8; Jan 13; Jan 15; Jan 20; Jan 22; Jan 27; Jan 29, 2015
Open Public Shooting
Camp Perry Training Site, 1000 Lawrence Dr. (off SR 2), Port Clinton
419.635.2141 ext. 1101
5:30-8 pm
$5/adult, $2/junior

Jan 15, 2015
The Texas Tenors
7:30 pm
Sandusky State Theatre, 107 Columbus Ave., Sandusky

Jan 16-18; Jan 23-25, 2015
“Flamingo Court”
Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm
Playmaker’s Civic Theatre, 604 W. 6th St., Port Clinton

Jan 16, 2015
Lee DeWyze
6 pm & 9 pm
The Listening Room at OurGuest Inn & Suites, 220 E. Perry St. (SR 163), Port Clinton

Jan 18, 2015
Winter Tree ID
10 am
Edison Woods MetroPark, 8728 Mason Rd., Berlin Heights

Jan 23-24; Jan 30-31, 2015
Rabbit Hole
Fri-Sat 7:30 pm
Hirt Theatre at Bellevue Society for the Arts, 205 Maple St., Bellevue

Jan 24, 2015
Toledo V. Cleveland Chef Dinner
6:30 pm
Culinary Vegetable Institute, 12304 Mudbrook Rd., Milan
$100/person (tax and gratuity not included)

Jan 25, 2015
Brides by the Bay Bridal Show
12:30-4 pm
Lyman Harbor, 1615 First St., Sandusky

For a complete list of events, please visit

Warm up winter nights with hot drinks in Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands #HotDrinks

What’s better on a cool Ohio evening than warming up with a toasty beverage? Warm your soul with a selection of sizzling drinks.

Drink: Gingerbread Man

Gingerbread Man drink from Crosswinds in Port Clinton, Ohio.

Gingerbread Man drink from Crosswinds in Port Clinton, Ohio.

Can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man! Enjoy this sweet mix of Fireball, buttershots, Frangelico hazelnut liqueur, and coffee topped with whipped cream and ground nutmeg at Crosswinds in Port Clinton.

Drink: Mayan Hot Chocolate

The first chocolate beverage is believed to have been created by the Mayans more than 2,000 years ago. Celebrate the now-popular American drink’s roots with the Mayan Hot Chocolate which includes a spicy cayenne pepper kick at Common Grounds Coffee in Port Clinton.

Drink: Holiday Blend Coffee

Celebrate the holiday season with a festive blend of toasted chestnuts and warm cinnamon, one of two new brews available at Mr. Smith’s Coffeehouse in Sandusky. (The other is Cranberry Crème.)

Drink: The Duck

Not technically a warm drink, The Duck is one of Catawba Island’s specialty crafted beers. It is a smoked black lager brewed with a generous amount of beach wood smoked malt. Enjoy The Duck, the Cookie Cutter Christmas Ale, or a number of other fine quality brews at the Catawba Island Brewing Co.

Drink: Vanilla Chai Tea & Tuaca

Try this exotic and sweet vanilla Chai tea with Tuaca, an Italian liqueur, and whipped cream at Touché/Chez Francois in Vermilion.

Drink: Italian Coffee

For another warm drink with Italian flair, try the Italian Coffee at Ciao Bella Ristorante Italiano in Port Clinton. Ciao Bella’s Italian Coffee includes Tia Maria, Baileys, Grand Marnier, Frangelico, Dark Crème de Cacao, and coffee, all topped with whipped cream. Enjoy with a cannoli!

Drink: Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary from Volstead Bar in Sandusky, Ohio.

Bloody Mary from Volstead Bar in Sandusky, Ohio.

Also, not a hot beverage, but a spicy Bloody Mary certainly will heat things up! Get this tasty concoction of tomato juice, vodka, and spices at Volstead Bar in Sandusky, known for their “Bloody Sundays.”

Drink: Irish Coffee

The December drink of the month at Cleats Club Seat Grille in Marblehead features Irish coffee, St. Brendan’s Irish Cream and Jameson Irish Whiskey topped with whipped cream. The Nutty Irishman at Bay Harbor Inn in Sandusky includes Baileys, Frangelico, coffee, and whipped cream.

Drink: The Milky Way

For those who prefer their after-dinner-drinks on the sweeter side, try the Milky Way at Huron’s Black Bear Saloon at Sawmill Creek Resort. The Milky Way offers caramel, chocolate syrup, espresso, and steamed milk. Or, tackle the Black Forest with cherry syrup, chocolate syrup, and espresso.

Drink: Mulled Wine 

While we can’t find anyone serving this traditional warmed up wine locally, pick up a bottle of your favorite fruity red from one of the many wineries on the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Wine Trail and try making it at home; or, just warm up with a glass by the fireplace.

So, what will you be drinking to keep warm this winter?

Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands Winter Checklist

Start out with a plan and try to get as many Lake Erie Shores & Islands winter must-do’s checked off your list before it’s too late.

The Great Outdoors Lake Erie Ice Fishing

  • Cut a hole, catch a fish
  • Go sledding
  • Take a hike
  • Go ice skating
  • Ski, cross country-style
  • Visit a snow-covered lighthouse
  • Go snowshoeing

The Great Indoors Fireplace in Ohio's Lake Erie Shores & Islands

  • Splish splash at an indoor waterpark
  • Visit a museum
  • Cozy up in front of the fireplace
  • Warm up with a hot drink
  • Enjoy a theatre performance
  • Visit a family fun center

Need some guidance on how and where to get these activities done? The Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Centers are here to help. Give one of our friendly, local travel counselors a call (800.255.3743 or 800.441.1271) and we’ll point you in the right direction.