A Great American Family Vacation on Lake Erie in Ohio

We haven’t covered holiday destinations in the Great Lakes in depth on Ciao Bambino. I was offered the chance to send a family to Lake Erie Shores and Islands in Ohio for our blog this summer and jumped on it. I interviewed the Mom for feedback on their return and wrote up notes on their experience for this article. Lake Erie is on the O’Shaughnessy family travel bucket list now with American history and instant leisure in an easy-to-explore destination …

Lake Erie Shores and Islands

Island transportation

Lake Erie Shores & Islands is a fun, relaxing, and family-oriented vacation destination. In addition to world-class activities in and around the lake, there’s a huge amount of history in the area to explore related to both the War of 1812 and the Civil War.  The islands are a throw back to a simpler time with a Midwestern-friendly atmosphere; the pace of life is slower here and families have incredible access to a vast number of vacation amenities.

Lake Erie Sunset

Lake Erie is known for wonderful sunsets

Where is Lake Erie Shores & Islands?

Lake Erie Shores & Islands is only an hour from Cleveland, making it a perfect destination for either a quick getaway or an extended family vacation. The activities are compressed within a relatively small area so families can pack in an incredible number of fantastic activities within even just a few days. We did and saw more in three days here than we’ve done in a week in other destinations …

Goodtime Lake Erie Island Cruises

Spending time on the lake is a huge part of the joy of this area. We spent the day on a Goodtime Lake Erie Island Cruise and loved the experience. Our adventure took us to Kelley’s Island and South Bass Island’s Put-in-Bay.

Glacial Grooves Kelleys Island Ohio

Glacial Grooves State Memorial

Kelleys Island: The largest American island in Lake Erie, visiting Kelleys Island is like going back in time. There are few cars on the island so we opted to rent a golf cart to get around.  To save time and hassle, book your golf cart ahead of time on the Goodtime.

The island highlight for us was Glacial Grooves Park and the amazing white sand beaches of Kelleys Island State Park. With more time, this would be a place to come back to as families were everywhere relaxing on porches, riding bikes, and playing mini-golf.

Perrys Monument Put-in-Bay Ohio

Looking out at Perry’s Monument on Put-in-Bay

South Bass Island and Put-in-Bay: Golf carts are also the preferred mode of transportation on South Bass Island. There’s a quaint waterfront area and Victorian village to explore in Put-in-Bay, as well as Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center with a small but fun-to-see cave and the challenging War of 18 Holes mini-golf course. We also loved the Butterfly House with hundreds of huge butterflies to observe from Costa Rica.

A must-visit stop on South Bass Island is Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, a 352-foot memorial commemorating Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory over the British in the War of 1812.

Insider Tips for a day on the Goodtime: Be sure and get to the dock early for boarding throughout the day so you can secure a place towards the beginning of the line as seats are on a first-come-first-serve basis.  We were able to sit on the upper deck with chairs near the railing so we could see everything.

Beware, however, that Lake Erie is known for storms that can come up quickly and cause large waves. If you or your kids are prone to seasickness, come prepared. Although the Goodtime has a bar for drinks, snacks are limited so it’s best to bring snacks and lunch with you. Once you disembark, there are good places to eat, but there’s a long list of activities so a quick picnic lunch is ideal.

Cedar Point Ohio Amusement Park

Cedar Point is roller coaster heaven with rides for all stomachs

Cedar Point

If you love roller coasters this it the ultimate place for you. Voted America’s #1 amusement park, we loved Cedar Point and we are not a typical “amusement park family.” Or so I thought — we stayed at this park for 11+ hours!

We started on the small roller coasters and worked our way up to Gemini, Cork Screw, and the Iron Dragon. Note, there are even more thrilling rides to experience like Top Thrill Dragster and Millennium Force although we opted not to try them … If you want to get wet, Snake River Falls will do the trick.

Insider Tips for visiting Cedar Point: Get the Fast Lane pass. It costs extra, but it is well worth it, particularly if you are only visiting the park for one day as you wait less and ride more.

We also learned that if you stay at one of the resorts at Cedar Point, you can get into the park an hour early and ride the big coasters without lines. Another strategy is to start at the back of the park where there are fewer lines early in the day and then work your way to the front of the park.

Finally, ask the concession stands for a glass of water. It’s free, allowed everyone to stay hydrated, and helped ensure my motion sickness-prone kids weren’t impacted by the rides.

If you have more time to visit Lake Erie Shores & Islands there is so much more to do than what we experienced in our short trip. We’ll go back for fishing, kayaking, and exploring more of the rich history in this area. There are wineries, antique stores, and loads of opportunities to explore nature.  Next fall is the bicentennial  of the Battle of Lake Erie and a large fleet of the Tall Ships will be in the port in Cleveland as well as Sandusky Bay. It should be an amazing event!

Editorial Note: The reviewing family received complimentary lodging, meals, and activities to enable them to review Lake Erie Shores & Islands for Ciao Bambino. They were not asked to present any particular opinion.

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