Here's a family vacation in the Midwest for families : Head to Ohio for a family vacation. There are a ton of things to do in the Lake Erie Shores & Island area- Put-In-Bay, Sandusky, Port Clinton. Read my tips on things to do in the Lake Erie area and plan your getaway today!

30++ Reasons To Love Lake Erie Shores & Island

Living in the Midwest, I often forget how many GREAT things there are to do within a few hours of home. And since Michigan is a short drive to Ohio, many Michiganders make their annual trip to the Sandusky area.

Why?

Cedar Point.

Cedar Point is home to some of the biggest roller coasters in the world. Yes, THEE world. But many people only come to Cedar Point and then leave. {Yes, I’ve covered CP many times, including ways to save on Cedar Point tickets.}

My goodness, people, we have to stop doing this. There are so many awesome things in the Lake Erie Shores & Islands area.

Recently the Worthey men (D & the boys) and I crossed the Michigan line into Buckeye country. And yes, I’m a Buckeye fan living in Michigan and Spartan Nation. So what? Anyways, I’m getting off track….

We were invited to play and explore the Lake Erie Shores & Islands area. Today, I’m sharing all of the fun we had, things to do there, places to eat, and tips on where to stay!

The Lake Erie Shores & Islands area has a lot to offer. It’s known as one of the best places to vacation in the Midwest, and I’m going to tell you why below. It’s located between Cleveland and Toledo, with beautiful scenery and fun for the whole family. And with several islands in this package of fun, it’s the perfect quick or extended getaway.

So buckle up, let’s go on a trip, I’m giving you over 30 reasons to LOVE  the Lake Eries Shores & Island area! 

Day 1

(this is technically Day 2. Day 1 we arrived at our hotel super late, so we didn’t have time to do anything)

We grabbed breakfast at a Mom & Pop shop located in Sandusky called Berardi’s Family Kitchen. We all had the typical breakfast consisting of pancakes, french toast, eggs, bacon and O.J. I settled for steak, eggs, hashbrowns, and toast.

best breakfast spots in sandusky

Leaving on full bellies, we hopped into our 2016 Kia Optima and made our way to Port Clinton. I’m not going even to attempt to cover all the things you can do in the Port Clinton/Sandusky area (maybe in a future blog post), but there’s a lot to do for everyone. Our first stop on the bucket list was African Safari Wildlife Park.

African Safari Drive Thru Park Ohio

Did you know the African Safari Wildlife Park is the ONLY drive-thru safari here in the Midwest? Now you know, you’re welcome. “African Safari Wildlife Park is the Midwest’s only drive-thru safari. Home to giraffe, zebra, and so much more! Get ready for a wild time feeding exotic animals from your vehicle. Stop by the walk-thru area for animal rides, shows, and pig races. Don’t forget to check out the gift shop.”

All five of us LOVED this adventure. We purchased food to feed the animals and headed into the park. As the animals came up to our Optima, we cautiously rolled down the windows and started to feed them. Zayd’n was brave enough to stick his whole head out and feed a flock of Elks and llamas. A big Elk grabbed Zayd’n’s cup of food and ran off. It was the funniest thing. We laughed and talked about this little moment for the rest of the day. See, these are the types of priceless moments you can make while on vacation in Ohio.

After washing our hands and the windows, we made a pitstop at Toft’s, the oldest dairy in Ohio. And boy, were we in for a delicious treat! Their ice-cream is better than Lounge Jackson (a famous dairy store in Jackson), Dairy Queen, etc. Derrick said he would rank it up there with Ben & Jerry’s Ice-Cream (yes, huuuge!).

best place for ice cream in sanduksy

And for the price of $3 bucks, you get a big serving of delicious ice-cream with a variety of flavors.

After washing our sticky hands (again), we piled back into the Optima and headed to Marblehead Lighthouse.

Here’s another tidbit for ya: This lighthouse is the most photographed lighthouse on the Great Lakes.

Marblehead Lighthouse - best spots for photography in port clinton

This lighthouse is located in Marblehead Lighthouse State Park, which includes picnic areas, fishing, walking trails, and a historical society museum! Tours start at 11 a.m. (seasonal) and cost $3 per person (cash only).

But those 73 stairs tho…

Marblehead Lighthouse

It began to rain shortly after we got back into the Kia Optima. Thankfully, we had fun indoor activities to do our list. Back in Sandusky, we made our way to the Ghostly Manor Thrill Center.

And yes, it lives up to its name. This multi-attraction, family entertainment center was a lot of fun for our whole family.

Ghostly Thrill Manor Center- family friend things to do in Sandusky

Tidbit: They have been featured on The Travel Channel’s “Best  Places I’ve Ever Been” and Forbes top 10 haunted attractions.

Not only can you go through a REALLY, creepy and well-put together haunted house, but you can also enjoy a virtual roller coaster, bounce house, skating rink, mini-golf, and a playground for the little kids.

things to do in sandusky for kids

Guys, this haunted house, was SO scary our 10-year old chickened out. Yup, our smack-talking-macho-I’m-not-scared-of-nothing-I’m-a-man kid, couldn’t handle the haunted house. And yes, he’s been through a few haunted houses in his life, but he wasn’t ready for this one.

After spending a few hours at Ghostly Manor Thrill Center, we decided to take a late lunch break. When we travel, one of our rules is only to eat at restaurants we don’t have in Lansing. So with that being said, the boys were dying for some Sonic.

best car review- 2016 kia optima

Our Kia Optima breezed through one of the stalls at Sonic, and we sat and munched on our fries and burgers.

Kalahari Waterpark Resort in Sandusky

Our last event of the evening was to have some water fun at Kalahari Waterpark Resort. We’ve been to Kalahari a few times and even talked about our adventures there, and ways to save on waterparks.

best waterparks in sandusky - kalahari waterpark resort

The boys had a great time swimming, splashing and riding the water rides. We love Kalahari, especially with the recent upgrades of their outside water park, which includes a zip line, rope course, and an animal park. And you can even feed giraffes! It’s a great experience for the whole family. There are several water parks in the Sandusky area, but I highly recommend staying at Kalahari. {you can read our reasons we love Kalahari here}

fun family friendly things to do in port clinton

After an exhausting fun-filled day, we headed over to one of my blogger friend’s house for the evening to watch the Cavs/Warriors game. And no, I’m not a Cavs fan, and I’m fine with how it all went down (I mean, I know the Cavs were desperate to win a ring (finally). We had a few to spare 😉 ).

Things for Teens to do on Put In Bay

Day 2 (technically 3)

I was excited to wake up and head to Put-In-Bay. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this Island (comparable to Mackinaw in Michigan).  The only way on and off the island is by taking a ferry. We boarded the Miller Ferry in Port Clinton. The ferry ride is about 18 minutes. You can also take your vehicle over for an additional fee. However, there are free parking lots by the ferry dock. Just be ready to walk, take a shuttle, rent bikes or golf carts once you get on the island. You can find more about this ferry service, rates, and their schedule by visiting their website.

Things to do in Put-in-Bay

Just like Port Clinton and Sandusky, there’s a lot to do on Put-In-Bay, so I’m only going to cover a few highlights.

Tidbit: Put-In-Bay is located on South Bass Island. There are three islands: Kelleys Island, Middle Bass Island, and Put-In-Bay/South Bass Island.

Best places to eat on Put-in-Bay

We decided to start our adventure on the Island by looking for food. With a quick Google and Instagram search for the best places to eat breakfast on PIB, all signs pointed to Pasquale’s Cafe. There we all had a mix of what to eat. Between a cheesy mac & cheese bisque, salmon & veggies, a juicy burger, breakfast wrap, and pancakes, bacon, and eggs, we were all satisfied.

Pasquales best breakfast place in Put-In-Bay

This little cafe is right across the street from the bay. With wonderful service and food, cozy, but with a spacious atmosphere, we felt right at home. We walked out happy and ready to conquer the world or at least the Island.

The weekend we went to Put-In-Bay was also Pirate weekend. Yes, this is a real thing, and it was pretty cool. With the canons booming off every few hours, people walking around talking and looking like Pirates, it was an eye-full.

Things to do on Put-In-Bay for families

We hopped on to the Put-In-Bay Tour Train. This is a great way to see the whole island without walking it. The train ride is a narrated three-hour tour one-hour tour. During the tour, the train stops at different locations across the island. You can hop on and off at any of these stops, and reboard the next train. This is also an excellent way to get around the island without having a car or golf cart.

Perrys cave on Put In Bay

After hopping off the train, we hopped back into our Kia Optima and headed over to Perry’s Cave Family Center. There, we had fun running through a maze trying to find each other, exploring cool caves, rock-climbing, and mini-golf. There is also a snack shop, which is said to have the BEST fries on the island. I didn’t have time to try them (basically I forgot) before leaving and heading to our next adventure.

Chocolate Museum on Put-In-Bay Island

We made a pit stop by a Chocolate Museum, but the line was seriously too long for us to wait.

Why couldn’t we wait?

Well, we had to make sure we got back to the ferry in time, and we had to get lobster bisque. A friend recommended going to The Boardwalk and having Lobster Bisque. Apparently, it’s the best on the island and famous in Ohio.

Best Lobster Bisque at The Boardwalk Put-In-Bay

After having one bite of their Lobster Bisque, I can see WHY it’s such a big deal. I’ve had LB a few times in my life, and I highly recommend The Boardwalk of having the BEST Lobster Bisque. This bowl of yummy goodness was creamy and full of lobster meat! When the boys said they wanted to try it, I was hesitant about wasting my money and buying them a bowl. Thankfully, they will let you try it before buying it. Ziah and Zayd’n loved it! Our consistent child, Zion stuck with his regular burger and fries. I also ordered Maryland Crab Cakes ( LOVE crab cakes), and they were also delicious!

Best Lobster Bisque The Boardwalk on Put-In-Bay

I would have been disappointed if a seafood restaurant served horrible seafood, but thankfully The Boardwalk delivered!

After gobbling down our Lobster Bisque, we walked around for a bit before heading back to our Kia Optima, taking the ferry back and heading home.

Family friendly things to do on Put-In-Bay

Tidbit: The Kia Optima SX Limited was fantastic on gas. Even with the three boys being in the back, they had enough room to sit comfortably by each other without killing each other (tip: headphones and tablets/phones. This is how you sit three kids in the back of a car).

2016 Kia Optima review

I could go on and on, telling y’all about more things to do on the Island, Port Clinton and the Sandusky area. However, if you’ve made it thus far, then you’re thinking MAN, when will this post end?

Here's a family vacation in the Midwest for families : Head to Ohio for a family vacation. There are a ton of things to do in the Lake Erie Shores & Island area- Put-In-Bay, Sandusky, Port Clinton. Read my tips on things to do in the Lake Erie area and plan your getaway today!

So, I’m going to wrap this up with a few more highlights worth checking out in the #LakeErieLove area:

Places To Stay:

Port Clinton: We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites. It was a comfortable, two queen bed room, with a fridge, TV, clean bathroom. They also offer a free shuttle to the Port Clinton Jet Express dock, with free WIFI, Suites/Family Rooms, Indoor Pool, Laundry, and Continental Breakfast.

places to stay in port clinton

You can find more options on where to stay here.

Family Friendly places to stay in Put-In-Bay:

    • Bay Lodging Resort
    • Put-in-Bay Resort Villas
    • Put-in-Bay Condos
    • Bayshore Resort
    • South Bass Island State Park camping

Tidbit: If you’re planning on staying on the island, be sure to book your reservations in advance (many places book up a year in advance). It may be cheaper to stay in the Port Clinton, Catawba, Marblehead area and drive over the day.

Here's a family vacation in the Midwest for families : Head to Ohio for a family vacation. There are a ton of things to do in the Lake Erie Shores & Island area- Put-In-Bay, Sandusky, Port Clinton. Read my tips on things to do in the Lake Erie area and plan your getaway today!

More fun things to do in the area {in addition to what I listed above}

  1. Cedar Point – you can find all of the fun things to do in Cedar Point and where to stay in our post on the updates at Hotel Breaker!
  2. Air1 Airboats {Sandusky}
  3. Big Game Room Arcade {Sandusky}
  4. Cedar Lanes Entertainment Complex {Sandusky}
  5. Cedar Point’s Castaway Bay Indoor Waterpark {Sandusky}
  6. Cedar Point Lighthouse {Sandusky}
  7. Challenge Park {Sandusky}
  8. Fort aMAZEn Giant Maze {PIB}
  9. Glacial Grooves {Kelleys Island}
  10. Great Wolf Lodge {Sandusky}
  11. Hot Air Ballon Rides {Huron}
  12. Island Adventures Family Fun Center { Port Clinton}
  13. Kelleys Island State Park
  14. Lagoon Deer Park {Sandusky}
  15. M3 Family Pass {Sandusky}
  16. Monsoon Lagoon Watering Hole Safari and Waterpark {Port Clinton}
  17. Paratus Air Helicopter Tours {PIB, Clinton}
  18. RAIN Waterpark {Sandusky}
  19. Sawmill Creek Watercraft Rentals {Huron}
  20. SoakCity {Sandusky}
  21. South Bass Island Lighthouse {PIB}
  22. Toledo Zoo {Toldeo}* such a fun zoo!!
  23. Tree Tops Zip Lining {Huron}

Here's a family vacation in the Midwest for families : Head to Ohio for a family vacation. There are a ton of things to do in the Lake Erie Shores & Island area- Put-In-Bay, Sandusky, Port Clinton. Read my tips on things to do in the Lake Erie area and plan your getaway today!

Places to Eat: {in addition to what I listed above}

We plan to go back and explore more foodie spots, especially on Put-In-Bay. During our research of figuring out where to eat, the following places were recommended to us by the locals and trip advisor:

  1. Crosswinds Restaurant & Bar {Port Clinton}
  2. Dan Dee’s Snack Shack {PIB}
  3. The Goat, Soup & Whiskey {PIB}
  4. Old Forge Cafe and Creperie {PIB}
  5. Hooligans {PIB}
  6. The Keys {PIB}
  7. Round House Bar {PIB}
  8. CAMEO Pizza {PIB}
  9. TJ’s Smokehouse {PIB}
  10. Upper Deck Restaurant {PIB}

Review on 2016 Kia Optima

How to get there:

If you’re in the Midwest, this is an easy drive to the Lake Eries area. We drove a 2016 Kia Optima SX Limited from Michigan. It took us approximately three hours (if you count all the stops, including one to Chick-Fil-A, it was closer to four).

All in all, we had a wonderful time in the Lake Eries area. I can see why people have come to LOVE the shores and islands area. It’s a great vacation without the long drive and plane ride. You can quickly cover a lot of ground in a quick, weekend getaway to Put-In-Bay, Clinton or Sandusky.

2016 Kia Optima SX Limited

It’s also a very family,budget-friendly type of trip. We were able to go there and back on one tank of gas (all thanks to the 32 mpg in the Optima).

Safety features in 2016 Kia Optima

I would also like to mention the upgraded safety features, turbo engine 6-speed automatic transmission ensured we arrived there safely and back home. And their camera system received an upgrade on showing you the full car as you back up (this is great for parallel parking). It’s a pretty sweet car, and you can find more information about the 2016 Kia Optima SX Limited by going to their website.

Welcome Center in Port Clinton

If you do plan on going to the Lake Eries Shores & Island area, be sure to stop by one of their welcome centers. Not only can you get more information about where to go, but discounted tickets and savings passes, as well as exploring the center filled with fun facts (we stopped by the welcome center in Port Clinton).  You can also visit their website for more information and to start planning your trip to the #LakeErieLove area!

 Here's a family vacation in the Midwest for families : Head to Ohio for a family vacation. There are a ton of things to do in the Lake Erie Shores & Island area- Put-In-Bay, Sandusky, Port Clinton. Read my tips on things to do in the Lake Erie area and plan your getaway today!

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Welcome! I love to read about the latest social media changes. A big fan of the latest gadgets and reading up on what's going in the tech world. I value family. When I'm not sharing my latest thoughts on Autism, Life with boys and creating a fancy tablescape, you can find me over at A Mitten Full Of Savings sharing ways to save money and frugal tips. I LOVE to travel, shop and spend time doing absolutely nothing. I drink wine like a fat kid loves cake. I have a very sarcastic personality, but I mean well... (most of the time)! Thanks for stopping by!