Family Outings: Getaway to Lake Erie and Put-in-Bay

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There are so many reasons you should have your next family fall getaway at Lake Erie Shore Islands!

If you haven’t made a trip up to Lake Erie and Put-in-Bay yet, you must! Going there as a kid, I vaguely remember the tiny details. All I remember is taking a golf cart around the island and seeing the beautiful view of the Great Lake. This time around, I had the opportunity to experience it with my little family, which gave me a whole new perspective. There is so much to do!

I recommend stopping at the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Port Clinton Welcome Center before starting your journey (770 SE Catawba Road, Port Clinton). It’s a fun activity stop for the kids, plus you can ask questions about things to do and more! There they had a cute, miniature replica of the Marblehead Lighthouse (110 Lighthouse Drive, Marblehead); which was our next stop!

Marblehead Lighthouse was stunning. Due to the rain, the lighthouse tours were closed for safety purposes. Otherwise, you can prepare yourself to walk 77 steps to the top! Luckily, there was tons more to do, from the Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society Museum, picnicking and more! We appreciated the beauty of the historic lighthouse with umbrellas on-hand, then headed off to the African Safari Wildlife Park (267 Lightner Road, Port Clinton).  Note: lighthouse tours are closed during Labor Day due to construction and during the The 24th Annual Lakeside-Marblehead Lighthouse Festival Saturday, October 12 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

I never thought I would ever have such a close encounter with a bison! From exotic animals (you can do the walk-thru and/or drive-thru safari experience, enjoy it rain or shine!); to feeding experiences, camel rides an education program during specific hours and mining for treasure, the kids didn’t want to leave! The sun came out at the right time for us to enjoy the walk-thru experience. Afterward, we drove through the rest of the safari, windows down, animal food on-hand in a giant feeding cup. Elk, lamas and large bison came straight up to our car! Feeding the giraffe was by far our favorite.

We had to take a time out at our cozy hotel, Our Guest Inn (220 E. Perry St. Port Clinton) across from Lake Erie and the Jet Express. The Jet Express boated us straight to the fun island of Put-in-Bay, perfect setup! We unpacked and were ready to regroup then head to the lake for dinner. Honestly, by this time, dinner called for Subway on a bench overlooking Lake Erie. The kids were more than satisfied. We completed the day at Ghostly Manor Thrill Center (3319 Milan Road, Sandusky) my first time giving the Hologate Virtual Reality experience a try; so cool! This exhilarating center is loaded with year-round fun for all ages. Older kids and adults can get spooked at the haunted house; or anyone can enjoy Ohio’s fastest virtual motion theater; black light miniature golf; a skating rink; and for the littles, bounce houses and an indoor playground. Needless to say, we were ready for bed!

The next couple days topped it off – the Jet Express took us right to the lovely island of Put-in-Bay and we explored by bike! Or if you prefer to explore by go-cart, they have that, too. You can easily get anywhere around the island within minutes. Browse the shops or head to Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center and The Butterfly House with underground cave tours, mini-golf, butterfly house and more! This is where we spent a majority of our time – it was truly a hit. The Butterfly House was easy to access; and exploring the cave was so mysterious. Will and Eva were intrigued. The island also has go-karts, a carousel, aquatic center and playgrounds. We hit up the tasty Boardwalk for dinner before we headed back. Order what food you want, and pick your seat along the lake. It’s an open, laid-back atmosphere for sleepy kids who have had a long day!

Before returning home, we took a stroll around Downtown Sandusky and made a fun stop at the Merry Go Round Museum! Carvers are sometimes on-site to show you how the wooden carousels are created, and the kids loved taking a ride on the carousel and choosing their unique, wood-carved animal. I never realized how much goes into creating just one! If you want to know more, they have tours throughout the day to give you a little more history.

A day wouldn’t be complete without some good ice cream, so Toft’s Ice Cream Parlor did the trick! A little tip – the portions are HUGE and this classy 1900s popular ice cream parlor has over 70 delicious flavors to choose from. After talking to a local, they said, “You have to get Toft’s while you’re here! We live here and get it almost every day!”

This mini trip would make a perfect fall family getaway! Don’t forget the famous Cedar Point and Kelly’s Isand! For more details and to plan your family, budget-friendly trip to Lake Erie, head to

Amanda Hayward is editor of this publication. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio, a military wife and mom of two. If you don't see her writing for Cincinnati Family, you'll find her running, juggling kids, teaching group fitness classes and cooking up healthy recipes.

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