Exploring Ohio with Kids: Lakeside

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If you’re looking for a slow-paced and peaceful family vacation on the lake, make plans to visit Lakeside, Ohio, a perfectly picturesque town on Lake Erie where there is a little something for everyone in the family! 

Thanks to Lakeside Chautauqua for sponsoring this post.

How to Plan a Kid Friendly Trip to Lakeside, Ohio:

Boats lined up at Lakeside Ohio

When we were invited to visit Lakeside Chautauqua, I really had no idea what to expect. My family has vacationed several times on Lake Erie and we had driven by the entrance to Lakeside many times, but other than knowing that it cost money to get in, the rest of the details remained a mystery.

We met our Lakeside contact, Lizzie, at the entrance and she drove my family on a tour of the town on a golf cart. I have to admit I was shocked!! Lakeside was not at all what I had expected (for some reason I pictured a simple campground) and it blew away my expectations!

bikes parked in Lakeside, Ohio

As we drove through the quaint town filled with golf carts and kids on bicycles, I felt like we were at the seaside in New England. I felt like we were on the coast of California. I felt like we had stepped back in time to Mayberry. By the time our 48 hours in Lakeside ended, we were IN LOVE!

Where is Lakeside?

the shoreline in Lakeside, Ohio

You may hear Lakeside be referred to by a few names: Lakeside Chautauqua and Lakeside Marblehead being the two most frequent. Lakeside is located on the north side of the Marblehead Peninsula, not far from the Marblehead Lighthouse and the ferry to Put-In-Bay.

What is a Chautauqua?

A Chautauqua is a community that “provides spiritual, cultural, intellectual and recreational programs designed to nurture the mind, body and spirit.” Lakeside was originally formed by the Methodist Church in 1863, a pioneer of the Chautauqua Movement.

Lakeside continues to hold a robust schedule of speakers, services, performances and entertainment with spiritual and educational themes, though you do not need to be of a particular religion or denomination in order to visit and attendance at any of these events is 100% optional.

What is there to do at Lakeside?

Here’s where the fun begins! The fun at Lakeside doesn’t involve neon lights, beeping or flashing lights. It’s simple, classic. It’s the perfect place to take your kids to enjoy some “good old-fashioned fun” as they say. Here are some of the ways to play at Lakeside:

1. Miniature Golf

boy playing mini golf in lakeside ohio

Enjoy 18 holes of Mini Golf for just $3.50/person. Kids 5 and under are free. The course is shaded and the views from the green are stunning. 

2. Lakeside Beach

Lakeside beach in Ohio

The beach at Lakeside is small, but you can play (or lay) in the sand and swim in the lake and there are lifeguards on duty.

3. Kids Pool and Splash Pad

boys in kiddie pool at Lakeside Ohio

If the beach isn’t your kids’ thing – check out the kids pool and splash pad nearby! My kids loved this pool and could have floated around in it forever if we didn’t have dinner reservations!

boys playing in splash pad in Lakeside Ohio

4. Playgrounds

supervised playground at Lakeside Ohio

There are a couple of playground areas within Lakeside! There are 3 open playgrounds and the Grindley Playground which is a supervised playground. Yes, you read that right. You can check your kids (ages 4-7) in at this fenced in playground while you enjoy some kid-free time!

boys in sandbox at lakeside ohio

The large sandbox at Grindley Playground was a definite hit with my boys!

5. The Grindley Aquatic Wellness Campus Pool

pool at Lakeside, Ohio

This pool and wellness center is a recent addition to Lakeside. Exercise machines and classes are offered at the Wellness Center and the pool is amazing! With a zero entry and fountains at one end and twisty water slides at the other, this pool can be enjoyed by all. The pool does not get any deeper than 3.5 feet, which makes it pretty family-friendly.

boys standing next to pool at lakeside ohio

There are showers, changing rooms and lots of seating at this pool, but snacks are not sold. Make sure to bring your own if your kids are like mine and need a snack every 3.5 seconds.

6. Ohio’s Most Beautiful Mile 

boy walking ohio's most beautiful mile, Lakeside

This was probably my favorite thing we did at Lakeside. When walking this shoreline path I could not help but think that Ohio is just severely underrated. I felt like I was plucked up and dropped down into a vacation paradise. It’s hard to be anything but happy in this environment!

ohio's most beautiful mile, Lakeside

7. Sports Activities 

boys playing basketball in Lakeside, Ohio

Throughout Lakeside you will find sand volleyball courts, basketball courts (they even had a hoop at kid level!), tennis courts and shuffleboard, just to name a few. Shuffleboard is apparently huge at Lakeside! Who knew?!

shuffleboard courts at Lakeside, Ohio

8. Ottawa County’s Only Movie Theater

Ottawa County's only movie theater

Orchestra Hall is the only movie theater in the whole county! Movies are shown twice a day during the summer and do require an additional ticket fee. Check the link for movies and times.

9. Shopping

lakeside ohio business district

The Business District is home to several cute shops and restaurants (more on restaurants later). We didn’t have time for a lot of shopping but there are a handful of cute shops where you can pick up your latest souvenir or hand crafted gift. We did make stop in The Fine Print, an adorable book store on Walnut Ave.

the fine print bookstore at Lakeside Ohio

Downtown is also home to the Lakeside Farmer’s Market which takes place from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM on Tuesday and Friday.

10. Walk the Dock

boys on the dock at Lakeside, Ohio

The dock is home to several of the aforementioned activists: the beach and the kids pool and splash pad, but it’s also a great spot to watch the sunset or take a walk! We made it just in time for the sunset!

boy watching the sun set at lakeside Ohio

Are there restaurants at Lakeside?

Yes! There are 8 brick and mortar restaurants to satisfy your cravings! At least 3 of those serve ice cream, so my family was in heaven! 

1. Bluebird Cafe

lakeside ohio bluebird cafe

A whole-foods cafe with smoothies. Also a great option for taking food to-go!

2. Hotel Lakeside Dining Room and Cafe

food at Hotel Lakeside

Probably the most “fancy” option in Lakeside, though I still wore shorts and a tank top. Great views from the dining room and the porch is awesome!

3. Lago Coastal Cafe

Total California vibes going on at the newest dining location in Lakeside. The fries are amazing and make sure to try one of the Lago Fizz specialty drinks!

boy holding up french fry at Lago Coastal Cafe in Lakeside, Ohio

4. Coffee & Cream

Coffee and Cream restaurant at Lakeside, Ohio

Get your caffeine fix here – as well as hand dipped ice cream and soft serve!

ice cream cone from Coffee and Cream, Lakeside Ohio

5. Ooh La La! Fine Food – Fine Art

sandwich at ooh la la fine food and fine art in Lakeside Ohio

This is a great lunch spot – go for the box option (for adults and kids) which includes chips, a cookie and a drink!

6. Sloopy’s Sports Cafe

boy eating pizza at Sloopy's Cafe in Lakeside, Ohio

Fellow Buckeyes will appreciate this OSU themed restaurant with a huge menu. We loved the pizza!

7. The Patio Restaurant

powdered donut from The Patio in Lakeside, Ohio

I got lots of messages on Instagram telling me to get the donuts from The Patio! Done. And yum. They also serve ice cream and food!

8. Whistle Stop Ice Cream

Whistle Stop is another ice cream option that also serves gourmet popcorn!

What kind of entertainment is scheduled at Lakeside?

Lakeside Chautauqua hosts an impressive list of nationally renowned speakers and performers! The night we left, comedian Brian Regan was performing and we were super bummed to miss him! These performances, held at Hoover Auditorium, are included in your Day Pass cost – which is a steal for most of the performances! Other well-known 2019 performers included Amy Grant, Wynonna, Three Dog Night, OSU Alumni Band and many more! Check out the list of upcoming entertainers.

Each summer there is also a Lecture Series, running from mid June through the end of August. Each week there is a new theme. 2019 themes included: “Guns, Kids and the Media,” “The Legacy of F. Scott Fitzgerald,” “Seeking Peace in a Multi-Faith World” and more. Lectures can be attended every day at 10:30 AM  Check out the current Lecture Series.

gazebo at Lakeside, Ohio

In addition to larger known acts you can enjoy performances from the Lakeside Symphony Orchestra, classes for all ages in music, art, nature, history and science, story times, movies and so much more! There is so much to take advantage of – it’s nearly impossible to list here! Make sure to check the Lakeside Programs web page before planning your visit!

Where can I stay at Lakeside?

front porch at Hotel Lakeside

The porch at Hotel Lakeside

Lakeside is home to two hotels: Hotel Lakeside and The Fountain Inn. My family was hosted at The Fountain Inn. Beyond hotels, there are private cottages for rent, inns, bed and breakfasts, and a campground. Take a look at the various accommodation options at Lakeside here. It should also be mentioned that you don’t need to spend the night to visit Lakeside, but you will still need to purchase a Day Pass.

The Fountain Inn at Lakeside, Ohio

hotel room at The Fountain Inn, Lakeside, Ohio

The Fountain Inn

How much does it cost to enter Lakeside?

golf carts and flowers at lakeside, Ohio

A Chautauqua Pass is required to enter the Lakeside community. A daily pass, which is valid from the time of purchase until 7:00 PM the next day, will give you access to the town, the pool and all evening shows at the Hoover Auditorium. There is an additional pass needed to park your car in one of the parking lots or to take your car into Lakeside.

A Daily Chautauqua Pass costs:

  • $24.50 for adults.
  • $16.25 for youth ages 13-24
  • Free for kids 12 and under and adults 90 and over!

Passes can be purchased online but make sure to allow up to 14 days for your pass to arrive in the mail. Alternatively, you can choose to have your pass held at Will Call or you can buy your pass when you arrive. (Friday and Saturday passes cost $30 if purchased the day of. Save money by buying them ahead of time or as part of a weekly pass.)

Lake Erie shoreline in Lakeside, Ohio

I can’t recommend this family-friendly getaway enough! We had a blast and we can’t wait to go back! My oldest son has even decided he wants to live at Lakeside! 😉 

Looking for more family-friendly Lake Erie Vacation Ideas? Try these:

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Exploring Ohio with Kids: Lakeside


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Plan a Tropical Getaway with Your Kids at Castaway Bay in Sandusky Ohio

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No matter what the weather outside, it’s 82 degrees and tropical at Castaway Bay, a super fun indoor water park in Sandusky, Ohio!

Thanks to Castaway Bay for sponsoring this post!

Ohio Winters seem to drag on even when the calendar says it’s officially “Spring”. The end of March is when this dragging on gets particularly hard! Luckily we had scheduled an overnight trip to Castaway Bay in Sandusky to help cure us of our winter blues!

Castaway Bay view from room

I have two cautious kids who are not exactly the water slide type. I was hoping there would be something at Castaway Bay that they would enjoy and we as parents could enjoy as well! They might not have attempted the Tropical Twister, but, as you can see, they did at least warm up to the slide in the Toddler Tide Pool! 🙂 

kids on waterslide at Castaway Bay

As it turned out, when our trip rolled around, my husband was too sick to go so my mom accompanied us on this trip. This turned out to be a total bonus because my kids are way better behaved for Grandma than they are for me! 

Wave Pool at Castaway Bay

5 Things to Enjoy at Castaway Bay:

1. The Hotel

inside hotel at Castaway Bay

The real draw for this whole water park experience is that it’s all inclusive! With the hotel, restaurants and other activities provided, you never need to leave the property!

lobby of hotel at Castaway Bay

The hotel is decorated in a fun way with a tropical theme. Everything was clean and our hotel room was clean and comfortable! It was nice to be able to come back and shower and change in the privacy of our own room. (Though showers and changing rooms are provided within the water park.)

beds in hotel room at Castaway Bay

The rooms also include a microwave and refrigerator, adding the convenience of coming back to the room for snacks or to eat leftovers! Most of the rooms also offer a balcony or private deck.

I was a little bit nervous that the hotel would be loud at night but I ended up getting a surprisingly good night’s sleep!

2. Water Park

My mom and I basically let the kids dictate our time in the water park and they spent most of it running from the wave pool to the toddler pool! When the waves took a break we would head for the toddler pool, and when Jaden heard the buzzer announcing the waves were about to start back up, we would head back over to the wave pool!

I was happy to see my kids get more comfortable in the water! Castaway Bay offers life jackets for whoever wants to use them and my kids wore them the whole time. 

Within the Caribbean themed water park are several different areas for kids, teens and adults to play in! Check this list of attractions for the various height, weight and life jacket requirements. Towels are provided for you within the park.

Castaway Bay Wave Pool

Wave Pool at Castaway Bay

Kids under 48 inches and under must wear a life vest in the Castaway Bay Wave Pool and kids 42 inches and under must be accompanied by a “supervising companion” – which means someone who is 14 years old or over.

Toddler’s Tide Pool

Toddler Tide Pool at Castaway Bay

This area is 18 inches deep and perfect for the little ones! There are two slide areas, fountains and a gradual entry. Kids must be under 52 inches to play here.

Toddler Tide Pool at Castaway Bay

Cargo Crossings

Cargo Crossings at Castaway Bay

Take the challenge at Cargo Crossings – can you get across the water without falling?

Tropical Tube Slides

These are enclosed body tube slides! Kids must be 46 inches tall to ride the Tropical Tube Slides.

Rendezvous Run

Castaway Bay

Rendezvous Run is a water coaster featuring a boat that two people can ride in. You must be able to walk up the steps of the tower to ride.

Lookout Lagoon Family Funhouse

Lookout Lagoon at Castaway Bay

The Lookout Lagoon is a play area for all ages. Water is no deeper than six inches and the play structure includes sprayers, net crawls, rope bridges and more! There is a huge pail that spills when it gets full for a humongous splash! The area also has 4 body slides with height requirements ranging from 36 inches to 40 inches.

The Grotto

MY favorite area was The Grotto – the hot tub area that opens up to the outside! The weather outside was in the 40’s so the breeze from outside was the perfect accompaniment to the hot water! The water is 3 feet deep so my kids were also able to be in the area comfortably.

3. Restaurants 

One great thing about staying at Castaway Bay is that there are several restaurant options to choose from so that you never have to leave the hotel!

Quaker Steak & Lube

Quaker Steak & Lube at Castaway Bay

We had dinner at Quaker Steak & Lube the evening we arrived. The menu is huge so there is definitely something for everyone and there is a decent kids’ menu as well. It was our first visit to a Quaker Steak & Lube and My kids were big fans of the car and vehicle oriented decor!

Mango Mikes

For breakfast, Mango Mikes offers an all you can eat buffet. The price was $12.95 for adults and $6.95 for kids. It’s a great option for families but since my kids eat like birds, we opted to save a little money and get a smaller breakfast at Ebb & Eddy’s Sweets & Eats. You can purchase packages that include the breakfast buffet – definitely something to look into!

Ebb & Eddy’s Sweets & Eats 

Ebb & Eddy's at Castaway Bay

Ebb & Eddy’s serves smaller options for breakfast like yogurt, bagels, fresh fruit, donuts, baked goods and Starbucks coffee drinks. Toft’s Ice Cream is also served here as well! Ebb & Eddy’s is also open into the evening for your snacking convenience! 

Big Daddy’s Snack Shack

Big Daddy's Snack Shack at Castaway Bay

Big Daddy’s Snack Shack is accessible from INSIDE the water park serving pizza, ice cream, adult beverages and other snacks. You are allowed to have food purchased inside Castaway Bay in the water park area!

4. Crabbie’s Quarter Deck Arcade

arcade at Castaway Bay

The Crabbie’s Quarter Deck Arcade is a fairly large arcade! Play cards are available at the machine just inside the door and can be reloaded at a discount. There are also packages available. 

Arcade at Castaway Bay

5. Family Activities

Snoopy at Castaway Bay

In the evenings, kids can gather at Club Castaway on the third floor for a 30 minute Peanuts movie, a story time and visits from Peanut’s characters. During select hours, Club Castaway also offers crafts and activities that kids can do if you need a break from the water park! There are some crafts that are an additional cost and some free coloring activities. There are also toys available to play with!

Know Before You Go:

Visit the Website

Address: 2001 Cleveland Rd., Sandusky, OH 44870
Reservations: 419-627-2106
Information: 419-627-2500

  • Make sure to check out the Special Offers page for package deals that include meals and other entertainment!
  • Day passes are also available for $29/ticket. Check the website for group ticket rats and discounts for Cedar Fair Platinum Passholders.

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Kid-Friendly Put-in-Bay: 11 Things to Do with Your Kids

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Put-In-Bay is more than just a party island! There are plenty of things for families to do on the island making Put-In-Bay a great idea for a day trip or overnight trip with kids!

This post was written in partnership with Lake Erie Shores and Islands.

Kid-Friendly Put-in-Bay: 11 Things to Do with Your Kids:

Is Put-in-Bay Kid Friendly?

I’ve received a few raised eyebrows when I say we took our kids to Put-in-Bay while on our vacation to Lake Erie in July. A lot of people think that Put-in-Bay is just a party island, but I’ll have you know that there is plenty of family-friendly fun to be had!

My husband and I have been to Put-in-Bay 3 times since we were married. Once just the two of us and twice with the kids. By trip three, experience (and some great input from Lake Erie Shores and Islands) had taught us a few things and trip three was probably the smoothest and most fun!

Getting To Put-in-Bay:

To get to Put-in-Bay, you must take a ferry from either Port Clinton or Catawba and there are two options, Miller Ferry and Jet Express.

We’re kind of partial to Miller Ferry – I don’t know, it must be the name! 😉 We’ve always taken Miller Ferry to the island probably because, besides the name, it’s also, by far, the cheapest.

Miller Boat Line Put in Bay

Taking the ferry is part of the experience, for the kids! Mine loved the boat ride and looked forward to it as part of our day! Miller Ferries run generally every half hour during the summer season. You can see the schedule here.

Getting Around Put-in-Bay:

When you get to the island you’ll probably want to take some form of transportation (besides walking) to get to downtown Put-in-Bay. Options include a taxi, golf cart, bikes or the Lime Kiln bus, which is what I would recommend if you don’t plan on driving a golf cart around all day! The bus is $2.50/person and children under 6 are free. This was also part of the fun for my kids since they don’t get to ride a school bus! You can board the bus at the top of the hill after exiting Miller Ferry. Cash only!

The Lime Kiln Bus will drop you off at The Depot in Downtown Put-in-Bay, and from there, most people travel around by foot or golf cart. Cars are allowed on the island, but golf carts, bicycles and feet are the most common methods of transportation. Downtown Put-in-Bay is full of restaurants, bars, shops and a few attractions, and, on our first two trips, this is the majority of what we saw.

Jill at Lake Erie Shores and Islands offered us passes for the Put-in-Bay Tour Train for this trip and this tour train is what made our third trip to the island the best! I cannot recommend it enough! A lot of the activities I’m going to list here are stops on the Put-in-Bay Tour Train and I will note those with an asterisk (*) next to the number.

Here are 11 things to do with the kids when you get to Put-in-Bay:

1. Put-in-Bay Tour Train

The best thing about the tour train is, maybe obviously, the transportation. You’re simply not going to be able to walk all of these places with kids, and with the tour train, you get an education along with your transportation!

We learned so much history about the island as well as what island life is like in the present day. We saw the school, the only 2 churches on the island and got a snippet into daily life as a Put-in-Bay resident. I compare this with our first two visits where we didn’t see much of the island and had no idea what other things there were to do there, and the difference is night and day.

put in bay island train

When you take the tour train, you pay for one loop. You can get off and back on at each of the 6 stops, but you can only go around once. So look at the map and make sure you don’t miss a stop because you will not be allowed to circle back around to it again. The trains run every 30 minutes so keep an eye on your watch while you’re enjoying your stop.

The Tour Train makes 6 stops including: Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center, Heinemann Winery & Crystal Cave, Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial & Visitor Center, The Doller House & Museum of Island Life, Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center and the Aquatic Vistors Center.

You can buy an Island Fun Pack which includes ferry tickets, the Tour Train, plus discounted admission to several island attractions! See all the details here.

2. DeRivera Park

DeRivera park is named for the founder of Put-in-Bay, Jose DeRivera. It’s a beautiful, shady area with lots of picnic tables and a large fountain.

Within the park is Will’s Playground which has two play structures, one for older and one for younger kids. This park is a great place to come back to throughout your day to rest and regroup. There are also public rooms and showers here.

*3. Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center

Perry’s Cave and Family Fun Center is all about family fun. Options for activities here include Perry’s Cave, Gemstone Mining, The Butterfly House at Put-in-Bay, War of 1812 Holes Miniature Golf, Gotcha Laser Tag, Fort aMAZE’n, Rock Climbing Wall, Antique Car Museum, gift shops and DanDee’s Snack Shack.

The Tour Train offers one general stop at Perry’s Cave and all of the activities are within a short walk of the drop off. I’m going to tell you about a few of the things we have done there  . . .

4. Antique Car Museum

Housed in a large barn at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center, the Antique Car Museum is free! There are rare Ford Model T’s and A’s, a popcorn truck, and other auto-related memorabilia!

5. Butterfly House

We chose to do the The Butterfly House at Put-in-Bay as our main activity at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center. We all enjoyed the Butterfly House which was FULL of butterflies! The brochure says “hundreds of butterflies” and I believe them! Though no touching is allowed, it was not uncommon for butterflies to land on us and we were able to see them up close. In addition to walking among the butterflies, there is a large gift shop with educational gifts and lots of butterfly souvenirs.

*6. Aquatic Vistors Center

The AVC is operated by The Ohio State University in partnership with Ohio Department of Natural Resources. It was a fish hatchery that closed in 1988 and became an educational facility which includes the OSU Stone Laboratory, OSU’s island campus on Lake Erie!

If you take a walk through the center, you can learn about Ohio fishing, research projects and view the live fish in open tanks. There are some kids activities, a wall puzzle and coloring sheets. In the summer, the center hosts kids programs on Saturdays.

Kids under age 16 can go out onto the dock to fish for free! Though they didn’t catch anything and my husband nearly dropped his phone off the side, this was a highlight! 🙂

7. Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center

The Nature and Wildlife Center houses what was once a private collection of mounted wild animals, many from Alaska. In the back of the property, there is a frog pond and a nature trail that will take you in a complete circle.

8. Frosty Pizza

Frosty Pizza is an easy, family friendly stop for lunch or dinner. We got the Family Deal which included a large pizza, salad, breadsticks and 4 drinks for $30.

*9. Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial

You can’t miss Perry’s Memorial from most of the island! The grounds and Visitor’s Center is open to the public but the observation deck is closed for repair in 2017.

10. PIB Candy Bar

The PIB Candy Bar is a fun stop for tons of candy options and ice cream!

11. Kimberly’s Carousel

Kimberly’s Carousel provides musical accompaniment to much of the downtown area and is lots of fun for kids and adults alike!

Are you surprised there are so many family-friendly things to see and do at Put-in-Bay? 🙂 All of these activities give you plenty of options to enjoy the island with your kids!

If you’re planning a trip to Lake Erie Shores and Islands, make sure to check out my post Exploring Ohio With Kids: Bellevue for another fun day trip in the area!

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ICYMI: 10 Things to do at Olentangy Indian Caverns

Kid Friendly Put-in-Bay


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