7 Lake Erie Vacation Ideas That Are Perfect for Families

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Lake Erie is a perfect vacation spot for families! This list of Lake Erie vacation ideas will help you plan your next Ohio vacation on the Lake!

The shores of Lake Erie have been a favorite vacation spot for our family time and time again! Ohio’s Vacationland is a comfortable driving distance from our home in Columbus, Ohio and there are plenty of fun things for families to do!

Marblehead Lighthouse on the Marblehead Peninsula at Lake Erie

Marblehead Lighthouse

If you’re looking for an Ohio road trip that includes beaches, fun parks and playgrounds, gorgeous scenery, family-friendly entertainment and even some educational opportunities, look no further. This list of Lake Erie Vacation ideas will be a great starting place to spark inspiration for your next trip!

boy driving a pretend boat in Lakeview Park playground in Port Clinton, Ohio

Lakeview Park in Port Clinton, Ohio

If an Ohio beach sounds up your alley, try Vermilion, Port Clinton or Lakeside. If an African Wildlife Safari is up your alley, check out the list of things to do near Sandusky!

If the weather calls for indoor fun, check out the amazing indoor play area in Bellevue or spend a day at Castaway Bay! Geneva-on-the Lake is a cute lakeside town where you can swing through the trees on a Lake Erie Canopy Tour or enjoy food and games on The Strip along Lake Erie.

My family has enjoyed doing many of these things year after year! The beach at Vermilion is a place we ALWAYS visit when we go to Lake Erie! We always plan for lunch at Jolly Rogers in Port Clinton and we always take Miller Ferry to Put-in-Bay for a day of family-friendly fun! (Yes, Put-in-Bay CAN be family-friendly!)

7 Exciting Lake Erie Vacation Ideas for Families

Take a look at this list of family friendly Lake Erie vacation ideas and pick and choose activities that fit your family to plan your next Ohio vacation!

Many of the things on this list can be done within one vacation. In fact, ambitious families could potentially do a majority of these things in a full week vacation to Lake Erie!

We’ve had a lot of fun exploring Lake Erie as a family and just looking through this list is making me want to go back soon! I hope this list has inspired you to plan a getaway to see it for yourself!

deRivera park in put-in-bay, ohio.

DeRivera Park in Put-in-Bay, Ohio

Here’s to enjoying all the fun things there are to do in Ohio and making lots of memories with your family on your next vacation at Lake Erie!

Lake Erie Vacation Ideas for Families

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Lake Erie Vacations for families in Ohio


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Lake Erie: 15 Fun Things to do with Kids Near Sandusky, Ohio

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Ohio’s Vacationland features roller coasters, beaches, lighthouses and more! Take a trip to the Sandusky area of Ohio for your perfect Lake Erie vacation!

Since we’ve had young kids, our vacations have been largely within driving distance of Columbus, Ohio! We’ve come to love vacationing on Lake Erie and have done so year after year since our second child was born! We’ve spent a lot of time in the Sandusky and Port Clinton areas of Lake Erie.

boats in Sandusky, Ohio

Did you know that this western part of the Lake Erie shoreline is officially called Vacationland? That sounds like some place I want to be! If you’re looking for an affordable and close Ohio beach vacation, you can find a lot of things to do on the shores of Lake Erie!

Here are some of the most popular (and some of our favorite) family-friendly attractions in and around Sandusky, Ohio:

Family Friendly Things to do in and around Sandusky, Ohio:

1. African Safari Wildlife Park

  • 267 S Lightner Rd., Port Clinton, Ohio 43452

This drive through safari gives you the chance to get up close to exotic animals like giraffes, camels, zebras, llamas and more! The African Safari Wildlife Park is a seasonal activity – open spring through fall.

giraffe at the African Wildlife Safari in Port Clinton, Ohio

You will receive a cup of food to feed the animals. They eat directly from the cup!

walkable zoo area at the African Wildlife Safari Park in Port Clinton, Ohio

There is also a walk-through experience included in your ticket price that includes an albino alligator, birds, kangaroo and other animals in a zoo-like exhibit. Also in the walk through area is a playground, gift shop, snack shop and the opportunity to take a camel ride!

2. Port Clinton City Beach

  • 1100 E. Perry St., Port Clinton, Ohio 43452

boy on the public beach in Port Clinton, Ohio

This free, public beach in Port Clinton is a great place to spend a day in the sun. There are picnic areas, restrooms and changing area, and an ice cream shop near by! And the beach is at the end of a great park you will read about next.

3. Lakeview Park

  • 1100 E Perry St., Port Clinton, Ohio 43452

playground area at Lakeview Park in Port Clinton, Ohio

Lakeview Park in Port Clinton is an amazing accessible playground with a nautical theme! This park has a lot of fun things to do that are not found in your typical park or playground! If your kids like boats, you’re in luck because the main play structure looks like a large ship!

4. Cedar Point

  • 1 Cedar Point Dr, Sandusky, Ohio 44870

view of Cedar Point from across Lake Erie

America’s Roller Coast is a destination for kids of all ages! Growing up in Northeast Ohio, I went to Cedar Point at least once every year of my life through college. It’s been a while since I’ve been lately, but Cedar Point has never disappointed when it comes to amusement parks!

5. Miller Ferry

  • 5174 E Water St., Port Clinton, Ohio 43452 

boy watching the ferry at Miller Boatline

Miller Ferry is our favorite way to get to Put-in-Bay. If you’re looking for a ferry to take you to Put-in-Bay or or Middle Bass Island, Port Clinton is where you will catch your ride. My kids love riding the ferry just for the sheer joy of riding a boat! It’s an event in itself!

6. Lagoon Deer Park

  • 1502 Martins Point Rd., Sandusky, Ohio 44870

I’m including this on the list because it is something I have seen every year and wanted to do but have not actually done! One day we will make it to this park where you can hand feed deer and animals from all over the world.

There are also 4 ponds for fishing and camping is available on Friday and Saturday nights.

7. Marblehead Lighthouse

  • 110 Lighthouse Dr., Marblehead, Ohio 43440

Marblehead Lighthouse in Marblehead, Ohio

If you’re in the Sandusky area, you must drive out to Marblehead Lighthouse State Park. The park has a great shoreline view, picnic tables and the oldest continually operating lighthouse on all of the Great Lakes! In season it is possible to climb the tower of the light house and visit the museum.

8. Merry Go Round Museum

  • 301 Jackson St., Sandusky, Ohio 44870

Visit the museum in downtown Sandusky to see carousel artifacts, learn the history of carousels and ride an indoor carousel! On your tour of the museum you can meet with a carver who is experienced in carving and restoring carousel animals.

Hotels with Indoor Water Parks Near Sandusky, Ohio:

9. Castaway Bay

  • 2001 Cleveland Rd., Sandusky, Ohio 44870

indoor waterpark at Castaway Bay in Sandusky Ohio

This hotel with an indoor water park is an all-inclusive experience for families! No matter the weather outside, it’s always 82 degrees at Castaway Bay! Sleep, play, swim and eat without having to leave the property! My kids loved the wave pool and I was a big fan of the outdoor hot tub!

10. Kalahari

  • 7000 Kalahari Dr, Sandusky, Ohio 44870

Kalahari offers indoor and outdoor water parks, mini golf, a zip line, a 7-D Motion Theater, mini-bowling, escape rooms, laser tag, a spa and salon, restaurants, fitness center and more! Day passes are available or you can spend the night with one of their lodging options.

11. Great Wolf Lodge

  • 4600 Milan Road, Sandusky Ohio 44870

Great Wolf Lodge is a family-friendly resort with an indoor water park, an arcade, Build-A-Bear Workshop, restaurants and special activities for families! Day passes are available or you can book a room to stay! 

Fun Places to Eat Near Sandusky, Ohio:

12. Jolly Roger Seafood House

  • 1737 E. Perry St., Port Clinton, Ohio 43452 

boys watching the Breading Pit at Jolly Roger in Port Clinton Ohio

This is one of our go-to lunch spots when we visit Lake Erie. This is a great location for Lake Erie Yellow Perch and Walleye. You can watch the perch be hand-breaded (is that a word?) at the breading pit window!

seafood dinner at Jolly Roger in Port Clinton, Ohio

They will be moving to a new, nearby location in 2020 so double check the address above before you visit.

13. Toft’s Dairy

  • 3717 Venice Rd., Sandusky, Ohio 44870 

Toft's Dairy in Sandusky Ohio

While you can find Toft’s Ice Cream in the dairy case and at smaller shops around town, the Toft’s Dairy and the Toft’s Ice Cream Parlor is a must-visit for the whole experience.  

large ice cream cone from Toft's Dairy in Sandusky, Ohio

The ice cream is amazing and the portion sizes are huge! The ice cream parlor offers over 70 flavors of ice cream and frozen yogurt!

14. Frosty Frog

  • 503 N. Washington St., Castalia, Ohio 44824

frosty frog in Castalia, Ohio

This is a family favorite I’m including on the list for those who like the idea of a small town dariette. This is a great little walk up spot for ice cream, snacks and food. 

15. Twin Oast Brewing

  • 3630 NE Catawba Rd. Port Clinton, Ohio 43452 

plate of nachos with Twin Oast Brewery in background

This is a beautiful location to get dinner and/or a drink! Twin Oast Brewing features their own craft beer, and a menu of pizza, burgers, sandwiches and tacos. The property has outdoor patios, picnic tables and yard games on a beautiful 60 acre estate. The brewery is close to Miller Ferry so it’s a great stop when you get off the ferry after a day at Put-in-Bay!

I hope we’ve helped spark some ideas for things to do near Sandusky and Port Clinton! If you’re looking for more things to do around Lake Erie, try one of these posts:


Things to do in sandusky ohio

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15 Fun Things to Do with Kids in Sandusky, Ohio


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vermilion light house at main street beach

How to Have the Perfect Day at the Beach in Vermilion, Ohio

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Vermilion, Ohio is our favorite little Lake Erie beach town! Read on for how we love to spend a day at the Main Street Beach in Vermilion!

I love Vermilion so much! With an adorable downtown, a clean beach and tasty treats it’s easy to spend the perfect day on Lake Erie in Vermilion, Ohio! Vermilion is home to one of our favorite Ohio beaches and we return again and again when we visit Lake Erie as a family (as I’m sure you will be able to tell from the growth of my children in between some of these photos!)

Why do we love Vermilion? It’s such a quaint, well kept town. Parking is easy. The beach is free. The lagoons are unique. There’s ice cream. And Woodstock Cafe. Read on to see how we have spent a day at Main Street Beach – year after year!

Where is Vermilion, Ohio?

hanging baskets on a light post in downtown Vermilion, Ohio on Lake Erie

First of all, let’s talk about downtown Vermilion! Vermilion is a small town of around 10,000 residents, situated on Lake Erie, in between Cleveland and Sandusky. 

downtown Vermilion, Ohio

Downtown Vermilion is known as the Harbor Town Historic District and is built around the Vermilion River and The Vermilion Lagoons. This is a beautiful residential area with shopping and restaurants. 

boats on the Vermilion Lagoons on Lake Erie

houses and boats on the Vermilion Lagoon in Ohio

With a touch of New England and a touch of Venice, Vermilion makes for a beautiful Ohio getaway where you can feel like you’ve truly gone on vacation to someplace far away – even if it’s just a few hours drive!

How Do We Spend the Perfect Beach Day in Vermilion, Ohio?

Our family has spent a day in Vermilion 4 different times beginning in 2015 and as recently as 2019! Each year we have done the exact same thing. No joke. In fact, looking back at the pictures I can see that I have eaten the exact same lunch each time! LOL

These are the things we do. We’re not ashamed to say we’ve done the same thing every year and we will probably do the exact same thing again the next time we go back!

1. Woodstock Cafe

Address: 665 Main St., Vermilion, OH 44089
Phone: 440-967-7687 

outdoor patio at Woodstock Cafe in Vermilion, Ohio

Lunch at Woodstock Cafe is always our first stop as soon as we arrive in Vermilion. And every time we arrive just before the lunch rush and enjoy a relaxing meal on the amazing patio.

boy and dad playing checkers at Woodstock Cafe in Vermilion, Ohio

What is so great about Woodstock Cafe, if you have kids, is the great outdoor dining patio that has rotating yard games to keep kids (and adults) occupied while you relax and wait for your food.

boys playing checkers at Woodstock Cafe

California Club sandwich at Woodstock Cafe in Vermilion, Ohio

The menu includes pizzas, hot and cold sandwiches, subs, salads, plus craft beer. You can also stop in to order coffee and baked goods to go! Every year I get the California Club. Every time. 

boys playing Jenga on the patio at Woodstock Cafe in Vermilion Ohio

boys playing games on the patio at Woodstock Cafe in Vermilion Ohio on Lake Erie

Whenever we eat at Woodstock Cafe we feel happy and relaxed! The patio gives off California hippie vibes and, of course, we know that we are headed to the beach so just looking at these pictures brings back a happy and nostalgic feeling for me.

2. Main Street Beach

Address: Main St. at Lake Erie, Vermilion, OH 44089

lake erie beach in Vermilion Ohio

The Main Street Beach in downtown Vermilion is at the north end of Main Street. There is parking up and down Main St. You may have to park a couple of blocks away. We always plan to go on a weekday so it is not as crowded. 

beach overlook and shore thing beach shop at Main Street Beach in Vermilion, Ohio

In front of the beach is an observation deck, outdoor spigot for rinsing off and a beach shack. The small beach shack is called Shore Thing and in it you can purchase snacks, ice cream and beach jewelry. You can also rent beach chairs and umbrellas here.

This is a great beach for walking and playing. In my opinion it’s a great size. Big enough to feel like you’re “at the beach” but small enough to be able to keep an eye on kids as they play.

boys playing on the Lake Erie Beach in Vermilion Ohio

There is one downside to the Main Street Beach and that is that there is no changing area or restroom close by. As I was researching details, I did see mention of a porta-potty, but I do not personally remember seeing one so maybe that is new since 2019.

There is, however, a Comfort Station a few blocks south in Exchange Park on Main Street at the corner of Liberty Avenue. This small building (an old police station) has large restrooms where you can also change clothing. It’s not super convenient so plan accordingly with extra bathroom visits at lunch. 😉  

people on Main Street Beach in Vermilion Ohio - Lake Erie

3. Big Ed’s Main Street Soda Grill

Address: 5502 Liberty Ave., Vermilion, OH 44089
Phone: 440-967-4002

downtown Vermilion, Ohio on Lake Erie

What’s left to do after the beach? Ice cream of course! We always stop for scoops, ice cream sodas or root beer floats at Big Ed’s Soda Grill on the corner of Main Street and Liberty Avenue.

root beer float at Big Ed's Main Street Soda Grill in Vermilion, Ohio

Expect old fashioned ambiance and a classic soda fountain and diner counter. All kind of ice cream treats are available including hand-dipped ice cream, shakes, malts, phosphates, floats, banana splits and sundaes!

boy with a drink at Big Ed's Soda Grill in Vermilion, Ohio

If ice cream isn’t your thing or you’re looking for a different meal option, Big Ed’s Soda Grill has an extensive food menu with classic diner items like hot dogs, burgers and other sandwiches.

Kids meals are available that include a drink and choice of fries or apple sauce. Kids options include hot dog, battered Icelandic cod, chicken tenders, corn dog, cheeseburger or PB&J.

man and toddler eating ice cream at Big Ed's Soda Grill in Vermilion

front of Big Ed's Soda Grill in Vermilion Ohio

Well, there you have it. That’s our three part plan for a perfect day at Main Street Beach in Vermilion, Ohio!

Just in case we ever feel like mixing up our routine, please feel free to share any of your favorite spots in Vermilion in the comments!

Read More Lake Erie Ideas:

Exploring Ohio with your Kids!

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How to Have the Perfect Day at the Beach in Vermilion, Ohio



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