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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Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills is a Breathtaking Hike

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Hocking Hills is one of the most beautiful spots in all of Ohio! When hiking at Old Man’s Cave you will encounter some of Ohio’s most stunning scenery including water falls, caves and cliffs! 

Old Man’s Cave is one of the most popular destinations in Hocking Hills. My family recently hiked this area and we were blown away by how beautiful it is! In this post I will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about hiking at Old Man’s Cave and give you an overview of some of the major landmarks to keep an eye out for you as you hike the trails! 

hiking trail with bridge at Old Man's Cave

What is Old Man’s Cave?

Old Man’s Cave is a hiking area at the north end of Hocking Hills State Park and is made up of eight major trail routes. The main trail route in the area is Grandma Gatgewood Trail to Gorge Exit Trail and depending on where you exit it is 1 or 1.5 miles. Access to other trails is available along this path if you are looking for a longer or more challenging hike.

boy hiking in the cave recess at Old Man's Cave

Old Man’s Cave is just one trails of Hocking Hills State Park but it is one of the most popular – and for good reason! The area is just full of beautiful sights and scenery. Old Man’s Cave trail a challenging but doable hike for families that will take at least an hour.

Who Can Hike the Trails at Old Man’s Cave?

two boys in front of the Old Man's Cave sign at Hocking Hills

My family did this hike when my boys were 6 and 9 years old and they were able to do the hike without complaint! There are a lot of stairs and just one short but memorable ledge that did not have a railing.

family hiking on a cliff edge in Hocking Hills, Ohio

If you have a toddler you will want to keep them close. I do not recommend taking a stroller on this hike unless it is very light and you are prepared to carry it. There are a LOT of steps and uneven patches. We saw at least one abandoned stroller on our hike from someone who had given up using it along the way.

How did Old Man’s Cave get its name?

Old Man’s Cave was named after Richard Rowe, a man who reportedly lived for a time in the cave in 1796. He is supposedly buried in the cave. There have been stories reported of other people living in the cave, even before Richard Rowe. There is evidence that a few Native American tribes occupied the area in the 1600’s and 1700’s. Two brothers reportedly lived in the area in 1795. 

trees and rock formations in Old Man's Cave

What is there to see at Old Man’s Cave?

We’ll spend a lot of time in this section because this is where the magic happens. There is so much to see in this part of the park. What follows is a list of some of the most popular sights to be seen at Old Man’s Cave. I’ve put them in order from the Trail Entrance at the Visitor’s Center.

1. Visitor’s Center

Visitor's Center at Old Man's Cave in Hocking Hills

The most logical place to start is the Visitor’s Center. Start by picking up a map of the Trails of Hocking Hills State Park which will be a necessity when hiking the Old Man’s Cave area. There are restrooms and vending machines here. We visited in 2020 and the inside of the Visitor’s Center was closed so I will have to report on the inside details when we return.

picnic tables in the Visitor's Center area

There are picnic tables here in this area. You won’t find any other picnic areas along the trail so this is a great place for your picnic lunch or sit-down snack. Plus you can return items you don’t want to carry with you to the car. There are also informational stations here so you can learn about Hocking Hills and Old Man’s Cave before you begin your hike.

Start on the one way trail here and walk north east along the edge of the parking lot.

trail markers in the park

2. Upper Falls

Upper Falls at Old Man's Cave

One of the most famous sights to be seen at Old Man’s Cave is Upper Falls. This stunning waterfall with a bridge over top is a worth a stop for a family photo.

bridge over Upper Falls

3. Devil’s Bathtub

standing over top of Devil's Bathtub

Devil’s Bathtub has formed here because the water has no where to go but down. How did Devil’s Bathtub get it’s name? Devil’s Bathtub has been said to go all the way Hades itself. While that might not be exactly true, the sign next to it says climbing out is “virtually impossible”.

Devil's Bathtub from a distance

4. ‘A’ Frame Bridge Over Gorge

A Frame Bridge Over Gorge with people hiking underneath

I love the man-made pathway here under the A Frame Bridge. This is another very picturesque area. You just want to stop and breathe it all in!

Dad and two boys hiking underneath the A Frame Bridge at Old Man's Cave

5. Sphinx Head

Sphinx Head from a distance

The Sphinx Head is a rock formation that looks like . . . wait for it . . . a sphinx head. If you look at the map, the Sphinx Head is technically further along the trail, but to appreciate it’s naturally formed shape, you view it from a distance. There will be a marker on the trail that will prompt you to look up and find it!

6. Lower Falls

bridge made of stone with surrounded by fall leaves

The Lower Falls is another of the most famous sites at Old Man’s Cave. Cross over this bridge that looks like it came out of The Lord of the Rings and head down to the water where The Lower Falls run over the rocks.

Lower Falls at Old Man's Cave

As with most Ohio waterfalls, what you will see will highly depend on the amount of rainfall we have had in recent days and weeks. I’ve seen pictures with the falls MUCH fuller than what you see pictured here. 

two boys walking in front of the Lower Falls

Shortly after Lower Falls is where you will transition briefly to the Broken Rock Trail. There are a lot of steps here. (You can also branch off for a hike to Broken Rock Falls.) Then you will head back towards the Visitor’s Center on the Gorge Exit Trail.

7. Old Man’s Cave

people hiking in the Old Man's Cave recess

The specific area where the “Old Man” is said to have lived is a recess that was naturally carved into the rock in the gorge.

The Old Man's Cave with steps and overlook above

8. Naturalist Cabin

The Naturalist's Cave at Hocking Hills, Logan, Ohio

When you get to the Naturalist Cabin, it will be a sign that you are coming to the end of the trail and back to the Old Man’s Cave Visitor’s Center. Events and special exhibits are held here.

two boys approaching a bridge in the gorge of Old Man's Cave

FAQ’s about Old Man’s Cave:

Where is Hocking Hills?

Hocking Hills State Park is in southeast Ohio, in the city of Logan. The official address of Hocking Hills State Park is 19852 OH-664, Logan, OH 43138.

An interesting fact I learned from a sign in the park is that the name Hocking Hills comes from the Wyandot Indian word “hockhocking” and refers to the bottleneck shape of the gorge near Lancaster, Ohio.

How far is Old Man’s Cave from Columbus, Ohio?

Old Man’s Cave is 59 miles from downtown Columbus, Ohio. From downtown it will take you a little over 1 hour to drive from Columbus to the Old Man’s Cave Area of Hocking Hills.

two boys heading into a cave in Hocking Hills

How long does it take to hike Old Man’s Cave?

If you search the general internet for how long it takes to hike Old Man’s Cave, the most popular answer is 1 hour. However, we are talking about hiking with kids here. We took a couple of breaks a long the way, especially at the waterfalls. I’d say we were in the gorge for 2 – 2.5 hours.

Can you swim at Old Man’s Cave?

Swimming and wading are not allowed in the waterfalls and creeks within Old Man’s Cave.

Is Old Man’s Cave free to hike?

Old Man’s Cave is part of Hocking Hills State Park and all of the park is free to enter. Parking is free in designated lots.

steps heading down into a tunnel in Old Man's Cave

Are dogs allowed at Old Man’s Cave?

Dogs are allowed on the trail when on a leash.

What hours is Old Man’s Cave Open?

You can visit Hocking Hills State Park from dawn to dusk. The park closes at dark. You should plan your trip so that you will be sure to be out of the park before dark!

man and two boys inside a cave at Hocking Hills in Ohio

What should we bring on our hike in Old Man’s Cave? 

It is important that you wear protective shoes when hiking at Old Man’s Cave. I would not do this hike in sandals or flip flops! There are a LOT of steps on this hike and most of the step areas are made of rock that can get slippery when wet. The park is also open during the winter and trails can get icy. 

man made steps heading up the side of the gorge

I would recommend bringing a back pack so that you can carry water bottles and a snack. But don’t plan on carrying anything too heavy unless you are used to hiking with a heavy pack. You won’t need too much more than water and a snack. Don’t forget sunscreen and/or a hat! 

man and two boys heading into a cave tunnel in Hocking Hills

I hope you enjoy hiking Old Man’s Cave as much as we did! I can’t wait to go back!

If you’re looking for more things to do in Ohio try one of these posts:

Exploring Columbus with Your Kids

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Hiking Old Man's Cave with Kids!


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Road Trip Inspiration: 8 Ohio Waterfalls to Visit this Year

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Waterfalls in Ohio? What? Yes, it’s true! This list will spark some road trip inspiration for your next Ohio adventure!

I say it over and over again! There is a lot to love about Ohio! One thing that might surprise you is that there are actually waterfalls in Ohio. Now, I’m not talking about Niagara Falls. But I am talking about little water falls that are hidden gems. You  might have to go just a little out of your way to find them, but they’re worth the trip!

Some of these waterfalls are part of a bigger destination. (Hocking Hills, for instance.) And some stand alone by themselves, waiting to be discovered just off the beaten path. 

Use this list as inspiration for your next Ohio road trip and check out one of these 5 Ohio waterfalls:

1. Indian Run Falls in Dublin, Ohio

Address: 700 Shawan Falls Dr, Dublin, OH 43017

Indian Run Falls in Dublin, Ohio

Indian Run Falls is just a skip hop and a jump from historic downtown Dublin. A hidden little gem off the beaten path, this Ohio waterfall is nestled in a small park.

Take the Indian Run Falls Trail to the observation decks that overlook the Indian Run Falls. The entire area includes .8 miles of trails, 2 shelter houses, observation decks and a pedestrian bridge. 

These pictures were taken during a dry summer. The falls can definitely get larger than pictured here. Despite what you see in these pictures, creeking, swimming and jumping off the falls is technically not allowed here. 

A small parking lot is available.

boy in creek area of Indian Run Falls

2. Cascades at Glen Helen Nature Preserve in Yellow Springs, Ohio

Address: 405 Corry St., Yellow Springs, OH 45387

The Cascades at Glen Helen Nature Preserve in Yellow Springs, Ohio

The Cascades are part of Glen Helen Nature Preserve, a nonprofit organization associated with Antioch College. In addition to the waterfall, there are several things to do and see within the preserve and there a few main trails to hike!

Take a good look at the map of Glen Helen and bring it with you! Don’t be tempted to park at the Raptor Center. Parking for hiking is not allowed there. The main entrance is on Corry St. and you can take the Inman Trail to the Cascades. The trail was made one way in 2020 so make sure to check the map for updates.

There are no trail markers on the path. Even though the trails are named and intersections are numbered on the map, there are no signs or numbers within the park so you have to pay close attention to where you are on the map!

Parking is available for $5 at the Corry St. entrance.

ohio waterfall in Glen Helen Nature Preserve

3. Upper Falls at Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio

Address: 19988 OH-664 Scenic, Logan, OH 43138 

the Upper Falls in the Old Man's Cave Area in Hocking Hills State Park

The Upper Falls at Hocking Hills State Park is in the Old Man’s Cave Area of the park. Take the Gorge Exit Trail (one way in 2020) from the Visitor Center and parking lot. You will cross over the bridge above the waterfall and then head down to the base of the falls. 

The Old Man’s Cave Area is beautiful no matter what the season, but fall is just breathtaking! The entire area is a moderate hike with lots of steps! Within this area you can also find the Lower Falls and Brocken Rock Falls to add to your list of Ohio waterfalls!

A large parking lot (and maps) are available at the Old Man’s Cave Visitor’s Center.

Waterfall in Ohio in Hocking Hills State Park

4. Lower Falls at Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio

Address: 19988 OH-664 Scenic, Logan, OH 43138 

The Lower Falls in Hocking Hills are in the Old Man’s Cave Area and can be seen on the Grandma Gatgewood Trail. These falls will be more of a hike to get to compared to the Upper Falls but the whole area is so beautiful! If you’re in the mood for a hike, seeing these falls will just be the icing on the cake.

As I mentioned above, Hocking Hills is stunning in the fall, but gorgeous any time of year! Here at the Lower Falls, there is a wide open area to view the falls and, when we visited, there were large logs where you could sit, rest and take in the view.

5. Chagrin Waterfalls in Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Address: N. Main St., Chagrin Falls, OH 44022

The Chagrin Waterfalls in Chagrin Falls, Ohio

These beautiful Ohio waterfalls are located in downtown Chagrin Falls, an adorable little town outside of Cleveland. There are viewing areas and benches on both sides of the river for viewing this waterfall in downtown Chagrin Falls. You can also view them from Main Street Bridge. 

Chagrin Falls also offers local shopping, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, restaurants on the river and a great popcorn shop!

Parking is available around town.

Ohio Waterfall in Chagrin Falls, Ohio

6. Hayden Falls in Dublin, Ohio

Address: 4326 Hayden Run Rd., Dublin, OH 43017 

Hayden Falls in Dublin, Ohio

Hayden Falls is a 35 foot waterfall that is part of the waterways of the Scioto River in Dublin, Ohio. Follow the steps and boardwalk to the bottom viewing area to see the waterfall. This is another waterfall that will look very different depending on the amount of rainfall the area has had in recent days.

There is a small parking lot available. 

boy going down the steps to the waterfall at Hayden Falls Park in Dublin, Ohio

7. Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Northfield, Ohio

Address: 8176 Brandywine Rd., Northfield, OH 44067

Brandywine Falls is the tallest Ohio waterfall! Brandywine falls are easy to access via a short boardwalk trail. There is a parking lot right at the falls. Make sure to go to the right and not the left on the trail and the falls will be visible after a 5-10 minute walk on the boardwalk!

There are two viewing decks, both accessible from the boardwalk: one upper and one lower. Make sure to visit both! You can also go to the top of the falls from the path and see the falls from the bridge above! If you want a longer experience, take the trail to the left and follow the Brandywine Gorge Trail, visiting the falls at the end!

Brandywine Falls are 60 feet high and flow from the Brandywine Creek which extends from the Cuyahoga River. This waterfall is just one of the many sights to be seen inside Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio’s only National Park which covers 33,000 acres in Northeast Ohio!

8. Little Falls in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

Address: 1817 Front St., Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44221

The Little Falls on the Cuyahoga River are in downtown Cuyahoga Falls! The town has a boardwalk along the river but the falls are just south of the downtown area and behind the Sheraton Suites hotel. My husband and I stayed at this hotel a few years ago and there is a great view from the restaurant in the hotel.

If you’re not staying at the hotel, the best place to see the falls is in High Bridge Glens Park just south of the hotel. If you are walking past the hotel, don’t give up and turn around like we almost did on our last visit! You will not be disappointed with the view from the park!

Prospect Bridge crosses the river and there are a couple of benches to sit and take in the rushing water! There is also a boardwalk in the park that will take you to a lower view of the river. 

If you’re looking for some more Ohio inspiration try out an Ohio beach or one of these fun activities to do with kids all around the state of Ohio! Or plan an easy day trip one hour from Columbus or less! I firmly believe you’ll never run out of things to do in the great state of Ohio!

Exploring Columbus with Your Kids

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5 Waterfalls in Ohio to Visit This Year

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