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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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Exploring Ohio with Kids: Bellevue

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Bellevue, Ohio is a fun town to explore in the Lake Erie Region! With a great indoor play area, railroad museum and tasty barbecue there are a lot of fun things to do in Bellevue!

This post has kind of been a long time coming! We did this late last summer and it seemed too late to post it, so I’m sharing it with you now as an idea for a fun road trip this summer! Bellevue, Ohio is a small Lake Erie town about 2 hours from downtown Columbus.

We spent a week at Sandusky Bay and this is how we spent one of our days. It could be done in a one day road trip or you could spend the night somewhere near Sandusky and also visit the African Wildlife Safari Park!

Here are 3 fun things to do with kids in Bellevue, Ohio:

1. Jungle Junction

110 Cherry Blvd. Bellevue, OH 44811
Phone: 419-484-5532

Jungle Junction claims to be the largest indoor play structure in Ohio. I cannot verify this, but I will take their word for it! 🙂 This play area is designed for kids ages 12 and under and you must wear socks. I forgot socks and I was able to purchase a pair at the counter.

Jungle Junction play area in Bellevue, Ohio

Jungle Junction seating area

Around the periphery of the main play area is a toddler play area with animals to climb and slide on.

Jungle Junction toddler play area

Jungle Junction toddler play area

My kids had spent a lot of time in the toddler area until they gained the courage to enter the Tree Top Play area!

Jungle Junction Tree Top Play Area Bellevue, Ohio

Inside the Tree Top Play area there are lots of climbing structures, slides, tunnels, etc. There are also air cannons that shoot plastic balls all around the area. (If your kids are sensitive to this kind of thing, they do have a Sensory Day on the first and third Wednesday of each month from 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM where the air cannons cannot be used.) My oldest is sensitive to noise and it took him a while to get used to the noise and have the courage to go inside!

Jungle Junction Play area in Bellevue Ohio

ball launchers inside the play area in Jungle Junction

Admission is for the day, so you can come and go with a stamp on your hand. There is no charge for parents/caregivers and the price for children (as of May, 2017) is as follows:

  • Children 1 and under: $2
  • Ages 2-12: $6
  • Twilight Special – $4 (After 5:00 PM, Monday-Thursday)

2. Bone Boy’s BBQ – Bone Boy’s BBQ is now permanently closed. 

109 W. Main St., Bellevue, OH 44811
Phone: 419-483-7447

We’ve only eaten at one restaurant in Bellevue, but I can highly recommend this one if you like BBQ and it is kid friendly! I loved to see the meat being grilled right out back of the restaurant!

Bone Boys BBQ in Bellevue, Ohio

Inside Bone Boy's BBQ and Catering

A big bonus here is that kids under 5 eat free!

Kids Menu at Bone Boy's BBQ

Yum!

Plate of food at Bone Boy's Barbecue in Bellevue, Ohio

3. Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum

253 Southwest St., Bellevue, Ohio 44811
Phone: 419-483-2222

Wow. I took a lot of pictures here! There is SO MUCH to see! If you have kids that love trains, they will be in heaven at this museum! The museum is open every day from 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM, Memorial Day through Labor Day, and on weekends during May, September and October.

Outside of Mad River Railroad Museum in Bellevue Ohio

You buy your tickets in the gift shop – and then try to tear the kids away from the play area so you can see the actual museum! 😉

Boys playing with trains in the gift shop at Mad River and NPK Railroad Museum

Inside the Mad River and NKP Railroad Museum

This museum is very hands on! It has an indoor and an outdoor area. You can walk through train cars, climb into the cabs and see historical artifacts.

boys posing for a pictures in Engineer outfits at the Railroad Museum in Bellevue Ohio

old railroad equipment at the Mad River NKP Railroad Museum

things to do in Bellevue: See a train car at the railroad museum

inside a train car at the NKP Railroad Museum

The outdoor portion of the museum is across the street and there are many trains to climb into. Many of the trains have displays for viewing inside.

Trains in the yard at the railroad museum in Bellevue, Ohio

boy looking at a model train at the museum

boy pressing the button to make the train go at the NKP Railroad Museum

the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum outdoor area

boy walking through the outdoor portion of the train museum

boy looking out the door of the train car

Admission (as of May, 2017) is as follows:

  • $10.00 Adults
  • $9.00 Senior (60+)
  • $5.00 Children (5-12)
  • Under 5 FREE

We played at Jungle Junction in the morning, had lunch and then headed over to the Railroad Museum for the afternoon. With kids under 5 (at the time), we didn’t even have to spend that much money! It was a full day, and as you can imagine, the boys looked like this on the way back to where we were staying:

boys asleep in the car after a long day of fun in Bellevue, Ohio

We love to spend time around Lake Erie! Do you have a favorite place to visit there?

Here are some other fun things our family has done in the Lake Erie area:

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MEGA Train List for Central Ohio and Beyond

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My kids love trains! I have been to *almost* every place on this list! When Jaden was 3, he could have gone to Barnes and Noble every single day to play with Thomas. This list isn’t so much for your kids as it is for you! Of course your kids will love these places, but this list is to keep YOU from going insane from doing the same thing every day! 😉 A good number of these things are special events that are only available for a short time! So check the list and mark your calendars because many of those are coming up this month! You, too, can be a really useful engine! 😉

1. Paul Busse Model Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory, downtown Columbus

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The train in the picture below is up nearly year round, but the one above makes a special appearance during the holidays! Check the link for info on Merry and Bright!

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2. Grandview Library, Grandview Heights

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One great library with a train table!

3. Huntington Holiday Train at Columbus Metropolitan Library, downtown Columbus

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The Huntington Holiday Train arrives in mid-November and the Main Library hosts an Open House on November 30th, which will include hot chocolate and cookies, crafts and the lighting of Topiary Park! For even more trains, keep an eye on the Hilliard and Gahanna branches which will offer Polar Express programs this year!

4. Ohio Railway Museum, Worthington

The museum has been working on repairing the tracks so no train rides are available as of today, but they hope to be up and running for the holidays!

5. The Train Station, Clintonville

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Model trains are for sale here and they also have a small play area for kids!

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6. Moody Street Trains, Clintonville

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Model trains are for sale here and there is a train table for playing. On Saturday, December 3, 2016, they will host the 2nd Annual National Lionel Train Day which will feature prizes, face painting and a visit from Santa!

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7. Model Railroad Days at COSI, downtown Columbus

Model Railroad Days are November 16-20, 2016 this year and large model train sets are available for viewing and there are also trains to play with! During the weekend you can watch the movie Rocky Mountain Express in the theater. At Christmastime, The Polar Express is shown as well! (p.s. there is also a train to play with in the little kidspace at COSI!)

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8. Barnes and Noble, various locations

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Barnes and Noble offers the hope that your children will play with trains while you quietly sip coffee and read a magazine.

9. Hilliard Branch, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Hilliard

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The Hilliard Branch is a fun library for kids and has a Chuggington train table.

10. Von Maur, Polaris Fashion Place

In the children’s section of the store, there is a train that runs along the wall and a train table for playing!

11. Easton Express Railway, Easton Town Center

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This outdoor train track is always decorated for whatever season it happens to be and is a big hit with the kids!

12. BrickUniverse, Columbus Convention Center

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There are lots of working LEGO trains at this once-a-year LEGO Expo!

13. Delaware County Model Railroaders’ Open Houses, Delaware

Model railroads are set up on these special open-house dates!

14. Great Train Show at Ohio Expo Center

This expo is coming January 14-15, 2017 and includes model railroads, train dealers, hands-on exhibits and more!

15. Inniswood Metro Gardens, Westerville

We stumbled upon this train track behind the offices at Inniswood. I couldn’t find any info on if/when it is used, but if you know, please leave a comment below!

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16. Holiday Train Display at Ohio History Center

This special train is on exhibit during the holiday season! It will be on display November 28, 2016 – January 4, 2017.

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There are other trains on the grounds of the Ohio History Center year round, including one inside the building that can be sat in, and the one seen below that sits outside.

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17. Schiller Park in German Village

This is a great park with a train that can be played on!

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18. Alum Creek Park North, Westerville

This park is affectionately known as “the train park” – and aptly so!

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19. Henceroth Park, Grove City

This park offers lots of vehicles to play on including a jeep, boat and this wooden train!

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20. North America Train Ride at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

For $1 per person, you can ride a train around the North American exhibit at the zoo!

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21. Christmas Time Open House at Central Ohio Model Railroad Club

For 4 weekends in December, the club puts on an open house featuring giant model railroad layouts, an interactive Thomas the Tank Engine display and more! Admission is free!

22. Open Garden Tour by the members of Columbus Garden Railway Society

On the second Sunday in September, members of the Columbus Garden Railway Society open their houses (gardens!) for a tour of their own Garden Railroads!

BEYOND COLUMBUS . . .

23. Little Buckeye Children’s Museum, Mansfield

One of the larger exhibits at the Little Buckeye Museum is the model train display and nearby train tables for playing!

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24. Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum, Bellevue

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There are tons of trains on display here, may of which you can climb aboard! This museum has indoor and outdoor components and the gift shop has a train table for playing!

25. Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation, Inc., Findlay

This organization offers train rides and holiday events (including the North Pole Express), a museum, gift shop and model train displays!

26. The Buckeye Express Diner, Bellville

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Eat dinner in an OSU-themed train car! There is a train playground outside too!

27. Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, Dennison

This museum has a railroad car just for kids, model trains and a scavenger hunt just for kids!

 28. Lodi Station Outlets, Lodi

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This outlet mall is built with a train theme! You can purchase tickets to take a train ride around the property!

29. EnterTAINment Junction, West Chester

This venue offers displays, a museum, seasonal rides and a funhouse!

30. Day Out with Thomas, various locations

These special days only happen a few times a year at Ohio locations and include a 25-minute train ride, kids activities, live music and more!

31. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, Northeast Ohio

The trains here run mainly on the weekends and there are several events scheduled throughout the year, including a Christmas Tree Adventure!

32. Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, Nelsonville

This railway offers special trips throughout the year including a Santa Train on December 18, 2016. Tickets are limited.

33. LM & M Railroad, Lebanon, Lebanon

This historic railroad offers special events including the Day out with Thomas and North Pole Express!

34. Train-O-Rama, Marblehead

One of Ohio’s largest multi-gauge model railroad displays open to the public! Trains are for sale in the gift shop as well!

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ICYMI: 5 Moms of Nationwide Share their Favorite Places to take their Kids in Columbus


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