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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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35 FREE Things to do with Your Kids This Summer in Columbus

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Summer is the best time to get out and explore lots of fun things with the kids! Luckily for us, Columbus is full of lots of FREE things to do this summer! If you need some inspiration, here are 35 things you can do for free around town!

35 Free Things to do with Your Kids this Summer in Columbus:

train car in Hilliard, ohio columbus, ohio

1. Climb aboard the train at Homestead Metro Park.

westgate farmer's market in columbus, ohio

2. Check out a farmer’s market. See this list from Columbus Moms Blog, listed by day of the week!

3. Watch an outdoor movie. See this list from 614 Mom.

kids splashing in fountains at polaris fashion place, columbus, ohio

4. Have fun at KidX at Polaris Fashion Place.

Columbus Commons Park in Columbus, Ohio

5. Play at Commons for Kids every Friday.

tree house at Inniswood Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio

6. Climb into the tree house at Inniswood Metro Park.

7. Win prizes in a Summer Reading Club. Register at your local library or take advantage of one of these national programs listed by Mission to Save.

8. Try out one of Columbus’ many festivals. Check out this list of festivals around Columbus from Columbus Underground!

park in gahanna, ohio

9. Try out a new park. I have some ideas here and here!

10. Follow the path of the Dublin Irish Fairy Door Trail.

kids at a splash pad in columbus, ohio

11. Get wet at a local splash pad! See my list of Free Columbus and Central Ohio Splash Pads and Fountains!

12.. Bowl for free with the Kids Bowl Free program! There are 3 locations in the Columbus area!

hilltop bean dinner meal in columbus, ohio

13. Attend the Hilltop Bean Dinner commemorating the role the Hilltop played in the Civil War! Admission is free and there is a huge car show, food vendors, arts and crafts and more!

14. Shop 100 local vendors at the Powell Street Market.

kid getting a book from a little free library in columbus, ohio

15. Visit a Little Free Library to borrow or donate books.

16. Attend one of the Cap City Nights Festivals hosted by Columbus Recreation and Parks! (2019 info not yet released.)

kids participating in free metro park program in columbus, ohio

17. Learn about nature at one of the Preschool Programs at Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks.

18. Enjoy some music at Polaris Live every Thursday night beginning June 13, 2019. Also see Summer Nights in Columbus: Concerts, Movies and More for Every Night of the Week!

kid at story time at chic fil a on sawmill, columbus, ohio

19. Hear a story or two at the Storytime at Chic Fil A on Sawmill.

celebration at the station in hilliard, ohio

20. Enjoy a free concert at Celebration at the Station at Hilliard’s Station Park – Thursdays at 6:00 PM beginning June 6, 2019.

kid at IKEA smaland

21. Explore IKEA and get free childcare and free coffee for IKEA Family Members (rewards card holders).

22. Get artistic at Arts in Uptown on the Second Friday of each month!

23. Watch a free movie at Gateway Film Center! Admission to their Book to Film series is free with your library card!

kid climbing in the natural play area at Blendon Woods Metro Park in Columbus, ohio

24. Explore the Blendon Woods Natural Play Area where kids can build forts, swing through the woods on a wooden swing, go creeking and more!

arches in the short north in columbus, Ohio

25. Attend Gallery Hop in the Short North on the first Saturday night of each month from 4:00 PM – 10:00 PM! Enjoy street performers, special deals and treats and the shops stay open late!

26. Watch a movie and have fun at Bexley Main Event.

27. Visit Franklin Park Conservatory on Community Day – the first Sunday of each month when Columbus and Franklin County residents (with valid ID) get in free! Make sure to play in the Children’s Garden!

28. Stop to smell the roses at Columbus Park of Roses.

play for free at the columbus museum of art on Sundays!

29. Explore Columbus Museum of Art when admission is free on Sundays! Don’t miss The Wonder Room, an area just for kids!

30. Explore an ancient burial mound, Shrum Mound.

kids riding the CBUS in Columbus, Ohio

31. Take a ride on the CBUS. All rides are free and the buses go in a loop around the Short North, downtown, Brewery District and German Village.

32. Take a ride on the Smart Circuit – a self driving shuttle that will take you around the Scioto Mile!

free indoor play area in columbus ohio

33. Beat the heat with a free indoor play area.

hoot family film series free this summer in columbus ohio

34. Enjoy music, activities and movies at Hoot Family Film Series – free with a non-perishable donation to the Open Shelter.

35. Do a craft, hear a story and listen to jazz music at PBJ & Jazz.

Feel free to share what kind of free activities your family likes to do around Columbus in the comments!

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13 Fun Things to do in Lancaster Ohio with Kids

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Just 45 minutes from Downtown Columbus, there are lots of family-friendly things to do in Lancaster, Ohio! Perfect for a fun day trip or overnight getaway for families!

Thanks to Visit Fairfield County for partnering with us on this post.

Even though Columbus has so much to offer, I often find myself craving a getaway. I love that there are so many places within driving distance of Columbus where we can get away, either overnight or just for a day trip, and feel like we’ve gone somewhere totally new!

kids in lancaster, ohio

flower art in lancaster, ohio

Lancaster, Ohio has a population of around 40,000, has a cute, walkable downtown area, nice parks, its own collection of local restaurants and a decent sized mall. So, something for everyone! 

13 Things to do in Lancaster, Ohio with Kids:

1. Art and Clay on Main

smoothie bowl at Square 7 coffee shop in Lancaster, Ohio

We LOVE Art and Clay on Main! This is a must-do stop in Lancaster, whether you have time to stay and paint, or you just need to stop in for a smoothie or a cup of coffee at the Square 7 Coffee Shop inside.

The great thing about this spot is that both the art studio and the coffee shop are social enterprises of the Fairfield County Board of Developmental Disabilities. That means that the shops serve as places where people with developmental disabilities can receive training and employment.

 

Allow for an hour or two to paint a piece of pottery here and also 6-12 days before it is ready to be picked up. They will actually hold your pottery for up to 45 days so you don’t have to feel rushed to make the trip back to Lancaster within the week! They have pottery pieces in all sizes and skill levels! There are small items just for kids. Another bonus is that all fees are included in the price, so there is no additional studio fee.

2. A-Ha Children’s Museum

This museum alone could compromise a whole day trip! My kids and I spent a couple of hours here one afternoon and probably could have stayed longer! The museum moved into this new location, just on the periphery of the River Valley Mall in April of 2018.

 

The museum contains a water play area, building blocks, a construction vehicle and fire truck to climb in, pretend fishing, dinosaur digging, and a “real life” play area that contains a house, grocery store, pizza shop and more! There is also a separate space for art projects and classes and a new outdoor nature playscape that we have yet to visit but looks super fun!

bulldozer at AH-A Children's Museum in Lancaster, Ohio

The museum is perfect for kids ages 6 months to age 8. is $8 per person. (12 months and under are free!) If you have an EBT or WIC card, admission is $3. There is a designated lunch area and you can bring your own food. Same day re-entry is allowed!

3. The Well

This could easily have been put under the “where to eat” section, but it could also very well be a destination. I’d heard about The Well for quite some time before actually making a visit there! 

food at The Well in Lancaster, Ohio

The Well calls itself a “modern gathering place for the whole family to eat, drink, play and live” and offers healthy options for breakfast and lunch as well as an extensive smoothie menu! The vegetarian menu offers ingredients are non-GMO and local and organic when possible. You will find many gluten free options as well.

What makes The Well a destination on your kid-friendly trip to Lancaster is the play area towards the back of the restaurant! With a good number of seating options around the play area, you can eat and still keep an eye on your kids as they play! 

play area at The Well in Lancaster Ohio

One thing to keep in mind: The hours of the restaurant are Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM and they are closed on Saturdays and Sundays!!

4. Jump N Trampoline Center

kids playing at Jump N Trampoline Center in Lancaster Ohio

If your kids need to burn off some excess energy, check out Jump N Trampoline Center! Kids have the choice between playing in the foam pit or bouncing on the trampolines!

 

There is a viewing area upstairs that also has a foosball table and makes for a great spot for parents to keep an eye on their kids and have a seat. Socks are required for play.

6. Ohio Glass Museum

displays at Ohio glass Museum in Lancaster, Ohio

The Ohio Glass Museum in downtown Lancaster offers an in-depth look at the glass factories that made their home in Fairfield County. Through displays, a movie and glass blowing demonstrations, it is easy to get a good understanding of the role glass has had in this area! I definitely learned a lot!

woman doing a glass blowing demonstration at Ohio Glass Museum in lancaster, Ohio

This might not be the best spot for toddlers, but my kids, ages 4 and 7, were intrigued by the glass blowing demonstration. (They take place at 2:00 PM and 3:00 PM each day they are open). They were also relatively held by the movie about the history of glass making in Lancaster!

Children under 6 are free to enter the museum.

7. Fairfield County District Library – Main Library

children's department at Fairfield County District library in Lancaster, Ohio

When we woke up on the Saturday morning of our trip, it was raining and we needed to kill a little bit of time before the next item on our itinerary so what did I do? Google the closest library, of course! This one turned out to be a winner! The children’s department is on the third floor and on that rainy, Saturday morning, a few of the workers brought out a bunch of educational toys to fill this space above.

kid playing with toys at library in Lancaster, Ohio

There was also a train table, other toys and games available and a lot of children’s books! The space was great and if you need a place to pass some time, I highly recommend it!

8. Rising Park

Ahh, Rising Park. This place is a gem, as well.  A great playground. A pond. Lots of green space. And a huge mountain. Say what?

kid playing on equipment at Rising Park in Lancaster, Ohio

When she found out I was taking my kids to Lancaster last summer, a friend of mine told me we had to hike to the top of Mt. Pleasant in Rising park because the views were spectacular! She was right, of course, but I nearly had a heart attack getting there with my two young boys!

kids at the top of Mt. Pleasant in Lancaster, Ohio

Seriously though, the view is worth the hike. The trail is about a quarter of a mile long, rising up 250 feet! Be forewarned that it is NOT an “easy” hike – but I did it with my kids who were just 4 and 6 at the time. There are no real guardrails at the edge, so make sure to keep kids close!

9. Lancaster Festival

This annual festival “celebrating art, music and community” is lots of fun for all ages! The festival lasts for 11 days and features live music acts, food trucks, theatre performances and activities for children. The festival activities are spread out all over the city, taking place at various venues, parks, restaurants and community organizations.

 


Last year we attended and were able to see The Floorwalkers (one of my favorite Columbus bands) and a magic show for kids! In 2018 Martina McBride was the headliner and Kansas will be performing in 2019! 

11. Covered Bridge Trail

covered bridge in Lancaster, OhioFairfield County is home to 17 of the 125 wooden covered bridges remaining in Ohio. That makes them the county with the most original covered bridges in the state! If you’re looking for another “trail” to conquer, click this link for a map of all of the covered bridges in Fairfield County and head off on your quest! I’ve seen a few and they’re beautiful!

12. Paperback Exchange

kids petting cats at Paperback Exchange in Lancaster, Ohio

If you’re exploring downtown Lancaster, make sure to stop in to Paperback Exchange! My kids asked to go back again and my husband took them back a second time. Without me, though, because I am allergic to cats. And the cats were the very things my kids want to see the most! Besides cats, the store boats an impressive collection of books for sale, including books for kids and young adults! There is also a small section of handmade gifts!

Paperback Exchange in Lancaster Ohio

13. River Valley Mall

I’m putting the mall on this list because sometimes, with kids, you just need a place to let them let out some steam and take a little break. We attended one of the magic shows here as part of the Lancaster Festival and my kids enjoyed this play area. They went through a season of being really interested in who was on each bill and coin and this play area was right up their alley. It has a money theme!

kids in play area at River Valley Mall in Lancaster, Ohio

It’s not a huge play area, but it does the trick. The mall is a decent sized mall but the food court does not offer too many options for eating so make sure you check out the following list of places to eat in Lancaster, Ohio!

Kid-Friendly Places to Eat in Lancaster, Ohio

While you’re in Lancaster, you’re going to want to check out some of these local spots for lunch or dinner! I have taken my kids to each one of them, but I will tell you individually how “kid-friendly” I feel they are and what to expect.

1. Ale House 1890

kid eating pizza at Ale House 1890 in Lancaster, Ohio

Ale House 1890 was a little bit intimidating for me when we first arrived. On this visit, it was just me and the kids and I wondered how kid-friendly it was going to be. But we were able to sit on the patio which was totally relaxing! My oldest really liked the pizza – and he’s a very picky eater! I loved my salad!

shrimp salad at Ale House 1890 in Lancaster, Ohio

2. Cherry Street Pub

kid eating wings at Cherry Street Pub in Lancaster, Ohio

Cherry Street Pub is a great option for families because there is a lot to look at inside and there is a big menu! It’s loud (in the normal, restaurant kind of way) so the happy hubbub covers up most of unexpected noises your kid might make! 😉 My kids shared food from the appetizer menu – wings and pizza. The wings were a definite hit! You might expect a little bit of a wait here, the restaurant is popular!

3. Bob’s Backyard BBQ

food at Bob's Backyard BBQ in Lancaster, ohio

This place is definitely low key and kid-friendly! The meat was good and the sides were tasty! My only complaint was that they were out of hot dogs when we visited – which is a guaranteed menu item for my kids. (My kids are super picky, I’m not even going to try to pretend that they’re not.) They were also out of wine. I’m not sure how often food items run low here, but if you’re flexible, give it a go. It tasted good and the atmosphere was relaxed and kid-friendly!

4. JB’s Downtown Grill

hamburger at JB's Downtown Grill in Lancaster, Ohio

JB’s Downtown Grill is another spot to check out if you’re out and about in the downtown area! There is a kid’s menu with the traditional items: chicken tenders, grilled cheese, quesadilla, etc. And the menu for adults features sandwiches, burgers, wraps and salads. The burgers contain “Chef Jamie’s secret seasoning” so my husband and I both got a burger! The meat was super flavorful, so I’m a fan of that seasoning, whatever it may be!

5. Nancy’s Scoops

kid eating ice cream at Nancy's Scoops in Lancaster, Ohio

Don’t forget dessert! Nancy’s Scoops has a huge menu of options, including food, milkshakes, sundaes, hand dipped ice cream and much more!

6. Gypsy Joe’s Ice Cream

kids eating ice cream at Gypsy Joe's in Lancaster, Ohio

Gypsy Joe’s is another cute option for dessert! The decor inside is very fun! 

Where to Stay in Lancaster, Ohio

My family was hosted at Holiday Inn Express and Suites. We had a great experience here! The room we had was large with a kitchen and living room area, which was really nice! It was an easy distance from all of the things listed here!

kids playing piano in downtown Lancaster, Ohio

What are your favorite things to do in Lancaster, Ohio? What should we do next?

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flowers against brick in Lancaster, Ohio

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