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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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