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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 feel 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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Road Trip Inspiration: 5 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 Hocking Hills, 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. 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

5. 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

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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