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Lake Erie escapeLake Erie escape

Sandusky, Ohio, boasts lakeside amusement parks, golf, and moreSandusky, Ohio, boasts lakeside amusement parks, golf, and more

Eastern pilots: Looking for family fun on the way to or from EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin? Look no further than Sandusky, Ohio, on the southwest shores of Lake Erie between Detroit and Cleveland. Sandusky is best known for its amusement park, Cedar Point, which boasts the largest collection of roller coasters anywhere. Plus, water sports and water parks that provide a welcome break from hot summer temperatures. In town you’ll also find good restaurants, a quaint main street, B&Bs, museums, and wine tasting—enough diversions to please pilots with or without children in tow.

  • Talk about first impressions. The Gatekeeper rises above you right at the entrance to Cedar Point amusement park. Gatekeeper is inspired by the power of flight. Riders take flight on the wings of a powerful golden griffon, climbing 170 feet above the park before dive-bombing at speeds up to 67 mph and threading their way through impossibly narrow obstacles. Photo courtesy Cedar Point.
  • Lemmy’s Lagoon, inside the Cedar Point Shores Water Park, is where Lake Erie’s legendary monster is brought to life. The lagoon features slides, geysers, and enough water activities to keep the little ones busy for hours. Photo courtesy Cedar Point.
  • Rent a waverunner, fly high with North Coast Parasail, or chill out on the Cedar Point Beach. There’s a whole lot of fun waiting for you on the shores of Lake Erie. Photo courtesy Cedar Point.
  • Long before roller coasters, dinosaurs ruled Cedar Point...and now they're back at Dinosaurs Alive! See more than 50 moving life-sized dinosaurs, including several you can control, and find out what it's like to be a paleontologist at the dig site. Photo courtesy Cedar Point.
  • Opened in 1964, the wooden Blue Streak is Cedar Point’s oldest and most classic coaster, but it’s still a “bucket list” coaster for aficionados. Photo courtesy Cedar Point.
  • You’re sure to break the scream barrier as a catapult launches you out of the Wicked Twister’s start station. 72 mph may feel like a hundred, especially when you can’t see the track in front of you. Photo courtesy Cedar Point.
  • Little kids love Snoopy’s Space Race, where future astronauts can practice leaving the atmosphere and rocketing straight to the moon on their own space ship. Photo courtesy Cedar Point.
  • Completely refurbished in 2015, Hotel Breakers is just steps away from Lake Erie, Cedar Point, and Cedar Point Shores Water Park. Plus, guests get early admission to the park. Photo courtesy Cedar Point.
  • At the Kalahari Resort, guests enjoy 920 feet of adventure as they glide down Lazy River amid geysers, waterfalls, and more. Photo courtesy Kalahari Resorts.
  • Stay at the Kalahari Resort, where you can ride the uphill water rollercoaster, zip down waterslides, and play indoor mini golf, and catch a wave on the FlowRider, where 50,000 gallons of water flow under you each minute to create a five-foot ocean-like wave. Photo courtesy Kalahari Resorts.
  • At the Kalahari Resort, Safari Adventures Animal Park is a unique, interactive experience that allows guests to experience entertaining and excitingly educational animal encounters. Photo courtesy Kalahari Resorts.
  • The Marblehead Lighthouse has guided sailors safely along the rocky shoreline of the Marblehead Peninsula since 1822. Tours of the lighthouse and a museum are available at Marblehead Lighthouse State Park. Photo courtesy Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society.
  • The Sandusky Maritime Museum is located in downtown Sandusky, across from Battery Park Marina. Photo by Jeffrey Greenberg, courtesy Sandusky Maritime Museum.
  • Captain Montague’s Bed & Breakfast can help you plan fishing, golf, kayak, wine tasting, or even sailing adventures. Photo courtesy Captain Montague’s.
  • Captain Montague’s Bed & Breakfast features seven fireplaces, original burled wood pocket doors, a hand-crafted black walnut staircase, and Victorian-era furnishings. Photo courtesy Captain Montague’s.

Erie-Ottawa International is your destination; if you fly over Lake Erie, be aware that Canadian airspace begins just 15 nautical miles offshore (closer to the northeast). The safest bet is to remain onshore; just keep in mind the Class B airspace around Detroit and Cleveland. On the field at Erie-Ottawa International, the Tin Goose Diner is good and even has an attached Liberty Aviation Museum.

Cedar Point boasts over 70 rides and 17 roller coasters, including the world’s tallest, fastest, and longest dive coaster. You’ll find special kids’ areas, hotels and cottages, live shows, and restaurants. The new Cedar Point Shores water park was introduced earlier this year with additional shopping and dining areas. Out on Lake Erie, you also can ride a parasail high in the sky, or rent a WaveRunner and get wet.

The Ghostly Manor Haunted House is one of the top-rated haunts in the U.S. See if you can make it all the way through as Ghostly Manor comes alive to expose your deepest fears. Photo courtesy Ghostly Manor.

There’s more fun in store at the Ghostly Manor Thrill Center. See who screams first inside the haunted house, where ghastly ghouls inhabit the body bag room. There’s also an XD 3-D theater, bounce house, arcade, roller skating rink, and miniature golf course with a dragon, wizard, and 3-D blacklight. More sedate fun can be had at the Merry-Go-Round Museum, dedicated to the history, design, and preservation of this unique art form. The Maritime Museum has exhibits on shipwrecks, ice harvesting, commercial fishing, the boats of Sandusky’s Underground Railroad, and the area’s maritime history. Next, ascend the 77 steps of the Marblehead Lighthouse, the oldest continually operating lighthouse on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes.

At the Merry-Go-Round Museum, you can climb aboard the working and fully restored Allan Herschell Carousel with the band organ playing, and then watch as carvers bring neglected carousel pieces back to their full beauty. Photo courtesy Merry-Go-Round Museum.

Sandusky’s accommodations come in all types: a quiet B&B, golf resort, or kid’s dream: the Kalahari Resort. This African-themed resort features both indoor and outdoor water parks; admission included for resort guests. A huge arcade also offers bowling and laser tag. At the Safari Outdoor Adventure Park you can try the zip lines, a ropes course, climbing walls, and then visit the Safari Adventures Animal Park to observe, touch, or feed a variety of wild animals. It’s not all kid stuff; grownups can treat themselves to a massage or body treatment at the full-service salon and spa. Browse the shops and then dine at one of several restaurants before you retire to your room, decorated in African style. By contrast, the Sawmill Creek Resort, set on 235 acres adjacent to the Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve, provides both serenity and an 18-hole Tom Fazio golf course, along with tennis and volleyball courts, a marina, shops, indoor/outdoor pools, three restaurants, and a secluded lakefront sand beach. Rent a bike, kayak, or Jet Ski, grab a zip-line or wine tour, or savor the sunset from the water on the Sawmill Explorer cruise, every Saturday through Labor Day. For an even quieter stay, drive 10 miles to Huron and check in to Captain Montague’s Bed and Breakfast, an elegant Victorian home built in the 1870s. A quick walk from this charming Irish home gets you to the Lake Erie shore. Visit the park or pool or play the 1880 pump organ in the parlor while you make yourself at home.

Sandusky-area dining suggestions always include the historic Mon Ami Restaurant and Winery. Inside the converted barn, an enormous rock wall anchors the fireplace. There’s a huge wine list and varied menu, plus a Saturday seafood buffet, Sunday buffet brunch, and winery tours and tastings. Downtown, the popular Zinc Brasserie features French-inspired, locally sourced, farm-to-table food. Entrée selections change throughout the year in this fine-dining establishment with a casual atmosphere. Marconi’s serves authentic old-world Italian fare in a family friendly atmosphere. Choose from pizza, salads, chicken and veal dishes, beef, fish, pasta, and house specials. There’s something for everybody here, and we think you’ll find Sandusky that way too. It’s the perfect Oshkosh add-on.

Sawmill Creek Resort, on the shores of Lake Erie, offers an 18-hole, par-71 course designed by world-renowned golf course architect Tom Fazio. Photo courtesy Sawmill Creek Resort.
Crista Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to [email protected]
Topics: US Travel

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